Tier Points running to Jakarta – Part 1

The following two reports cover my day trip to Jakarta on Cathay Pacific’s Business Class on a Sunday. The reason I chose Jakarta was because HKG-CGK is over 2,000 miles, which means that it is classed as a long-haul flight with BA’s Executive Club. Bagging 280 Tier Points in a day, at no additional cost to an ex-EU fare, is about the best deal you can get. It also helps that CX777/CX776 constantly runs on long-haul planes as doing the back-to-back would have been painful on a regionally configured plane.

I woke up at 5.45 am and left home at 6 am for my flight at 9.20 am. I took the Airport Express shuttle bus to Kowloon Station where I did my in-town check-in.

I arrived into the airport just 2 hours before my flight. Security was packed but with the HK efficiency, I was through and through in 15 minutes.

The gate today was Gate 2. While the Wing is definitely just next to my gate, I was assured that it would be packed. The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge, which doubles up as JAL’s lounge in the morning/early afternoon before Qantas and BA’s evening departures, provides a rare sanctuary for plane spotting, breakfast-eating and (more importantly) catching up with caffeine undisturbed.

COFFEE!

Japanese rice provision for Japanese passengers

My breakfast, with a lovely cup of flat white

Second course: made to order wonton noodles

My view

SQ001 onwards to Singapore

Leaving the Qantas lounge for my flight. The lounge was not populated at all despite the morning rush hour flights. Staff was courteous and happy to oblige with any requests. Food offering was superb.

As ever, the Priority Pass lounge had a long queue

My flight was about to board when I arrived

My chariot today – newly painted A333

Flying business today!

My seat was 21A, which is an excellent seat. Being at the back of the Business Class cabin means that there is minimal foot traffic as all toilets are in front of you. You are also in the mini cabin which means it is a bit roomier. The only downside is that you will be served last.

This is 20A

My view

Welcome drink: no bubbly in the morning

Hot towel

Business class was full but boarding was quickly done. Safety demonstration soon followed

The seat controls – really showing its age

Push back

The journey is just over 2,000 miles – exactly why I was on that plane!

Taxing to runway

Entering runway 07R for departure

And here we go

Shing Mun Reservoir and Sha Tin

Victoria Harbour

Then I started my inflight entertainment

I was offered a post-take off drink. I took a coconut water (I was rather surprised to see that on the menu) I also asked for a champagne. The Purser serving my aisle was very snappy – not overly approachable, but she was straight to the point, also yelling ‘certainly, sir’ – very typical HK efficiency!

First course: Seasonal Fresh Fruits

With breakfast pastries

Second course: Special K

Third course: Braised beef brisket and noodles – yum!!! It was very flavourful and the beef was flavourful. It was hands-down the best breakfast I have had on the plane. The noodles were well cooked but not overly dry.

A cappuccino to end

Breakfast service concluded about 1.5 hours into the flight, which was rather efficient. The food was decent in portion and quality. I was generally pleased

I decided to start working

I got some sparkling water

And HK style milk tea – one of my favourite drinks on board Cathay

Crossing the equator

Hot towel offered again just under an hour out

Seat returned to take off position

21A has two windows

I asked for a bottle of water to keep myself hydrated until I get on the plane again!

Descending into Jakarta

Our flight route today

The curtain was shut immediately after we arrived to make sure that business class passengers disembarked first

I was picked up by the ground staff who helped me pass through transit. I was led to the lounge while the Cathay staff took care of the rest and came back with a boarding pass. I was impressed by the meet and assist service I was provided with as a back-to-back customer.

The flight was very good. The catering was a stand-up from what I had to London a few months ago – Cathay certainly had the potential to do very well in terms of food. The service I received was good, nothing memorable. The Purser was very to-the-point, but was not as friendly as the ones on SQ. Given a full flight, it was understandable that I felt like I was on an assembly line. Hard product was excellent as ever. Not a bad half a day mileage running. And spoiler alert: my return trip was better!

My virgin flight on Cathay Dragon’s Business Class

After I got off the plane from Heathrow, I walked towards the transit counter for my onward boarding pass with Cathay Dragon. I found out that my flight had been delayed for 50 minutes, which gave me ample, if a bit too much, time to explore the Cathay lounge at KUL. Food and drinks options were disappointing to say the least, but I only needed some water, so I was not too fussed. Wifi was not very good, I was not able to do a skype voice call properly.

I left at the stated boarding time on the boarding pass (with the new departure time). Like SIN, KUL’s security is at gate, which can mean a long queue for a full flight. While the flight was not full (20/24 in J, 180/293 in Y), the lack of priority security as in SIN for frequent flyers and premium passengers meant that it took quite a while. Oh well, the flight was not boarding yet so I was not fussed.

The plane in the new livery

Once in the gate area, there was a segregated seating area for premium passengers, which was very nice.

Boarding soon followed. Business Class passengers were invited the board, and they enforced this religiously – even frequent flyers were not allowed to board at the first instance. Once onboard, I was offered Dragon Sunrise, a special cocktail, which I enjoyed immensely.

Instead of hot towel we got wet wipes.

Safety demonstration

The gate bridges were disengaged

Push-back

A short taxi was then followed by the take-off roll

Table was set and I was given the menu

Sunset outside

Drinks and nuts service came first. I had the cocktail and a glass of water

First course: Seared scallop starter, with Taittinger Champagne. The starter was not bad though the citrus salad was a bit of a weird combination

More sunset

Garlic bread and rolls were offered

The main course: Braised chicken with red date and black fungus, seasonal vegetables and steamed rice. It was meh, passable.

Dessert was the bog-standard ice cream

I was left rather hungry by the underwhelming main, hence I asked for more ice cream, which was served quickly

We were making good progress

The bulkhead legroom was good

The regional headphones left more to be desired

Soon enough it was 30 minutes prior to landing, when the seatbelt sign came on

Overall verdict: I really enjoyed the service. The crews were personal in their approaches and seemed really genuine, which was a marked difference from some of the Cathay service I got. Although it was evident that Cathay Dragon lacked the level of poshness as with Cathay Pacific, the service was much better. The catering was passable but the wine list was good. For such a short segment, the hard product was decent – the inflight entertainment was of excellent quality, the seat was comfortable, though it helped to have a bulkhead window seat with no seat mate.

Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong to London Heathrow

The final leg of my Christmas break saw me flying back to the UK. I was booked on the A350 service to Dusseldorf, then to Stockholm on Air Berlin before returning to London. It was going to be a rather long day but I was mostly excited for the A350!

I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport in good time for my flight. The flight was scheduled to leave at 01:05 but I arrived shortly after 21:00. I did not want to bother my parents too much so I elected to get to the airport earlier so they would not have to stay up; and I had work to do, which could be done in the lounge anyways.

At check-in, I was informed that the flight to Dusseldorf was overbooked and there was also a concern that I was going to misconnect at some point during my ‘pierced-together’ trip – even though these tickets were in the same PNR. The duty manager was called, and she asked the check-in agent to call flight control to see whether there would be any seats in the direct LHR flights. Soon enough, I was issued with a boarding pass for CX251 – the direct London service.

I did not mind that much – knowing that Cathay had a lot of A350s on order, I knew that chances would come. And lord and behold, my flight from SIN to HKG in June is now scheduled to be flown by an A350.

Gate number was 2, and with less time now to explore the airport, I went to the Wing for a drink and catch up on some emails.

This would be the second last long-haul trip I take that I would be using the Business Class lounges. As the series suggest that I am chasing OneWorld Emerald, and by the end of Easter, I would make OneWorld Emerald.

The Wing Business lounge has a very welcoming feature, which is that it has an open bar (open in terms of both the amount of alcohol you can drink; and open in terms of the view) and you cannot resist this shot!

The drink list

The lounge is as busy as ever. I really would not miss this part. The Qantas Lounge would make a much better place to stay if you have a longer waiting time. But with just over an hour, my priority was to find somewhere closer to my gate and just work.

I arrived at the gate at boarding time (23:15) but there was no movement whatsoever. The gate agents just arrived. The flight must be delayed.

I joined the queue for Business Class.

Soon enough, a notice came up regarding the delayed boarding time. The reason given for the delay was anticipated shorter flying time (which was not true in the end)

The flight would be very full

Queue started to form for Economy Class

At about 23:30, the FIDS started to show ‘boarding soon’ – which was a good sign. By this time, the Business Class lengthened and boarding passes were being checked.

Boarding started soon after for First and Business Classes. When I approached the podium, the agent took my boarding pass to scan. A red beep came on. Was it an upgrade? I wish! But my request for a window seat came through (I was originally assigned 23D, and now 20K) I was most happy.

I was offered Champagne as a pre-departure beverage

Boarding was completed in an orderly fashion and safety demonstration came on at about midnight.

Inflight entertainment was available thereafter

I was then offered a hot towel

The seat controls

The noise-cancelling headphones

The inflight map

Pushback!

After half an hour of taxi, we took off at 00:30on Runway 07R

Goodbye Hong Kong!

To clear Chinese airspace, the plane would need to reach 15,000 feet. Hence the departure pattern took the flight south of Hong Kong before heading North to give the plane a bit more distance to make the climb

The first thing to do was to put on a movie in anticipation of the service

My choice tonight: a light-hearted comedy

I was then given the menu and a bottle of water

The amenity kit

The table was laid 50 minutes after take-off. The Senior Purser would take meal orders (whether you want a full service or a reduced ‘express’ service). I requested the soup from the express service and wanted a full service for the main course. As for drinks I asked for a champagne

Supper: A tasty blend of freshly prepared savoury dips and grissini

Garlic bread and rolls

I asked for the Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 2015, which continues to be my favourite wine on board Cathay since I first had it in December

Cauliflower cream soup and grissini

Gross-looking but passable main: Seared beef short rib steak, ratatouille, grape tomato, parsnip mash and garlic thyme sauce

The saving grace was that it was not well done

Pralines were offered after the crew was done with the main service

I requested an ice cream from the snack menu, which the crew was more than happy to oblige

And to finish, a chamomile tea with honey

The service took nearly two hours, which was okay given the length of the flight. My movie finished just as the lights were dimmed. I quick made out my bed.

The 77W has wider beds given the wider fuselage. The Cathay seat was very comfortable but the pillow was a bit thin… I slept soundly for 7 hours, which was great.

When I woke up the breakfast service just started. I had an orange juice and the berry smoothie

Fresh seasonal fruit. Oatmeal, chia seeds, coconut milk and mango puree (which was superb!)

Pork and dried vegetables congee, baked barbecue pork pie. My expectations might have been too high for this main course. The congee was grossly oily and baked barbecue pork pie was too.

A cappuccino was requested

The legroom was excellent, of course

A hot towel to conclude the service

I was given the invitation to fast track immigration

Seat back to the take-off position

The seatbelt sign came on 30 minutes prior to landing

Just when we were crossing the English Channel

Gear down

Final approach

We arrived 10 minutes ahead of schedule (the captain promised us 30 minutes though!)

The route today

Thank you for flying CX

We docked at Terminal 3

I used the American Arrival lounge for a shower and some proper breakfast food

The breakfast spread was impressive – the champagne!

I ordered something from the menu, though

A Buck’s Fizz to start the day – why not?

My Egg Benedict – which was excellent!

I then made my way to the National Express station for my coach, thus concluding my flight report.

Overall Verdict? The check-in staff went above and beyond in arranging me to take the direct flight, which exemplified the company’s motto – service from the heart. On board, the service seemed a bit rush and with such a large J cabin, it may feel like part of an assembly line. The catering was hit and miss – some bits of it were good (the oatmeal, the soup etc.), some were downright gross (the breakfast). But as ever, the hard product is amazing and can afford you a good night’s sleep and decent entertainment. With this solid offering, Cathay is indeed the better one of the OneWorld airlines to and from Hong Kong, despite the novelty of A380.

Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class Osaka Kansai to Hong Kong

On my return to Hong Kong (and to London), I chose to fly out of Osaka instead of Tokyo, in part eyeing the later evening departure and the fact that our last stop on this trip was Kyoto, which has a direct train to Kansai Airport. When I booked, only CX507 was available in Business Class. So despite the regional configuration (CX595 had the long haul configuration), I chose to fly CX507.

We departed Kyoto a bit later than we wanted and only got into Kansai about 1 hour 45 minutes prior to departure, which was not always going to be a problem. But, with it being very peak season and Cathay with its 3 evening departures out of Kansai, check-in took over an hour to process, even in Business Class.

