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!
747 Club World Upper Deck
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.
F&B + Service
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.
Overall British Airways Club World 747 Impression
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.
you know we flew back on the 747 lower deck World Traveler on that flight I frankly thought it was a quiet as the upper deck flying except it was pleasantly more airy. Don’t get me wrong the upper deck is great but it’s not the end of the world ( no pun).
The 747 World Traveler is really really good and worth the vig
“Expectation is the key to life.” — great balanced review!
Incestuous review about Skytrax’s 40th rated world airline..
Too many lemon biscuits and Prosecco !!??
I don’t drink.
This is the nicest comment you’ve ever left me : )
Now THAT’s a bit too close to the old knuckle there, M8! And ya don’t know the time-freezing irony of an acquaintance washing his jeans at my place, and at the same time looking for something, that turned out to be in his jeans, unsecurely screwed tight, and blending with the water and clothes washing soap.
I reckon these aspersions are cast at you due to nothing more than your presenting balanced information about the flights you take. And by balanced I mean you don’t use vituperative language if part of the flight experience hasn’t met your expectations, or done the same when the airline flown guarantees a product or service on a flight in a class of service and fails to deliver it.
It’s a National British Pastime to whinge; and you don’t whinge. And it seems I’m right again in this case; they’ll *never* get over it!
If only there were SOME consistency and this service was replicated on the majority of Best Avoided routes… instead of the usual filthy cabins, badly maintained seating and screens and utterly inadequate catering.
As baccarat guy… “Expectation is the key to life.” it’s a shame that BA set expectations at the level you experienced LHR > NYC but consistently fail to live upto those expectations on almost every other route esp. those to emerging economies.
So glad to see BA no longer in decline – and instead appearing to offer a standout product! Yay!
And yet again, this review is a reminder that:
1.) NOTHING beats Her Majesty the Queen (of the Skies)!
2.) There very much is a place for the iconic, beloved and versatile Boeing 747 (which can serve far more airports worldwide than the Airbus A380) in BA’s future for another generation that would give the airline a unique edge over its competitors in the premium cabin space with its one of a kind nose section for BA First, and the unmatched intimacy, privacy and exclusivity of its upper deck that would allow it to offer a top notch biz class product resembling its ”’Speedbird 001’ ‘almost’ private jet” that rivals would be hard pressed to match, and an order for a fleet of 747-8s to replace the -400s now in service to JFK, Cape Town and BA’s other destinations where there’s sufficient demand for it to offer a best in class service that cannot be easily matched by not just any other airline, but also any decked Airbus or Boeing aircraft flown on routes that cannot support the capacity offered on an A380 or has the runways and terminal facilities required for regularly scheduled A380 operations.
Yes, the best days for the Queen’s reign as the world’s long haul workhorse may be behind her – but this review certainly brings to mind the unique opportunity offered by the world’s most beloved, iconic, and indeed, favorite airplane at the “World’s Favourite Airline” for many, many more years yet to come!
Long live the Queen!
CORRECTION: the word “single” was omitted from the post above. The corrected copy is as follows:
“…but also any *single* decked Airbus or Boeing aircraft flown on routes that cannot support the capacity offered on an A380 or has the runways and terminal facilities required for regularly scheduled operations.”
Also in need of correction for the original version of comments above:
“…or *lacks* the runways, taxiways and terminal facilities required for regularly scheduled *A380* operations.”
[copy featuring omitted or changed words are denoted with the pair of *asterisks* bracketing corrected portions. In the past, I’ve typically used all caps to highlight which words/portions of copy reflect changes. However, as most view all caps as screaming, the asterisks were used here instead.]
With apologies for both omissions/errors in the original comments posted!
i disagree , its awful ! staff hit and miss so is service . horrid seats . we fly a lot at least 30 times a year and avoid ba biz at all costs
BA business is completely subpar, the seating arrangement is hideous, the food just bad, the seats uncomfortable, the service poor and the air stuffy and bad quality
I just flew 747 upper deck a week ago, while I agree it’s the best seat in business at BA, it’s so so poor…the lunch offering were sandwiches…. I flew back AA 777 and there is just no comparison, seat quality is so much better, the lounge is better (even compared to the Concorde lounge)
Even first in BA across all planes is poor including the 747, yes it’s cool to be in the nose, but apart from row 2 it’s claustrophobic
The only competitive advantage BA has is being the incumbent out of London and often the only choice of you want a direct flight
I am curious about the new business class coming mid next year on the A350 …I hope they get their act together
There are few cultures like the British that remind you of your place in life. If you are in First the world is your oyster and in economy you are treated like steerage on the Titanic but in Business you have the worst of both. You pay an exorbitant ticket price for a “tired” seat and cabin. Is it better than a horse stable, yes, but just barely. The food service is tiny portions almost something out of a photo shoot. This way the first time I got off a flight hungry. And the staff, what crap. Wherever do they go? Once the meager, Oliver Twist food service is over they must depart for another location. I love the “come visit the pantry” all that’s there is the kind of crap you saw in the BA longe and did not touch there. And finally what the hell? No internet? If BA was not the only non stop between Austin and London and 5 hours faster I would never waste my money. And then to land in Heathrow and have to go down stairs and take a bus to the terminal only shows how little regard they have for their customers.
My two most… disappointing… experiences on BA were in World Traveler, and FIRST.
I am flying on one of the 747 dfw-lhr. There are a few aisle seats only on the upper deck. Several windows on the lower deck. Obviously 62/64 a/k would be ideal, but currently unavailable.
I have 2 questions:
1) better to take an aisle in the upper deck vs a window downstairs?
2) if I pay for the seat selection now for the upper deck aisle and by some miracle a window in the upper deck becomes available, would they charge me again to switch? I couldn’t get a straight answer from the phone representative.
1) yes, unless it’s a window with no one jumping over.
2) no clue.
Sorry that’s not more helpful and hope you have a nice trip 😊
I am sorry – I am not sure I understood what you meant by someone jumping over. So, in your opinion given the choice of :
A) an aisle seat in the upper level
B) window seat in the lower level
You would recommend option A?
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