Check-in early online to ensure you aren't bumped down by British Airways' outrageous overbooking policy. If you take a late evening flight, you should find Heathrow's Terminal 1 quiet, enabling you to sail through security. But, at that time of day, the large BA lounge is often running low on food, magazines and newspapers. On the plane there is a three-course meal of variable quality to look forward to. The shrimp and prawn terrine with a green salad is crisp and fresh, but the fish cakes can be dry and disappointing. While you eat, there is plenty to watch on the on-demand entertainment system, including some well-made documentaries, such as the seductive Sandrine's Paris. The smooth Beronia Reserva Rioja 2001 is a good sleep-aid and the 12 hour flight gives you plenty of time to get your head down on the nearly-flat bed. But it will be late afternoon when you reach Hong Kong's futuristic airport and you may struggle to sleep the following night.
For the return leg, you can await your flight in the Qantas lounge, which is equipped with excellent showers, stacks of newspapers, and a respectable selection of cold, but tasty, snacks and drinks. Or you can wander around the airport's good selection of shops in search of presents. Again the food on the BA flight is a lottery. The Greek feta cheese salad would be at home in a good restaurant, but the stir-fried beef comes with a lump of congealing rice. In the morning, the fruit is fresh enough, but the hot breakfast isn't very appetising - the scrambled egg, for example, is watery and has a green tinge. At Heathrow, your flight may fall foul of the early morning congestion, forcing the plane to circle round and round London or wait on the tarmac until a gate becomes free. 6/10