October 7, 2013

Flight Review: British Airways Boeing 787 From Newark

British Airways has a massive presence at New York’s JFK International Airport, with what seems like hourly shuttle service on the Boeing 747-400 service between Queens and London’s Heathrow Airport. On the other side of the Island of Manhattan, however, Newark Liberty may just hold your best option to get from New York to London in luxury. Last Tuesday, British Airways introduced Boeing 787 service between the two cities, ushering in a new generation of aircraft, and the first British Airways 787 route to the United States.

British Airways flight 186, operated by the 787, departs Newark at 10:50pm. It turns out that this late departure has some serious advantages, and they start right at the British Airways Galleries Lounge, just past security at Newark’s Terminal B. Directly next to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (and the employees stare as you walk past), passengers enter quite a large lounge, complete with sweeping views of the ramp. Some serious time was spent decorating this particular lounge, and that effort really proved worthwhile. Chairs and decorative glass are adorned with the etchings of the Concorde, a nod to the airline’s historic past.

EWR lounge

EWR lounge

Because two of the three daily flights to London leave rather late in the day (9:25pm and 10:50pm), there is a heavy emphasis on enjoying a pre-flight dinner as a part of their “Sleeper Service.” This enables passengers to get as much sleep on board as possible by limiting the meal service. The lounge offers every opportunity to wine and dine, providing a full buffet featuring a wide variety of options. There was a salad bar, “culinary theater” featuring freshly prepared Mexican choices, and pretty much everything in between. First Class passengers are provided with their own dining section with personal service, including a full featured wine list presented on a constantly updating iPad, a very cool feature. The 787, however, does not include a first class section. The lounge now also includes a selection of craft beers, brewed locally by the New Jersey Beer Company, a nice unique touch for Newark.

The entrance to the lounge on this particular day was flanked by red, white, and blue balloons to celebrate the 787 inaugural flight. Inside, there were a few additional subtle hints tipping passengers off to the fact that they were there on a special day. At the bar, a small sign read “EWR CELEBRATION- Please Celebrate With Us! The Launch Of The Dreamliner Aircraft From Newark.” The sign went on to offer complimentary craft beers, a “dreamliner cocktail”, and of course, cupcakes. For those wondering, the dreamliner cocktail was made up of several types of berries, and was actually quite good! Front and center in the lounge was a rather large 787 model. As far as celebration for the new 787, that was about it. Subtle, but present.

Celebrate the 787 with cupcakes!

Celebrate the 787 with cupcakes!

At the gate, more balloons and cupcakes awaited passengers, and boarding began right on time. The cheery crew directed passengers to their seats, the pilots made a quick comment about the inaugural flight, and we were on our way. My seat, 2A, was a rear facing seat, which was the first time I had ever been presented with that option. I had reservations about this setup, but figured it would be a great opportunity to try it. The backwards facing seat creates a situation where my neighbor and I were practically face to face, which was a tad awkward at times. Fortunately, a partition magically rises up from the seat with the touch of a button, but who would be first to hit the “don’t look at me” button? I waited out the situation, and shortly after takeoff, my seat mate hit the button, and he vanished until the end of the flight. For the remainder of the flight, the reverse seat really did not have much of any impact. In fact, when I woke up after a few hours of sleep, my view was of the engine and incredible wing flex of the 787, one of the best views in the world.

Good morning, world!

Good morning, world!

I found the seat itself to be comfortable, but a bit narrow. The 787 is configured in a 2-3-2 setup, which may have been a bit much in terms of density. Aside from the tray table, which is obviously stowed when the seat is in any sort of reclined position, there is not a single flat surface or stowage space to put items such as glasses or a phone, so I ended up wearing my glasses while I slept. That is far from an ideal situation. There were also a few items in the seat that could use a bit of refinement. The switch for the reading light, for example, was unreasonably hidden away. I observed several passengers attempt to turn it on, only to give up. Such a simple feature should not take more than a few seconds to figure out.

British Airways 787 Club World Cabin

British Airways 787 Club World Cabin

The in-flight entertainment system on board the British Airways 787 is by far the best system I have ever used, which is quite an impressive accomplishment. The system, TopSeries by Thales, was extremely responsive, high resolution, and provided an incredible amount of content. It contains 43 new release movies, entire box sets of television shows, and one of the most detailed live maps you will find anywhere. Unfortunately, I did not get a chance to take full advantage of the massive quantity of content, as this was an overnight flight. Passengers on the return flight, however, should be quite pleased by the sheer amount of content available.

The meal service on board this flight, as mentioned previously, was quite abbreviated. Passengers had the choice of citrus-marinated salmon, or black truffle risotto, served with a few dessert choices. A small breakfast service was also provided once closer to London. My meal was decent and presented well, but I was already stuffed from the much larger pre-flight meal in the lounge. I would recommend skipping the in-flight dinner completely, as the lounge meal was more than enough. Have a drink, and get some rest.

BA 787 Main Course

BA 787 Main Course

Upon arrival at Heathrow, we were quickly processed through customs by a very happy border agent, and headed directly to the arrivals lounge. The arrivals lounge at Heathrow is available to all Club World and First Class passengers, and should not be missed if you have the time. Featuring a breakfast bar, work stations, a massage area, and 94 (!!!) showers, it is a great way to shake off the jet lag and hit the city running. Anyone who has arrived in Europe at 6:30am knows how dreadful the wait until you can check into your hotel is, and the arrivals lounge really helps make the transition easy. The arrivals lounge at Heathrow T5 is open from 5am until 2pm.

20131002_120919_Wellington Rd

The 787 has really taken a back seat to A380 as far as celebrations and publicity goes at British Airways, but it shouldn’t be. The 787 opens the possibility to bring a brand new, high tech airplane to routes which otherwise may never see an aircraft as nice. Newark is typically served by older 777-200s on British Airways, and a hodgepodge of aircraft on the competition, United and Virgin Atlantic. The British Airways 787 is quite possibly the best choice out of Newark, and by far the best choice among all British Airways flights out of the New York City area.

Note: The cost of this flight was provided by British Airways.

About the Author

Jason Rabinowitz



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