British Airways 747-400 Club World (business class) San Diego to London (LHR)

British Airways 747-400 Club World (business class) San Diego to London (LHR)

I was pretty excited about starting another big international adventure as the Uber driver was whisking me down to SAN this evening, but more than anything, getting a second chance at a British Airways 747-400 Club World trip report was a really good feeling.

You see, it wasn’t until two months AFTER I returned from my June 2013 BA Club World trip out of SAN that I made the commitment to write much more detailed trip reports – so while I had plenty to say about that experience in words, I had very few pictures (and no video) to fully document those flights. It was a rather dry and uninformative trip report that I’ve been embarrassed about for quite some time.

But I’m happy to say that this trip report will make up for that in a big way. Get ready folks – this is going to be my biggest and most complete airline review yet, so I’d suggest that you use the restroom now if you feel the need, and you might consider grabbing a snack or your favorite beverage before coming back and digging into this one. It’s a doozie.

San Diego, CA (SAN) – London, England (LHR)
Saturday, October 15, 2016
Aircraft: 747-436
Registration: G-CIVH
Duration: 9 hours 35 minutes
Seat: 13K (Club World / business class)

British Airways 747-400 side view
British Airways 747-400 (G-CIVH) side view illustration by
SAN to LHR route map
The route from SAN to LHR tonight as BA272.

First, let’s start with the video for those of you who like that sort of thing. Yes, I shot a lot of footage from this flight, and it ended up being a fairly decent representation of what the entire experience was like:

And now, on to the pics and words…

My arrival at SAN was way early (three hours to be exact), but that was all part of the plan. I wanted to have plenty of time to get pics and video, grab a quick bite to eat, and relax a bit before the flight. The relaxation part was actually the most important. This flight was scheduled to depart at 8:45pm, and that doesn’t work so well for me – I’m very much a morning person, and by that time of night I’m pretty much spent with very little energy left. Yeah, I’m old.

san diego airport uber
Getting a Lift (oops, I mean “ride”) to SAN with Uber.
san diego airport curbside departures level
Curbside at SAN, ready to go!
san diego airport signage
Today’s flight is all about British Airways, but that Japan Airlines thing is going to have to be dealt with sooner or later. I’m definitely planning on doing a full SAN-NRT trip report!
LHR heathrow airport holding pattern
Of course it wasn’t a direct and smooth glide in to LHR – we did some circling right at the end.
british airways check in san diego airport
British Airways check in queues for first class, Club World, and economy.
British Airways check in counter san diego
British Airways check in counters – I didn’t have any bags to check, so I was able to bypass this completely.
san diego airport international gates
Nobody else here in the gate area yet – I was literally the first one here tonight!
british airways gates san diego airport
British Airways uses three gates simultaneously to board these LHR flights (20, 21, and 22).
british airways flight information board san diego airport
Status: “On Time” – local San Diego travelers know this is a rarity for British Airways. This flight is notoriously late more often than not!

By the time I finished getting all the pics and video I needed for the pre-flight, I found myself with about an hour and a half before the boarding process was to begin. I used that time to grab a quick snack, and to relax and enjoy the moment of getting ready to jet off to London.

SANspotter airport selfie
That’s me, killing time while waiting for BA272 to board.

This British Airways flight out of San Diego is notorious for delays (it’s not uncommon for delays to stretch into the wee morning hours), and true to form, the boarding process was delayed by about 20 minutes. Considering how late this flight is much of the time, I considered that to be acceptable and nothing out they ordinary. Hey – it’s always best to expect the worst when traveling!

san diego british airways gate
Just a little while longer before the boarding process begins.
G-CIVH british airways 747-400 San Diego airport
G-CIVH looking good, and ready for the overnight flight to LHR!

Once boarding began, they utilized all three gates here at the end of terminal 2 east. 21 and 22 were for first and business class passengers, while 20 was for premium and standard economy. It didn’t really seem all that organized though, since nearly everyone rushed the gate doors as soon as first class was called.

boarding british airways 747-400 SAN flight
So much for an organized boarding process – everyone rushed the gate as soon as they announced first class.
boarding san diego british airways 747 flight
Once past the gate doors in the terminal, It’s necessary to walk down a short corridor to reach the boarding door to the aircraft.
british airways 747-400 san diego
While walking to the boarding door, I was able to stop and get a closer pic of this beauty – I love that classic British Airways livery on the 747!
british airways 747 jet bridge san diego
This is one of the smallest jet bridges I’ve ever experienced. I don’t get claustrophobic or anything, but this tested my nerves a bit.

Once onboard, it felt oddly good to be back in British Airways Club World again. This is a business class product that seems to get a lot of hate from frequent travelers, mostly due to how tight the seating configuration is. But I don’t mind so much – especially the window seats.

