Today’s reader review, Santiago to Heathrow in BA Club World, is written by Sarah.
This is a review of the return leg of my trip from Heathrow to Santiago in BA First class, booked using Avios and an American Express companion voucher. This time I flew Club World.
In this post:
Check-in and lounge
First, let me offer a word of caution to anyone who is planning a trip to Chile. If you’re flying out of Arturo Merino Benítez International Airport, Santiago (SCL), I would strongly recommend getting to the airport at least three hours before your departure. Despite checking in online and having no baggage to check, on arrival at the airport, I joined a long queue for passport control before getting to security, which took me nearly an hour to get through.
By the time I arrived at the lounge, I only had half an hour to spend there before boarding the plane. Even if you’re flying in a premium cabin and have the option for priority check-in and fast-track security, all passengers must go through the same long passport control queue, so make sure you allow ample time to enjoy the lounge before your flight. You have been warned!
As a British Airways Club World passenger, I had access to the LATAM lounge, which was spacious, with a good selection of hot and cold food (buffet-style), and a well-stocked bar. The bar had Chilean sparkling wine, beer, and spirits, including the national drink, pisco. I couldn’t see a drinks list, but I noticed they had a variety of fruits, garnishes, and cocktail accoutrements behind the bar, so I presume they could mix you a pisco sour or another cocktail of your choice upon request.
There is a variety of seating in the lounge, including armchairs and seats at tables, and despite being busy, there was sufficient space for everyone. Most seats had access to wireless charging and USB charging points. The lounge also had showers available, and the bathrooms were smart and well-maintained – much nicer than in the Galleries First lounge at Heathrow!
The flight was operated by a Boeing 787-9. There are two Club World cabins on the aircraft: a small sixteen-seat Club World cabin directly behind the First cabin, a galley, then a much larger Club World cabin. It was the older “dormitory-style” yin yang Club World seating, and I picked the rear-facing window seat 6K, located at the front of the smaller cabin. My husband was seated next to me in the forward-facing seat 6J.
As both a Gold Executive Club member and a Club World passenger, I was in group one and boarded first. The bedding, amenity kit, and headphones were waiting for me on my seat, so I stowed them and settled in, ready for take-off. The seat had a small foot-level drawer for storing essentials like the amenity kit and headphones, and everything else had to be stored in the overhead locker. Despite the limited in-seat storage, I had plenty of space for all my things, but it would have been convenient to have my handbag within reach when stowed. During the flight, I kept my smaller carry-on bag underneath the ottoman. Next to my seat, there was a USB socket and multi-country plug socket for charging my devices in flight.
Once we had boarded, we were brought a welcome glass of champagne – controversially, I quite like the Castelnau, though I dare say many will disagree with me on this!
The crew was friendly and attentive, bringing around the menu shortly after take-off and taking our dinner orders. Before the meal service, they offered us hot towels, and the in-flight lead took the time to give me a Gold welcome, greeting me by name and taking her time to chat about my trip to Chile, which was a nice touch.
For dinner, I ordered the salad starter, followed by the seared beef tenderloin, with a glass of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine was full-bodied and well-balanced, but the salad was a little bland and underwhelming. Sadly, the beef was served far from seared, and I found it dry, overcooked, and a bit tough. The sauce that came with it was gloopy and too thick, ‘piled’ on top of the beef, and the potato au gratin was more like a Spanish omelette – it was very strange – and I regret not ordering the chicken! For dessert, I chose the cheese plate with a glass of ruby port, which was good overall, but I could have done with more than two oat cakes for my three pieces of cheese.
After dinner, I decided to watch some of the inflight entertainment. I ended up binge-watching the “House of the Dragon”, a Game of Thrones spin-off, and it kept me entertained on the ultra-long-haul flight. The TV screen flips out from the side of the adjacent seat and could be controlled either through a touch screen or a remote. The controls were responsive, and not too laggy, which can sometimes be the case.
The headphones provided by British Airways were adequate for TV viewing, though it was annoying that my Bose noise-cancelling headphones didn’t fit the socket despite coming with an airline adaptor. The only disappointment was that I couldn’t finish the final fifteen minutes of the last episode of the series because the screens had to be stowed for landing. While the IFE was not switched off until after landing, the fact that the screens needed to be stowed meant that I couldn’t continue watching due to the angle of the screen relative to the seat. Luckily my husband was a few minutes ahead of me and was able to fill me in on the ending!
During the flight I opted for the basic Wi-Fi messaging package, which cost me £4.99. The ordering process was easy and I was able to stay connected throughout the flight. As advertised, the messaging worked fine for text-only, but the bandwidth wasn’t enough to send a picture message or to download pictures in emails, which suited me perfectly.
At around 5:30 PM Chilean time (8:30 PM in the UK), the cabin lights were turned off, which I felt was a bit early for such a long flight, and considering it wasn’t close to bedtime in the UK. However, the crew was still available to top up drinks and I was happy to continue watching TV from the comfort of my seat, albeit in the dark. I found the Club World seat to be very comfortable and I liked that I could adjust the recline without having to go into full bed-mode or ask the crew for assistance.
After the dinner service, and throughout the night, there was a snack basket in the galley, available to Club World passengers, but it only contained packets of shortbread. It would have been nice to have a bit more variety in the snack selection, including some healthier options.
Breakfast was served about two hours before landing, again, a bit early given the ungodly hour in the UK! Most people were still asleep when the crew began the meal service, so they kept the cabin lights off to avoid waking anyone up. In the interest of something to do, and for the purpose of this review, I decided to have breakfast, which included a plate of fresh fruit, bircher muesli, and a croissant, followed by a hot option – I went for the omelette. The food was okay, but a bit bland, not helped by the fact that I had little appetite that early in the morning.
The return flight was an hour shorter than the outbound flight, which was appreciated on such a long route, but still very long, with a flight time of just under fourteen hours. On arrival into Heathrow at 6.30am, I headed straight for the to freshen up and wait out the worst of rush hour before tackling the long journey home on the tube.
It was my first time in the arrivals lounge, which boasts a surprising number of showers (94 to be exact), though they are showing their age and are in need of some refurbishment. Unfortunately, the kitchen in the lounge had no power, so breakfast options were limited to fruit, yoghurt, and cereal, but the coffee machines were at least working. However, having eaten on the flight, I didn’t mind skipping a second breakfast.
Overall, I had an enjoyable experience on my BA Club World flight. Since the flight wasn’t fully booked, the crew was able to give passengers a little more attention, and it meant I didn’t have to climb over anyone’s legs to get out of my seat, as is the case when sitting in the window seat in a busy Club World cabin with the yin-yang seating layout.
Without a doubt, I am looking forward to all aircraft being fitted with the new Club Suites, but in the meantime, I find the yin-yang layout to be familiar and comfortable – it works well if you’re travelling as a couple and want to chat during the flight, and if you’re a solo traveller in a window seat, there’s plenty of privacy with the divider up. While there may be more luxurious business class products available, I have no major complaints, especially when considering the excellent value offered through booking with an American Express 2-4-1 voucher.
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