Sunday, August 10, 2014

Flying on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for the First Time

I finally got the opportunity to fly on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner on a recent flight from Hyderabad to London. Hyderabad is currently the only station in India that British Airways operates the Dreamliner on and British Airways flies a total of six destinations globally using the Dreamliner with plans to add eighteen more destinations.

This also meant I got to try out British Airways' revamped Club World cabin for the Dreamliner.

I was really excited to see if the Dreamliner lives up to its name especially after all the marketing hype around it. Check-in was a breeze and the Plaza Premium Lounge has just bumped itself up even higher. For breakfast earlier, at the live counter, one only had the choice of a variety eggs and omelettes but one now has the added options of a choice of pancakes (plain, choc-chip or raisin), choice of fresh sandwiches and fresh baked beans on toast. The garlic glazed baby-corn and carrot dish was amazing.

On getting seated in the Dreamliner, the first thing you will notice is that the windows no longer have shutters, something which even Airbus' latest A380 does. What you find instead is this nifty little button:

The windows are now the largest of any commercial airliner (up to 60% larger depending on which aircraft you compare it to) with higher eye levels so one can maintain a view of the horizon. Instead of pulling shades up and down, one can adjust the brightness of the window using the above button. Using an electrochromic dimming system, the windows turn from fully transparent to completely dimmed in gradual steps. Want to watch a movie but don't like the glare from outside yet want some sunlight? That is now possible. Put the window on 80% dim mode in flight and a dark glow from outside almost makes you feel that you are floating in space.

Below is an example of me setting my window to no dimming, 50% dim and 80% dim:

The air quality is much superior as well. Internal cabin pressure is increased to the equivalent of 6,000 feet altitude instead of the 8,000 feet standard on other aircraft. That means reduced jet lag for you.

Additionally, the cabin uses LED lighting adjustments to help one gradually acclimatize when crossing time zones.

Take off was effortless and the statement that the aircraft is 60% more silent is true. British Airways' Club World seating is unique such that near the window seats, a pair of seats face each other in a diagonally opposite direction. So if two people are travelling, they can see and converse with each other throughout the flight or raise the privacy shutter up at the flick of a button. One major disadvantage of this arrangement though is that if you are a window passenger and the next window passenger decides to completely flatten his six-foot flat-bed, then you have no way to access the aisle except jumping over the passenger. Below pics refers to the design flaw which can turn out to be a pain on long distance flights:

On the other hand, if you have a rear facing seat - coupled with the large windows - the front facing view of the engine and wing flex of the 787, makes it one of the most unique and best views in the world.

For the germo-phobics out there, you will love the new aircraft bathrooms. You don’t have to touch anything but the door. To lift the toilet seat up and down, there is a nifty little foot overlap. The flush and sink are on sensors.

The seat itself is fantastic. A foot drawer allows you to put your shoes away, there is a reading light with adjustable light intensity, in-seat laptop power ports and two USB sockets. The personal 10.4in flat screen and noise-cancelling headphones are a big step-up compared to the old system in Club World with far superior display quality. There is a nice leg rest if you want to sit up-right but stretch out your legs in a 180 degree flat angle. The seat tray is extremely wide. Shockingly, there are no storage compartments within a reachable distance. So if you want to lets say store your spectacles, tablet etc and take a nap, you can't conveniently store them anywhere.

I received welcome packs from Elemis which Britain's leading luxury spa and skincare brand. The men's pack contained:
- Elemis Skin Soothe Shave Gel formulated with soothing aloe vera amd cooling peppermint to provide the smoothest shave for even the most sensitive skin
- Elemis' hero anti-ageing Pro-Collagen Marine Cream clinically proven to hydrate and winner of over 20 beauty awards
- Elemis Ultra conditioning lip balm
- Other stuff such as ear plugs, eye shades, shaving razor, toothpaste etc.

For breakfast, the vegetarian choices were:
- Chilled fruit juice, an energising smoothie of mango, fresh seasonal fruit, dry fruit muesli, a selection of warm breads and breakfast pastries.
- Cheese omelette with potato wedges, sauteed mushrooms and cherry tomato
- Vegetable rawa upma with uttapam, sambhar and aloo bonda (Semolina with onions, carrots and coriander pancake with potato dumplings)

The lunch menu contained:
- Aloo paneer with spinach fritters and tamarind sauce
- Fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette
- Jalfrezi corn paneer with cumin rice and dhaba dal (paneer and corn, mixed vegetables, rice and mixed lentil dal)
- Chocolate and strawberry layer cake with vanilla sauce
- A selection of cheese
- British chocolates

In champagne, the choices were Champagne Taittinger Brut Reserve NV and Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rose NV and a couple of champagne cocktails, for white wine one could choose from Chablis 2012, Domaine Sainte Claire, Burgundy, France and Oldenburg Chenin Blanc 2013, Stellenbosch, South Africa and in red wine Chateau La Gorce 2010, Cru Bourgeois Medoc, Bordeaux, France and Laureat 2011, Stellenbosch, South Africa.

There was also a great choice in liquers and digestifs such as Otard VSOP Cognac, Cointreau, Kahlua, Baileys, Southern Comfort, Drambuie 15-year-old Speyside Malt Liquer, Glenlivet 15-year old malt and Warre's 1999 Colheita Tawny Port.

In apertifs and spirits, one could choose from Gordon's Gin, Tanqueray, Smirnoff Blue, Johnnie Walker Black, Jack Daniel's Bacardi and Martini Dry.

Oh and did I mention that the Dreamliner is now the most fuel efficient inter-continental aircraft out there and is billed as the world’s most environmentally-friendly passenger plane?

The Dreamliner experience having ended, the British Airways Galleries Lounge at was a delight with coffee stations, wide menu, lots of beverages and more. One gripe however is that the Elemis lounge where one is supposed to get complimentary spa treatments is always booked and one gets appointments 6-8 hours away which is unrealistic.

The onward flight was a British Airways 747 and the jumbo jet immediately looked aged given that I had just come from the spanking new Dreamliner. However the best part of the flight was the galley. British Airways has an always open galley in Club World where passengers can go pick up whatever they want. While the flights to London have the normal fare, as this flight was from London, I was in for some unique treats such as fresh fruit from the Waitrose foundation in Africa, nuts imported from Africa, deliciously creamy yoghurts, Beckleberry's fine artisan pastries, and ice cream from The Ice Cream Union. I had the Dulce de Leche (Argentinian Toffee) flavour which was very tasty.

The wine list had also changed and the choices were:
- Sancerre 2013, Chateau de Thauvenay, Loire Valley, France
- Clos Pegase Chardonnay 2012, Mitsuko's Vineyard, Carneros, Napa Valley, California
- Barbera d'Asti Superiore 2011, DOCG, "La Luna e l Falo," Piedmont, Italy
- Cartlidge & Browne Pinot Noir 2012, North Coast, California

For lunch, I had salad of watermelon infused with basil, feta, cucumber, red onion and mint and tortigiloni pasta with creamy garlic and herb sauce, button mushrooms and spinach.

Overall, a great trip on the Dreamliner and kudos to British Airways for bringing in a whole new era of brand new hi-tech aircraft on routes that often don't see aircraft quite as nice.