The window seats are some of the most private in the sky IMHO, and I find them to be more comfortable than a lot of other international business class products I’ve tried. For example, I consider United 777-200 BusinessFirst to be a very tight premium cabin layout, making Club World seem dreamy and spacious in comparison.

british airways 747-400 club world cabin
The forward Club World cabin on this 747-400. There is another (larger) Club World section behind this (past the galleys).
British Airways 747-400 Club World window seat
British Airways 747-400 Club World window seat. This one (13K) was mine for tonight’s flight to LHR.
british airways club world business class seat
These window seats are some of the most private business class seats in the sky.
awkward british airways club world configuration
However, this pic shows one of the reasons why Club World is not so well-liked by frequent travelers. When the privacy screen between the seats is down, the proximity to the person in the adjacent seat is uncomfortably close. Awkward isn’t a strong enough word.
british airways club world seat pitch
Leg room is quite decent though – I’ve been in international first class cabins with less.
british airways club world foot rest
This foot rest is another thing that isn’t so good about Club World. When the aisle seat passenger has theirs in the down position, it completely blocks the exit for the window seat passenger. The only way to get by is to climb over it, which is difficult if you aren’t that limber.
british airways welcome onboard message
Welcome Onboard message on the flip-out video screen.
british airways club world storage
Storage space is also limited in these seats. But this little drawer at the base of the seat is quite handy.
british airways club world in seat power outlet
Right above that storage drawer is a convenient power outlet.
british airways club world in seat usb power
There’s also a convenient USB port next to the other controls higher on the seat.
british airways club world seat controls
Controls for the seat are located just forward of the USB port, immediately under the privacy screen.

I was offered a drink as soon as I reached my seat, but I asked if she could come back in 5 minutes after I got myself situated and seated. She cheerfully agreed, but I never saw her again. Part of that, I’m sure, was because everything seemed rushed – we were delayed slightly, and I could tell they were trying to expedite the boarding process in a big way. I felt like I hadn’t even been situated fully yet before we started pushing back from the gate.

british airways 747-400 san diego airport
The view of those big beautiful Rolls Royce engines just moments before pushing off the gate.
British Airways Club World ELEMIS amenity kit
British Airways ELEMIS amenity kits were distributed just before pushback.
British Airways Club World ELEMIS amenity kit
The amenity kit is essentially just a bag of goodies. Less fancy than other business class amenity kits I’ve received, but nice nonetheless.
British Airways Club World amenity kit
The contents of the amenity kit was on par with what you’d receive in business class on other airlines.
British Airways Club World amenity kit
I was a bit shocked at first that the amenity kit was just a bag, but I liked the simplicity of it. Simple and clean works!

UK Immigration cards were distributed while on the ground, but once again I was ignored. It was then that I was starting to think that perhaps these window seats were a bit TOO private and segregated from the rest of the cabin. It’s very difficult to get direct eye contact with the FA’s from these seats.

Taxing out to the runway in large wide body aircraft here at SAN is an interesting process. The taxiways are too narrow to accommodate large wingspans, so it’s necessary to cross over the active runway (near the control tower) to the north side to continue the rest of the way to the threshold of runway 27. It was pretty much impossible to get pics of this procedure due to the fact that that cabin lights were on and it was dark outside. Window reflections galore!

british airways 747 departing san diego
Unfortunately, the cabin lights were left on for departure which made taxi and takeoff pics nearly impossible. But just for the sake of this trip report, here we are starting the takeoff roll down runway 27.
british airways club world backwards facing seat
I will say that the backwards facing seating position is a strange sensation – especially on takeoff. It felt like I was going to be pulled straight out of my seat and joined with that rouge water bottle rolling around up there on the floor…

Hot towels were distributed immediately after departure, but once again, I was ignored when they came back around to pick them up. Finding a place to put it wasn’t so easy in these cramped seats! It was at this point I was starting to wonder if they would even remember to serve me dinner…

One of the biggest things I remember from my Club World experience back in 2013 was how cold the cabin was all night long – especially seated so close to the cabin wall in these window seats. Because of that, I came well prepared with a wool undershirt beneath my normal button-up. But my plan seemed to have backfired, at least for the first portion of the flight – it was very warm. Too warm, in fact and I was quite uncomfortable.

british airways club world moving map display
I loved the fact that the moving map feature on the entertainment system featured the proper aircraft type. It’s little details like this which makes for a great experience!
british airways club world window seat
All nestled in for a long overnight flight. This is the life!

The meal service started within 25 minutes of departure, and it was so rushed that it seemed as if the preliminary snack/beverage service was part of it. Speaking of the snack, all we got was a bag of nuts with our drink. A bag. Really? I remember Club World being a little more upscale than this, but I’m not complaining all that much. I was still having a good time!

british airways club world snack
British Airways Club World snack service.

The dinner service soon followed, and I’ll just say that I wasn’t very impressed. The appetizer was good (and it looked nice), but the presentation of the main course was something straight out of economy class. Dry, overcooked, and thrown on my tray table with no effort in making it look appetizing. It did taste ok, but that was the saddest-looking business class meal I have ever been served.

