Flight: London Heathrow to Male
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA060
Plane: Boeing 777-300ER
Plane Reg: G-STBO
Cabin: Business Class/Club Suites
This flight was a little holiday to Maldives for a week with Mrs Neil.
BA operate (I believe) this flight daily leaving LHR at 18:15 and landing in MLE at 09:40 the next day.
There is a secondary BA0153 which leaves LHR at 22:23 and lands in Male at 14:00 on Wednesdays and Sundays – which is also operated on a 777 of sorts, but I’m not sure which variant!
Whichever flight you get, it’s an over-nighter – but the 18:15 will give you more of the day, once you’ve landed.
For various reasons we were VERY early, checking in around 12:45 for the 18:15 flight – but this didn’t seem to be a problem.
As a Gold Member, we made use of the First Wing Check In. I was glad I did, as the Club World lines were jam packed!
We walked straight to a Check In Agent with no queue, and checked in. As BA are doing (very much to their credit) lots of checking, the process can take longer than one may expect. But we had everything printed and prepared, so it was quick and easy.
From here, we walked to the Security lanes, which were exceptionally quick – and in less than 2 minutes we were on our way to the First Lounge.
I’ve previously covered the Lounge in my Dubai review, which was a lunchtime flight. I shall also re-cover it in detail on my next flight to LAX (Mrs Neil doesn’t like all the picture taking in the Lounge). The lounge was busy, in fact, one may even observe it was equivalent to pre-pandemic levels – very few seats left – but we got one.
We’d not had any lunch, so were hopeful for the First Lounge’s offering. Food was ordered via the App which has a QR code on the table. Unfortunately, it was a bit disappointing. The choices were fairly limited (I remember the days when a burger and chips was on the First menu) – so I took a steak and ale pie, and Mrs Neil had fishcakes.
Frankly, the pie was something you’d get from Iceland. The fishcake was better presented but very small – easily a child’s portion.
In view of school dinners and feeling like children, we decided to raid the children’s menu and ordered pizzas. These, I am 99% certain I’ve seen in the frozen isle at Tesco – they’re called Chicago Pizzas and they cost £1 each.
The other thing to note is that the drinks were woefully slow, to the extent the food came before the drinks!
After a while we got bored and moved to the (now open) B-Gates Lounge. This lounge isn’t a First Lounge, but is open to people traveling in First and Club – or Gold and Silver members.
Slightly differently, the B-Gates Lounge was self-service for drinks, but the food was ordered via the App. To be fair, at least for us, we though the food options were better in the B-Gates Lounge than the First Lounge.
We then headed for Gate C56 at around 17:00 to board the flight.
Unfortunately, Boarding was not a great experience this time.
The flight was scheduled for 18:15, but after the Crew arrived we were left sitting around – as were they!
There was then an announcement at 18:15, which said the flight was now delayed until 19:00. No explanation was given.
Eventually at 18:45, we began boarding – and it was explained that this delay was due to cleaning. Since we’d arrived at the gate at 17:00 assuming 17:30 boarding, this was far from ideal – and as it was C-Gates we couldn’t go back to B-Gates lounge to wait.
Today’s plane was G-STBO a 777-300ER, which was 11 months old, and squeeky clean – fitted with the New Club Suite.
The 777 has always been a solid aircraft for BA – they currently operate 43 777-200ER’s and 16 777-300ER’s.
This 777 was equipped with 8 x First, a whopping 76 x ‘new’ Club World Suites, 40 Premium and 130 Economy seats.
I’d previously reviewed the Club Suite product in detail on my trip to Dubai on the A350, where I’d sat by the window.
However, this time I was with Mrs Neil – so we elected to go for the two center seats, instead of my usual preference for the window aisle.
Really, the centre seats put us further away from each other than sitting behind one another in the Window aisles. Making conversation was impossible with the noise of the aircraft and the masks. That appeared to suit Mrs Neil.
The good news is, however, unlike the old Club World product, you don’t end up in a ‘cosy two’, or awkwardly facing opposite a complete stranger, if you’re traveling on your own.
Often, it felt like drawing the ‘short straw’ when it came to selecting your seat in old Club World – and you’re living in hope nobody takes the seat next/opposite you!
For business travelers, the Centre Seats in the New Club World Suite are a huge game changer! There is no awkwardness, no screens to go up and down, no ‘bad seat’ – these units are literally standalone suites – and there is no feeling like drawing a short straw, when selecting a seat.
If, however, you are a couple on honeymoon to the Maldives that thrives on conversation and wants to be close to your partner – this may be more logistically challenging in any of the new Club Suites – compared to the old Club World.
Food and Drink
As is customary, Water or Champagne is offered before takeoff. Not sure what’s happened to the Orange Juice!
Now…..a rant….. and it goes between the Cabin Crew and the Food/Drink Service:
On the left aisle, dinner orders were taken before we took off. On the right aisle, dinner orders were taken once airborne.
Clearly this can’t be right.
There, now, seems to be an awkwardness when trying to get a drink.
To my mind it’s very simple. You have you drinks and then you have your dinner, with more drinks. In my case, for example, I like a beer before I eat. Then, I may take a glass of wine with my meal.
The Cabin Crew were asking what drink you wanted, then what dinner you wanted. Some of the drinks came before, and other people (including Mrs Neil) didn’t get offered another with the meal.
In my case I was offered a pre-dinner drink, and then wine with my meal. But it really isn’t hard to fathom. All that needs to happen is (a) ask what drink you want NOW, and then (b) ask what drink you want WITH YOUR MEAL. This is the kind of service thing that annoys me!