(Un)surprisingly, Business Class was overbooked. I did not hold the more valuable ticket that the ground staff was looking for (I suspect the later two flights were overbooked as my flight’s seat map remained open until online check-in) so I did not obtain the sizeable cash for downgrading. Oh well. My ticket was cheap enough so I should not moan.

After checking-in, it was already 45 minutes to departure. The ground staff gave me a Fast Lane pass (as a custom for Business passengers, I presume) and urged me to hurry up as boarding will begin very soon.

Gate 4 today

As ever, the Business Class line had more people than there were seats for Business Class.

My ride today

My seat today is 14A. Legroom is 45 inches and width 20, which is not bad for a 4-hour ride to Hong Kong. I mostly enjoyed myself, although I would definitely appreciate direct aisle access.

Welcome drinks offered

Hot towel

Inflight entertainment was available gate to gate

Except… during the mandatory safety demo

Soon enough we were on our way. A short taxi followed by a short take off roll

Welcome announcement post-take off

Gin and Tonic and mixed nuts

A brief note here: the Senior Purser was offering seconds for nuts after the drink cart came around. He noted that I did not like the wasabi beans, and when I asked for more nuts, he proactively offered me the mix without the wasabi beans. That exemplified the Cathay service

Soon enough table cloth was laid in preparation for dinner service

To start: Smoked duck and roasted vegetables, Mixed salad and balsamic vinaigrette, Plum soba noodles

With assorted bread rolls

Champagne Billecart-Salmon Brut

Main Course: Steamed pork rib, onion sauce, jade melon mixed vegetables and steamed jasmine rice; White wine: Yealands Estate Land Made Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Selection of Cheese and Fruits

Ice Cream

Bailey’s on rocks

The meal service took the good 2 hours to complete. By the end of which, we were approaching Taiwan

A chamomile tea to finish off the meal

Eventually we made our descent into Hong Kong

Closer to New Year than Christmas… there were still Christmas decorations lying around

As ever, noise-cancelling headsets for Business Class

Final approach

The flight landed just before 9 pm, which was well ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 9:35 pm

I stopped by the Arrival Lounge and had a bite to eat

Menu

Not very spacious

My pasta: a real passable attempt

Shower

Overall verdict: I was mostly pleased with the flight. The regional business seat was not the best, which seems to be the consensus, but for a flight where sleep is unnecessary, I am not fused. Service was good, not excellent, but granted the full flight on the regional configured 773 which holds nearly 400 souls on board. The food was above par and so was the wine. The inflight entertainment is, as ever, hard to fault; and the noise-cancelling headphones are, well, functioning. A good flight, could be better, but again could have been worse.

Cathay’s long-haul Business Class and new London lounge

When I left you last, I just landed into Terminal 5 of Heathrow. My next flight was a CX flight to Hong Kong which departed from Terminal 3. So I needed to follow the purple signs which would lead me to the bus to Terminal 3.

I just missed my bus! But there were chairs so I patiently waited for my next bus

We were dropped off at Terminal 3 and had to be screened before the transfer desks. I showed the fast track people my Business Class boarding card and was granted access to fast track. Security took less than 2 minutes and in we go

I approached the Cathay desk for my boarding pass – but there was no one there. I was told by a BA ground staff that I should go to the lounge if I wanted a new boarding card on Cathay stock.

The Cathay lounge opened the day I flew (7th December) – though it had been running for a week then (soft opening). Everything looked very, very new and very, very posh. Like the lounges in Hong Kong (The Pier), Bangkok, Manila and Tokyo Haneda, the London lounge is designed by the London-based design firm Studioilse. The lounge boosted a view of the tarmac (though it was not exploited by me given the early sunset hours of London) and a bigger size (given that it took, also, the space where the KrisFlyer lounge used to be at). Having not been to the old lounge, I couldn’t say how it compared – but this is definitely one of the most impressive lounges I have been to this year – food and drink offerings are unparalleled by the Galleries lounge in Terminal 5 and it never felt too crowded (despite with 4 evening departures and all of them very full in Business and with, I am sure, many elite members in Premium and Economy classes)

I first grabbed a shower suite to shower before seeing my friend who will be arriving in the lounge – she will be flying the later evening flight to Hong Kong onwards to Sydney

Next I needed something to eat to fill my tummy (I haven’t had much lunch and the afternoon tea on BA was barely fulfilling!)

Offerings

Condiments

Drinks at the noodles bar

The bar area

The bartender very eager to be in the picture

The drink list

I had a Mojito and waited for my noodles order

My first helping of food

The noodles was not very good – it was just a bit bland, but the fried rice was flavourful, well-presented and warm

I was offered some champagne as everyone was extra jolly for the grand opening of the lounge (though champagne can always be sought in the bar!)

Second helping of food

Everything was excellent – and I was starting to miss food from Hong Kong

And ice cream to finish

It was time for a stroll around the lounge

The lounge is great, especially when you are travelling with someone. A few more helpings of champagne with my friend, I headed to my departure gate

My flight was already closing

Only door L2 was engaged today so there was a long queue just to get on the plane!

My seat: 21K

View was great

Welcome drinks

Just below 6,000 miles to go

The flight left on time and safety demonstration video was played soon after

Afterwards the inflight entertainment system was made available

Taxi was short and we took off quite early

Ex-London food did not fail to impress

The dinner menu reads:

Starters: Smoked salmon with capers, onion and parsley, chive crème fraiche; Mixed salad with white asparagus, cucumber and radish, served with soy vinaigrette

Mains:

  • Braised beef and turnips, stir-fried vegetables and steamed jasmine rice
  • Corn-fed chicken breast, seasonal vegetables, roasted new potatoes with jus
  • Prawn curry, mushroom palak and cumin basmati rice
  • Papparadelle with spicy tomato mascarpone sauce

Cheese and Fruit

Desserts:

  • Yogurt lime mousse, rhubarb and ginger
  • Bourbon and vanilla cheese cake

My table was laid right after take-off

Nuts and drinks

Starters – excellent

Garlic Bread

Mains – the portion is a bit small but the dish was well-executed, the beef was tender. I had the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to go with my meal, which was delightful

