British Airways 271
London Heathrow (LHR) to McCarran Intl (LAS)
Friday, August 18
Total Flight Time: 10h 02m
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
British Airways currently offers twice-daily service between London Heathrow and Las Vegas. Both fights are operated by the 747-400, which is becoming something of a special treat these days as more and more airlines retire them from their fleets. The caveat is of course a rather outdated hard product, but I think the aircraft's iconic status more than makes up for that.
My flight was the first of the two services that day, departing just after midday. It's a very convenient option versus flying with another airline and having to connect somewhere along the way. First Impressions & Departure
I was greeted warmly at the door and directed towards my seat in row 44. I was hoping I might get on one of BA's newly refurbished 747s, but it was immediately obvious upon boarding this wasn't the case.
No doubt about it: the aircraft was showing its age, from the old-fashioned seatback TVs to the armrest controls and lighting. There were no USB sockets or power ports. Having said that, the cabin was in a perfectly acceptable condition. Outdated, but clean and presentable. BA’s 747 economy cabin is in a 3x4x3 configuration with 31-inch seat pitch.
At my seat were a blanket, pillow and earphones. I was flying on G-CIVC, a 23-year-old aircraft which had returned from Nairobi earlier that morning.
A few minutes before our scheduled departure, the first officer delivered his PA, informing us of a flight time of 10 hours and five minutes. We were told to expect a slight delay due to an incident with the catering truck and a few passengers apparently deciding not to join us for the flight, meaning their bags had to be removed.
Ten minutes later he came back on the PA with an update to inform us all the food was now onboard, but a bag still needed locating and removing.
At 12:28PM, we pushed back and the safety demonstration video played. We'd started our engines and set our flaps before the tug had even finished moving us into place, though it did appear a somewhat tight space in which to manoeuvre a 747.
We made our way out to the departure end of runway 27R, where there was a fairly long queue of planes ahead of us. Heathrow always has a diverse range of aircraft on offer, and I was treated to close-up views of a China Southern 787, Delta 767 and Thai Airways A380, among others.
We were airborne just before 1PM. There's something special in my opinion about the view of the 747's mighty wing and flaps as it takes to the air. Truly a beautiful aircraft.
It was rather bumpy during our climb and the pilots instructed the cabin crew to remain seated for longer than usual. Food & Drink Service
The crew began the pre-lunch drinks service 30 minutes after takeoff and I went for a Heineken.
The choice for lunch was between chicken curry and vegetarian pasta. I went for the latter, which was decent enough. The starter and dessert were nice too, so overall it was a perfectly adequate lunch. Coffee and tea concluded the meal service.
The flight attendants were friendly and engaging during the service, and proactive in offering more drinks.
Alcohol is still complimentary on BA's long-haul flights, which is something many of my fellow Vegas-bound passengers took full advantage of. I don't think I've ever seen so many bottles of wine and spirits being passed around a cabin before. There was certainly a party atmosphere onboard! So of course I had to partake in at least one gin and tonic myself to avoid being ostracised...
Considering how much cost-cutting BA has been doing lately, it somewhat surprises me this particular perk has remained.
Shortly before arrival we were served a hot snack, which was a choice between mozzarella and pepperoni pizza. I chose pepperoni and it was pretty tasty.Hard Product
There is no doubt the aircraft is now showing its age. There are no power ports or USB connectivity on the non-refurbished 747s, and those wishing to stay connected to the internet during flight will be disappointed with the lack of wifi, though I don’t think wifi is installed on any of BA’s planes yet.
The inflight entertainment content was reasonable, but certainly not class-leading. The TV monitors, however, were old and of poor image quality.
Overall, the cabin felt dated, which was to be expected, but at least was clean and presentable. Arrival
We began our descent shortly after overflying Salt Lake City. The pilot advised us the temperature in Las Vegas was 40 degrees celsius with a light easterly breeze.
Our approach was fairly interesting, as we flew roughly parallel with the southwesterly runways and Las Vegas Strip before making a shallow right-hand turn over the airfield. We were then vectored for a final approach from the west to runway 8R (formerly 7R prior to recent redesignation on account of magnetic shift).
Unfortunately the plane’s windows were pretty filthy, which somewhat compromised the quality of my photos.
It was a short taxi to our gate and we disembarked pretty quickly. One of the flight attendants on our way out jokingly advised us not to lose all our money in Vegas. Conclusion
I would definitely recommend BA's nonstop service between London Heathrow and Las Vegas. I realise BA essentially dominates its market and therefore doesn't have to try as hard as other airlines with its onboard product, but I was still satisfied with the service I received.
There were no printed menus, refreshing towels or real cutlery like you'll find on other airlines in economy, but the food quality and quantity was decent and the drinks selection good. Also, the flight attendants were friendly and efficient.
The highlight of my flight, though, was undoubtedly getting to fly on the 747-400.