Turning to the food, and I am going to rant again!
Back in September 2021, I was told that “due to Covid” the food was being served on a one-tray-does-all service. It’s now December, and this position hasn’t changed.
One of the ‘delights’, if you will, of a BA’s dinner service prior to Covid was that it was 3-course. The salad or starter was big in size, the hot meal was brought after that – then you had various options for desert – and if you were greedy like me, you could have that AND a slate of cheese. Credit to BA, it was a very nice dining service at FL35, and felt like the occasion you’d expect flying in a premium cabin.
Now, post-Covid your dinner is shoved much more compactly onto a single tray, and plonked on your tray table – often with no warning.
I am afraid, I really don’t understand the Covid-19 arguments behind this. The Cabin Crew wear masks, the service is essentially the same – but the value and quality is a lot less. It’s a real shame.
There are no choices between starters or deserts as the food, ‘due to Covid’, is currently a single tray service.
The starter was apparently roasted cauliflower – I didn’t think much of it as it was too cold!
For mains, there was a choice of Chicken, Lamb or Ricotta. I chose the Chicken for the main. This was actually rather nice – in particular the roast potatoes, which were very crispy!
The desert was cold apple and cinnamon oat crumble– aren’t crumbles supposed to be hot? The ‘cheese board’ consisted of two pieces of small cheese in a bowl – not quite the old days of the slated cheese board!
I don’t really do breakfast – so settled for a couple of pastries, which were fresh and rather nice.
As I detailed in my Dubai review, the IFE is very good in the new Club Suite, it has a large screen which can be controlled via remote. There was plenty of content for anyone and everyone to watch.
I do still miss the Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses, and hope they will come back – but there was much more variety than I previously found on the Audio Channels, this time.
The Cabin Crew did not address me by name – I was “16F” to them. This is a huge departure from some of the other services I’ve had, where they are insistent on addressing me by name. I know there are 76 suites – but the more experienced Cabin Crew on other flights make a point of writing the names on the food order list ahead of taking the orders – so that they can say “Mr X welcome, what would you like for dinner”. American Airlines have been doing this for years, as a printout.
I am yet to have a ‘bad’ Cabin Crew from BA, but one thing I can’t help but notice is perhaps a difference in approach between ‘business’ and ‘holiday’ destinations.
Traditional business stronghold routes for BA, such as North America (and now arguably Dubai), I find tend to have an excellent delivery of service. It’s as if the Cabin Crew know that many travelers in Club World are likely to be traveling professionally – and they recognize the value of that by offering a ‘proper’ business-like service.
In contrast, it is arguable that the Cabin Crew are somewhat more relaxed on what you may describe as a ‘holiday route’.
For example, one passenger asked if they could have another glass of champagne before takeoff. The response from a member of the Cabin Crew was “have you already had one?” – the customer says “yes” – “in which case as far as we’re concerned you’ve ticked your box, and I can’t offer you another” the Cabin Crew said in reply.
Now, I get it, there are 76 Suites in this aircraft. If everyone had bottomless champagne on tap before takeoff – there would be none left for the rest of the flight.
On the other hand, people are paying a lot of money to fly in Club World – and it may be their first or only experience of it. Why leave people with a sour taste in their mouth? I’ve been on multiple ‘business’ routes to the USA on similar sized Club cabins (such as the A380 and B747) where the crew can’t offer you enough champagne – and won’t leave you with an empty glass.
More widely, the Cabin Crew were OK. But they weren’t attentive like I’ve experienced on other flights. As I mentioned in my Dubai Review, the Cabin Crew walked the aisles every 10 to 15 minutes, almost hassling you for drinks orders – but not this time. In fact, once the dinner service was done – the Cabin Crew where nowhere to be seen.
This may be because I don’t press the Call Button for drinks. I’ve always seen the Call Button as something to press if I’m having an emergency.
I had an empty glass on my side for several hours – which I eventually took back myself. My point is, why not be proactive? Do the walk – if there is an empty glass, ask if you can take it – or if the passenger would like a refill.
There was also no personal service. On most BA flights now, the Cabin Lead will introduce themselves to me, thank me for staying loyal to BA and being a Gold Member. This didn’t happen on this flight at all. I don’t mean that egotistically – but BA must recognize that even on holiday destination flights – some travelers are staying loyal to them.
Ultimately, I’m not saying the Cabin Crew were bad or terrible. They were polite, courteous and did their job. But that is where it stopped. They ticked all their boxes and served Club World to the basic minimum standard. But they went no further than that – and definitely didn’t go the extra mile.
Landing in Male
Landing into Male was a dream!
The aircraft had to do a 180 degree turn on the runway before backtracking and parking. Once parked, the steps came to the mighty B777-300 – and buses took us to the terminal.
BA are now disembarking by row number, which helped immensely – as it meant that the immigration area wasn’t flooded.
We had maybe 3 people in front of us at Immigration in Male, then we walked through to get our bags, which came out around 10 minutes later.
After that, it was off to the Speedboat terminal!
I would, at a guess, say the majority of the people who chose this flight are likely to be going on holiday, and have chosen Club World as a comfortable way to travel. In doing so, I agree that the new Club Suite is an extremely comfortable way to combat a 11-hour flight.
However, for those traveling internationally regularly, they may find as I did, that the standards were a lot lower than usual, and disappointingly so.
It’s a shame, because as an avid BA traveler – I know BA can and have done so much better on other routes!
82 out of 118 – or 69.5%.
Whilst the experience was OK, it was let down by (a) the food in the Lounge and (b) the Cabin Crew who did the very basics. Oh….and (c) I am getting very irritated by the food!