British Airways has two daily flights from Sydney to London: BA16 via Singapore and BA10 via Bangkok. As a oneworld partner, BA flights allow Qantas Frequent Flyers to earn points and also have access to Qantas and BA airport lounges.
We'd usually recommend the Bangkok flight if you're looking to travel straight through to London in business class, as the BKK flight runs on a Boeing 747 compared to the Boeing 777 used for the Singapore route – so there's more Club World business class on the 747 and the option of the more private and quiet upper deck cabin.
But with things to do and people to see in Singapore, I picked BA16, departing Sydney at 1530 local time and arriving in Singapore nine hours later at 2145 Singapore time.
British Airways' online check-in opens precisely 24 hours prior to departure.
Since only BA's Silver and Gold Executive Club frequent flyer programme members are able to select seats before that point -- even when flying in business -- I was ready to check-in, referred to my notes on the best seats in Club World on BA's 777 planes, and picked the best of the seats available, dropping my luggage at the airport on arrival.
Check-in desks and bag drop for BA's flights is in zones F and G, roughly two-thirds of the way down the international terminal and just before you reach the Virgin Australia/V Australia/Pacific Blue section. If arriving by road, try to stop just after the British Airways sign at the roadside.
The G desks are marked with separate barriers for First Class and Club World (Business Class).
The usual oneworld Emerald and Sapphire tier members -- so Qantas Platinum and Gold -- can also use these lines. Check-in opened promptly at 1230, three hours before the flight, and the staff were friendly and professional.
(At the end of the flight, on arrival in Singapore, the orange priority luggage tags worked well: my case was third off the belt.)
BA uses its oneworld partner Qantas' international business lounge in Sydney. (Check out our full review of the lounge for more information.)
It's up an escalator after you pass through the post-security duty free shop. The First Class lounge is a much shorter walk along the mezzanine level once you're up the escalators, while the Business lounge is a little bit of a trek.
I was surprised that, with my BA boarding pass (not to mention my English accent), the Qantas lounge staff didn't offer any information about the lounge when I arrived.
Regular Qantas travellers will be familiar with the lounge -- it's essentially a long, thin lounge along a bank of windows underneath the Qantas First Class lounge, looking out onto the tarmac.
When compared with BA's home hub lounge at Heathrow's Terminal 5 (which includes a spa, relaxation areas and "quiet zones" to get some work done, the Sydney lounge was a little disappointing.
Positive notes included lightning-fast Internet (12 Mbps download speed), a great selection of Australian wines, delicious dips and salads, and a superb Thai chicken curry.
A nine-hour flight, BA16 heads to Singapore, is cleaned and refuelled, and continues on to London's Heathrow.
Dinner is served shortly after departure, and the cabin is then darkened until a later "refreshment" before landing in Singapore.
After dinner, the cabin lights were turned down, and the crew closed the blinds of any unoccupied seat.
The cabin was kept at a pleasantly cool temperature throughout the flight, and I felt comfortable in shirt sleeves and trousers.
The crew passed through unobtrusively offering juice or water on a little tray every so often, and were very happy to put on a pot of tea. If you're a tea drinker, find one of the Northern English crew to make your tea. They warm the pot and your mug, make a good strong brew and always bring a biscuit along too.
If you get peckish during the flight, there is a small but well-stocked Club Kitchen to raid. A small fridge held lentil pasta, a chickpea and tomato pot, plates of feta cheese salads and several types of wraps and sandwiches.
Next to the fridge was a good selection of potato chips, cakes, biscuits and sweets, plus bottles of water. If the crew don't see you coming and insist on pouring it for you, there are also bottles of wine and boxes of juice to help yourself to.
BA's current Club World seat is found on all the airline's flights to Australia. (For full details of the seat, check out our guide to Club World on BA's Boeing 777 planes.)
The seats are in a forward-and-back staggered pattern in a 2-4-2 configuration. Aisle seats face forward, while the middle pairs and window seats face backwards -- although there's no real feeling of "flying backwards" in the air.
So a passenger in rear-facing 10A is well set for a conversation with front-facing 10B. If travelling with a colleague, that's the way to do it (rather than try to sit in the centre E and F seats). If you don't fancy chatting to the person facing you, an electrically-operated translucent screen can be raised and lowered with a touch.
A fairly significant downside to the seat design is that window and centre passengers have to clamber over the footrest of whoever's in the aisle seat in order to get out. That can be tricky and inconvenient when you're bleary with sleep, so if you're planning on a serious snooze pick a window or middle seat, and if you're planning on keeping yourself well-watered choose an aisle.
No hand luggage is allowed around your seat during takeoff and landing. If it won't go in the small cubby bin at your feet, it'll need to go up into the overhead bins. An iPad would probably fit in the reading material compartment along with the airline magazine and duty free catalog, though.
Don't forget that the footrest ottoman has a fully flat mode and an angled setting, as well as a height selection feature. There's an instruction guide on the wall behind the ottoman.