British Airways Club World menu front cover
British Airways Club World menu front cover.
British Airways Club World dinner menu
British Airways Club World dinner menu.
British Airways Club World breakfast menu
British Airways Club World breakfast menu.
British Airways Club World appetizer
British Airways Club World appetizer: Marinated prawns, with artichoke and Kalamata olive.
British Airways Club World main course
British Airways Club World main course: Pan-roasted Canadian salmon with roasted poblano pepper, rice pilaf, broccolini and summer sweetcorn sauce. For what it’s worth, American Airlines business class food is much better. It’s about the only thing that AA can do better in an American Airlines vs British Airways debate IMHO.
British Airways Club World dessert
British Airways Club World dessert: Cheesecake brownie with vanilla creme anglaise.
british airways club world dining experience
Here’s a wide angle pic showing what the dining experience is like in Club World.

One odd thing to note about the dinner service was the fact that the purser came by to welcome me (by name) and introduce himself as I was just finishing up my main course. It was a nice gesture, though a bit odd in the timing.

Remember that scene from the movie “Airplane!” where the doctor opens the door to the cockpit and says “I just want to tell you both good luck – we’re all counting on you” to Striker and Elaine after the plane had already landed? That’s how out of place this greeting felt.

Two and a half hours had passed by the time the meal service had finished and I put the seat into the lie flat position to try and get some sleep. I didn’t sleep all that well though – the seat was perfectly comfortable, but it was starting to get cold and I think I still had too much excitement built up inside me to be able to drift off to sleep fully.

I spent the next 5 hours trying my best to nap, interrupted with a few walks to the galley to stretch my legs and use the lavatory. Each and every time the FA’s seemed to be sitting around not doing much (which is perfectly acceptable at this stage of flight when everyone is sleeping IMHO), but several seemed very cold and disinterested whenever I saw them.

Club World lavatory
There’s nothing special about the Club World lavatory!
flying under the full moon
Kind of a blurry shot (sorry!) but here we are somewhere over far northeastern Canada under the light of the full moon.
sunrise over the north atlantic
I ended up staying awake for most of the night, and was treated to an amazing sunrise as an award.
transatlantic flight sunrise
An amazing blanket of clouds over the North Atlantic Ocean this morning.
transatlantic flight sunrise
Just a few minutes later the sun appeared over the horizon. Magical!

The cabin lights were turned on with one and a half hours of flying time remaining, and the flight attendants began taking breakfast orders.

british airways club world lie flat seat
The cabin lights are on, the window shades are starting to open, and it’s time to wake up.
san diego to london flight map
We’ve made pretty good progress overnight. Just a short while longer!
british airways club world cabin
Overview of the forward section of Club World just before the start of the breakfast service.
stay hydrated on long flights
It’s important to stay hydrated on long flights!

I chose the omelette for breakfast, but she returned 5 minutes later asking me if I wouldn’t mind choosing something else. I wasn’t quite sure if she was asking or telling me, but it did seem like I had the option to stand firm on the omelette if I really wanted to. But it wasn’t that big of a deal so I switched to the traditional English breakfast instead.

british airways club world breakfast service
The breakfast service started with a plate of fresh fruit.
british airways club world breakfast service
Digging in to the fruit plate. I wasn’t all that hungry but I’ve never been one to turn down food.
British Airways Club World breakfast
British Airways Club World breakfast: the English Breakfast plate.
british airways club world booklet
After breakfast, I took the opportunity to take pics of the Club World introduction booklet.
british airways club world booklet
The interior does well to explain the features of the Club World seat.
british airways club world booklet
I’m the type of person who wouldn’t have the patience to read such a thing (it’s easier to ask an FA), but it’s an informative booklet nonetheless.
british airways club world booklet
The back cover of the booklet is a pretty good overview of what the Club World seat looks like (if it was difficult to tell from the pics).

We had started the descent into LHR by the time they cleared away my breakfast tray (no, they didn’t forget me this time), and it was a beautiful approach and landing into London’s Heathrow Airport. We were even in a holding pattern for a bit, which offered some really nice views of the English landscape below as we circled our way in.

British airways 747 over england
Descending over the beautiful English countryside below.
approaching heathrow airport 747
We passed through several pockets of light rain, which made for a very scenic approach.
rainbow on approach
Then this happened. WOW!
arrival at LHR
Moments before touchdown…
arrival at LHR
Welcome to London’s Heathrow airport!
arrival at LHR
Thankfully it wasn’t completely overcast today so it made our taxi to the gate much more enjoyable.
british airways 787 heathrow airport
I’ve got a feeling we are going to be seeing those British Airways 787’s in San Diego eventually.
british airways club world cabin
Thanks for a great flight British Airways! Club World isn’t perfect but I definitely enjoyed the experience.
LHR arrivals
Off the airplane and making the long walk to passport control and customs.
British airways 747-400 G-CIVH LHR
One last up-close view of G-CIVH as I was making my way to passport control. I’m really gonna miss these 747’s when they leave the fleet for good.

So there you have it. A full SANspotter trip report for British Airways 747-400 Club World out of San Diego. You have no idea how badly I’ve been wanting to write this review, so I hope you found it entertaining and useful!

Comments (12)

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    November 8, 2016
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      November 8, 2016
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