In this review:
- an empty plane;
- world’s first lie-flat business class seat;
You can find more information about the background of this review in the introduction of the first part.
Here we go!
Finally, I boarded as the last person onto the flight departing from London to Shanghai. Surprisingly, the well-timed departure carried very, very few people. While the entire first class cabin was occupied base on the seatmap, the rest of the plane was as desolate as if it was filled with girls who are genuinely interested in me. While the gigantic business class section features a mind-bending, reality-altering 8 seats per fow for an unholy 6 rows, I did not manage to find anyone sitting behind row 13. In fact, the entire business class had just 8 passengers. Premium economy was 40% full, while economy was barely 30% occupied. So everyone got a lie-flat seat, so to speak, as economy folks could just lie down on the seats for a proper sleep, talking about luxury for the masses!
I quickly reaccommodated myself to row 14, the second last row in the large business class cabin, and settled down in my window seat. One cannot deny the fact that the cabin feels tired, like an old gran willing to dose into sleep any minute now, but is forced to keep churning out those knittings to satisfy the corporate overlords. The design of the seats was a shocker to the world all those years ago, as British Airways was the first airline to ever introduce lie-flat business class while a bench with strap-ons was considered appropriate for economy, but now it is probably the worst lie-flat business class in the sky. Honestly, due to its tight width and many design flaws, I would consider it on par with many modern angle-flat seats with slight tilt such as the one found on Condor. One thing I love especially are the new ambiance lamps seen above, as it provided a very gentle and smooth color gradient when the cabin light was turned off, which really updated the interior as it fell apart with every turbulence.
One big downside is the clear advantage of window seats over aisle seats: the unethically disparaging seat quality. Let’s not talk about the crazy 8-abreast seating in the cabin, as premium economy on the same plane also has the same amount of seats per row. The window seats have all the advantages for a solo traveller: it is incredibly private (when the blind is up), has more room length-wise since there is the added length of the corridor one needs to walk through to the aisle, and supreme views over the wings instead of carpets teeming with a vibrant ecosystem of uncleaned food and bedbugs.
The aisle seats, however, are not so lucky. They are quite exposed to the walking traffic, and thus carries the risk of falling off into the aisle while sleeping. Additionally, the window passenger would step over your legs if he or she wishes to go for a bathroom break while you are sleeping, so I hope anyone who is unfortunate enough to be assigned an aisle seat is ready to be kicked in the ankles while sleeping, especially in the recent years when British Airways started charging for seat selection in business class. (insanity, I know.) For couples, the middle seats in the center sections are clearly better was well, as they offer more privacy and actual proximity, so for a non-masochist, there is really no reason to pick an aisle seat if given the choice.
In order to turn your seat into a bed, you have to unlatch a board mounted on the other side, and then lay it down as the 1/5 of the bed, and then convert your seat into the other 4/5 of the bed in order for them to meet in the middle. Honestly whoever came up with this strange idea deserves a medal for inventing the first ever lie-flat seat in the world, but it does not mean that it is good nowadays compared to reverse herringbone or staggered seats. The board is quite heavy so putting it back to place requires some strength, and it is very far away so you have to practically be kneeling down on the carpet. Additionally, it is quite narrow so your feet may drop down from the platform while sleeping.
An additional flaw comes in the form of the famous “BA staredown”, as the central divider has to remain down during taxi, takeoff and landing, you have to look into the souls of the other person while waiting anxiously for the seatbelt sign to be switched off, which permits you to raise the divider via a button mounted on the side. The above picture is taken from my eye level, with my eyes touching the screen of my phone. This is what you see for quite a large amount of time, so you better hope it is not your girlfriend who is mad at you for choosing British Airways. Obviously, it was a minor inconvenience during the early years of lie-flat experience, which coincided with less on-board fist fighting and more expensive business class tickets, but now this set up is hilariously embarrassing. Thankfully, there was not a single soul in my view, so that was fine by me.
I sat down after removing the plethora of items waiting for me on the seat. The lack of storage here is unacceptable, with just one small tray able to accommodate a notebook, and that was all. No storage pockets, no cubicles, and no coat hangers. I had to dump all my things onto the seat next to me in order to sit down, so honestly I would not know how to react if there was someone next to me. The bedding in general is very good: the pillow was plush, two blankets were warm and fluffy, yet there was no flip flop or pajamas.
The headset was surprisingly good, at least compared to many other airlines’ flimsy headphones which would be barely noise-cancelling. This pair provided, however, would actually shield me away from all those annoying sounds produced by those pesky humans coming from premium economy. I also took a look of the amenity kit, which was the smallest and most compact business class amenity kit I have ever seen.
As you can see, it is extremely basic, with next to nothing provided other than the bare minimum. My seat’s armrests are extremely wobbly, so my arms involuntarily took a different position every minute during the flight. The wear and tear on these seats are beyond obvious. The tray table folds down from the central divider, and is quite flimsy, so most of my meals were gently vibrating, or swaying from side to side when I attempted to cut my food. It slides very far back, however, so it has a huge range of flexibility, which is lacked by a large majority of modern seats. I could pull it as close as hitting my belly fat rolls, and push it as far back as I could reach.