On the 777, there's only a downstairs cabin, with 40 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. I picked the first row because it's further away from the bassinet crib positions in Club in row 15, and in the first row of World Traveller Plus (which is what BA calls its premium economy offering) on the other side of the thin wall separating the two cabins.
The entertainment is excellent, with a touch screen about the same size as an iPad (though a little less responsive).
It's loaded with a good selection of movies, TV, music CDs, radio, and a particularly interesting selection of audio books.
The headphones provided are noise-cancelling, insulated over-ear models that were fine for listening to the excellent recording of Bach's St John Passion I picked. They are a little clunky to sleep in if you like to be on your side, though, so bring a two-pin adaptor for your favourite headphones and plug them into your MP3 player if that's a big issue for you.
Shortly after takeoff, the seatbelt sign was switched off and I decided to move from a window seat (10A) into one of the centre pair of seats, 10E.
If the cabin's empty, these double seats are great for having an extra bit of room and more space to store your things.
You'll also have two plugs for charging your electronics (laptop plus phone, say), and you can use both entertainment screens: one for the curiously compelling inflight map and one for a movie.
The crew came round with warm towels -- small and a little thin, but blessedly free of scent. And then it was time for the first drinks service.
I picked the 09 French Sancerre, which was fruity and delicious, like a slightly restrained NZ or Tasmanian Sauvignon Blanc.
Dinner was presented on a linen-covered tray from a trolley, with proper dishes containing the starter and salad. These aren't assembled on board (the crew whip off the plastic coverings before serving you) but the presentation is pleasant enough.
Fresh rolls are offered from a choice of three in a basket, and while they're not warmed they're soft and tasty.
The scallop starter was a very brave choice to put on a menu -- I thought that the airline food process might make them rubbery and tasteless, but they were succulent and well-cooked. The celeriac aioli made it a well-constructed dish with a range of flavours and textures. Top marks.
The salad was a little unimaginative -- lettuce, tomato and cucumber -- but everything was fresh.
The main course -- I went for the beef -- arrived on a separate little plate a few minutes after I'd finished with the starter. It took a few minutes for red wine to appear to go with it, and the beef was, unfortunately, cooked to well done.
The delicious brandy-based gravy and liberal applications of mustard went a fair way to compensating for the beef, though, and the pumpkin and rosemary mash was flavoursome.
I moved on to a red with the beef -- an 07 Shiraz-Grenache-Mourvedre from the Barossa Valley that was served too cold (most airlines, with the notable exception of Virgin Australia, store their reds and whites in the same refrigerated boxes).
Once it warmed up, though, it was every bit as bold yet soft in the mouth as I'd hoped.
The crew passed through the cabin several times offering top-ups of water during the meal -- which was just as well, since for some reason the airline's water glasses are tiny.
Service is presented through the screen separating the aisle seats from the window or middle passengers. So if you're planning to sleep through the meal, pick a window seat rather than an aisle or middle so you won't be disturbed.
After the main, you have a choice of dessert (on this flight it was a black forest roulade) or a slightly unhelpfully labelled "selection of cheese".
It turned out to be a small slice of a Camembert-style cheese and a shrink-wrapped Bass Straight Blue, which tasted a bit like a Roquefort but with the texture of a Stilton. Both cheeses were a little too chilled, but once they'd warmed up slightly they were delicious.
I had a half-glass of the reasonable on-board port, which went particularly well with the blue.
Dinner ended with a very good filter coffee and the chocolate-covered macadamia nut presented at the start of the meal. A small bottle of water was also handed out.
All in all, dinner was a solid effort, but not up to the same personalised service as the outstanding Virgin Australia lunch I'd had in Business coming back to Sydney from Perth the previous week. BA could learn a thing or two about storing and serving temperature-sensitive wine and cheese from Virgin Australia.
Just over an hour before landing, the "refreshments" meal came around. It was again on trays covered with linen cloths, and the main option was a plate of three tea-sized sandwiches or a potato and apple salad.
A plum tart with cream and a good mug of tea finished off the final refreshment. Given that it was 2230 body time, this was a good second meal.
Entertainment & Service
The crew was excellent, and it seemed that the few areas for improvement have more to do with airline processes and meal selection than anything else.
There were four or five cabin crew members looking after the 40-seat Club World cabin, and each was warm yet professional.
On boarding, the crew came round swiftly with glasses of champagne, orange juice and water, as well as a selection of British newspapers: the Financial Times, Daily Mail, and Daily Telegraph.
On the Singapore flight, Mandarin was spoken, and the moving map also showed Chinese characters. Menus were just in English, though.
The flight lived up to British Airways' reputation for efficient service with a good seat and flat bed, which allows business travellers to either work, rest or sleep their way through a long flight.
BA's service is classy rather than luxurious, and there's no stand-up bar or individually-plated food, but it's a good product that's delivered consistently across its network.
After some iffy experiences during the now-ending cabin crew industrial action, I was pleasantly surprised by the genuine warmth and friendliness the crew showed to passengers.