Hello and welcome to the third and final of three segments in this series of pandemic-era flight reviews taking us back to the US after spending the Holidays and New Year 2022 in France with family and friends.
As explained in the previous flight-report, this routing is a bit odd due to some cancellations and schedule changes on the original routing of TLS-MAD-ORD-SAN. Though backtracking to London looks odd on a map, there wasn't really a better way of getting to SAN from TLS being that BA had pulled down the TLS-LHR schedule so much since the beginning of the pandemic that neither of the one or two daily BA flights connected to SAN, or the connections were too short for my liking (i.e. less than an hour).
Originally booked as TLS-MAD-ORD-SAN
Re-booked as TLS-MAD-LHR-SAN
Reports in this series.
Though we'd arrived a few minutes late from Madrid due to the fog in London, we still had plenty of time to make our flight to San Diego so we headed straight for the transit security checkpoint to head to the lounge.
Terminal 5 transit security, though not terribly busy, was a bit slow, especially since the Fast Track lanes have been closed throughout most of the pandemic.
After we made it airside, we headed straight to the South lounges.
Although the pandemic kept me away from the UK, I'd been a regular LHR flyer for years, so going up this escalator gave me a comfortable sense of familiarity and a feeling of things finally starting to get back to normal again.
My pleasant sense of feeling "home" again was abruptly interrupted upon entering the British Airways Galleries First lounge. After greeting and handing our boarding passes to a rather glum BA agent, he rolled his eyes and rudely said "You're in Business class, this is the First class lounge."
I responded: "I'm well aware, thank you. We have access to the First lounge with oneworld Emerald status"
to which he replied while shuffling through all three boarding passes clearly flustered "which one is Emerald?"
"All of us," I responded.
He then just waived through without so much as a thank you or apology. Luckily rude and incompetent agents like this man are few and far between, thankfully, but he should NOT be working in a First class lounge!
Finding the fancy lamp horses again after two years made it all better 😊
Though the lounge wasn't particularly crowded, I usually prefer to sit in the terrace/mezzanine area…
…which, although indoors, has a more open feel of almost being outdoors.
We found a nice quiet corner to spend the next 1.5 hours or so.
The only slightly inconvenient part of sitting in the terrace is that there are less power outlets for charging devices. Luckily, I was fully charged up from the previous flight.
Though there is a restaurant area in the First lounge, since the beginning of the pandemic, food and drinks can be ordered from your phone and will be served right at your seat.
Scanning a QR code on the table will bring up the menu, which is rather decent in terms of options.
There are several champagnes and sparkling wines on offer, as well as plenty of beers, spirits, and liqueurs.
It was quick and easy to place an order.
And the service was very fast. A few minutes later, our dishes and drinks were delivered by some very friendly staff.
As usual for Heathrow, gates aren't displayed until about an hour before departure so we had to monitor the departures screens regularly. Luckily there were screened right near our seats.
Once our gate was displayed we left the lounge to head down to the train to the satellite terminals.
Our flight would be departing from T5C, the furthest out of the two satellite terminals in T5.
As we arrived at the gate, boarding had just begun, so we were able to go right up to an agent in the Fast track queue. Unfortunately, None of the Covid-related documents I'd uploaded during online check-in on Iberia.com has transferred to BA so we had to dig out our proof of vaccination, negative Covid-test results, and CDC attestation forms. Then we were made to fill out new electronic attestation forms on a tablet as BA would not accept paper versions, despite the instructions on the CDC website clearly stating that forms must be paper and Iberia accepting the paper version on the inbound flight that morning.
All this mess delayed us about 10 minutes as the agent entered all of the information for the three of us into the system. I was none too pleased about the situation–I couldn't understand how IB and BA systems don't communicate such important information. They are sister airlines part of the same IAG group, essentially the same company! I felt like I'd wasted my time uploading all of the required documentation the night prior and now having to do it all over again. We were not alone–several other passengers were in similar situations, which brought the boarding process to a grinding halt. Another BA technology failure leading to inefficiency, passenger frustration, and unnecessary extra work for already-overworked airport staff.
The gate agent was very friendly, calm, and apologetic the whole time and I made sure to commend her on her patience, professionalism, and poise.
Lesson learned! Be warned…BA and IB systems DO NOT communicate Covid documentation.
When finally we were free to go, there was a great view of our aircraft as we headed down.
Unlike the newer 787-10 fleet, 787-9s are not yet fitted with Club Suites. They have the last generation of the Club World seat in the forwards-backwards configuration.
Rows on the 787-9 are in a 2-3-2 layout with window seats and centre seats facing backwards.
I had chosen seats in the 2-row mini-cabin right behind First class.
As First class is not sold on this route, seats in the First cabin were blocked.
There did end up being two passengers in the First cabin, who were travelling with the crew.
