HKTravelBlog

Cramped in A380 Economy Class: British Airways London Heathrow to Hong Kong

This was the return leg of the journey I had taken and wrote about here.

Ticketing

This was the return leg of an open jaw Hong Kong to Glasgow ticket I had originally bought for $4,339 on BA’s website though subsequently paid substantial fees to change the date.

Inverness, like Belfast, is exempt from the United Kingdom’s air passenger duty, so leaving from there can shave quite a bit off an economy class ticket price in some cases.

At the Airport

I had checked in for this flight at Inverness airport in the morning although the boarding pass listed no boarding gate at that point. I had checked my luggage through to Hong Kong as the flights were both using Heathrow (BA doesn’t transfer luggage across London on its tickets using different airports, shockingly) and nipped out from Heathrow as I had some hours to spare.

When terminal five opened there was a lot of fanfare about how it would be an amazing hub for British Airways but it is not. At Barons Court station, the first westbound Piccadilly tube going to terminal five was the sixth one to come.

At the airport, security was fairly quiet by Heathrow standards and I went to one of the main BA lounges in terminal five. With over an hour before takeoff, the agent there said I had very little time to spare for the lounge such was the trek to the gate for an A380-served route in BA’s bespoke terminal.

The boarding gate was a “C” gate, a train ride and movement between levels away – terminal five is horrible. Arriving at the gate, short on power, there was no power socket anywhere to be seen.

Boarding was by group but was fairly fast.

Equipment

The plane was an A380 (registration number G-XLEG).

I had been assigned seat 20G in the front row of the section, which was arranged 3-4-3 with tight seats. The seat had only a small recline. At the seat was a thin blanket and small, scratchy pillow. The seat had a temperamental USB port and there was a plug under the seat which was shared.

Overall I found this a pretty uncomfortable flight and struggled to sleep in anything other than short bursts: on one side I was bumping into the adjacent passenger, on the other people in the aisle, there was little recline and even in the front row not enough legroom to stretch out. I’d found the seat on the outbound 777 much more comfortable.

The inflight entertainment system had a good, wide range of entertainment.

Flight

We pushed back a few minutes ahead of schedule, had a smooth takeoff and a fairly smooth flight with just the odd bump. We arrived on time, although the luggage took forty five minutes from touchdown to arrive at the gate, one thing I dislike about the large capacity A380.

Service

The crew was mostly middle-aged, chatty and friendly though not very polished. I didn’t see any Asian crew and the announcements were made in English only.

They came around shortly after takeoff, serving a drink with pretzels and at the same time serving the drink for the dinner service. It feels inelegant that they do both together and the seat was pretty crowded without storing a drink for later.

After that I didn’t see much of the crew until the breakfast service about an hour and a half before landing. Overall the crew felt very average to me: they didn’t add anything to my experience.

Food and Drink

There was no menu on the flight and it was hard to know what was on offer. Dinner was chicken and rice or pasta, and for breakfast there was a full English or (I think) fried noodles.

BA uses trays and dishes which make it look as if the first meal is sizeable, but actually in terms of quantity it was similar to Cathay. It didn’t look very appetizing (the poor light quality means it looks even less appetizing in the photos), but the starter of buffalo cheese salad was tasty and the main dish of chicken rice though simple was also fine. Dessert was a sort of chocolate Angel Delight.

Breakfast was decent.

I rather like the tuck box of British crisps and sweets BA offers, but it wasn’t in the galley when I passed during the flight which disappointed me.

Conclusion

For comfort, I’d choose the 777 over the A380 on this route in future. The flight felt pretty cramped and wasn’t especially enjoyable, but the inflight entertainment was good, the flight was on time at both ends and the price was cheap.

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