I recently had a chance to fly both a British Airways A380 and a British Airways 787 on intra-European flights in fully-flat business class beds for peanuts. The circumstances of the flights and some photos of the A380 are here.

I booked myself a business class bed on the 787 from London-Heathrow to Stockholm for 7,500 Avios and $140. The full price was 15,000 Avios and $40, but I chose the Cash & Avios option.

The flight was enjoyable, and I wasn’t the only one in business class who had purposely booked a seat on the 787 in business class. The plane is beautiful and will be an excellent addition to the British Airways fleet.

How did the business class cabin look? Which seats should solo travelers and groups select?

British Airways 780
London (LHR) – Stockholm (ARN)
Depart: 1:30 PM on Saturday, August 24
Arrive: 4:55 PM
Duration: 2hr25min
Aircraft: Boeing 787
Seat: 7K (Business Class, “Club World”)

At 1 PM, I headed from the British Airways Galleries Lounge in Terminal 5 to the nearby gate where the 787 was parked. Boarding had begun and was a bit of a mess, but there was a dedicated line for Business Class and elites that I used to pass most of the commotion.

The agent scanning my ticket excitedly told me that I was lucky that today’s aircraft was a 787 Dreamliner, which meant that I would have a “Club World” seat (flat bed) instead of the normal “Club Europe” seats (recliners).

“That’s not by accident,” I replied with a wink.

I thought her enthusiasm was a nice touch. In general, I noticed plenty of enthusiasm to show off their new toys from both the 787 and A380 crews, but a little more from the 787 crew. In fact, these letters were handed out at check in.

I headed down the jet bridge and showed my boarding pass to the flight attendant at the door. “Welcome aboard, Mr. Grimmer. Your seat is down the second aisle to the right,” she explained. It’s such a simple thing to greet the premium-cabin passengers by name, but not every airline can manage it consistently.

I took my seat in the back right corner of business class, seat 7K, which is rear-facing like all window seats in business class.

British Airways has this round of 787s laid out with three rows of business class in front of the galley and two behind it. Each row is in a 2-3-2 configuration with the four aisle seats facing forward and the window and middle seats facing backward.

The 35-seat cabin was about 95% full to my surprise.

While I settled into my seat, the flight attendant was behind me explaining the suite to a father and his 10-year-old son, who was completely blown away by all the control he had over his seat and TV.

The suite is identical to the Club World offering on the A380 as far as I can tell. For this shorthaul flight, the seat was presented without a blanket or pillow, though I’m sure it will have those things on its longhaul flights.

I find the Club World seat very comfortable. The width is plenty for me, the material is nice, and the foot rest is very well designed.

The foot rest begins latched in place in front of your seat for takeoff. But before takeoff I took it down to play with it. When the seat is totally upright, the parallel to the ground default setting of the foot rest is comfortable.

But the more comfortable position for lounging is to recline the seat to its cradle position and to move the foot rest down to an angled position.

Between the seats is a privacy divider that can be raised to create a mini-suite or lowered for conversation or to be served by flight attendants. With the divider up, this in an extremely private business class experience.

Privacy Divider

And with the privacy divider down, you can easily converse with the person next to you. This is the best business-class privacy divider on any airline hands down. It blows away what’s offered by Qantas or South African for instance.

To the right of me was a remote that could control the television and lights in the suite.

Just beside it were the very intuitive seat controls. You are not confined to the four positions listed on the left; you can stop at intermediate positions.

In front of the seat and built into the divider with the next seat were the television and table, both of which swing out.

The television is a bit small, but it is close enough to you that it is ample. The table can be slid forward or backward to put it at a comfortable distance.

At my feet was a perfect storage locker for a laptop and the contents of my pockets.

Each seat also has a USB port and a universal power port.

One of the absolute coolest things about the 787 is the windows. The windows are much larger than any aircraft I’ve been on. (I’m not sure how they compare to the outer part of an A380 window, but the inner part of an A380 window is regular sized.)