Cheese and fruit

Dessert was okay

I like the cake better

Mood lighting was engaged soon after dinner service. I was offered some chocolates and tea

We were nearly leaving Europe by the time dinner ended – it was well elaborated service that was not too rush. The crews were attentive and offered to refill drinks sometimes

I woke up with after 6 hours to go

The flat bed

The sun is about to come out

Soon enough, it was a new day

I was hungry (again!) so I ordered some snacks – fish ball (instant) noodles with pak choy

And ice cream

The view remained the best inflight entertainment

My coffee was topped up when prompted

The seat controls

Getting into China now

The mood lighting came back on about 2 hours prior to landing

Hot towel

My table laid

The smoothie and orange juice

The breakfast menu reads:

  • Orange or apple juice
  • Mango and passionate smoothie
  • Frest fruit and Bircher muesli

Mains:

  • Tomato omeltter, veal sausages, mushrooms and tomato
  • Stir-fried rice vermicelli, duck julienne, preserved snow vegetables and bamboo shoots
  • Shredded pork and mushroom congee with preserved cabbage

When I was served the main, there was a sudden turbulence. The Senior Purser dropped the main onto my table, which caused a few vegetables to fall on the table. She profusely apologised and offered to clean up the ‘mess’. I insisted it was alright. I said I would survive. But she insisted on fixing it – so I let her. Her strive for excellence had been impressive throughout the flight – she was also the only one who addressed me by name every time I saw her. She exemplified service straight from the heart the best but I think this is more an exception than a rule on Cathay

My coffee with my Santa hat!

Arrival information

Last legroom shot

Approaching HKG

Verdict?

By all counts, this was a great flight – my best yet on Cathay. The flight was very full in all three cabins but the Business Class cabin was quiet, private and comfortable. The seat was very good, although I did not get much sleep or as soundly asleep as I would hope. The cabin crew was good, and the Senior Purser was excellent – I wrote a follow-up complimentary letter. The food was decent as well.

I have flown BA to and from London in Club World – so how does Cathay fare on the same route? I think Cathay wins on every count: the cabin, the seat, the crew, the inflight entertainment system and the food and drinks. I do tend to sleep better on BA – god knows why – so I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t fly BA anymore. But I will gladly fly Cathay from London to Hong Kong everyday if things stay the same.

 

 

BA A320 Club Europe: Stockholm to London

left my hotel three and half hours before my flight as I was planning to have lunch in the airport anyways. I picked my flight time strategically to enjoy the afternoon tea service on BA’s Club Europe product, which is always good and consistent. I took the airport bus from Central Station and nearing the airport, I spotted this:

BA operates out of Terminal 2, which was the last stop of the airport bus. Like Munich, which I visited in June, BA has three manned desk in Arlanda Airport: one for Club Europe and OneWorld elites and the other two for ticketing and Euro Traveller. I was promptly checked in, and my onward boarding pass to Hong Kong was also printed.

BA uses Aurora Lounge in Arlanda, which locates inside the secured area but before immigration. It is a third-party lounge shared by many airlines. The offering is not too bad, but not too good either. It can be rather crowded and the internet connection can be a bit hit and miss.

Lunch – passable

The lounge

View of the check-in area

Food offering

Drinks

Wine on tap… interesting

Flight Information Display… Not quite user-friendly, the information is rather small

Towards immigration

A very full flight today, once again, the gate agents are happy to take bags for check-in. I arrived rather late and both the elite and non-elite lines were full of people. The agents insisted, however, on boarding passengers in Club first before Gold Card (OW Emerald) members, so I ended up being one of the first people on the plane

In Sweden, the sun goes down rather early in winter

Gate disengaged after boarding. We departed 5 minutes ahead of schedule

Towel offered: I saw the cabin crew freshening the towel with hot water on the tap!

Safety demonstration

We were cleared for take-off at 15:10 (5 minutes after STD)

The view!

The cabin crew started the service right away. Most of the passengers declined the meal service and I was served 20 minutes after take-off, which was rather efficient

My choices of drinks: sparkling water, tea and champagne

The reason why I fly!

By the time I finished with my food, we just passed Denmark

Sipping champagne while working on a speech I had to give that weekend

The best inflight entertainment

Approaching England

Over Southend

… And Greater London

In a holding pattern

Glorious sunset

On final approach

Landed!

We parked in satellite B

It is probably as good a flight as intra-Europe business class goes. The crews were witty and efficient, but they would not go the extra mile. When I went to use the facilities, the crews were reading the papers and snacking on nuts. There was a water service prior to the descent, which was probably better than the other flights I have been on. The seat was hands-down bad: I would fly in the back in emergency exit any day than in Club (but my ticket was in conjunction with the HKG segment), I guess we are spoiled in Asia!

Next installment: Cathay 77G Business LHR – HKG with a review of CX’s new lounge

A380 Club World Hong Kong to London

This is the continuation of my trip from London to Hong Kong on British Airways. On my return, I picked the A380 flight as I have tried the 777 flight on the inbound. I was very excited to fly on the upper deck. Once again, the BA policy of charging passengers for seat assignments (even in Club World) has meant that myself, as a lowly Ruby, can only grab an aisle seat – well, at least better than being in the middle. The flight lands at 4:30 in the morning so there would have been nothing to see from a window seat anyways – except for the added privacy.

I arrived in the airport two hours before the flight departed – just in time to fit in a visit to the Qantas Hong Kong lounge, which was conveniently located just outside of security, and just above the gate where the flight departed from. There was no queue for Club World check-in and my bag was checked through the London very quickly. The check-in agent confirmed that the flight was very full and all seats on the flight have been taken – so no window seat for me!

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There was a sizeable queue for World Traveller and World Traveller Plus – but I imagine that most of the passengers have checked in already for this flight.

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After a quick goodbye to my family, I headed towards security and immigration. Hong Kong is one of the few hub airports without fast track security but that was not a problem today as I got through security and immigration in 5 minutes. The Qantas Hong Kong lounge is located just on the right after immigration.

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My gate

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The Qantas Hong Kong Lounge is a OneWorld lounge for passengers travelling in First or Business Class, or those with OneWorld Sapphire and Emerald status.

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No Champagne though!

