Upon taking the bus on arrival from CDG, we were deposited in the main terminal where we had to take a series of stairs to get back to the connecting area and go through BA check-in and security. Thankfully the lines were not bad this time and I took advantage of the Fast Track lane that ironically seemed to take longer than the regular lane. A nice agent scanned my boarding pass and advised me that I could use the Galleries lounge at T5B. At security everyone was dumping their heavy coats and other items on the trays and that slowed things down a bit. I was starting to dread this experience that reminded me of security at U.S. airports with the minor difference that you had to scan your own boarding pass on the reader as you came to the front of the line to place your belonging on the trays.
After re-clearing security I did some last minute Christmas shopping.
When taking the tram from the main terminal to the B gates, there was a delay in boarding due to security personnel checking every single compartment of the tram. That took a couple of minutes and once this was finished, everybody was allowed to board. I don't know if this is a routine practice leaving to the satellite gates but when I took the tram the first time the other way around I did not encounter this procedure at all. When we arrived at the B gates, I saw a group of people running in a hurry attempting to make their connections. I just felt very fortunate that I was not one of them.
BA Galleries at T5B
I entered the empty lounge and was welcomed by the agent. There were just a few people lingering around and I decided to take a shower before my flight. The Elemis spa was located at the end of the hallway right by the business center. I waited for about a minute until an attendant appeared and invited me to use shower #5.
The shower room was compact with a toilet, a folded bench that can double as surface to place your light luggage and a shower. It was functional and very institutional looking with Elemis products and a radio dial that allowed you to change stations. Water pressure was great and I loved the ability to switch the settings between shower, body spray and hand held hose.
My boarding pass.
This bench has a few loose screws.
After that invigorating experience I explored the lounge and came across the hot buffet and salad station near the entrance.
I then made a turn inside and there was a soup, sandwich and beverage station.
Sandwiches consisted of Egg mayonnaise & sun blushed tomato, Tuna lemon and pepper mayonnaise, and Coronation chicken & spinach.
The big tub.
Leaving the lounge.
I then went to the gate and there was already a long line of premium passengers anxious to board. Gate agents boarded elderly and families with children first, followed by F, J and elites.
I came across a 787 before entering the jetbridge.
Publications on the jetbridge.
I was greeted by the FA at the door and invited to go upstairs. I was lucky that when I checked in at 24 hrs. before my flight there were 3 empty seats that were still left on the upper deck. Of course, I grabbed the only window one left in the first row.
As I arrived on the upper deck there was another FA who greeted me and I asked if I could store my bag in the closet. She then unlatched it and allowed me to place my bag. The upper deck was full and people were settling down. I arrived at my seat and was glad to have 4 adjacent bins at my disposal, although due to the curvature of the cabin the first couple of them were smaller in size. The ying yang configuration felt strange when the divider was down and your neighbor is facing you. When the divider is up, the privacy is great. Another issue that bothered me is that most window seats (except for the EMERG EXIT and last rows) do not provide complete free access to the aisle. If the aisle passenger in the following row is sleeping, then you have to perform some acrobatics and jump over his/her feet. One misstep and it's disaster for both of you.
The bins were dirty with marks. I forgot to take a picture of it but when I opened one of the bins, there was a streak mark left by some spilled beverage that was already dried. Apparently the bins are not cleaned very often.
Cancelling noise headphone and blanket were already placed on the seat.
Pre-departure beverages were offered and I had a glass of water.
Then menus were distributed, followed by amenity kits. There is a male and female version of these wash bags.
Finally we were ready for take off. The safety video was displayed and we were on our way to the runway.
Once we leveled off, a hot towel was offered with a round of drinks and nuts.
Kir Royale with nuts.
Then we experienced the first snafu in service. There was a long pause in between the first drink and the delivery of the appetizer. After 1 hr. and 45 min. after take off we still have not received our appetizers. I saw some passengers ask the FA if the meal was coming and she advised that it was on the way. I found this mildly irritating considering that this was a premium cabin and there were only 20 J seats on the upper deck on a nighttime flight.
A few minutes later the trolley came with the first course. The FA lowered the partition and handed me the tray over my neighbor. I chose the smoked salmon appetizer and it was very salty. This appetizer was beyond the normal saltiness that one would expect from such a dish. I dare to say that it was saltier than the Dead Sea.
The second snafu happened when I am skipped and was not offered a drink and warm breads. When I saw the trolley pass my row I rang the call button. The FA approached me from the partition at the end of my seat and apologized for the oversight, fetching me my glass of water and bringing the basket of bread right away.