Though the older Club World cabins are outdated and not as spacious as newer designs, the three seats in the centre were perfect for us travelling as a family of three. The fact that adjacent seats face each other is convenient when travelling as a couple or with children, though can be very awkward when travelling alone–at least during taxi, takeoff, and landing, where the privacy divider must be down.
Also, our small cabin was half-empty, which made for a relaxing and quiet flight and made the cabin feel more spacious.
Shortly after settling in, friendly cabin crew came through the cabin with menus and pre-departure drinks.
Though seats are on the narrow side, the legroom is very good. It's impossible to reach the seat in front while seated.
Here's a look at the menu for today's 11-hour flight to San Diego.
As the cabin was not full, I asked one of the cabin crew if I could move to an empty window seat just for takeoff, which was not a problem.
Window seats are very private once the privacy partition is up.
The latest generation of the Club World seats have a USB port right under the remote control and headphone jack.
There is an additional USB port as well as a 110V universal power outlet below the IFE screen.
The best window seats are those in the last row of the Club cabin as they offer direct access to the aisle, unlike other rows.
With all of the Covid-related paperwork issues at the gate during boarding, we were a few minutes late closing the doors; however, the taxi to the runway was short and we were quickly on our way.
Interestingly, the safety briefing was done manually rather than on the video monitors. I asked one of the cabin crew about this to which he responded that BA has never updated the video in the pandemic context to include information about face masks and removing masks in case oxygen is required. I was very surprised to hear this two years into the pandemic. Of course, this is all not moot as BA did away with mask requirements in April 2022.
Takeoff on what ended up being a sunny winter day, after a foggy start.
Nice views of Windsor Castle from the right side of the aircraft.
Flight time from takeoff to landing was 10 hours 40 minutes.
Shortly after takeoff, cabin crew distributed bottles of water and amenity kits.
These kits from The White Company London hadn't changed in years–I have many many of these at home from years of regularly flying BA Club World.
As it was time for my son's regular afternoon nap, we put the seat in bed mode right after takeoff and he went straight to sleep for a few hours. In my experience, a well-rested child is a happy and well-behaved child. Being able to get a decent amount of sleep in a proper bed is the biggest benefit of flying Business class for both parents and kids.
One of the biggest things lacking from these seats is storage space, though there is a very convenient storage compartment for shoes or other small items.
Noise cancelling headsets were included with the bedding at each seat.
As always on BA long-haul, the in-flight entertainment system has a decent library of films, series, documentaries, music, and children's programming.
The lunch service began with an apéritif. I had the rosé champagne.
I began a movie during lunch. The image and screen size were decent, though not as nice a newer systems.
Cabin crew offered refills as meals were heating up. They were not stingy with the pours!
Per Covid-era protocol, meals were service with covers over all dishes.
Without the covers.
Unlike pre-Covid times–of which you'll find many BA Club World reviews on my page–the meal service was not properly coursed out, but rather everything was served on one tray to minimise contact. Compared to pre-pandemic times, the portions were definitely smaller and there was no choice of entrée or dessert like before–the cost-cutting was evident.
However, the main dish of Chicken Tikka Masala was absolutely delicious and of a decent portion size.
BA's glasses are prettier than most.
Cabin crew were very attentive and in the cabin regularly for drink refills.
I ended the meal with a Cognac.
The cabin was darkened after the meal with some passengers fully darkening their windows while others only slightly darkened theirs. Different window shading options is one of the things I love about the 787.
I really like BA's bulkhead speedmarque design
Snacks and drinks were available in the galley throughout the flight.
My son occupied himself with toys, colouring, and cartoons for most of the flight once he woke up from his nap.
I ended up falling asleep towards the end of the flight and completely missed the pre-arrival meal service.
I only woke up as we began our descent and needed to bring seats back up.
Beginning our descent over the Southern California desert.
I stayed in my centre seat for the landing as there were no window seats available on the left side, but I was still able to get some decent views of downtown San Diego through the huge Dreamliner windows.
Taxi time was short and we arrived at the gate on time despite the small departure delay in London.
Immigration and customs are a breeze at SAN as there aren't many international flights.
The international arrivals building is on the far end of Terminal 2 and a bit of a walk to get to ground transportation and parking shuttles, but it's a nice and modern building.
As a regular BA flyer for years, I'd unfortunately avoided BA for the better part of two years due to messy and ever-changing Covid-era UK entry and transit requirements. It was nice finding an old friend again and felt a bit like coming home. As always the cabin crew were fantastic. The catering was good, but cost-cutting was evident compared to pre-pandemic times. The Club World ying-yang seats are outdated, but they are comfortable and both me and my son got some good sleep on this 11h flight.
We'll finally get to fly BA's new Club Suites in a few weeks so stay tuned for that review!