Flight: Male to London Heathrow
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA061
Plane: Boeing 777-300ER
Plane Reg: G-STBP
Cabin: Business Class/Club Suites
This is the return leg from our trip to the Maldives, with Mrs Neil. I’ve already written about our outbound flight here.
The flight was scheduled for 11:30, and we were picked up from our hotel at 8:30 and transported by speedboat to the airport.
This is the return leg of BA061, which lands in Male at 09:40.
There is another flight which lands at around 14:00, which I assume leaves Male around 17:30 – however, I tend to find it’s better if leaving a destination to go AM. Otherwise, you spend the whole day clockwatching, and don’t enjoy the last day as much.
It’s not every day you go to the Airport and arrive by speedboat! This was a very nice change – and beats the usual taxi/ride share lanes in airports!
It was just a short walk from the speed boat terminal to the main airport.
In Male, before getting to the check in desks there is a pre-security check for your bags. Once through here, you’re in the check in area.
The queue for BA was split into 3, a very long Economy line, an equally long Club line and a much shorter First line. BA Gold membership allows you to use the First check in no matter what class you are traveling in – so we took the First line!
After around 10 minutes of waiting, the check in agent checked our documents and off we went.
We then went upstairs to Passport Control/Immigration, and then onwards to security.
This then fed us to a series of duty free shops, gift shops and also a Burger King. This area was very busy, so we headed to the lounge!
There is only one lounge at Male, called the Leeli Lounge. It would seem that access is granted across multiple airlines – including BA Emirates and Turkish Airlines.
The lounge itself is comfortable. There is plenty of seating, a buffet of food and drinks – and they’d laid on breakfast at that time in the morning. The staff in the lounge were very enthusiastic to take your empty plate/glass as soon as you’d finished with it!
There was no sit-down dining service, or anything more than the buffet available. This suited us as we’d had breakfast before we left the hotel – but potentially if you’re flying First on BA or Emirates this may be a bit if a letdown!
I didn’t spot if there were any alcoholic drinks, but since the Maldives is a Muslim country and alcohol generally prohibited apart from in resorts, I would think it unlikely. I also didn’t see if there were any shower facilities.
The Wifi access provided was very good and fast.
This wasn’t be best airline lounge I’ve ever been to – but it was very comfortable, there was a very wide range of snacks, and our stay for a few hours was enjoyable.
Although the flight was scheduled for 11:30, the plane was late landing – and thus was the anticipated departure for 12:30. No explanation was given for the delay.
Around 11:30, we headed down to Gates 1-6 – and this took us to another holding area. We were required to undertake further security – this time for drug checks and Mrs Neil was rather vigorously frisked by a female security officer.
By luck, as soon as this security process completed, the boarding was opened – and we headed over to the doors to the awaiting bus, which took us to the 777-300ER.
Male appears to be building a new airport, however it’s very much under construction – so it was an ‘up the steps’ job to get onto the plane.
Today’s plane was G-STBP a Boeing 777-300ER, which was another new addition to the BA fleet.
This 777 was equipped with 8 x First, 76 x Club World, 40 Premium and 130 Economy seats.
As you may expect, the plane was very clean and new looking, as you might hope at just 1 year old!
As I explained on the journey to Male, the centre seats were a little too far away – so we elected to sit in window seats, 14A and 15A, so we could look out of the window.
I’ve reviewed the new Club World Suite, on window side, in my A350 review to Dubai. From what I could tell there is no difference in this particular seat to the A350.
One of the interesting things about the new Club Suites is that there seem (already) to be issues locking the doors open (required for takeoff and landing). More on that later!
Food and Drink
Water or Champagne was offered before takeoff, I am afraid to say that this was the initial part of the service that unimpressed me (more on that later). The Cabin Crew member pushed the tray in my face and said nothing – not even a hello.
On my trip to Male, I’d said about the meal service and that it was far from great. Unfortunately, this service if anything, was worse.