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I arrived at around 9:15 pm and have just narrowly missed when they served freshly made food from the kitchen. Qantas passengers usually can enjoy a daily special being freshly made from the kitchens – for BA passengers, there is only the buffet – but food was generally of high quality and I was quite pleased with the wine selections – which I think was superb and brilliantly showcased the excellent Australian winemaking.

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I enjoyed the Clare Valley Riesling and a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

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The lounge is very spacious and I was able to find a place that was quiet to catch up on some emails and work. I did not take many pictures of the space because the lounge was getting a lot more crowded closer to the departure times of the BA flights.

I left the lounge 10 minutes ahead of boarding time as I wanted to board early!

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Surprisingly, no one has queued up yet for Economy Class – quite unusual!

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My poor attempt at photographing the bird

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Pre boarding started on time.

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Once First Class passengers and OneWorld Emerald passengers boarded, Club World passengers were invited to board – it was all very chill as not many people have arrived at the gate yet!

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Stairs to heaven!

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I was the first passenger to board the forward cabin in the Upper Deck.

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My seat: 52D

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Club World cabin on the Upper Deck of A380 is in a 2-3-2 layout – which is the same as the Premium Economy cabin. BA has one of the densest Business Class cabins in the world – with the ‘yin-yang’ arrangement – not everyone has direct aisle access – rather you will need to step over someone’s legs if you are looking to leave from a window or middle seat. Also, the aisle seats tend to lack privacy as you are exposed.

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I was immediately offered Champagne or orange juice. Some bubbles for me, please!

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The second Club cabin

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The World Traveller Plus cabin – probably one of the largest in the industry – this cabin boosts 55 seats in one cabin 9-row 2-3-2 layout

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And the rare gems – the upper deck economy class seats

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Back at my seat – for the obligatory legroom shot

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My neighbours have not yet arrived, still… As you can see the seats afford almost zero privacy

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The famous A380 stair

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50B is not a very good seat as it faces straight into the loo and can be disruptive during the flight

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The middle seat, too, is not ideal – very narrow and it will be like sleeping in a coffin

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The screen is big enough (10.4 inches) and I like the touch screen a lot – one of the problems I have with the SQ new Business Class is the lack of touch screen in their monitors

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Water was offered during the lengthy boarding process

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Once the Club cabin filled up, we were given menus and the wash bag amenity kits

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Menu for the flight – no one-tray supper affair with BA… you get a three-course meal as per usual dinner standards, and a good breakfast

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Drinks

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BA serves three champagnes in the Club cabin – probably more than any carrier in the world (QR serves a white and a rose champagne)

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The flight left the gate bang on time at 23:05 and the safety video played one minute after:

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And the cabin crew did their final walk around soon after the video in preparation for departure

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Onwards and upwards!

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My neighbour immediately raised the privacy screen

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Noise-cancelling headsets

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Exploring the IFE – not much to see but quite updated and good enough for a red-eye

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Drinks came soon enough – the crews were very efficient despite a very full flight

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Refills were plentiful – seems like I am the only one in the cabin drinking this the crew even gave me the bottle

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Half an hour after, we got the first course – which was bland but edible. No plate for bread though!

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In 20 minutes my first course was cleared away and I asked for the Australian white, which was not too bad!

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The main was chicken – nothing spectacular but it was well cooked, pipping hot and tender – no complaints that. It was very satisfying at this late hour indeed

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On BA – cheese course is one of the desserts – or it is either cheese or pie

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The pie is brilliant – simple yet delicious. And with a cup of tea – it is out of the world

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Dinner was done two hours after gate departure – which was efficient in my opinion and with the long flight time, there was chance for a good sleep (10:11hrs left)

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The sleeping amenities – both very decent. The blanket was warm enough but I would definitely appreciate an extra pillow!

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Flat bed

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Woke up half way through my sleep – still tired though

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Explored the Club Kitchen – nothing impressive

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I went back to sleep until breakfast – which started 1 hour 15 minutes before landing – so I slept for about 8.5 hours – the bed was decent and once the cabin was completely dark, privacy did not matter as much

Breakfast

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Pastries

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Fruits

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Main course – definitely looks very good, but because I was still very full, I only picked at it – the eggs were great but did not venture anywhere more than that

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We were among the first few to arrive into Heathrow – with no air traffic control holds, we were able to take a rather direct route for an on-time arrival

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Verdict

Let’s start with the positives:

  • The ground service and the lounge in HKG were brilliant. No queue and I enjoyed the lounge immensely – a very quiet place to work in.
  • The cabin crews were friendly and efficient.
  • The food was, if simple and predictable, well-executed.
  • The bed was very comfortable and BA provided enough amenities to guarantee a good night’s sleep.

But…

  • The hard product remains outdated – in today’s world, we all love a bit more space, hence we are seeing Business Class seats classed as “suites” and have direct aisle access that boosts a 1-2-1 layout. If anything, the denseness of the cabin can be uncomfortable.

 

A birthday upgrade: Cathay Pacific Regional Business Class

It was a short weekend getaway to Singapore before I started my job to celebrate both my and my mother’s birthdays. We were booked on CX690 which departs Singapore at 12:45 pm. After a long buffet breakfast in Holiday Inn, we checked out and hopped onto a taxi that would take us to Changi Airport. The weather was decent that day and so was the traffic – took us around 20 minutes to reach Terminal 1 where Cathay Pacific is at.

Being a Silver MPC member, I was afforded priority check-in. Cathay has a whole row to itself, with two or three priority counters, and the rest are bag drops for Economy passengers. Cathay operates mostly on its regional fleets with its regional products, with less seats in premium classes, more in Economy. So it was no surprise that there was not any queue when we approached the counters.

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I handed over the passports and causally waited. In 10 seconds, the lady manning the counter said, Mr Lam, our flight is overbooked together, but we only have one Business seat, is it alright if I upgrade only you? Overjoyed, I asked my father whether he wanted the seat – but he said it was my birthday so I could have it. I said okay and thanked the check-in agent for the pleasant surprise. She then proceeded to issue me a boarding pass and checked in our suitcases to Hong Kong.

Cathay uses the Dnata lounge in Terminal 1, which was an alright lounge. It has some food offerings which I did not sample, a decent alcoholic spread (not impressive though) and a café featuring real barista making coffee (which I found to be an excellent infrastructure!)

