Review: British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Overnight Flight (LAX-LHR)

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

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Despite a reasonably good experience in British Airways Economy Class on the airline’s A380 aircraft I wasn’t expecting great things on my 787-9 Business Class (Club World) flight back to the UK.

This was to be my first experience of the British Airways Dreamliner but, having flown in BA Business Class quite a few times, I knew to expect high-density Business Class seating, no direct aisle access and certainly no internet connectivity.

Nevertheless, this was an overnight flight between Los Angeles and London so, no matter how antiquated the cabin layout, it was still a better proposition than Premium Economy or Economy Class on any other airline.

After a short-ish stay in the Oneworld Business Class lounge at LAX I headed to the gate for my 18:05 departure.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

I got to the gate quite early and, as I was very keen to get some reasonable pictures of the inside of the Dreamliner, I asked one of the gate agents if there was any chance of boarding early.

After the gate agent had quick conversation with another colleague I was ushered through the first set of doors leading to the aircraft and asked to wait – I was being allowed to pre-board.

After ten or so minutes another agent came to check on the two other passengers waiting to pre-board and we were ushered on to the aircraft.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class – The Cabin

The British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner has 42 Business Class (Club World) seats seat across two cabins.

There’s a mini-cabin just behind First Class and a second, larger cabin just ahead of the Premium Economy seats.

Courtesy of Seatguru.com

As you can see from the image below the seats are packed in quite densely so this makes the choice of seat quite important.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

The B, D, F & J Business Class seats on the British Airways 787-9 face forwards, are very open to the aisle and look very exposed.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class – B & D seats

I’ve never flown in these specific seats but I’ve had the misfortune of flying in their counterparts on the British Airways A380 and 777 aircraft and I absolutely hated them.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class – B seat

These seats offer little to no protection from those walking past in the aisle and crew members regularly lean across these seats to pass items across to passengers by the windows or in the very centre of the aircraft.

They’re not relaxing seats to be in.

The single seats in the very centre of the aircraft (E seats) face rearwards, don’t look too bad and would probably be my second choice if a window seat (A or K) was not available.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class – E Seat

The E seats have the disadvantage that they border two other seats and so, for short parts of the flight when the seat dividers are down, you can find yourself staring into the eyes of two complete strangers.

I had chosen seat 11A which is a rear facing window seat on the aircraft’s port side:

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class – A Seat

The window seats are considerably more private than the other seats in the Business Class cabin and, when you look at the image below, you can see how much better my seat was (privacy-wise) compared to the seat right next to it which is exposed to the aisle:

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

Once seated in a Club World window seat there isn’t all that much room around you.

The gap between the adjoining seat and the aircraft hull isn’t very big (although I didn’t feel particularly cramped or claustrophobic) and the view directly ahead of you is generally one of a wall complete with the fold-down ottoman needed to turn the seat into a lie-flat bed.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

For take off and landing the seat dividers have to be down so it’s at these times that you can find yourself face to face with someone you don’t actually know….and at reasonably close quarters.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

Still, outside of these times (and the occasions where the crew want to pass something over to you) the divider can stay up and the window seat becomes a very private cocoon.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

Storage is a bit of a problem in British Airways Business Class as the only place to store items is in a drawer provided at floor level.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

In fairness to the size of the drawer it actually holds a reasonable amount but lager laptops (such as mine) will definitely not fit….my laptop spent most of the time I wasn’t using it between my seat and the aircraft fuselage.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

The biggest issue with the drawer is it’s position. As soon as you recline the seat even slightly the drawer becomes inaccessible (the seat blocks access), if you have your seatbelt fastened, the drawer is too far away to be reached – not ideal in times of turbulence – and if your tray table is down it blocks access to the drawer too.

Right by the drawer (still at floor level) is where you’ll find the universal power outlet and a USB port:

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

If you happen to want to charge a device that you’ve stored in the drawer this can be a practical place to have the power supply….

