Click the video above to see BA’s 747 Upper Deck Business Class reviewed on a flight from Bangkok to London.
BA 747 Upper Deck
British Airways is one of the world’s largest operators of Boeing 747s, a beautiful aircraft with its distinctive ‘bubble’ top deck offering a few exclusive seats to lucky passengers.
The small size of this upstairs cabin – a world away from the behemoth that is an A380 – offers a private jet feel and privileged service. Some companies (such as Lufthansa) have put their first class seats there, but British Airways have carefully located 20 Club World seats and flat beds in to the area behind the cockpit.
We were lucky enough to fly in this, the smallest business class cabin operated by British Airways, on an overnight flight from Bangkok to London and found this to be a better choice than British Airways’ “flagship” 787 and A380 service.
BA Business Class Check-In Experience
Check-in was smooth and fast, with no queues and helpful staff behind the counter. The only downside was that we looked longingly at Thai Airways world-class check-in area, where passengers get to sit in a comfortable seat with refreshments, whilst a helper takes their passports and lets them choose their seats from a laminated card before returning a few minutes later with their boarding passes & a buggy to the gate. No matter how fancy your travel, there is always someone you can be jealous of!
Back in the real world, we found a dedicated British Airways lounge which had just about everything you could need for this late night flight. There were no bells or whistles, just enough seats to fit a plane’s worth of passengers in, and a friendly welcome at the desk. Computers were provided in a business area in case you needed to catch-up on emails, but most people took advantage of the free drinks and buffet to snack before the flight.
After a quick sit-down, it was time to head to the nearby gate for an on-time departure at 00:20.
Onboard BA’s 747 Upper Deck
Once onboard we were pointed in the direction of the nearby staircase – this led directly to the back of the upper deck cabin where the 20 most exclusive business class seats were laid out.
The seats here were the same style as the rest of the plane, but due to the shape of the aircraft many came with extra space. All the window seats had an extra storage cupboard, which makes life so much easier when travelling BA’s Club World as normally the only storage drawer is inaccessible when using the flat bed.
Pre-departure drinks were offered, and the late hour meant we declined the orange juice & water and went straight for the champagne. A basic amenity kit was also distributed, which had all the essentials – eye mask, ear plugs and a toothbrush.
Tonight’s flight wasn’t very busy as a result of local troubles in Thailand, so it was quickly boarded and we were on our way home for this 13 hour overnight flight.
BA’s Business Class Food & Drink
Despite the late hour, we made an effort to stay awake for as long as possible to try and minimise the jet lag on this long flight. This wasn’t totally successful, but we can only imagine how much worse it would have been had we gone straight to sleep.
Indeed, unlike other airlines such as Qatar Airways, British Airways won’t let you delay eating in Club World – you get your main meal when it is offered, or not at all. With hindsight, bringing a picnic on-board would have been a good idea…
Service started well – just a few minutes after take-off, the crew handed out packets of nuts and the drink of your choice (champagne in our case!) for you to enjoy whilst looking at the menu. Another 30 minutes later and food was served – the small size of the 747 upper deck cabin made this an efficient process with two crew serving 20 passengers, especially with BA’s optimised service. You won’t get your table laid here – just your food passed to you on a canteen tray.
A basic salad was served with the starter – grilled courgette with pesto. Nothing too fancy, but a great mix of flavours that worked well in the air late in the evening. It’s great to see airlines trying to basic food to a high standard, rather than trying (and normally failing) top-end restaurant food when passengers are restless for food before sleep.
Sadly, the main course was a total disaster – beef osso bucco was chosen, which is normally a veal shin slowly cooked (as it’s a cheap & tough piece of meat, this is needed to make it tender). What we got was a load of mush – rather than being a solid piece of shin, it was some reconstituted mince that had been shaped together before being cooked with some potato wedges and vegetables.
The whole dish had been cooked in a single bowl, which of course meant that the time taken to heat the meat safely had turned the vegetables in to some coloured molecules that crumbled apart as soon as your fork got close to them. To round off the dish, everything was swimming in a pool of oil released from the cheap meat during cooking. A total disaster of a dish that was unacceptable for an economy passenger, let alone one in Club World.
British Airways business class cutbacks also stretched to dessert – you were either allowed a slice of cake or some cheese & biscuits, but not both. We played it safe and went for the cheese which tasted fine. Maybe we were just hungry after the main course, but the fact that were only two cheeses and were both similar in size to 3 grapes didn’t make us feel like we were getting value from our expensive ticket. A second glass of wine made our troubles fade away as we thought about catching some sleep.
Our Club World seat turned in to a fully flat bed after we reclined the back of the seat (via an electronic button) and manually raised the footstool. The bed had about 3 different parts in it that almost lined up, but it would have been much comfier if BA provided a mattress (similar to Virgin Atlantic’s). The privacy offered was amazing – even though there’s someone sleeping just a couple of inches away from you, the clever electronic screen between you means you can’t see them at all. A reasonable blanket and pillow were provided, and with the help of the aforementioned ear plugs / eye masks / wine were soon fast asleep as the British Airways pilot flew us to London.
Best Seats in BA 747 Upper Deck
British Airways tends to charge a premium for reserving its Club World seats on the upper deck. It’s certainly worth considering paying, and if you’re lucky enough to have a fully flexible ticket or a Oneworld loyalty card (which makes you eligible for free seat reservations) you should definitely reserve seats upstairs.
All the window seats have extra storage space, and many seats have the advantage of letting you have direct aisle access without stepping over people’s feet (a problem that affects most of the seats on the lower deck). Row 64 is our recommendation, as the A and K seats are amazingly private and cocooned.
64A is best for short people, whereas 64K offers more space with the downside of being affected by light pollution when people use the nearby bathroom.
BA 747 Upper Deck Conclusions
British Airways Club World is a business class product that’s all about the bed. This is not the choice for passengers looking for fancy food and service, but instead tries to offer a basic flat bed to let you rest before landing and going to work.
We have justifiably criticised BA’s Club World product in the past for making strangers jump over (and invariably knock) your feet when getting out of their seats, but the design of the 747 upper deck means that many (but not all) seats have direct aisle access. The small size of the cabin means that these flights are typically quieter, and along with the greater privacy tend to offer a great night’s sleep.
If you can manage to travel on a 747 (a challenge in itself as BA slowly replace them with 777s, 787s, A350s and A380s with rows and rows of business class seats) then do try to get on the upper deck, where you will experience the best Club World can offer its customers.
Want a BA First Class Review?
For a review of British Airways First Class on the A380, click here.
Want to see a BA 747 business class sleeper service review?
For a review of British Airways 747 business class cabin, click here.