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The café

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Alcohol selection

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Drinks

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Food

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I wasn’t particularly hungry or feeling I wanted alcohol, so I ordered a flat white from the café as I waited for the gate to open. It was an excellent cup of coffee. I really liked this part of the lounge. The barista helped make me feel that they knew what they were making (unlike in other lounges where fresh coffee would come from the bar)

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Seating area – the lounge was not particularly crowded for a Monday. There were lots of open spaces for people to use. Though there were kids running around, which was never too pleasant for those trying to work (and I might be tempted to play with the kids though!)

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I left the lounge to arrive at the gate for the boarding at 12:05, which did not happen as the plane arrived just a few minutes ago from Hong Kong. The stroll to the gate was not too long as the lounge was located quite near to the gate – which was probably a good thing (the QF/BA lounges, though not opened at this point, are located near the C gates.

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I must commend the ground operations for Cathay in Singapore. They have made a priority lane for security, which Singapore Airlines’ departures so clearly lacked. As a Silver Member (even with the upgrade), I would clear security in a breeze. (Note that Green Member would not be able to use the priority security lane)

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To show you how much difference it makes, here is the Economy lane:

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To make things even better, there are segregated sitting areas, where Business Class and elite passengers would sit in a segregated zone with guaranteed seats and priority boarding privileges assured. Again, this is not seen in Singapore Airlines’ flights – which I would definitely want to see.

Our chariot today would be B-HNI, a 17-year-old Boeing 777-300, equipped with the old long-haul economy class (as reviewed here) and the new regional Business products.

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Boarding commenced in earnest soon enough. It was much better when priority boarding was enforced with such strength, meaning not much queues and easier to navigate.

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Boarding through door L1

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I was given seat 12A, a bulkhead window seat, which was excellent. Cathay’s regional Business Class on its 773 has a 2-3-2 configuration, with 42 seats, all located between door L1 and L2. 12A is a good seat overall, and legroom is probably slightly better at bulkhead.

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I was quickly offered a pre-departure beverage. The bog-standard champagne, orange juice or water. And I obligatorily took a champagne to celebrate my birthday! Cathay has a good champagne in my opinion.

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Hot towel was offered soon after the drink:

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Boarding was completed very quickly and we pushed back on time.

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And so the safety demonstration began

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There were some technical problems right after push back and we held our position for 30 minutes before we departed for good. With the 777, I was able to view the deliberation of the engineers:

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Taxi:

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Flight time of 3 hours 23 minutes

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We did not hold at runway 20C and took off 40 minutes behind schedule

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Construction at Changi Airport (for the new terminal?)

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Gears up!

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Changi airport as seen from air

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The older generation inflight map

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Leveling up slightly

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At this point, the senior purser (not a very pleasant man, who frowned for most of the flight) came around and gave us the menus (weirdly, the other aisle had their menus prior to takeoff…)

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The drinks cart came very soon. I took champagne and sparkling water with mixed nuts. Mixed nuts were warm but it came in very small portions.

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Though the purser came back with some refills for my nuts, not for the champagne though.

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At the core of Cathay’s service was efficiency. On a similar regional flight I flew in March on SQ, meals were not offered until well into the flight: but for Cathay, our tables were laid around 45 minutes into the flight. (But the promised refill of my champagne was probably forgot)

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The salmon starter: it was quite an innovative starter in my opinion, pairing salmon with citruses, but it was very refreshing. Very fresh to say the least.

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View from the restaurant!

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Main: duck with rice. It was mediocre: the duck was not as tender as hoped but the sauce was the saving grace. The rice was too dry to be considered as good rice. I would say SQ had better mains on this route for Business Class. Though I am very happy to see the rice in a bowl (a first!) and the chopsticks that accompanied it (BA does not cater chopsticks and on SQ they are on demand) As customary for Cathay, all the mains were presented on a cart for the passengers to choose from. This is not something I mind too much about.

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Efficiency! The flight has barely progressed much by the time the main was collected. But the efficiency was at the expense of my enjoyment somehow: the senior purser and the purser both ignored my request of a glass of wine… Maybe this was because no one else was drinking wine and they were not interested in entertaining me by opening a bottle of wine… I was very annoyed but I could live without the wine so I digressed.

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So far, the service pattern had been from the front to the rear of the cabin, which was quite good for me as I was able to eat ahead of others. Yet for the cheese and fruit course, the service pattern was reversed, which did not make sense. For those at the rear, it would mean dessert starts almost immediately as they finish the main course. And for those in the front, it would mean a long pause in between courses. I somehow do not get the logic behind this.

As the fruit cart approaches me, most of the fruits were gone. And as the passenger next to me was a VIP, I was left with whatever’s left on the cart (row 11 was served by the crew working the other aisle)…

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I was not too happy… So I asked the crew to get me some pineapples and honeydew money as I saw others enjoying. The crew said he would check with the other side, and came back with some more fruits.

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This turned out to be a bad move. The pineapple was so bad and sour that I threw it out right after it touched my mouth… As they came back with more fruits, they also came back with champagne and the Inflight Service Manager wished me a happy birthday – which was a good personal touch.

Ice cream was then offered, this time in random order. Those who finished their cheese and fruits would be served ice cream. There were three choices: summer berries and cream (which I had), cookies and chocolate, and vanilla.

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In contrast to the other crews who were slow at serving wine, the Inflight Service Manager was quick in her service. I asked for a Cathay Delight which was served up quickly. It is a kiwi and milk based drink.

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And before landing, I asked for a HK style milk tea (to which I considered to be one of the best things on board a Cathay Business flight)

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My seat: with cushion but blankets are only supplied on request

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On approach:

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Quite a beautiful day

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2 windows for bulkhead

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The nearly completed Zhuhai-Macau-HK link

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Gear down:

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Cathay’s first A350 spotted!

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My verdict? 

Of course it was lovely to get upgraded on a cheap fare and on my birthday. Cathay treats its elite quite well as we can see from the priority treatment and the operational upgrade. It was also solid showing. The seat, though in a cramped cabin, was comfortable. Catering was unremarkable but nothing too bad. Service was bog-standard, professional yet distant, bar the occasional ignoring of what I wanted. There were some good bits: the champagne, the ISM and the upgrade. But equally, there were some bad bits: the other cabin crews, the pineapple and the dry rice in the main.