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

….but, just as with the drawer, this is a very impractical location for the power outlet should you wish to access it when your seat isn’t in the fully upright position or when your tray table is down.

It’s not all bad new when it comes to power sources as BA’s Dreamliner Business Class seat offers a further USB port under the IFE remote control:

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

As the IFE remote is considerably more conveniently located than the floor-level power outlet….

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

…this is at least a partial solution for passengers with devices you charge via USB.

The seat controls are pretty basic and are found underneath the divider between the two seats:

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

No fancy massage options or numerous presets here but the seat went back and forth as intended so it’s hard to complain too much.

Overall I have to admit to being pleasantly surprised by how easily I managed to find a comfortable position to relax in and how inoffensive the seat turned out to be (BA Business Class is far from being a true premium product so comfort wasn’t something I was expecting to find quite so easily).

Two annoying issues I’ve encountered on almost every other BA Business Class flight have been…

(a) The tray table (which comes out of the side wall) lacks any kind of support

(B) The pull-down ottoman is flimsy and wobbles a lot (annoying if you’re trying to get some sleep)

I didn’t notice either issue on this flight.

It may have been that, because I didn’t spend a lot of time typing on my laptop on this flight, the tray table issue wasn’t so obvious as it has been in the past…..but the whole seat and surrounding area felt a lot more solid than I’ve experienced in BA Club World in the past.

One reason for this may be that the 787-9s are considerably newer aircraft than BA’s 777’s and A380s and those are the aircraft I’m more accustomed to suffering flying.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Amenities

Upon arriving at my seat I found a blanket, a small pillow and a set of headphones waiting for me.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Amenities

No sign of the White Company products that are slowly being introduced but, as I wasn’t expecting to see them, it wasn’t really a let-down.

The blanket was fine if unspectacular, the pillow was poor and the headphones pretty basic.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Amenities

The headphones are supposed to be noise cancelling but I didn’t find them to be particularly effective – bring your own if you’re looking to drown out cabin noises.

Shortly after boarding the cabin crew came around with amenity kits that don’t appear to have changed in years:

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Amenities

The bag reminds me of a scaled down version of a gym bag I had when I was 8 and the Elemis products inside are fine but hardly particularly premium.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Amenities

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class Amenities

When somewhat basic airlines like Delta can offer Tumi amenity kits….

Delta One Tumi Amenity Kit

…and when semi-bankrupt airlines like Malaysia Airlines offer Porsche Design amenity kits…..

Malaysia Airlines A330 Business ClassMalaysia Airlines Porsche Design Amenity Kit

…it makes me wonder how British Airways has got away with offering such a poor quality amenity kit for so long – the White Company bags can’t be rolled out soon enough.

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner – In Flight Entertainment

This is going to be the shortest section of this review….and by a considerable margin!

British Airways provides a very useful page on its website where you can see exactly what’s being offered on the routes you’re planning to fly (here’s a link to that page).

BA offers at least two different type of IFE systems on its long-haul routes depending on the age of the aircraft – the older systems are basic and pretty dismal while the newer systems (as found on the Dreamliner) are actually pretty good.

The screens are a good size….

 British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

..and there’s a lot of content for passengers to choose from.

On a negative point, because the IFE screen deploys out of the same wall as the tray table (and because it deploys from a space directly above the tray table) it is a little tricky to both watch a show and to eat from a tray of food on the table.

British Airways Business Class Dining

British Airways Club World Food & Bar Menu (click to enlarge)

British Airways Club World Champagne & Wine Menu (click to enlarge)

Shortly after boarding the cabin crew came thought the cabin offering a variety of pre-departure drinks (water, juice, wine, champagne etc…) and I chose a glass of champagne:

British Airways 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class

I forgot to check which of the two champagnes BA serves on board  I was given but, whichever it was, it was perfectly ok.