The entertainment system, however, was very dated. The screen resolution is trash, as the grains on the display was bigger than those offered as humanitarian aid to starving African kids. The touch response was non-existent, as I had to press so hard that my fingertips hurt in order to register my input. Also the screen has no lock, so I had to have my other hand push back from the other side in order to prevent the screen from swinging back as I pressed hard to view my movie options. Finally, since it swings open, this display unit had to be latched during take off and landing, so you can only look into the eyes of that beautiful rich girl, or balding businessman (let’s be honest it is more likely the latter as no rich girl would subject herself to this) sitting across from you, as you twiddle your thumb, waiting for the permission to watch movies. Yes, just like kindergarten.
One thing British Airways did right was the issuance of breakfast card. As a millenial who tries his darnest not to have any human interaction due to traumatic experiences during childhood involving a meth-head in a local 7-11, I hated the fact that some airlines required me to make decisions about my breakfast while taking dinner order. It just feels the worst when you are unexpectedly asked about breakfast choices during dinner ordering, but had not read anything, so you gotta speed-read through the menu just to make an uninformed decision while flight attendent awkwardly stands in the aisle pondering life choices. With a breakfast card, I can choose whatever I want in my own pace and decide on my best course of action, and also I have all the information, yay!
And for my two meals, the options are of the following:
(I do apologize for the blurry images, as my phone seems to have severe problems focusing on words in all pictures. I have resolved this issue by getting a new one and it should be better starting from the next journal)
And you can enjoy the following beverage selections:
As I settled in, the flight attendant brought me my glass of champagne, and then promptly spent the next few decades putting everything back in place, as every single empty seat required them to place the beddings up to the overhead bin, reposition the seatbelts, and shove back the open storage tray. I listened to the captain announcement as we pushed back, during which he informed us that our 10hr45min journey would be smooth as silk. We took off 20 minutes behind schedule, but we quickly caught up in the air. Once we were airbourne, I quickly unlatched the entertainment screen so I could watch Toy Story 4 in 144p HD quality, what a miracle! There was also wifi on the flight, but who wants to use it when you get this level of apex entertainment right on your slightly-hurting fingertips?
Thanks to the lack of fellow passengers, I was offered my lunch barely an hour into the journey. I was busy deciphering whether I saw a toy or a blob of human flesh displayed on the screen, so it took me quite some time to finish up the meals. The steak I ordered was actually very good, as it was easy to cut while not being chewy. The food quality in general is above average, as British Airways had recently been investing in improving the catering on long haul flights, and it definitely showed. Flight attendants often came up to see whether I was finished, but never offered any refill or asked how it was. They just popped into my vision, saw me crying while munching on the food incredibly slowly, and disappeared with a sigh. Finally upon meal completion a solid 2 and a half hours into the flight (totally my fault for being a really slow eater when watching movies), I immediately turned my seat into a bed, and snoozed away.
I woke up nearly 6 hours later, thanks partially to the strong alcohols I imbibed earlier during dinner, and partially due to the empty cabin which was the quietest I had ever experienced. I stretched my arms, and turned away from my table to wear my shoes, suddenly a glass of water manifested in front of me. However, other than offering me water upon awakening, the flight attendents completely disappeared to another realm when it was not meal time. Most of them tried to communicate with me in Chinese, so I simply replied in Chinese, even though I interacted with everyone in English upon boarding the flight. I guess they just assume you are Chinese regardless of your language preferences, as long as you look Asian enough. The galley displayed a solid collection of snacks and drinks, and I simply wandered around a bit after snoozing for so long, before heading into the bathroom for a little break. The bathroom was as undecorated as it could be, so I did not take a photo of the completely unremarkable space.
I settled down for my full breakfast, and it was well made yet forgettable. So forgettable that I did not take a photo of the main course, and have already forgotten which option I chose! However, it is not necessarily a bad thing, as it means it is not too bad that I remembered how horrible it was to joke about it in my cringy humor here on the blog. It is just another meal on another flight, nothing wrong with that. 30 minutes before landing, the captain informed us of an early arrival, and quickly I was forced to latch my screen and stare out of my window into the real world outside. Imagine being in an aisle seat with nothing but your seatmate to look at, ugh!
We landed without any incident in Shanghai 15 minutes before schedule, and wasted that 15 minutes taxiing to the gate. The sun was setting, emitting an orange hue thanks to the refraction caused by the particles suspended in the slightly polluted air. Yep, just as I remembered! I bid the folks working on the plane a farewell and hopped onto the maglev train back to my apartment. See you again on the return leg, British Airways, and let’s see how average your first class is!
So what do I think about British Airways’ business class? Well, it is a mark in history for being the first lie-flat business class seat, but other than that it is hard to give it any credit in 2019. Besides the historical importance, everything else is just lackluster or behind the competitors. Seat is bad, no other words about it; food is above average; flight attendants fulfil their basic contract clauses like Ryanair ones; and the entertainment system is simply trash. However, given the cheap price, readily available award seats, mileage accrual on Alaska airlines, and lack of any other passenger in the 15 seats around me, I would give it another shot over some overpriced airlines. The airline is just like Britain nowadays: used to be great, but has been on the road going downhill for so long that it forgot this is not supposed to be the norm.
British Airways B772 Business Class Grading
(included: British Airways Galleries Lounge)
- Ground Services: 100
- Hard Product: 100
- Soft Product: 150
- Food and Beverage: 155
- Value: 150
- TOTAL: 655 【FAIR】