Review: British Airways Club World Singapore – Sydney
Much has happened on the Kangaroo route over the last few years. British Airways and Qantas ended their joint-service agreement and parted ways, with the Australian carrier teaming up with Middle Eastern powerhouse Emirates, and shifting the only two remaining flights it carries out between Europe and Down Under with its own metal (to London Heathrow) to Dubai as a result. Then last year, Virgin Atlantic threw in the towel and pulled its London to Sydney flight, keeping its aircraft limited to reaching Hong Kong and, like so many before it, relying on codeshares for taking passengers to Oz.
All of that left British Airways as the last one standing of the European carriers, operating London to Sydney (with a stop in Singapore) on its own, and with its own aircraft. Rumours that it won’t last may float around, but so far BA has proudly stuck with it, moving the route from London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 and upgrading equipment to its latest Boeing 777-300ER in the process.
Given its stop in Singapore, it is of course possible to take BA15 just to Asia (though I would recommend opting for BA11 instead, operated by an Airbus A380), or get on at Singapore’s Changi Airport (SIN) for the second leg down to Sydney Kingsford Smith (SYD). I recently did the latter, flying Club World (BA’s business class) on the overnight flight. BA15 left Singapore at 20.05 local time, arriving at 07.00 in Sydney the next day.
At the Airport
I arrived at Changi airport from the city by taxi, which was quick and painless. I only had carryon luggage, but hadn’t been able to get my boarding pass through the British Airways app, so I headed to the dedicated check in area for business and first class. Away from the main terminal, it looks more like a small hotel lobby, with a seating area and dual chairs in front of each check in counter. I quickly sorted out my boarding pass and then headed through a dedicated exit towards passport control.
The lounge game at Changi airport has changed as a result of the developments on the Kangaroo route. I first headed to the British Airways lounge, which used to be the combined BA/QF First Lounge. It is a decent-sized lounge, with various seating areas, WiFi, showers, and some limited food options. When it’s time to eat, it’s worth heading over to the completely revamped Qantas lounge (only around the corner), where there is a much more extensive buffet, as well as a small cooked-to-order menu. Its design and features are much more up to date, and will look familiar if you know the QF lounges in Sydney and Hong Kong, for instance. I found the BA lounge much quieter though, but obviously traffic comes and goes depending on flight times.
Boarding and First Impressions
Security screening doesn’t happen until at the gate, so I wandered over towards the dead-end section of the terminal the BA flight departs from with some time to spare. It took ten minutes or so to get through, after which I waited for a little while longer before boarding started. Fast track boarding for first class, business class, and the relevant Oneworld status holders proved useful once again.
The Boeing 777-300ER has four cabin classes: First, Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), and World Traveller (Economy). While it was nice to get on quickly, the 229 passengers in World Traveller Plus and World Traveller all had to file through the Club World cabin to board, which, in addition to the 56 people in Club itself, makes for a lot of traffic.
The Club World cabin has British Airways’ forward/rearward yin-yang seats in seven rows of eight across (AB-DEFG-JK). If travelling alone, I’d recommend taking a window seat; if as a couple, a window and an aisle. I’d also aim for row 12, staying away from the galley further up, but most importantly the bank of lavatories between the Club World and the World Traveller Plus cabin. Row 12 also gives you a great view out the window of the giant Rolls-Royce engine underneath the 777 wing, which at sunrise over Sydney, made for some great pictures.
Club World on the 777 is sometimes sneeringly referred to as the “flying dorm”, based on the structure of the Club World seats and the fact that from row 10 to 16 it is one large, uninterrupted cabin. While I’ve always found that at least moderately snobbish, I will say the experience pales in comparison to the intimacy and tranquillity of the upper deck on a BA Boeing 747, or even to the dual cabins upstairs on the Airbus A380.
The crew did a great job of setting everyone in Club World up with a drink, taking coats, and the like, given the 250 odd people that in some shape or form are moving through the cabin as boarding completes.
You’ll find the standard Club World seat on the Boeing 777, with some minor updates compared to older aircraft. It reclines to a fully-flat bed by meeting a separate footstool attached to the seat in front of / behind you. A dividing screen allows you to either talk to your seatmate or create more privacy.
The difference with some of the latest business class products on other carriers (for instance Cathay Pacific, or Qatar Airways on the Boeing 787 or Airbus A380) really showed during this flight. Once again, it was a completely full flight, and the passenger next to me on the aisle went straight to sleep after we took off. It cannot have been a very restful first few hours, with the crew reaching over him to serve me dinner and the divider going up and down, and up and down, and up and down.
Having gotten so used to flying either on the upper deck of a BA Boeing 747 or a BA Airbus A380, where window seats benefit from storage bins , I really missed this extra space to put my things away, yet have them at hand without needing to get up from my seat. There is a little drawer to store valuables, and both a personal video screen and at-seat power. A pillow, blanket, and headset were on the seat when I boarded, with amenity kits handed out by the crew.
Putting the Boeing 777-300ER on the London to Sydney route means that passengers in First, World Traveller Plus, and World Traveller are guaranteed the latest BA product. At the same time, it means everyone has access to the latest Thales in-flight entertainment, which has a range of movies, TV series, and games to pass the time with. I watched a few episodes of The Big Bang Theory (I read somewhere that this is the number one show watched on in-flight entertainment), but given that the flight wasn’t very long, I wanted to get to sleep when dinner service was complete.
Menus were handed out shortly after take-off, which had the choice of two champagnes, two white and two red wines. I almost always just stick with water, which I did this time as well.
I had a starter of feta cheese, roasted beetroot, and olive tapenade, which was tasty. As a main course, I chose the snapper with creamy Thai yellow curry sauce and steamed rice. It was the only choice that appealed to me on paper, and it was actually quite good.
Breakfast was served a few hours from landing in Sydney, with a smoothie, fruit, and a breakfast sandwich with eggs, bacon, and mushrooms. The crew was very friendly and efficient.
Having freshened up after dinner, I flipped down the footstool and reclined the seat to get some sleep. The cabin quieted down relatively quickly, but since the total flight was just under eight hours and my jetlag was kicking in, I didn’t sleep particularly well. Still, the ability to stretch out and be comfortable was very welcome.
Arriving in Sydney early in the morning meant that we flew into the sunrise as we approached the city. Having a window seat, I had a prime view of the sun colouring the sky and the light playing off the large wing and massive Rolls-Royce engine of the Boeing 777. While a few clouds took some of the view away, we passed the iconic Harbour Bridge and Opera House before touching down on time. Being in Club World, you get a pass for the Express Lane at arrivals, and since I was only travelling with carryon, I was through immigration and customs and on the train to downtown in no time at all.
An ok flight. I thought the crew was very friendly and did a good job of looking after the cabin, while at the same time getting everyone ready for some sleep on an overnight flight like this. Flying Club World is a solid choice if you want a level of comfort and space (and not want to spring for First Class, obviously). I didn’t think the inflight experience was as good as on the Airbus A380 I had flown just a few days before to Singapore, or on alternatives you have with Qantas or Cathay Pacific for instance. I still have a preference for connecting through Asia rather than the Middle East in terms of flight times though, so depending on pricing, I wouldn’t say no to taking the flight again.