Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel and/or flight review.
A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a great (but rainy and even snowy) stay in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, one of the world’s most pristine wilderness areas on a scale difficult to imagine. You can read my trip reports here:
Today (October 19, 2016): Trip report: British Airways Dreamliner B787-8 Business Class Calgary to London (overnight).
On September 11th 2016, I flew Business Class in a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner of British Airways (BA) from Calgary International Airport (YYC) in Canada to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR). The Dreamliner is the latest aircraft type to join BA’s fleet. At the time of writing, eight B787-8 Dreamliners have been delivered to BA so far, in addition to fourteen B787-9 Dreamliners. BA’s B787-8 has only three classes (Economy, Premium Economy, and Business), in contrast to BA’s B787-9, where the additional aircraft length of 20 ft (6 m) has been used to add a fourth cabin – First Class – at the front of the plane. I have now reviewed BA’s Business Class product on all of its widebody planes, being the Boeing B747-400 (read me review here), the Airbus A380 (read me reviews here and here), and the Boeing 777 (read my review here).
- Trip: YYC-LHR
- Airline: British Airways
- Aircraft type: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
- Aircraft registration number: G-ZBCJ
- Flight Number: BA102
- Date: September 11th, 2016
- On time departure: yes (10.30 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (1.30 pm)
- Miles: 4360
- Flight time: 8 hours
- Seat: 3K
- Class: Business
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Swissport Chinook Lounge at YYC
- Facts & Figures of the BA Dreamliner
- Business Class Cabin
- Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences
- My verdict
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1. SWISSPORT CHINOOK LOUNGE AT YYC
As British Airways does not have its own lounge at Calgary International Airport, its Business Class passengers have access to the Swissport Chinook Lounge, one floor about the main concourse. The latter facility is also used by KLM, Condor and Edelweiss Air, and is accessible to all passengers departing from the international terminal for a fee.
Like most lounges in North America, this Swissport Chinook Lounge is nothing to write home about. The large but somewhat tastelessly decorated space features plenty of comfortably chairs, some of them centered around a cozy open fire or along the large windows that offer great views of the runway, the skyline of downtown Calgary and – on a clear day – the Rocky Mountain peaks at the horizon. One corner of the lounge features a buffet with limited food and beverage options. During my visit (evening time), only chips, cookies, salted peanuts, sandwiches, cold vegetables and fresh soup were on display in addition to complimentary alcoholic drinks, soft drinks and coffee. “What you see is what you get”, I was told by one of the lounge’s staff member when I informed whether any hot dishes were going to be offered as well. On a positive note, the lounge contains a decent business center as well as a family area complete with television to keep kids entertained. Free WiFi is available through the airport’s own network.
At the end of this month, Calgary International Airport will open its new International Terminal, which will add approximately two million square feet, which is equivalent to 34 football fields, and 24 new aircraft gates for International and U.S. destinations. I assume British Airways will move its operation to this new terminal in November and use a new lounge, but I could not find any information on this topic.
2. FACTS & FIGURES ABOUT THE BA DREAMLINER
Here is some (fun) general information about the B787 as provided by BA:
- The Boeing 787-8 is a mid-size, dual aisle, twin-engine jet manufactured by Boeing, the American aerospace company.
- The aircraft is 20% more fuel-efficient than similar sized commercial jets it is designed to replace, and to date, is Boeing’s most fuel-efficient aircraft.
- Composite materials make up 50 percent of the primary structure, including the fuselage and wing.
- The engine nacelles are made of serrated edges that reduce the noise levels both outside and inside the cabin, by up to 60%.
- The aircraft also features raked wingtip to further improve the fuel efficiency.
- The windows are more than 30 percent larger than those on most similarly sized airplanes. Instead of pulling shades up and down, customers can adjust the brightness of windows with a button. Using an electrochromic dimming system, the windows turn from fully transparent to completely dimmed in gradual steps.
- Less than 10,000 holes are drilled into the fuselage during assembly of a 787.
- The size of the 787 factory is approximately 380,000 square feet.
- The 787 flies at Mach 0.85, or about 650 miles per hour.
- Current BA 787 destinations are: Austin, Baltimore, Cairo, Calgary, Chengdu, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Montreal, Newark, Philadelphia, Seoul, Tel Aviv, and Toronto.
3. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
BA’s Boeing B787-8 has a total of 214 seats: 35 in Club World (Business Class), 25 in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), and 154 in World Traveller (Economy).
The 35 Business Class seats on the B787-8 are spread over 2 cabins in the front of the cabin (with a galley in between them). The bulk of the seats (21 in total) are located in the largest cabin behind the cockpit, while a smaller cabin in front of World Traveller Plus contains the remaining 14 seats. The two Business Class cabins offer a sophisticated and contemporary atmosphere, giving a reassuring sense of wellbeing and comfort. However, they don’t come close to the intimate and private ambience of the Business Class cabin on the BA Boeing 747 upper deck (which I reviewed here).
The innovative “Ying/Yang” 2-3-2 seat plan is unique to BA: window and middle seats face backwards, while aisle seats face forwards. Because of this unique concept, you may have to jump over other passenger’s feet to reach the aisle when seated in a backward facing seat.
Click here for a seat map of the British Airways B787-8.