I had control of two of the super-sized windows. Instead of the manual window shade on older planes, each had this button underneath.

There are five settings, and touching the darker half darkens the window one setting. I had the window on the darkest setting for much of the daytime flight. Instead of totally shutting out the light, the window acting more like very tinted sun glasses. A little light was let in but not much. I enjoyed the effect and wouldn’t have had trouble sleeping in that lighting.

There are five rows of business class on the British Airways 787, three in front of the galleys and two behind. I was sitting in the very last row in the corner. This is a fantastic seat.

While others have their aisle access blocked by their neighbor if their neighbor has lowered their seat rest, I had an unblocked escape to the aisle.

You can see my narrow, but unobstructed, passage to the aisle on the right of this photo.

On a long flight where people want to sleep, it’s so valuable to have unobstructed access to the aisle and not be blocking anyone. Seat 7K delivers that while seat 6K for instance would not. That also means seat 7J, the aisle, can rest easily all night without being awoken by someone climbing over. The best seats for unblocked access to the aisle with no one climbing over you are:

  • 3 A, B, J, K
  • 7 A, B, J, K

For a traveling pair, I would definitely recommend a pair of seats by a window, so A-B or J-K seats. With the divider down, you are basically facing each other at a short distance, so it’s easy to chat–easier than across the aisle.

If you are a group of three, I recommend the three middle seats. D and F can both easily communicate with E, but D and F might have a hard time talking to each other.

Service

After a few minutes, a meal service began with carts rumbling down the aisles.

I selected the Chicken Caesar Salad, which was a huge mistake. The chicken was hard as a rock. The dessert and fresh break basket were nice though. The catering on this flight will presumably be nothing like the catering on the longhaul flights, so don’t read anything into the failed attempt at chicken.

Note the “closed” windows on the right.

The Bed

After lunch, I put the seat into a bed position to relax for the rest of the flight. I absolutely love Club World beds. The bed is fully flat and about six feet long. I wish it were a little longer, but because I had the bulkhead, I could stretch out comfortably.

The footrest combines with the rest of the seat to make one long bed that is wider at the top than at the bottom, so you have plenty of shoulder space. I also love that the armrests lower to the same height as the rest of the bed, so you don’t feel trapped by raised arm rests like you do on some business class products.

No bedding was provided for the short flight, and I didn’t fall asleep though I easily could have on a longhaul.

As on the A380, the entertainment system wasn’t loaded onto the 787 yet, so I occupied the time by reading. After a few hours, we started to descend over breathtaking Sweden.

We were at the gate on time, and I was into Central Stockholm in half an hour.

Overall, I absolutely loved the 787. I think I liked the A380 a bit more, but it’s got the double-decker advantage. The advantage of the 787 is that all British Airways 787-8s are flying without a First Class, so you’ll get the best service on a 787 in business class. It’s also a much smaller cabin than the business class section on the A380.

Where You Can Fly the British Airways 787

British Airways flies the 787:

  • Newark <-> London-LHR (starts October 1, 2013)
  • Toronto <-> London-LHR
  • Austin <-> London-LHR (starts March 3, 2014)

How You Can Fly the British Airways 787

American Airlines and British Airways both collect the same fuel surcharges on British Airways award flights. I favor redeeming British Airways Avios for British Airways flights since Avios are less valuable, and fewer Avios are needed for flights from the East Coast to London.

The best way to rack up Avios is with The Business Gold Rewards Card® from American Express OPEN. The card comes with 50,000 bonus Membership Rewards after spending $5k in the first three months. Membership Rewards transfer instantly and freely to Avios, often with a big transfer bonus like the recent 35% transfer bonus.

The card also has generous category bonuses like 3x on airfare and 2x at gas stations. There is no annual fee the first year, then $175.

Pictures of the Cabin, Plane, Heathrow, and Arrival in Sweden

Cabin

Plane

 

Sweden

Heathrow

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