British Airways Heathrow to Chicago (BA296) [B747-400] in Club World

British Airways Boeing 747-400 G-BYGG

Airline: British Airways

Flight: London Heathrow to Chicago

Plane: B747-400

Plane Reg: G-BYGG

Cabin: Business Class/Club World

Seat: 64A

Checking In

Checking it at Heathrow T5 was a breeze. I checked in at the Business Class desks since they were quiet, and I must say BA have got this really down to a tee. Quick, efficient, and took less than 3 minutes – it really was excellent!  

T5 Security……. this is going to be a controversial, but please treat this as more of an observation, than anything else!

Travelers in Business/Club are given a (supposedly) Priority Security Lane; (a) as a premium feature of the ticket; and (b) because it’s anticipated Business/Club travelers may be a little more seasoned and ‘know the drill’. The drill is easy: belt off, laptop out, empty pockets, jumper in the tray; off we go – through security in less than 30 seconds. But, if you don’t travel so much, or are unaware of the Security requirements, it can be a long process for everyone!

For those who know the drill and travel more regularly, it can be nice to have a bit of a filter from standing behind those that are, lets say, not so aware of the UK’s security protocols, and may attempt to bring anything from 5L bottles of vodka to kitchen knife sets through security (as I said, just an observation….).

Frustratingly at Terminal 5, Heathrow’s Security have a habit of letting non-priority filter into priority lanes, when busy. I’ve travelled through T5 many times where this has happened, and the queue in front of you rapidly grows from 3 to 43 people in seconds.

I know this is a judgemental and controversial view of fellow travelers, but part of the promise of premium of BA/Club World is that you are given priority lanes for a quicker and more premium experience; it’s not a Priority Lane if everyone can access it – especially when they’re arguing with Security about having their brand new 9-piece kitchen knife set (with electrical sharpener) taken off them….

I’ve actually seen those with legitimate access to the Priority Lane kick off in the airport about this issue, particularly if they’re short of time – and I think rightly so. Sort it out T5! I’ll keep blogging about it until you stop!

(why don’t we just have a known traveler system like the USA in this country?)

The Lounge

I initially started at Galleries Lounge in Terminal 5A and headed over to the Galleries Lounge at 5B. The 5B lounge is usually a bit quieter, and the lounge at 5A was rammed and there were barely any seats available. Both were serving the same food.

I did take a shower in 5A, and I can’t say I was enthused by the experience. The shower availability was excellent, however, they feel like some kind of clinical hospital shower – worlds apart from the Galleries Lounge. With that said, the shower was hot and powerful – which is better than many!

If you’ve not visited a BA Lounge before, they don’t usually have champagne or bubbly available – instead you need to ask one of the servers. You can probably thank the dearly departed Alex Cruz for that.  

The best thing about the BA lounges is they seem to have millions of bags of crisps hanging around in baskets (how that one got past bean-counter Cruz I’ll never know)! This is great if you’re flying short-haul economy and don’t want to pay for onboard food!

Other than that (and I speak generally here) the food in the BA lounges tends not to be anything to write home about – I’ve had both breakfasts and lunches in them.

Unfortunately, in Terminal 5, there are no other lounge choices unless you have a Platinum Amex or a Priority Pass. I’ll write about my experiences in these lounges separately.

Sadly, because they were so busy, I didn’t manage to get any pictures of the Lounges.

The Plane! 

What can you say! This was a Boeing 747, and I was upstairs in possibly the best seat in the house. Sadly, BA’s B747’s have been retired since the Covid-19 pandemic – but the experience of flying upstairs in a B747 was always iconic.

Unfortunately, not an iconic moment that has been embraced by Mrs Neil – to her it’s just a plane, and a largely inconvenient plane with having to walk up the stairs and all that….

Flying upstairs in a 747 is great for a few reasons;

  1. It feels like a private jet
  2. The Cabin Crew are far more attentive, as it’s a much smaller cabin
  3. It’s quieter
  4. It’s a B747, and that’s cool!
British Airways Boeing 747-400 G-BYGG

The Seat! 

64A is (was) generally considered one of the 747’s best seats. It’s very spacious, very private and has lots of storage.

I was in the rear-facing Club World Cabin, which was great fun as we hurtled down 09L out of Heathrow.

Compared to American Airlines the seats are not the widest, and there is the annoying footstool, which you need to un-flap. So although the seat was easy to use and comfortable, it certainly isn’t in par with American’s Business Class product.

I’m going to spare you the rant about the Club World seating on BA. It’s for another time. However, I was travelling on my own – so the glass screen was up and down to serve me. Since I was sat by the window (I always sit here on my own) and could easily get out, it wasn’t an issue – however, I can imagine food and drinks service can be frustrating when you’re sat in the aisle and the screen is up and down!   