The bar menu as well as the wine and champagne menu are available for most of the flight but, as I was more interested in getting a good rest than working my way through the drinks selection, the champagne was all I tried.

Dinner service started shortly after we levelled out and I selected the “mini Mediterranean vegetables with pan-seared Bijou goat’s cheese and lemon” as my starter and this came accompanied by a selection of bread rolls and a “fresh seasonal salad with vinaigrette“.

British Airways Business Class Dining – Starter

British Airways Business Class Dining – Starter

British Airways Business Class Dining – Starter

For my main course I chose the “chilled main course Niçoise salad of herb roasted chicken with hard boiled egg, haricots vert, roasted tomatoes, Kalamata olives and a creamy garlic dressing

British Airways Business Class Dining – Main

British Airways Business Class Dining – Main

The starter salads were nice, fresh and light…which is what I like when I plan to go straight to sleep after eating.

As is so often the case the main course was actually nicer than the pictures may suggest – the chicken wasn’t dried out and the whole ensemble worked quite well.

I chose to pass on the dessert course.

I had asked the crew to wake me for breakfast so, around 90 minutes before landing at Heathrow, I was roused from my sleep and asked for my Breakfast order.

I had an orange juice, a croissant (from a selection of breads and pasties) and a fruit salad to start…

British Airways Business Class Dining – Breakfast

…and an omelette with sweet potato hash and sautéed spinach for my main course.

British Airways Business Class Dining – Breakfast

British Airways Business Class Dining – Breakfast

The orange juice was ok (I’m not convinced it wasn’t at least partly from concentrate) but the croissant and the fruit salad tasted fresh.

The main course was fine. Edible and hot…but not exactly memorable. I would have preferred it had there been more fruit on offer or perhaps a good cereal with yoghurt.

British Airways also offers something it called the “Club Galley” which is an area where Business Class passengers can pick up some snacks mid-flight. The selection on offer is listed on the menu posted above.

Thoughts

Negatives

  • The aisle seats are a terrible place to sit – I would avoid them if at all possible – I know I didn’t sit in one for this flight but the warning cannot be repeated enough.
  • The lack of all-aisle-access Business Class seats is inexcusable for an airline that claims to be a “premium airline”
  • The location of the drawer and the main power outlet is inconvenient and the fact that the drawer is the only storage space anywhere around the seat is disappointing.
  • The amenity kit bag is almost laughably bad…but this is gradually being phased out.

Positives

  • The crew were all very cheerful, smiley and polite – no evidence of simply going through the motions and the service was good.
  • I actually slept very well on this flight – a first for me in BA Business Class. The seat was more comfortable than the seats I remember from past experiences on the A380 or 777 and the overall experience wasn’t bad at all.
  • The IFE selection is very good

Bottom Line

I’m definitely no fan of British Airways (and I have post after post to prove it!) but I have to give credit where credit is due – this wasn’t a bad flight at all.

Sure the Business Class product is antiquated…but only in terms of style and layout. The actual seats themselves seemed in very good condition and were well maintained.

I got a good night’s sleep in a seat I regularly label as one of the worst transatlantic Business Class seats (which it still is) and I found the seat comfortable when I wasn’t sleeping.

There were some annoying things like the positioning of the drawer and the main power outlet as well as the overall poor storage, but none of them were big enough to leave me annoyed or to put too much of a dampener on what was a pretty good flight.

The crew were very pleasant and went about their jobs in a professional and courteous manner (can’t ask for too much more than that) and the food was mostly ok.

If I was to compare this experience to a true premium airline then British Airways wouldn’t come out of it looking to good but, on a standalone basis, I was pleasantly surprised by the flight.

This may have something to do with the fact that I wasn’t expecting much to start off with but I think it’s probably more likely to do with the fact that I got a good crew and a new-ish aircraft on this flight.

I’m still going to do my best to avoid BA’s Business Class cabins on the A380s and the 777s but, based on this experience, I’d happily give the BA 787-9 Dreamliner another go.

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