It’s been a couple of years since British Airways and I first tried to set up a trip to see the airline’s new Terminal 5 at Heathrow and now, it’s finally happened. I have plenty of cool stuff that I’ll post here in the next couple weeks, but for now, let’s start with the trip out in Club World, BA’s business class. This trip was provided by BA without charge.
BA was the first to put a flat bed in business class, and after a refresh 5 years ago, it’s still a good product today. My one complaint? The storage situation around the seat could use some serious help.
January 16, 2011
British Airways 278 Lv LAX 355p Arr London/Heathrow 10a
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 120, Runway 25L, Depart 7m Early
London/Heathrow (LHR): Gate 546, Runway 27R, Arrive 20m Late
G-CIVS, Boeing 747-436, British Flag colors, ~99% Full in Back, ~75% in Biz, ~50% in First
Flight Time 10h
Though I had checked in online and had my boarding pass, I still decided to arrive two hours early. No need. I cruised through security and found myself in the oneworld lounge at Bradley in just a few minutes.
This lounge is new and is a huge improvmenet over the old one. I remember flying BA back in 2002 during the first big winter rain that year in LA. The old lounge was leaking live a sieve and it was dark and overcrowded. This one is bright, though oddly long and narrow, and had a nice, mellow vibe.
About an hour before our flight, they called boarding so I headed down to the overcrowded gate area, a hallmark of the Bradley Terminal. The new Bradley Terminal project is now well underway and it towers over the existing boarding gates.
I hopped onboard my second 747 in a month and I was surprised to see this one looking a bit tired. The seats were in good shape but there were scuff marks that showed these seats had been around for awhile. The traditional yellow onboard lighting probably didn’t help either. (BA is getting mood lighting on its newer deliveries.)
I took my seat in the last row of Club; the best seat I could find since there were no windows available upstairs. The reason I like this seat? It faces backwards but there’s no seat behind so you have more privacy and it’s easier to get in and out.
The first thing I found was the serious lack of storage. They put a laptop drawer at the bottom right, but that’s hard to access from the bed or reclining positions. And that’s the only storage spot around. There’s no place to rest your phone, a camera, a book, etc where it’s easy to access.
Soon we were pushing back for departure and the captain told us it would be a long crossing thanks to light winds. Not bad since I could use some sleep.
I started off watching a movie and then dove into dinner. The smoked salmon appetizer was a fantastic start. I opted for a cold chicken salad with garam masala and mango chutney for my main course, and it was good but nothing overly special. Then again, I’m not a big airplane food guy anyway. After a sad looking cake dessert (which tasted better than it looked), it was time for bed.
Since I can’t sleep on an airplane, “bed” means Ambien. So I got comfortable, popped a pill and hoped I could fall asleep. It turns out, I had one of those restless sleeps where you aren’t quite sure if you’ve been sleeping or not. Delightful. But I woke up over 6 hours later and felt pretty good, so I must have done better than I thought.
The bed itself was good but it had some issues. It didn’t seem to go fully flat but then when I lied down, it pushed into position. The footrest was temperamental and a couple times during the night, it changed position on me. (Since it’s controlled manually, it was easy for it to shift.) I’m guessing these were issues specific to my seat and not the seat in general.
I filled out my landing card, got everything together and after doing a couple mandatory Heathrow holding pattern loops, we came in to land in a very dark and rainy London. We sat for 15 minutes waiting for someone at our gate, but then we were off into the terminal.
The new terminal 5 looks really nice but it’s like a maze. A lot of upstairs, then downstairs, then upstairs again. (I’ll have more on this in a future post.) Customs and immigration was easy, and then I went to the highlight of the process: the arrivals lounge.
In fact, there are 94 different shower rooms, and I was given “Red 1.” The room was small but perfectly functional. I found a little door within the door where you could put your shoes and clothes to be shined and pressed. I popped them in and hit the valet button and soon enough they were whisked away.
The shower was amazing with a rainfall head and side jets to basically melt the airplane-nastiness off your body. I didn’t want to get out. But I did and my shirt and shoes were back in pristine condition. I listened to the radio while getting ready (you can pick your station in there) and then it was off to the Sofitel right next to Terminal 5 where I spent the first night.
I have plenty to share over the next week including my flight back to JFK on British Airways flight 1 from London/City Airport, so stay tuned for that.