British Airways has long been known for its premium cabins, and Nick Walton discovers a reputation well deserved on a recent flight between London and Hong Kong.
With its old world pedigree, spruced up for the contemporary era, British Airways remains a popular choice for travellers in Asia and offers daily flights from Hong Kong to London Heathrow, operating both an A380 and A350 aircraft.
I checked in for my London Heathrow – Hong Kong flight using British Airways’ app which is quite user friendly, although it doesn’t let business class passengers who are not of a certain status with the airline’s Executive Club programme select a seat more than 24 hours before the flight without a fee – in this case GBP100 (US$121). At Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the lines for business class baggage check-in where quite slow, although they do cater to both Club World and Club Europe, which equates to a lot of travellers at any given time.
I was soon through and in the Concorde Lounge (note: this space is reserved for first class and Gold Executive Club Members and business class passengers will usually be directed to one of the two business class lounges), an elegant and spacious retreat and part of a cluster of BA first and business class lounges spanning two floors. Within the Concorde Room there are various spaces, including an elegant bar and a sleeping zone but I head to the dining room where private, intimate tables are dressed in crisp white cloths.
There’s an extensive dining menu on offer in the Concorde Room, with highlights including Atlantic salmon mousse with fennel and red onion; chicken and apricot terrine; pan-roasted sea bass wit chicory, and save verte; chicken Rogan josh curry with traditional accompaniments; and linguine with lovage pesto, but I opt for the signature Concorde Burger, which is the perfectly sized snack, especially when paired with hand cut fries and the perfect British gin martini.
There’s also an extensive drinks selection ranging from Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle champagne; a Ried Steinsetz Grüner Veltliner from Schloss Gobelsburg; and a 2020 Callabriga from Portugal’s Casa Ferreirinha, all of which are selected by the airline’s master of wine, Tim Jackson, the only master of wine to work full time for an airline.
I arrive at the satellite gate, 39, at the prescribed time of 4pm only to hear announcements that boarding is delayed due to luggage loading. As we board at 5pm I’m advised that the seat I had selected online was malfunctioning so was shifted to another window seat, 11k. When I reached my seat, I found a bottle of water, BA branded headphones, and an amenity kit by The White Company already supplied.
Crew have obviously made good use of the delay and quickly serve glasses of water, juice and champagne and passengers quickly settle in for the flight to Hong Kong. The captain apologies for the delay and says we will make up time as we progress east.
As we’ve reviewed before, British Airways’ Club World seat on its 350 fleet is a dark and sophisticated affair, with plenty of functionality. The A350-1000 the airline operates between London and Hong Kong features 56 Club Suites (70% of which are occupied), each with a width of 27-inches and a pitch of 79-inches, set across two sections in a 1-2-1 configuration.
Designed for maximum comfort and functionality, my 79-inch fully flatbed seat boasts plenty of little storage spaces – crucial on long-haul flights – as well dual USB ports, an AC point, an 18.5-inch touch screen monitor with independent controller (with its own touchscreen), a sliding privacy door, and a broad table.
After a long wait to take off, meal service is also slow to kick into action and when it does my first choice, an Aviation Gin and tonic (the airline recently partnered with the American spirit) was unavailable (must have been popular!), so I opted for Tanqueray, although there was no shortage of choices ranging from the Gin Zing, Tanqueray No. 10 with citrus and bubbles; mocktails like the Fizzberry, with cranberry and Indian tonic water; and the BrewDog Speedbird OG Transatlantic IPA, specifically made for the airline.
The meal service continues with a choice of beef tataki with grated mooli, asparagus and edamame; roasted sweet potato salad with chimichurri and flamed corn; and roasted cauliflower soup with herb croutons.
Mains included braised beef cheeks with cheddar au gratin; French beans broccolini, fire roasted red pepper, asparagus, parsnip, and a beef jus; char kway teow noodles with spiced chicken and asparagus; and matar paneer with cumin basmati rice as a vegetarian option.
I opted for the beef tataki which was tangy and sweet; followed by the soul-soothing beef cheeks, which paired beautifully with the North Coast Pinot Noir from California’s Buena Vista winery.
For dessert I bypassed the seasonal fruit, chocolate pudding and the British apple crumble and instead tried the cheese selection, which included a camembert, coastal cheddar, and Shropshire blue and which was paired with a Graham’s Six Grapes Reserve Ruby Port.
A few hours out from Hong Kong we were presented a light bite that consisted of a warm bakery selection followed by the choice of an Original Ploughman’s Selection with Wiltshire ham, Scotch egg, gin-pickled onions, Branston pickle, and English cheddar; or Ras el hanout spiced bulgar and roasted pumpkin salad with lemon labneh and pomegranate seeds.
This was followed by a choice of cottage pie; grilled chicken brochette with chickpea and hazelnut salad, coriander, labneh and olive oil dressing; and artichoke medagliono with sun blushed cherry tomatoes, artichoke, and panna sauce. The meal was finished with crème caramel.
I opted for just the Ploughman’s spread which is a great example of how British Airways is showcasing the best of British produce and tradition, and paired it with a cup of Union Coffee, the beans of which are sourced from smallholder farmers in Peru and Honduras and hand roasted in small batched in East London.
The airline’s High Life entertainment system, enjoyed through that crystal clear 18-5-inch monitor, is a well curated selection of television, audio and feature films, with plenty of tried-and-try classic. British Airways also offers a range of wifi options starting from £2.99 (US$3.80).
Once they got into their groove, the cabin crew were cheerful and attentive, offering a warm and personalised service that’s quite refreshing after the efficient but robotic service of many Asian carriers. While the meal service took quite a long time to start, once it did, the service was efficient and proactive, as was brunch.
With its focus on a business class experience that begins on the ground and extends to the skies, as well as its dedication to British produce and producers, the British Airways business class product is one of the most competitive offerings on the busy Hong Kong-London routes. Business class Hong Kong-London from HK$22,805 (US$2,917).
For more Reviews click here.