I couldn't finish my appetizer and I thought that the salad with the spicy olives was not the best combination. Then I waited for the main dish and I opted for the fillet of beef. Alas this was no better since the portion was small and it was overcooked. At least the FA said enjoy your meal with a smile when it was delivered. She also asked me if I wanted mustard with the dish and when I confirmed this she followed with English or French. I assume that the English version would be the hot one with horseradish and the French one a Dijon, so I selected the English one and I was given a packet just like I was purchasing a hot dog from a cafeteria. At least offer me a small jar to make the presentation more dignified.
By now I thought that either the cheese course or the dessert would be the highlight of this failed dinner service. I asked for both and the FA complied with a smile. The cheese course looked lacking without any fruits whether fresh or dried. Even AA can do a better cheese course on their domestic transcon flights than this. The cheese and pepper flatbread to accompany the cheese was an unusual selection. Wouldn't it be better to serve just water crackers in order to appreciate the cheeses better? what was even more surprising to me was to serve cheese flatbread with cheese. The dessert was OK and tasted more like a cake than a tart. On a positive note, the hot tea went really well with it.
According to the menu chocolates were supposed to be served at the end of the meal but I never saw them. Perhaps a catering error.
The FA's distributed bottles of water and offered Duty Free before dimming the lights. I inquired about purchasing a set of playing cards that was not featured in the catalog and the FA went downstairs to inquire. She showed up after a few minutes with a set and made sure that my frequent flyer number was properly entered so that I can receive credit for my purchase. Kudos to her for searching and this almost made up for the meal snafu that I experienced earlier.
I noticed that on BA J there are no overhead lights so you have to use the little bulb that is attached to your seat which offers limited coverage in my opinion. I find that you need to position yourself at a certain angle in order to be able to read at all. I dozed off for a few minutes and afterwards decided to check out the galley downstairs for some snacks. I saw a tray with different beverages by the magazine area when I went downstairs and one of the FA's in the upper deck galley was approachable and chatty.
I made my way down and there was a loud couple who occupied this area for most of the flight. I think they were a bit tipsy to begin with. I also had the opportunity to make some small talk with the director who was a very nice gentleman and at the end he gave me his business card.
Raid the Larder
As one of my friends said, this is perhaps the best aspect of flying BA in J (provided that you are on a daytime flight. I've read that on nighttime ones the choices are very limited).
The engines seen from one of the windows in the lower galley.
I brought a container of vanilla Ice Cream Union to my seat and upon opening the lid some of the liquified ice cream spilled over my clothes and seat. I guess the dry ice did not do the trick because I noticed that a pack of it was placed in the container where I took it. Anyways I had a few sips of the ice cream and found it too sweet for my taste.
At around 1 hr. before arrival the afternoon tea started. Sandwiches and pastries were already on the tray and the FA passed with a basket offering warm scones. I thought that the presentation of this meal was cheap with the sandwiches wrapped in plastic. Also, the mini pastries seem frugal. Why not serve a high quality mini tart or pastry instead along with some sliced fresh fruits for those seeking a healthier alternative? Here is another observation. If EI manages to serve clotted cream in a little glass jar, why can't BA?
Beautiful sunset before landing.
Upon landing I took a shot of my neighbor's seat.
British Airways Galleries Club - 5B
London - LHR
San Francisco - SFO
My first Club World experience on BA was somewhat disappointing. The seat is comfortable and private enough when partition is up, but when it is down and you face across your neighbor it feels awkward. Also, the majority of the window seats in this cabin do not offer complete free aisle access. It takes some juggling around to be able to step into the aisle when the aisle person on the following row deploys the footrest and is taking a nap. If you are in the main deck of the 747 in J, the window seats are located over the wings and your view is restricted.
The crew was smiling and friendly, but being skipped during the appetizer service and the slow meal delivery did not contribute to the overall score. I appreciate the help of one of the FA's in getting me a set of cards and getting back to me quickly on that.
The catering was a big let down. Too many things went wrong with this meal service as you can read from my report above. Inedible appetizer, overcooked beef, unusual pairings, no chocolates, melting ice cream, cheap second meal presentation, etc.
Entertainment needs to improve and the choices of films/videos are limited and not on par with other carriers like CX or even AF.
We departed 21 minutes late and arrived 16 minutes later. A minor delay in the big picture.
Good thing that my J ticket was deeply discounted and I was able to use some promotions to offset the cost. Next time I think I will just stick with Premium Economy.
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