On Good Friday we flew down to Abu Dhabi on one of the new Boeing 787-9 British Airways aircraft. (Click here for the special 787-9 page on ba.com.) This is the second, larger, iteration of the 787 and includes a small eight-seat First Class cabin.
Here are a few thoughts:
The Terminal 5B lounge is the place to be
On Good Friday, in a hugely crowded Heathrow Terminal 5, this was the state of the British Airways lounge in the Terminal 5B satellite:
(Quick pause whilst all of those readers who have endured the overcrowded No 1 Traveller / BA lounge at Gatwick North recently pick themselves up off the floor.)
You may need to ask check-in staff if your flight will depart from a B or C gate as it is often not shown on the display boards until near to departure time. Coincidentally, this leaves you with more time to visit the shops in the main terminal.
The front Club World mini-cabin of a 787-9 is the place to be
Whatever you may think of the seating, the layout of the Club World seating on the 787-9 cannot be beat. There is a 2-row mini-cabin (Row 6 and Row 7), followed by a galley and the Club Kitchen, followed by a 4-row cabin.
Even the 4-row cabin is a massive improvement than the ‘dormitory’ style Club World layout on the Boeing 777 fleet. Row 6 and Row 7 is the place to be, however. What you see in the photo below is the entire mini-cabin:
The interiors are classy
Again, irrespective of how you find Club World seating, it is hard to deny that the interior is very classy. In terms of the ambiance created by the colour scheme and by the gently glowing Speedbird logo, the cabin looks very smart indeed. I would honestly put it ahead of Qatar, Emirates and Etihad on this front. The photo above does not do it full justice.
And, before anyone asks, the windows ARE noticeably bigger than on older aircraft. It was most apparent at Heathrow where the 787 was stood next to a 747.
The seats are still well behind the competition
You can’t hide the fact, however, that the Club World seat cannot compare, in any way, to what is offered by Etihad on the A380 or 777, by Qatar on a 787, A380 or A350 or by Emirates on an A380.
This passenger is not exactly overweight but you can see that even he hasn’t got a lot of space:
Many airlines are now flying 1-2-1 in Business Class, mainly using a ‘reverse herringone’ angled layout with all seats facing forward. BA flies 2-4-2 on the 777, A380 and 747 and 2-3-2 on the 787 with up to 50% of the seats facing backwards.
British Airways has, to be fair, done as much as it can given the current design:
- The seat was comfy
- The taupe colour scheme is classy
- I loved the fact the tray table can be slid back so you can still get out of your seat during the meal service
- The reading light is excellent (and missing on many business class seats from competing airlines)
- The IFE selection was perfectly acceptable and appears to have improved
- Because there are overhead luggage bins in the middle section (some airlines take them out for cosmetic reasons) there is a lot of overhead space even though the seat has virtually no storage
The seat is, frankly, too narrow and lacks storage. Privacy from the person next to you is poor (not a problem for me here obviously) and the privacy screen really blocks in the person by the window. With the screen up, serving food is difficult. Window passengers must jump over your feet to reach the aisle when seats are in bed mode.
Sitting in an aisle, I also felt very exposed every time a trolley came down the cabin – as the arm rests are so narrow I felt in permanent danger of being hit. You can see what I mean here:
In terms of ‘best seat’, anything in rows 6 or 7 will be OK. My daughter had 7K, by the window, which allowed her to get into the aisle without jumping over anyone as it was by the bulkhead. This seat is also directly next to the Club Kitchen – which is now pathetically understocked – and the loos which is handy for kids. (The Club Kitchen and the galley separate you from the loo so there is no disturbance.)
Whilst the middle seat in the middle block may seem unattractive (it is also rear facing), it has the advantage of being hemmed in from both sides. On night flights it is apparently proving popular for passengers who wish to sleep because you are not disturbed by passing trolleys or window light.
PS. If you are travelling to Dubai, as we were, it is well worth considering flying to Abu Dhabi. A Mercedes from the airport (not pre-booked) to Dubai was only £40 and took just under an hour. You can easily take 30 minutes in heavy traffic from Dubai International to many of the resorts. More importantly, the Abu Dhabi flight leaves before the first BA Dubai flight so you get there earlier – we were in our hotel by 11pm local time. You also get to experience the new 787.
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