Club World. Dallas to London.

I left my last post heading towards gate D15 at Dallas / Fort Worth airport from the Admirals Club.  The lady in the BA lounge asked me to be at the gate for 17.30 and the boarding pass indicated that it would close at 17.45 (for a 18.25 departure).  That all sounded a little odd, but I arrived at the gate as instructed.

There was a large crowd of people and a tensa-barrier maze with no clear entrance.  The staff made a couple of announcements to say that boarding had not started yet, but were doing pre-boards for those people needing help to walk down the jet bridge.  However that went on for about fifteen minutes, and it wasn’t until 17.45 that regular boarding started, with the calling of first class passengers only.  The next called Club World, Gold and Silver card holders and what seemed like the entire gate area moved towards the doors.

I’ve mentioned this on a number of occasions to some senior people at British Airways, but so far to no avail.  The boarding process matters, and there’s no consistency of approach, or  clear standards that are applied globally.  This is one area that I believe the US carriers in general are actually pretty good at.  Zone or group based boarding, clearly marked on the boarding pass, can’t come to British Airways soon enough.

Safely on board, I settled down into 62B, an aisle seat upstairs.  There were two lovely ladies looking after the cabin, and it turned out that there were three seats free in total meaning only 17 of us.

Pre departure water, orange juice or Champagne was handed out.  The crew then went around with wash-bags and menus.

For those that haven’t been upstairs in a 747-400, it’s a great place to be.  The aisle is wide, there’s only a small number of people, and it’s generally pretty quiet.

We pushed back and after a good fifteen minute taxi to the take-off runway, the rumble of the Rolls Royce engines increased and we were on our way back to London.

Thankfully this was one of the versions of the 747 that had the updated in-flight entertainment system.  There was a wide variety of films with a highly responsive (if slightly small) touchscreen in front of me.

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Hot towels were handed out which unfortunately were the standard British Airways type – very thin and low quality, and unscented.

The crew then started at the front of the cabin, doing a bar round from the trolley.  At the same time, they took meal choices.  I opted for the goat’s cheese starter and then the cod for my main course.

My normal gin and tonic was provided, but having recently flown a number of other airlines recently, I was struck by the difference in presentation and service for the same drink, in the same class between Etihad (left), American (centre) and British Airways (right).  Not least the quality of the drink itself.  I won’t say any more than that, other than let the photos do the talking.

It wasn’t long before the food came out.

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Again, it was ok; essentially salad and salad with a small, single piece of chocolate lurking in the pink wrapper near the top.

The crew asked what I’d like to drink with the main, and opted for the Sauvignon Blanc.  Unfortunately none was loaded so it was a choice between a Californian chardonnay or a Californian chardonnay.  I opted for the Californian chardonnay.

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The main course was pretty awful.  The cod was completely overcooked and try and the rice and sauce were exceptionally salty.  However being reasonably hungry I finished it all.

Being pretty tired at this point, I declined dessert and reclined my seat to get some rest for the remainder of the flight.

The one thing that Club World is good for is getting some rest – I slept fairly soundly for the rest of the flight, only being woken up by the Captain stating 40 minutes to landing.

However I was disturbed a couple of times by the lady in the window seat in front of me, stepping over my feet to get in and out of her seat.  This is certainly a known design issue with the aisle Club World seats and was remarkably annoying.  Thankfully I’m a pretty good sleeper on aircraft so harrumphed a little, turned over and went straight back to sleep.

The crew at that point asked if I wanted anything to eat or drink, however I declined explaining that I’d eat in the Arrivals Lounge instead.  I’ll be posting a full review of that later.

It wasn’t long before the seat belt sign went on for twenty minutes to go, and we arrived at a drab Terminal 5.  We were parked next to the fuel farm, opposite T5C, meaning a bus journey in to the main T5 complex.

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Down the steps, across the apron and into a packed standing room only bus.  Again, unlike Etihad, it was everyone crammed in to as few buses as possible, rather than having separate buses for first class and business class.

After a few minute drive we were deposited at the escalators up to the UK Border and after perhaps five minutes queueing for an eGate, was home and land-side.

Overall, Club World is really falling behind.  The hard product is now twenty years old.  The food is pretty awful.  The drinks service is clearly behind and inconsistent.  It’s still good for sleeping, provided you get a window, otherwise it’s still quite mediocre.  BA claim they’re investing £400m into the product, but I’m not sure that’s enough.  Too little, too late.

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