This “Club World from London Heathrow to Hong Kong” is a reader review from our contributor, Sarah.
You can follow Sarah’s travels on Substack at sarahkerrigan.substack.com
Terminal 5 was an unexpected oasis of calm amidst the pre-Christmas holiday rush as I made my way to the First Lounge on the Saturday before Christmas. I breezed through the First Wing security in minutes as I was the only passenger there. I had expected Heathrow to be busy that close to Christmas, but being one of the last departing BA flights, the crowds must have already passed through the terminal.
The entrance to the First Lounge after security was looking very festive, with a large Christmas tree and Susan the horse looking smart with a Christmas wreath around her neck and a winter blanket.
I booked the ticket using a British Airways American Express Companion Voucher, flying into Hong Kong and returning to London from Tokyo Haneda, and paying approximately £550 per person in taxes. At the point of booking, the reward seats had already been released so I tailored the trip itinerary around the availability I could find on an open-jaw basis. After all, two countries (plus anywhere I decided to go via!) were more exciting than one! Plus a short stop in Hong Kong would mean some warmer weather before heading to wintery Japan.
My flight was due to depart at 20:45, so the lounge was also understandably quiet. I even managed to get a picture of some of the smart new furniture in the First Lounge. I do wish they had installed a few more charging points though – that seems to be an area where the T5 First Lounge really falls short of expectations.
Aside from the Christmas carols playing in the lounge, it was, for the most part, a non-festive offering – though I suppose not everyone celebrates Christmas. The food and drink in the lounge was the usual spread, though they did put out some mini turkey pies on the buffet – they were very nice, but I wanted to make sure I saved room for my meal on board. A long flight would mean that I was counting on the meal service as part of the entertainment for my journey!
The flight was on a Boeing 787-9, which still has the old-style Club World seat – AKA the dormitory. It seems this fleet of planes is one of the last to be fitted out with the new Club Suite. I’ve flown the old Club World seat lots of times now, and I do still like it – though I’m gutted I’ve not yet had a chance to try the new Club Suite. First-world problems, I know!
I sat in the smaller Club World cabin forward of the galley and boarding door, and right behind First Class. I much prefer this to turning right into the larger Club World cabin to the right of the boarding door, as you are turning left in the traditional sense, and don’t have the rest of the plane – all the World Traveller (economy) and Premium Economy passengers passing your seat to get to the back of the plane.
A strong tailwind thanks to a passing storm meant that despite taking off late from Heathrow, the flight arrived in Hong Kong early – a breezy twelve hours and twenty minutes total flight time.
Once I had taken my seat and stowed my bags, a member of the cabin crew came around to offer me a glass of champagne, that was gratefully received. It is often said that you can tell how good a crew will be within five minutes of being on board, and I’m pleased to report there was a good first impression – and indeed an attentive and friendly service throughout the flight. One of the cabin crew members serving me was certainly in the festive spirit, wearing a headband with reindeer antlers, and the whole crew was both cheerful and professional throughout the flight.
A crew member took food and drink orders prior to take off, and knowing there were only a few of one meal options left, proceeded quickly to the galley to put in my order and reserve my meal before someone else took it.
The plane pushed back after a short delay and I settled in for the long journey. I must say I found the new safety video to be quite underwhelming! The previous one was a bit on the irritating side, but this one left me feeling “meh”.
There was no wifi on board the flight, but being a night flight around Christmas I wasn’t hugely upset by this. I’m not sure whether it was just not working, as I have flown this aircraft type before and successfully connected to the wifi, but the crew didn’t mention anything about it in any case.
The meal service started well, with a well-presented smoked salmon starter. I loved the warm bread they served too!
For my main, I went for the roast turkey dinner, with pigs in blankets, chestnut stuffing and all the trimmings. It left a little to be desired on the presentation front, but it was quite tasty.
Dessert was a chocolate orange mousse, which hit the spot without being too heavy.
All that remained then was for me to order an after-dinner glass of port whilst I settled down to watch some of the in-flight entertainment. There was a reasonable selection of films – certainly enough that I hadn’t seen to keep me entertained on the flight. I watched Wes Anderson’s ‘Asteroid City’, followed by the Barbie movie before trying to get some sleep. Despite the flatbed, and cosy White Company bedding, I always find it so hard to sleep on flights, though I could at least say I was comfortable whilst I dozed the night away.
When the crew came round at what felt like some ungodly hour to take breakfast orders, I decided to decline – but they wouldn’t take no for an answer and brought me the cold starters of fruit, yoghurt and a pastry with my cup of tea. It was actually a nice touch (as opposed to being forceful!) and I didn’t regret then going on to order some hot breakfast too. They knew me better than I knew myself! I’m not sure many people feel like eating much at the equivalent of 4 am, but if nothing else, it’s something to do to pass the time.
All in all, it was a very pleasant flight – smooth and served by an attentive crew. I think it certainly helped that the flight wasn’t full, so the service felt nice and relaxed. This experience aligns well with my previous BA long-haul flights, leaving me with no complaints.
There’s not much to say about the old Club World seat that hasn’t already been said, and whilst it is overdue an upgrade, I still find it comfortable, and good for travelling as a couple, as conversation is easy with the yin-yang seat layout when the divider is down.
I honestly don’t have any problems climbing over someone’s legs to go to the restrooms, and in the forward cabin, taking an aisle seat isn’t much of an imposition on privacy or passing traffic. Though that might be different when sitting in the larger Club World cabin further back.
Considering the use of the Companion Voucher and the low overall cost of paying just the taxes, versus a cash fare, I was delighted with the overall experience, and anyone getting to redeem their points for a business class cabin in this way should feel pleased with the overall value and experience.
Being able to book open-jaw tickets with a Companion Voucher is sometimes overlooked, so if you’re not booking at the point the reward seats are released, or can’t find availability on the route and dates that you want, I’d strongly recommend expanding your search and seeing if there’s an alternative itinerary you can piece together. The rules for open-jaw are simple in that the distance (as the crow flies) between your arrival and departure airports must be shorter than the distance of either the outbound or return flight. You can book the outbound online, and then you’ll need to call BA to add the return leg to the Companion Voucher booking.
I arrived at a very festive-looking Hong Kong Airport, sunny and a very pleasant seventeen degrees Celsius. I’ll take that over a grey and chilly UK!
Like our reader review’s article? You can also check our other reader review article here.