Despite an on balance underwhelming performance, I look forward to flying with Cathay on its long-haul Business Class from Europe to Hong Kong in December.

A pleasant experience on BA’s Club World Business Class

BA0027 London Heathrow to Hong Kong in Club World Business Class Review

I have prepared myself for this: an exposed flat bed in a cramped cabin, subpar dining experience and potentially someone (crew) shouting at me for not conforming to certain health and safety regulations. But surprisingly, British Airways pulled out a solid decent show – the bed was surprisingly comfortable, the food was good to very good, the flight was smooth and the crew was almost as friendly as the purser I encountered on my previous segment. While I was spoiled by Singapore Airlines by their luxurious five-course meals and Cathay for their reverse herringbone designs, BA did not fail to impress. I enjoyed the non-nonsense approach to meals, which maximised my time to rest. I appreciated the attentiveness of the crew, who offered me tea right after I woke up. And the inflight entertainment was decent.

So I got off the previous flight from Munich and headed towards the transit security. The staff initially declined me fast track access (probably testament to my causal wear) but after I insisted that I was flying Club World and showed them the boarding pass, they let me into the fast track. I guess the way this lane was fiercely guarded (which was unwarranted) led to how empty it was:

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I wasted no time and got out of security. I headed to the Galleries lounges where I first had a shower to refresh myself after quite a long day of travelling (more to come!) While this is not my first visit to Terminal 5, this was definitely my first visit to the lounges.

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After a hot shower, I am in need of some cooling down: as I headed to the Galleries First lounge (not for First Class passengers, but for OneWorld Emerald cardholders), I opted immediately for some Henriot Rose Campagne, and some Highland Spring Sparkling Water (60p in Sainsbury’s!) Pleasant enough…

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I have read elsewhere that frequent flyers are disappointed that BA no longer serves Taittinger Rose in Galleries First, but I must confess that I like the Henriot a lot.

On offer in the a la carte menu was: BA Burger, Smoked Salmon Bagel, Cauliflower Salad, Mozzarella and Basil Gnocchi, Chicken Curry, and Ice Cream.

I had a spa treatment scheduled later, so I planned to have two courses before dessert!

I have heard good things about the BA Burger and I was not disappointed!

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I then went to the spa for an eye treatment that was supposed to make my eyes feel better. It was a good massage but 15 minutes was too short!! Either way, I think that this is good provision for Business Class passengers that can put BA above some other carriers, even in intra-European routes!

I went back for more – and here’s the Smoked Salmon Bagel, which was equally delightful. To go with my Bagel, I had a French white, which was surprisingly good (I have never had good wines in lounges before, champagne is usually decent where it is offered – you cannot really go wrong with the latter, but you can with wines!)

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Always time and room for some dessert:

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I then went around the lounge to look around (guilty actually: I was looking for some more champagne!) Here’s the champagne bar:

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The Rose Champagne which I liked a lot a lot:

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Makes me feel slightly sad that I have to go soon to my gate (at this point, I am still not expecting much from my maiden Club World experience)

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One thing I liked about this lounge was how not busy it was during the Friday evening:

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Last drinks…

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With another dinner yet to be served on board, I decided to walk off some of the food and aid the digestion:

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Not my chariot…

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I reached my gate around 5 minutes before boarding. The gate was filled with so many people (a 777-300ER’s worth of people) and I had to fight my way through to the priority boarding lane, which was confusingly set up at gate B48, still showing for boarding a flight to Mumbai. Some frequent flyers told the staff off for the confusing signs, but the ground staff decided to shout back and justified his action by saying “I have done this for many years.”

Once I boarded, I settled into my seat 10J, which was an aisle seat on the first row. This is considered to be one of the better seats in the 777 Club World cabin, because no one would be climbing over you to go to the loo. Being in the first row also means that you will be served first for both meals. Yet, being an aisle seat would mean that the crew would still have to serve over you.

Soon enough I was offered pre-departure drinks by the crew. Champagne, OJ and water were on offer:

Then I was headed the menu for the evening, which reads:

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I chatted with my neighbour throughout the delay (we were on the ground for another hour despite that we finished boarding on time). But then we both got a bit tired by the time the flight took off, we just watched TV and the screen went up.

I put on the inflight map:

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Hot towel was then offered prior to the drinks cart.

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I took a champagne and some pre-packaged nuts. I did not like the drinks cart, which felt like economy class, but the I guess it was more efficient that way as dinner service then started very soon.

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Then I had the Kir Royale

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Starter came soon enough after one finishes the nuts. One of the male crews was in charge of clearing the table once a passenger finished his/her nuts.

The cart came back with starter choices, and I chose the smoked salmon starter. Well done to BA for giving us choices in starters! The starter was quite good, so was the bread. My only complaint would be the lack of a bread plate, but I guess the cloth was clean enough.

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For main course, I went for the Chinese option and the French white. The pork was flavourful but the rice was slightly overcooked and dry. It felt good though to be having rice after being in Europe for a long while.

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With a very good dessert being served, the crew serving me asked me for my tea/coffee preference. I wanted de-caf tea with milk, but the seat belt sign was on so it could not be served. I ended up falling a sleep so the tea never came!

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When my table was cleared, I fell asleep immediately as I put my seat into the bed. I did not get up until 2.5 hours before landing, which meant I slept for 7 hours straight, which was really, really decent. I found the bed, the duvet and the pillow very comfortable, and the fact that I slept for so long was a testament to that.

When I woke up, the crew came back to me and asked whether I would like the cup of tea I never drank. I said I wanted caffeinated tea this time, and I was served immediately.

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Already in China when I woke up

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Watching the Big bang Theory in anticipation of breakfast!

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A light start to breakfast: it was good, but unremarkable. I would like more fruits and those fruits presented better.

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Still full from dinner and I am arriving into Hong Kong in dinner time, I did not opt for the traditional English breakfast option. Instead I opted for the smoked salmon muffin, which was absolutely delicious – one of the best dish I have had in the skies.

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A remarks on the BA approach to serving main courses: like Cathay, BA shows you the main courses before asking for your preference, but unlike Cathay, BA does not put all the main courses on a cart and push it around the cabin. Rather, a crew would have one of the four main courses each on a tray and asks for our preferences and go back into the gallery for some fresh mains every now and then. This is a good approach, I think, as the mains were still warm even if you were last to be served.

