This is as close to meeting the Queen as you’ll probably get…
Close your eyes, forget about specific airlines and think about the most iconic seats in the sky. You’ll quickly land in the Queen of the skies, Boeing 747. For some, it’s the nose. For others, it’s “the bubble”, the small upper deck section just behind the cockpit. Life upstairs in the bubble is unlike life down below. While business class is always a privilege on any airline, certain elements upstairs are just definably better than seats downstairs. Here’s what it’s like to fly upstairs on the British Airways Boeing 747-400 between New York and London.
British Airways is in the process of a major, much needed JFK Terminal 7 renovation. Travelers in Club World who do not also hold OneWorld Emerald frequent flyer status will walk to the far left when entering JFK Terminal 7, to catch the Club World check in desks. If you do happen to have British Airways Executive Club Gold, or another OneWorld Emerald status, you’ll do the same, but can then use the “First” check in zone, which has completely a lovely renovation. Once checked in, you’ll follow the fast track signs, which take you to the new security area.
British Airways Galleries First lounge renovation was just completed and is a huge improvement. The Galleries lounge, which is accessible to all Club World business class passengers, is in the middle of a similar makeover at the moment. The regular Galleries lounge is a solid waiting room, and will hopefully become something more in the near(ish) future. The two keys to your pre flight experience at JFK: a) use preflight dining and b) know that champagne is available.
While it may take away some of the “steaks on a plane” dining excitement, maximizing sleep is absolutely crucial on the short hop between New York and London. PreFlight dining allows you to have a full meal in the lounge and rest or relax in the air. As to champagne, just find a friendly server in the lounge and ask for a glass. It’s just Prosecco on display, but champagne exists!
Business class downstairs on the 747 is fine and all, but it’s 8 across and just like business class on any other British Airways plane. Upstairs on the 747 however, is unlike any other plane in the British Airways fleet, with the exception of British Airways “Speedbird 001” “almost” private jet.
The first thing you’ll notice is that it’s small, private and only 4 seats across in the bubble. The most preferred seats are in row 62, which features the utmost privacy and legroom thanks to the exit row, with no risk of any other passenger stepping over you. You’ll need to move fast to secure those, and yes – they are worth whatever fee. Well, within reason. Another great thing to note is that storage at window seats is mega! You’ve got the usual space, plus cubbies along the side.
Seats aren’t the newest, but they’re actually fantastic for sleeping, especially the windows. Unlike many business class cabins where there are small footrests, these seats have fully open spaces for feet, which makes it easier to wiggle around in your sleep, just in case anyone rolls like that. There’s an often forgotten power port at foot level, as well as a storage space, and there’s also USB charging at shoulder level. Perhaps not the most ideal locations, but first world problems indeed.
I actually love the entertainment screens on British Airways 747-400 in Club World, mainly because they can tilt down. Whereas most screens on other business class setups and other airlines are impossible to see when laying down, these are excellent. Who doesn’t love a movie and a nap? I see them as intimately intertwined.
There’s one awkward moment on every British Airways Club World flight, and it’s the moment you sit down. Unless you’re traveling with a partner, you’ll be face to face with a stranger. It’s really no biggie, and hey – you’re in business class so be happy – right? It’s perfectly acceptable to never make eye contact and get back to brick breaker on your phone. Once airborne, you can press the button on the top of the divider which completely removes your awkward seat mate from view.
British Airways went from pillows and blankets which were severely lacking to duvets, pillows and linen sets which barely fit in your seat in last year. The White Company bedding, pillows, duvet and amenity kits are truly some of the best you’ll find in any business class and its hard to find just about anything wrong with them.
I thought I’d share this rather special picture of an #aurora taken last night over @Town_HVGB in #canada. I take lots of these shots but what’s special about this one is the aircraft going left to right below us during the long exposure.A first for me. #AvGeek #space #PlaneCrazy pic.twitter.com/KAkzIcpy6B
— Scott Bateman (@jumbo747pilot) October 9, 2018
Now, a benefit of Club World on the Boeing 747-400 upper deck is that you’re near the pilots. It’s not unheard of to politely ask a cabin crew member if it would be possible to visit the flight deck at some point. If you’re lucky enough to be obliged, keep it short, be polite and look out for Twitter legend @Jumbo747Pilot. He’s more famous than you are.
If you’re new to this, you’ll find that all the long time NYLON (that’s New York x London) travelers have already eaten on the New York to London flight. On London to New York, the meal is worth the time. British Airways improved catering on this route with excellent Do&Co food. On back to back flights I enjoyed arguably the best cod I’ve ever had on a plane, with spiced lentils, and on both segments enjoyed the smoked salmon starter, as well as the decadent (but appropriately small) desserts. For good easy drinking, the Monticello Rioja and the Tiki Sauvignon Blanc are excellent.
Service on the upper deck is quite cool, because there are fewer passengers and an excellent crew ratio. It’s much easier to flag someone down if you need something than on the main deck, and crews tend to really enjoy working upstairs on the Queen of the Skies. With any airline, you never know what you’ll get, but the service I received on these flights was excellent. On London to New York, meals take a while, so expect that. It’s not just you – and the crew know that. And again, on New York to London, focus on the sleep. If you wake up hungry in the night, there’s the “Club Kitchen” directly downstairs, which is full of snacks. If all the lemon biscuits are gone, I’m on your flight. Do say hello.
Expectation is the key to life. Will you get the largest entertainment screens in business class? No. Will you get fully private doors? No. Will you get a comfortable seat, with exceptionally good blankets, nice wine and a great ride? Absolutely. The 747 Upper Deck remains one of my favorite seats in the sky, and there’s always something special about flying it on British Airways. Between New York and London, it’s hard to think of a better way to fly.