BA's New F on the New Dreamliner 787-9, LHR-EWR
Background: To get home to the United States from the United Arab Emirates, I had used American AAdvantage miles to book a First Class ticket: AUH-LHR in the Etihad A380 First Class Apartments and then LHR-EWR in the brand-new British Airways B787-9 First Class. AAdvantage's usual good availability for British Airways flight redemptions had made it possible to choose pretty much any BA flight to the United States. I selected LHR-EWR to my home state of New Jersey to get on BA's newest plane, the B787-9 Dreamliner, in their newest First Class seat.
The flight would become my longest-ever Dreamliner flight, but more notably, it would be my first time flying across the ocean on fewer than three engines! It was about time I got with the times, I suppose. I was impressed with myself for making it this long without flying transatlantic on a twin, but all good things must come to an end.
British Airways BA189
Departure: 15:20 (actual 15:44)
Arrival: 18:35 (actual 18:06)
Actual Block Time: 7h22
Actual Flight Time: 7h
Seat: 2K First Class
I arrived to LHR T4 just prior to 12:00 noon on the Etihad A380
. It took about 45 minutes to transfer to T5, pass security again and arrive airside. I was at the British Airways Concorde Room lounge by 13:00. No boarding time was listed on my boarding pass; instead it stated that the gate would close at 15:00 for departure at 15:20.
Upon seeing all the British Airways 747-400s parked at their gates, I must admit to feeling a bit of regret for not choosing my favorite plane for my flight this afternoon. I had previously flown the BA 747 in Club World Business Class on the upper deck, but this time would have gotten me in the nose of the plane in BA First Class. In fact, it would have meant starting and ending my trip on a 747, and would have preserved my record of never flying over the ocean in a twinjet. Instead I chose the new 787-9, making for my third trip on the 787 and my second on the -9. It would be my longest 787 flight by about a hundred miles, and would be my first transatlantic twin...a pretty decent milestone. I promised myself I would get on a BA 747 again before they retire, and became excited once again for my 787 flight to Newark.
Today's flight would be my third on British Airways. My first had been upper deck Club World Business Class on the 747-400, and my second was Club Europe with 767-300ER Club World seating to Frankfurt. Both trips had been pretty hit or miss. The 747 flight had suffered from poor service and a cabin in need of maintenance, with malfunctioning IFE and power ports. The 767 flight was better but didn't really stand out as above average. Nevertheless I continue to be a fan of all things British and that includes British Airways despite lackluster experiences with them thus far. I sincerely hoped that they'd stand out in First Class today; with the brand new product and plane it should be easier for them to impress. I was looking forward to a better British Airways experience this time and hoped it would prove to be a fitting end to a trip which included many excellent high quality flights.
I headed to the gate at 14:30 to find that boarding had not yet started. The aircraft which would have the distinction of my first transatlantic twin was G-ZBKP. This Boeing 787-9 was built in 2016 and delivered to British Airways on December 7, 2016, which meant this airplane would have a second distinction as well: my newest airplane flown, not quite two months old.
At the gate in LHR:
Boarding started shortly, with all premium cabins and elite groups at once. As I boarded through Door L2, a flight attendant escorted me to my seat 2K, making me the first passenger into First Class.
British Airways B787-9 new First Class Cabin:
I found a very attractive cabin. The dark tones were classy and modern. The front of the cabin had a very elegant British Airways emblem, and the rear had the "To Fly, To Serve" insignia, one of my favorite ad campaigns which to this day has truly heightened my interest in British Airways. The seats, BA's newest in First Class, were very spacious. The reverse-herringbone layout was very roomy, indeed. The seat included a huge oversized screen, 23 inches, in fact. There was a lot of storage, including a coat closet, plus a closet to my right, and another compartment to my right, as well. There was additional room under the ottoman, and the area to the side of the ottoman opened to reveal another large compartment. Even more than the ample storage, though, I really liked how stylish the seat was. The colors and materials chosen for the seat really worked perfectly together in my opinion. I was very happy to be aboard this plane in this seat!