My meal order was taken, and I was asked what I wanted to drink WITH the meal. I’d chosen the beef, so selected a Pinot Noir. I wasn’t asked what pre-dinner drink I wanted.
15 minutes later I was brought a Pinot Noir with some peanuts…. I politely explained that I was hoping to have this with my dinner – and the cabin crew member in fairness asked me what I wanted to drink instead, and I took a Brewdog Jet Stream beer.
The dinner service seemed to take a VERY long time, so one of the cabin crew asked if I wanted another drink. I’d rather enjoyed my Jet Stream, so I asked for another – but was told they had ran out, less than 1 hour into the flight!!!!
Then came dinner service. From my observations, I think that the cabin crew really struggle with the huge 76-seat Club Suite cabin – and I don’t blame them. It’s a long aisle to be managing in the 777-300 – and not always easy to work in.
Food options were grilled fillet of beef, grilled chicken or pumpkin ravioli. I asked the cabin crew member which he’d recommend – he snapped that it was a new menu and he hadn’t tried any of them (sorry for asking!). I took the beef, which was actually pretty nice – however as I previously said, I am getting annoyed with the single tray service.
The ‘starter’ (tiny pot of stuff) was better than mystery pot of stuff on the way out to Male – and the desert was much better too.
After dinner was served, it was time to rest. Usually, the cabin crew come round and ask if you want drinks. Not once, in my case did this happen, across some 10 hours of flying! I come to what happened when I went to the galley later – but when I did go to the galley, they had ran out of Coke Zero, and this was around 5 hours before we landed!
Around 90 minutes to landing, it was time for the ‘light meal’. This was an unmitigated disaster!
Options were ‘spiced Maldivian fish’ or penne pasta. This was a problem, as it quickly became apparent that barely anybody in the full 76-Suite Club World Cabin wanted the fish – the majority of the cabin wanted the pasta!
I took the pasta (I can’t eat fish), and apparently had the last one. Mrs Neil, however, who didn’t want the fish was told there was nothing else she could have, as the pasta had gone. I did offer her mine, which she didn’t want.
As far as I am concerned this is wholly unacceptable. It is clear that whoever does BA’s catering schedules had completely misread the room. Fish is subjective. Many people don’t eat fish, but do eat chicken/beef/lamb/etc – so it was clear that offering fish or pasta was unlikely to go well, unless you had 80% pasta on board.
I’m afraid I don’t forgive BA for that at all – it was clear from the fact the flight ran out of the pasta so quickly, that this was a poor choice of menu. The consequence of this was that the cabin crew were desperately scrabbling around trying to feed the people who didn’t want the fish and had no other option.
The other thing I would say about the way BA cater generally, is I think it’s the wrong way round. For example flying from London to a destination you’re given a ‘British’ menu of food. Flying from the destination back to London, you’re given ‘local’ menu. Personally, when I fly back from anywhere, I am usually sick of the ‘local’ food and want me ‘home’ comfort good – and when I am flying to a destination, I am more excited about the local food. For that reason, I would think it could be more interesting to cater for the destination on the outbound, and cater on the British side for the inbound?
As I detail in my flight from LHR to MLE, the entertainment choices were good.
However, that flight was in November, and it was now December. Despite this, there was no change to the entertainment! No Christmas films, no additions of movies – literally no change! This seems to be a departure from BA’s tradition of changing the entertainment every month – but I guess Covid will get the blame for that!
I purchased the plane Wifi. Options available to me were £12.99 for 4 hrs, or £19.99 for the whole flight. I elected for the £19.99 option.
The Wifi was pretty fast! I didn’t try to Stream or anything (I think that’s unfair on everyone else that’s trying to work on the same Wifi at 35,000 feet) – but for emails, websites, etc they loaded quickly.
The only annoyance for me on BA’s Wifi is that it is limited to one device. So, if I want to stop using my laptop and use my phone or iPAD instead – I’d have buy a new package.
As I’d said on the way out to Male, the cabin crew seemed to be in holiday mode, and I was underwhelmed with the service.
