We have previously compared BA and Cathay in economy class. This is a question which attracts a lot of interest given the high traffic between Hong Kong and Heath Row, so we will review BA on the route – outbound from HK in a Boeing 777 and returning on an A380.
I often don’t consider BA these days, partly because their service has declined so much and partly because I was appalled at the way they laid off their HK base staff without notice.
I wanted to be in Scotland on specific dates and by far the best deal was BA so I decided to fly with them. The ticket cost a total of $4,339 booked through their website. However, in the end I needed to move the trip back a month or so. I couldn’t change it online and called their HK number, staffed in India. The staff were polite enough but did not really communicate clearly in English so the call took a long time. There was a change fee of $1,400. However, there was no availability (ever) for the fare class I had booked so I was charged an additional $1,646 in fare. This I felt was unreasonable, as it wasn’t clear to me at booking that I was booking a fare which would only exist until the end of February, not into March. But, caveat emptor: this is exactly the sort of practice which has made me less keen on BA over the years, although sadly many other airlines are similarly tricky.
At the Airport
I arrived at the airport a couple of hours before departure. There was only a short queue and the checkin agent was friendly and efficient. She warned me to make sure I went to the right gate as two flights leave within half an hour of one another. (In fact, between BA, Cathay and Virgin, no less than six Heath Row leave Hong Kong within an hour and a quarter of each other nightly). You may wonder what sort of idiot would make such a mistake but I must confess guilty as I missed a BA flight from Hong Kong due to that error previously, so I thought that this was a useful reminder.
In an event, the gate changed from the low twenties to fifteen, conveniently located. Boarding was by group and pretty fast.
A lot of people prefer the A380 to the 777 for comfort including less jetlag. This 777 was nine-abreast in economy class, in a 3-3-3 configuration. As I have Oneworld status, BA had preassigned me an aisle seat in economy with no seat in front, which gave me lots of space to stretch out my feet. Unlike the similar seat on American Airlines, I did not seem to get bumped by people in the aisle nearly as much. The seat had a small recline, and there was a small pillow, screen and earbuds on it. There was a USB socket which did not work at all.
The seat had a decent sized screen with a wide range of entertainment including classic British comedies like Fawlty Towers and newer ones like People Just do Nothing (Chabuddy G starred in the cringeworthy safety video, which is still an improvement on the last one), as well as a wide international selection. The system also had possibly the best radio and spoken word choice of any carrier I recall.
The plane was not very new but felt fresh and clean inside.
The cabin was a third empty and I had a spare seat beside me, whereas my return flight on the A380 a week or so later was much fuller. Maybe that is a benefit of opting for the 777 flight. BA does rotate equipment between the two flights seasonally though, so do not presume that BA32 will be operated by a 777.
We pushed back on time and arrived a little early after a totally smooth flight up the Chinese coast thence over Russia and northern Europe.
The cabin crew was professional but a bit cold in economy class. They quickly did a drinks service, oddly offering both a drink and a dinner drink at the same time, before later coming back for dinner. Breakfast was a bit over an hour before landing. Announcements were made only in English and I saw no Asian crew. That was okay for me, but for readers considering a carrier for elderly Chinese speaking relatives, for example, it could be quite important. I also missed the Asian service, although there were moments of British style too, such as when the purser announced at the end of the flight that people should “check their drawers” which raised some chuckles.
Food and Drink
There was no menu, which seems like a miserly way to run things, as it was hard to know what was on offer and the cabin crew had to keep repeating it. Dinner was chicken and pesto with garlic, or beef with rice. I had the former and it was tasty.
For breakfast I had an English breakfast of sorts, which was tasty and filling.
I had no idea what drinks were on offer but the ale choices were foreign: I would prefer BA to offer at least some British ales.
Between meals a tuck box in the galley, which had disappeared in previous cost cuts as I recall, has made a welcome reappearance, with sweets and cheddar crisps. The crew also laid out trays of drinks.
What seemed like a bargain turned out to be costly once I needed to change dates. That, their treatment of the HK base and the general sense of cutting costs puts me off BA yet further. But in fairness they do deserve credit for a comfortable seat, decent food and an on-time, smooth flight.
Nonetheless, I had to book another flight a few days later, and BA was again cheapest, but I decided that they didn’t deserve the custom, so I have learnt my lesson. Too much focus on the bottom line is damaging the airline.