Welcome screen and coat closet:
A flight attendant arrived to greet me and offer a beverage. She offered champagne, which I accepted. Once it was served, I was offered an amenity kit and sleep suit, which I also accepted. So far so good!
Pre-departure champagne, sleep suit and amenity kit:
First Class information guide:
F passengers continued to board and the load ended up at 8/8 today. I noticed there were no overhead compartments in the center of the cabin. The overheads which were provided above the windows were really filling up, but the Dreamliner has very large bins, so it was not an issue. Soon a refill of champagne appeared. Next a water bottle was delivered. Great pre-departure service so far. The captain announcement advised a flight time of 7h. We'd be taking off to the west, so we would have 20 to 25 minutes of taxi before takeoff. We should have a nice smooth flight.
I liked my seat very much. Indeed, it's the best seat that British Airways offers on their whole fleet! True, a reverse-herringbone seat is normally suited for Business Class on many airlines, so perhaps for First Class the seat isn't industry-leading. Airlines such as Qantas, Etihad, Emirates and Singapore have really unique products in their long haul First Class. Nevertheless I really liked the seat very much. It was very comfortable and spacious, and looked like it would make quite a good bed, too. I was truly excited to be flying BA First Class today, on a great plane, the Dreamliner, and with a good crew so far.
The view from 2K:
Two flight attendants were serving F today, and both were refilling the champagne...a third glass pre-departure is quite good! The captain came on again, mentioning we had a baggage discrepancy which needed to be sorted out before we can fly across to Newark. Menus were handed out, and I took the opportunity to ask about where they'd hidden the headphones. Turns out they should have been on the ottoman, but weren't, so a pair was quickly brought out. I finished my champagne as the cargo door was finally closed. Baggage issue solved, we pushed back at 15:44 as the safety video was played. Our taxi begain at 15:51.
Takeoff was at 16:00 in front of KLM Cityhopper Fokker F70. I liked the futuristic Dreamliner engine sound, but there was not much pushback into the seat and not much sensation of speed. My experiences with widebody twins thus far seem to all indicate that such planes have pretty weak takeoffs. Oh well, it's a price to pay for fuel efficiency, I guess. The takeoff roll wasn't too long, though, and we smoothly lifted off into the clouds of overcast England.
As I relaxed in the seat, I found that I had to learn how to operate the seat function controller. It was pretty odd and unintuitive, resulting in it being necessary to consult the seat guide! To operate the controller, you must first press the button of the function you'd like to adjust, for example the lamp or the seat recline. Then once that feature is selected, you rotate the knob in the desired direction, such as brighter or dimmer for the lamp, or up or down for the recline. I guess once you're used to it, it's not so bad, but I had to read the seat instructions to know how to recline!
The touchscreen remote was also unique in that selections are viewed on the remote screen initially, and then once selected, it transfers to the IFE screen. I started the movie Anthropod
. The headset was nice, but not noise cancelling. I decided to electronically dim my windows for the movie. The 4/5 setting made it look like nighttime outside. I'm still not accustomed to the electronic Dreamliner windows, and still very much enjoy using them. After takeoff bar service began, and I asked for a British beer. The beer today was Tribute Pale Ale, a delightfully delicious and drinkable beer that captures the essential character of Cornwall, England
. I noted the absence of Fuller's London Pride, which I had enjoyed last time on BA, and the flight attendant said they sadly no longer carry that. Warm nuts were also served.
Meal orders were taken. For the starter, I requested Spided chickpea cakes, vegetable caponata, carrot purée with tomato sponge and orange thyme dressing
, and for the main course, Seared fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef with pearl barley arancini, cauliflower purée, root vegetables and Madeira jus
. To begin, bread and the starters were served. I recalled from last time on BA that olive oil for the bread is available on a request basis, so I made that request. The bread and starter were all very good, I'd like more bread! I just noticed the napkins and beverage glasses don't just say British Airways, they say British Airways First.