The cabin crew back to LHR were different, but by far worse in my view:
When bringing the pre-departure drinks around the cabin, the cabin crew member (Crew Member A) shoved the tray in my face and literally said nothing. He then came back with the BA wash bags, saying nothing as he shoved it in my face.
Then came along Crew Member B, to ask me what I wanted for dinner. When I asked for a recommendation, he snapped at me that the menu was new and he’d not tried it.
Dinner was once again plonked in my face with no warning. This meant I had to quickly re-arrange things and move my laptop to the side counter. A more attentive cabin crew member would check the seat is ready and table cleared, before delivering the tray?
During the course of the dinner service, nobody asked me if I wanted a refill of the wine nor any other drink.
Once I was done with dinner, I asked Member B if I could give him my tray (he was empty handed and walking back to the galley). His response was “you need to wait until we’ve got everyone their food”. This may have been a fair comment if the galley was a in a state of flux serving 76 passenger meals – but it didn’t come across as helpful, or appreciative of the fact I wanted to get back to working on my laptop…….because that is, after all, what Business Class is designed for!
After dinner, the cabin crew disappeared to galley. I still had empty drinks glasses on my side counter for at least 2 hours which nobody collected, so I visited the galley to get a drink and return my glass. Crew Member A was busy chatting to another member about her routes from Manchester, acknowledging me briefly, he demanded “put the glass over there!” – and continued his chat – not even pausing to ask if I may like another drink.
Crew Member B was too busy reading his iPad to notice me – when I (very politely) asked him (as Member A was too busy chatting) for a Coke (there was no Coke Zero left), he let out a loud huff, put down his iPAD and got up to get my drink……which he then served in a plastic cup!
I don’t know what the dynamics on these kinds of flights are and I understand the crew need to rest – but please do it in the crew rest area – and do not appear put out when I ask for a drink, because in the last 2 hours nobody has offered one?
The way that the cabin crew dealt with the light meal and fish saga was also equally bad and unprofessional.
As we began the decent to land, the doors in the Club Suites needed to be locked open. One of the Suites didn’t lock. Along comes Crew Member B, he starts to bang and slam the door – at one point kicking it. He then lets out a loud “argggg” and tells another cabin crew member “I f**king hate these”.
Suffice to say I was never addressed by name, nor was I thanked for the loyalty to BA, etc.
As I said, I don’t know the dynamics on this flight with the cabin crew. Perhaps this crew weren’t used to the new Club Suite aircraft? Perhaps the crew weren’t used to the larger 777-300? Perhaps it a lack of regular flying? Perhaps the layover was too much sun and drinking?
Whatever it was, I frankly don’t care. But for people paying a lot of money to travel in Club World, to have this poor level of service, was well below the standard required. No matter how good the other cabin crew were, it was hugely let down by Member A and B.
Landing back to Heathrow, was straightforward as always.
We had landed at C-gates, so we needed to get the train back to the main terminal.
Once there, passport control was very easy, despite the new travel restrictions imposed by the Government.
Unfortunately, our baggage (as was many others in Club World) was the last to come out! So much for priority baggage!
Unfortunately, no matter how good the hard product, it was hugely let down by members of the Cabin Crew. A 10hr flight is a very long flight with Cabin Crew who can’t be bothered to look after their passengers! It’s such as shame given the enthusiasm and excitement of the Cabin Crew of the flight to Dubai a few months ago, who were brilliant!
I don’t know what Sean Doyle’s new BA plans are, but there are numerous improvements that need to be made to the ‘soft product’ – and to be fair, many of those things for improvement were pretty good during the Alex Cruz days.
If I was to do this route again, I would actively explore ways to perhaps fly on Qatar with a change in Doha – than endue this type of experience with BA again.
Maybe I’m being over critical – my next BA flight is a ‘business’ destination to North America, so we’re see if there is an improvement!
65 out of 118 – or 55%.
Really, the winner on this score is the hard product, Wifi and entertainment. I make no apologies for very lowly scoring the Cabin Crew.