Breakfast service was quick, efficient, and no-nonsense, concluded 55 minutes before landing, and with more tea / coffee to be offered.

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In sum, this was a solid showing from BA. It was not the most luxurious experience in Business Class, but it gets the job done. The bed, despite its lack of privacy, was long, wide enough for some movements while sleeping, and was comfortable for sleeping (the padding was extremely good). The catering was good: it was efficient but not overly simplistic. BA retains some class from its English origin. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience on BA’s Club World Business Class.

Food could be better. With regards to the seat, I think it was decent for the price I paid, but I agree that BA could use a new, updated seat design featuring much more storage, privacy and direct aisle access.

In December, I will be flying the same route on Cathay and I look forward to seeing how Cathay fare.

An English Afternoon Tea at 37,000 feet

BA953 MUC–LHR CLUB EUROPE REVIEW

On my departure from Munich, I purposely chose a flight that leaves in time for the afternoon tea service. I know that intra-European flights’ caterings often leave much to be desired, but I have equally heard wonderful things about BA’s afternoon tea services, especially with regards to the tea they serve on board. I was not disappointed on that front.

A very topical restaurant found in Munich Airport:

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British Airways departs in Terminal 1B in Munich Airport, whereas Lufthansa operates out of Terminal 2 with most, if not all, of its Star Alliance partners, where a new satellite building just opened.

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BA counters:

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I was checked in rather quickly. I did not share much conversations with the check-in agent. Rather, she proceeded with the no-nonsense attitude like most Germans. She gave me my boarding passes in less than a minute and pointed me to where immigration was.

Rather interestingly, BA operates out of the same terminal where Easyjet operates, so there were lots of Brits, not sure whether they were flying BA or not. I was also surprised by the lack of people at BA’s counters, given the flight would turn out to be really, really full, including in Club Europe.

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Fast Track was “closed” as in there was a barrier erected against its entrance. I waited for the person manning the Fast Track to return and showed him my boarding pass to access it. The Fast Track and the normal queue share the same two counters for immigration, one for EU and one for non-EU. Both counters were quite busy because of the QR departures in the B gates too. A BA customer was insistent that Fast Track passengers should be allowed to use the immigration counters before all the normal queue people whereas a lot of other Brits (including people travelling in Club) were okay with alternating between normal and Track. One thing is clear though, the Fast Track was not well thought through and that may need some improving during rush hours like Friday afternoons.

Anyhow, I was out of immigration and security checks in 15 minutes, where wasn’t too bad for an international airport – but rather unremarkable for Fast Track (my comparison would be London Terminal 2’s Fast Track for Star Alliance Gold members)

BA operates a lounge in Munich, which is decent for a European out-station, but not ideal if you skipped lunch. Due to existing building works, BA lounge is rather hard to reach. Just follow the signs and pursue regardless would be my advice (don’t doubt, just follow!)

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Plane spotting on the way: QR 77W with OneWorld livery

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The lounge does not have a restroom, you will need to exit the lounge

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No champagne, just Prosecco served from a bottle that looks like beer bottles in China:

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Soon enough, it was boarding time and I left the lounge. Strangely, the lounge agent made no announcement despite it being a BA lounge and that the lounge was quite far away from the gate.

We boarded through Gate B4 instead of the previously advertised B3

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When I arrived at the gate, a queue was formed already. Priority boarding was not enforced properly resulting in a very chaotic gate area. I fought my way through the crowd with my Club Europe boarding pass in my hand but when I reached the jetbridge, I was greeted with yet another queue…

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I assigned myself 5A in the hope that no one would sit next to me in the aisle, especially given the legroom (30 inches) but the flight was full in both classes, so 5C ended up being taken by a man. He lacked carry-on though, which meant I could put my backpack under the middle seat which was customarily blocked.

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The view of the engine from my seat:

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No pre-departure drinks, but pre-departure hot towels. I like how BA’s towels were somehow scented with citrus flavours

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Taxiing to the end of the runway did not take too long even though our flight was slightly delayed.

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Looking back to where we started… Terminal 1 of Munich – note the QR 77W for Doha just started push back

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As soon as the seat belt sign went off, the TV went down and inflight map started to play. Curtains were drawn between Club and Euro Traveller, and from the gallery where a delicious meal of afternoon tea was being prepared.

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Service was quite British – the Purser came by with the tray and chatted with the customers, addressing each by name! She poured tea and offered champagne for everyone. But that meant I was nearly last to receive my afternoon tea!

I went for Champagne, Sparkling Water and some tea. I was probably the only one opting for some bubbly that day – the Purser was so happy when I said the magic word. Partly it was due to the fact that they ran out of still water…Maybe it is fate that I should be drinking Champagne!

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You would note the absence of tea: the Purser must have noticed how she just took her time to come serve me, so she told me she would come back after she brewed a fresh pot. Of course, the tea was so important that it was worth the wait. Also, for the time being, I had the pleasure of the company of some bubbly! In the end, the tea did not disappoint – really, really, excellent English tea – the best (English Breakfast) tea I have ever had in the sky (my favourite remains CX’s Hong Kong style Milk Tea, as featured on my last Business trip with CX)

I also got some extra scones from the Purser – one of my masterpieces:

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Enroute: my glass of sparkling water was consistently topped up and I was addressed by name every time any crew interacted with me – the person touch goes a long way in my opinion.

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I had some spare coins – so donation was imperative!

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“More champagne, Mr Lam?” Asked the Purser.

“Do we have the time?”

“We always have time for more champagne, Mr Lam!”

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Flight time was a little below 1.5 hours and we began our descent soon after I started slipping on the extra champagne I was given…

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I believe that this is Windsor Castle?

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Another short hop done:

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Plane spotting in Heathrow:

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And we stopped next to the golden bird – which I saw it when I flew to Munich earlier

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As I exited the aircraft, the Purser said “more Champagne, next time, Mr Lam! Have a good day!” Such cheery goodbyes – which exemplified the best of BA’s service. Little did she know, I was on my way to the Galleries First lounge for some more bubbly!

Apart from the seat and the lack of entertainment (solved by bringing novels onto the plane to read), I was incredibly impressed – good food, and wonderful crew.

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