The salad was served next. It was quite basic and had only a simple olive oil dressing, same as the olive oil for the rolls, in fact, but I was really in the mood for a salad so it was sufficient.
The main was served next. It smelled very good, and tasted good too. It was nicely cooked and had good flavor, and the vegetables on the side were also quite good.
My table was cleared, and dessert, cheese, or both was offered. Just dessert for me: Hazelnut and lemon glazed chocolate dome
. Sounds interesting!
The dessert was very fancy! "Do your best to enjoy that!" the flight attendant quipped. I really liked the two F flight attendants. The food had been very good, and the flight attendants were providing very good service. It was a very satisfying meal service.
I continued to watch my movie but soon started falling asleep. I had been awake since about 04:45 Abu Dhabi time, after all. (That's about 00:45 London time.) I decided to recline and rest my eyes, while testing out the seat's bed capability. Strangely the lights had been fully on the entire trip; most airlines shut them off or dim them immediately in the journey. We had about 4.5h to go in the flight. Despite the lights remaining on the entire time and people talking the whole way, I immediately fall asleep. The flight attendant covered me with a blanket.
I slept the next 3h. It was a good size bed. I woke up to people still talking loudly and the lights still on, with 1.5h to go. I can't explain the lights being left on, but hearing the other passengers reminded me of my previous Dreamliner flight. The Dreamliner is actually too quiet. I could even hear the passengers seated in the "A" seats all the way across the cabin talking! It was really disruptive, actually.
The flight attendant noticed that I'd woken up, and offered afternoon tea, sandwiches, scones, water, juice,... Normally one to take advantage of everything on offer during a flight, particularly a signature service like BA's afternoon tea, I strangely requested just a fresh bottle of water. I still can't explain this rare lapse in judgment during a flight!
The first officer soon announced that we were just entering the New York State area and commencing descent. We'd made up the time from the delayed departure, and should arrive on time in 40 minutes at 18:00. The weather was overcast with strong westerly winds and a temperature of 8 degrees, or 46 degrees F.
I was treated to very poor pressurization on the descent, hurting my ears pretty badly; there's really no excuse for that these days. Landing into EWR was at 23:00 and we were at our gate by 23:06, that is, 18:06 Eastern Time. It was my first time arriving to my home state of New Jersey from abroad. Unfortunately the immigration agents in Newark were by far the most unpleasant, nasty agents I'd encountered out of all my international arrivals into the US airports of ATL, DTW, EWR, JFK, MCO, and ORD, and that's despite having Global Entry. I would actively say not to arrive to the US in EWR.
This had been a great flight, but not on the level of Etihad, Emirates or Qantas First Class. The flight attendants were very good, friendly and caring and looking after you very well. But the whole experience was closer to a very good Business Class than a leading First Class. The same goes for the seat. The new First Class seat was very nice and I liked it quite a lot; it was roomy and had a very large screen and abundant storage. But it is closer to a leading Business Class seat than a First suite like other leading airlines. That being said, I was happy to have had a good experience this time on British Airways. I had enjoyed everything very much. I was happy to have finally had the good experience I was expecting from British Airways to make up for my previous two lackluster flights. I would recommend British Airways First Class, and would look forward to flying it again.
As for the Dreamliner, I felt no difference in arriving refreshed from the cabin pressure. What I did notice, though, was how loud everyone was talking during the flight! In reality, they weren't talking any differently than on any other flight. The problem is that the Dreamliner is too quiet, so you can easily hear all the other passengers. After today's flight, it seems that that can prove to be a real downside. So I have mixed feelings overall regarding the Dreamliner. I like it as a futuristic, brand-new plane, with great engine sound and the cool electronic windows. But the quiteness of the cabin is actually a drawback, and I've yet to find a benefit from the cabin pressure. Overall, I won't be avoiding the Dreamliner in the future, but I also can't predict it will become my favorite plane.