4. BUSINESS CLASS SEAT (& WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE)
A great thing about BA is that is offers a very consistent Business Class product across its wide body fleet. The Club World seats that you find on the B787 are identical to the ones on BA’s B747, A380 and B777. The seat is located within its own cocoon or suite, and has a pitch of 72 inches (182 cm) and a seat cushion width of 20 inches (50 cm). In front of each seat, there’s a foot rest, which need to lowered in order to use it for comfort or for an extension of the flatbed. The angle of maximum seat recline is 180 degrees, and the overall length of seat when fully reclined into a flat-bed (and when tilting the separate foot rest) is a 6 ft (183 cm). It also has a reclined Z-position for relaxing and watching films in a near-recumbent position.
Each seat has its own private entertainment screen, which swings out from one side of the cabin suite. With 12 inches or 20 cm, the screen is considerably larger as compared to that of BA’s older wide body planes. It also tilts up and down, so watching the screen from the near or fully flat-bed position is perfectly possible.
There are retractable privacy dividers between adjoining seats, which can be lowered or raised, depending on the fact whether you are traveling solo or with a companion. The safety screen needs to be lowered during the safety briefing, and in addition, the crew will lower it when they serve you meals and drinks; this can feel very awkward when you are seated next to a stranger because you are directly looking into his/her eyes because of BA’s Ying/Yang layout.
The seat controls, a power port, and the remote control for the entertainment system (which can also be controlled by touching the screen) are located below the screen divider.
What are the best Business Class seats on BA’s B787-8? Use this seat map for more information.
- For solo travelers: the rear facing, window seats are more private and the ones you want to be seated in.
- The window seats A & K as well as middle seat E on row 3 are the single best seats on the plane since they offer direct aisle access without having to jump over the feet of other passengers. While the window and middle seat on row 7 also offer a clear exit route, they are not so desirable (see below).
What are the worst Business Class seats on BA’s B787-8? Use this seat map for more information.
- Aisle seats B, D, F and J on rows 1 and 6 are to be avoided since other flyers tend to bump into these seats when they return from the lavatory.
- Seats A, B, J & K in row 7 are aligned with the middle seats of the first row in World Traveller Plus, which means that you are an aisle width and just a cloth curtain away from the baby bassinets against the cabin divider on the other side.
- Unfortunately, because of the 2-3-2 layout there are no private suites for couples on BA’s B787, contrary to other plane type in its fleet such as the A380, B777 and B747 which all feature a 2-4-2 and where middle seats come in their own private suites.
Each seat comes with a thin blanket, a comfortable pillow, and an amenity kit. The latter is a drawstring bag (one for men and one for women) that is designed to double up as a shoe or lingerie and underwear bag and includes Elemis products to refresh, revive and rehydrate, created in travel sizes exclusively for BA. Both the men and women’s versions include moisturizer and lip balm, as well as an eyeshade, earplugs, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste and a pen for filling out arrivals forms.
Upon boarding, I was offered the choice between a glass of Champagne, water, or orange juice. I choose the latter since drinking alcohol on a plane gives me headaches. Shortly after take-off, I received a refreshing hot towel (although BA’s hot towels have a disappointing texture). I was also served a soft drink (with ice and lemon) and a small bag containing an assortment of cold salted and roasted nuts.
Soon thereafter (around 11 am local time), dinner was offered, all served on a single tray. Food was ok and definitely much better as compared to the food offered on my previous flight on BA:
- Starter: smoked salmon mille-feuille
- Main course: roasted pacific black cod with tarragon lemon butter, asparagus, and fingerling potato
- Dessert: lemon posset with fresh raspberries
90 minutes prior to landing, breakfast was served. I had an energizing fruit smoothie of blueberry and banana, fresh seasonal fruit salad, and Greek yoghurt with honey.
7. INFLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT
On the entertainment front you get a private screen, noise-cancelling headphones (the noise cancelling bit is in the console not the headphone, interestingly), two USB sockets, power, and a video RCA connection for your camcorder, DVD player or camera. The private screen (12 inches or 20 cm) is larger as compared to that of BA’s older planes. It swings out from the side of the private cabin suite. It also tilts up and down, so watching the screen from the near or fully flat-bed position is perfectly possible.
The new Thales in-flight entertainment (available in all classes) is light years ahead of what BA currently offers on other planes, and screen quality has significantly improved. There are tons of movies and box sets to explore, alongside a range of other content, including a much-enhanced flight map and chat sessions with other passengers (so if you fancy striking up a conversation with someone six rows or even a cabin away, now is your chance).
8. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
#CREW: As always, the BA cabin crew did a terrific job. I was surprised that I was recognized by a crew member who also served during my recent BA B777 flight from Tokyo to London. I thought that cabin crew members were only trained to work on one plane type, but apparently, there’s a lot of crosstraining taking place.
# BAR: The B787-8 has a walk-up “Club Kitchen” onboard, located between the two Business Class cabins, where fliers can graze between meals. Unfortunately, BA has drastically reduced its selection of snacks in Club Kitchen. During the flight, the walk-up bar only featured retro sweets, Cadbury chocolates, and Kettle chips.
# WINDOWS: With the largest windows in the industry and first-of-its-kind electronic touch pad controls to adjust the amount of light entering the cabin, you can look outside without glare, replacing conventional blinds.
# LAVATORY: There are 2 lavatories for Business Class passengers: one between the two Business Class cabins, and one behind the cockpit.
# WIFI: Unfortunately, WiFi is not offered by BA at the moment. Currently, they are testing it on one of their planes.
# FLIGHT PATH: The flight path took us over Greenland and watching the sun rise above the word’s second largest ice cap was a magical experience.
- Lounge: 5/10
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 7/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin: 8/10
- Overall experience: good: 7,8/10
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