What I do (ok, did) like about the Club World seats is that the tray table slides back. So, this means (for example) if you have your laptop on the table and you need the bathroom – you can slide it back and walk to the bathroom. This kind of thing may seem small, but it’s a detail which is really useful compared to packing your office in the sky up!  

Another thing that is (ok, was) really good about upstairs in the B747 is storage! You have (had) storage along the sides at ground level, and your standard overhead lockers. It is to be noted that upstairs these lockers are smaller than downstairs – or any regular plane, so you may struggle for space if you have a large bag or suitcase. 

Entertainment

I don’t really watch movies on the plane (I’ve usually work to do) – but Mrs Neil assures me there are always great choices.

However, I do enjoy BA’s Best of British – usually, when I look at it there’s not that much I want to watch – but of recent, they’ve had Only Fools and Horses and One Foot in the Grave on, which is perfect!

There’s also a choice of music albums new and old, and also some UK TV. This is where I discovered Whitesnake’s Purple Album, which I listened to for a whole 8 hours over and over again on the way back from Dubai, very loudly.

There’s also the flight mapper. The 747’s was quite out-dated, so I much prefer the mapper on the 777 and 787.

For me, the screen was big enough. I didn’t measure it, because I didn’t want to hold up the the security Priority Lane (!) by packing a tape measure, and probably arguing about why I needed it (!)….

British Airways Club World Entertainment/IFE

The Food and Drink

As is customary on BA flights, once sitting down the Cabin Crew came around with a tray of Water, Orange Juice or Champagne. I took the Champagne, which was nice!

Before takeoff the Cabin Crew then took our meal orders.

I had the salad to start with, alongside some other dish I don’t even know what it is (I’ll check the menu and come back to you) – so I ate the mozzarella. The salad was nice, if you’re into that sort of thing – but the one thing that does grate on me with all airline salads is that it’s straight of the fridge. I prefer salad at room temperature, not chilled. Third world issues, but Mr Nando, Mrs Burger-King or Ms McDonald won’t let it happen – so why not adjust the process in a plane? Is salad even supposed to be served chilled?

The main was beef, with potato gratin, peppercorn sauce and roasted vegetables. To be fair, this was pretty nice – but the beef was quite tough. I’d hazard a guess this was because it’s cooked off-site and in the cooling and re-heating process it toughens.

For dessert I took the cheese board and a glass of port. It was pretty nice – although it doesn’t matter where you go – there is never quite enough crackers for the cheese!

During the course of the flight BA have what they call Club Kitchen and what they did at one point call a ‘sweet shop’ (or, as anyone else knows it, an open box of chocolate and sweets from the Cash and Carry) – although it was only served only on the lower galley this time. I couldn’t help but observe that most of the contents appeared to have been disbursed into a couple of handbags left in the galley (which I can only assume belonged to the Cabin Crew) – but I am of course speculating on that!

British Airways Club World Galley
Yes, I left plenty for everyone else.

Around 90 minutes before we landed, Afternoon Tea was served. I’m not a huge fan of Afternoon Tea – so I much more prefer American’s mini-pies! Nevertheless, I had the scones and cakes, which were good – so I guess if you like that sort of thing – it’s probably quite a nice novelty, unless you prefer pies.            

The Cabin Crew

The Cabin Crew on this flight were great. Upstairs was quiet, so the 2 cabin crew were serving around 5 people each – pretty much the equivalent for First.

For the most part of the flight, the crew were really attentive – they must have been watching my glass as they were continuously asking me if I wanted a refill, etc. They had suggested it would be impractical to just give me the bottle.

With that said, after the lunch service, Upstairs was pretty much abandoned by the Cabin Crew. I noticed the Cabin Crew were coming from downstairs to answer any call buttons upstairs.

For me, I don’t really mind – I prefer to take a walk to the galley and get a drink than have it served on me so I can stretch my legs, etc – but it’s a little naughty to abandon the passengers upstairs.

Landing at Chicago Airport

We landed at Terminal 5 at Chicago around 20 minutes early.

Landing at Chicago is always easy, as there are lanes and it’s a speedy process. I have Global Entry so I scanned my passport at the kiosks and went straight through to collect my baggage! 

Then it was off to Terminal 3 for my connection.         

Conclusion

This was a very pleasurable very straightforward flight. It was on time, landed early, generally good service – and all in all pretty good!

Score

73 out of 90 – or 83%.

The flight was great, flying on the 747 is always a pleasure. I’ve scored the Seat as ‘good’ not excellent for the reasons above – it’s not terrible, but not amazing either. I’ve also scored the showers as good, but not excellent. Because BA isn’t responsible for the Security lanes I’ve not factored those in.

See my return from Chicago back to London here.

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