Over the years I've flown with British Airways on a variety of long-haul flights; travelling in World Traveller (Economy) or on the rare occasion World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy). I was fortunate enough to finally experience British Airways' Club World cabin when flying to and from Miami and I'm delighted to share my experience of flying on the national flag carrier with you.
Club World is British Airways' answer to business-class and is arguably a popular product which can be found on all of their long-haul aircraft. BA were one of the first airlines to introduce fully-flat bed seating in 1999 and the product has been evolving ever since.
Some of the main features of travelling in Club World include priority check-in, BA lounge access (or a partner lounge if applicable), priority boarding, three pieces of luggage, and a dedicated cabin crew delivering the superlative BA service.
British Airways certainly developed a solid hard-product and in terms of seating, it's one of the most dense business-class cabins in the sky. With a 2-4-2 layout on both the 747 and A380; that's eight seats across which might sound like a lot - but it works thanks to the yin-yang layout. If you're travelling with someone, it's nice as they can be seated on the adjacent seat and chat to you. If you're on your own, you can simply raise the privacy divider. (See photo below).
There was ample storage space in and around the seat, and of course the overhead lockers are useful too. The seat-controls are fixed just below the privacy divider, but it's effortless to transform the seat into the flat-bed; just remember to lower the footstool. It's worth noting that the footstool is not intended to be used as a passenger seat and as such a "companion dining" service is not offered. Just like anything, the tray-table and IFE screen do need to be stowed for taxi, take-off and landing; but you can continue to listen to music or use your handheld PED that's in flight mode.
One of the (potentially major) drawbacks of the Club World cabin is that not all seats offer direct aisle access. If you're seated by the window or in the middle, you'll need to politely step past your fellow passengers footstool, or over it if being used. I did feel uncomfortable doing this whilst the other passenger was sleeping. But it's not the end of the world.
My flight with BA was operated by a Boeing 747-400 which featured all four of the airline's cabins; World Traveller, World Traveller Plus, Club World and First. Club World seating was available on the main-deck and in the bubble.
Boarding took place at approximately 45 minutes prior to the flights departure; and as you would expect, Club World passengers were invited to board after those travelling in First; and received a very warm welcome at the aircraft door.
As I was sorting out my things, I received a warm welcome from one of the cabin crew members who would be looking after me. They provided me with the in-flight menu and asked if I needed assistance in operating the seat. Shortly afterwards I received a pre-flight beverage (Champagne, orange juice or water) and a choice of newspaper.
Unsurprisingly it was raining in London, which resulted in a 45-minute delay departing BA's hub at Heathrow. However time was made-up during the course of the flight and we only arrived into Miami about 20-minutes later than scheduled.
Once the seatbelt signs had been switched off, the crew came round offering the Club World amenity kits which were provided by Elemis. There is a male and female version; both of which contain all the usual amenities you'd expect. Personally I was a little underwhelmed by the "drawstring bag" as it's known; but that's just me being a little petty. It's actually quite handy for storing all the wires for my gadgets!
Shortly afterwards, I was offered a cruising beverage and a packet of mixed nuts. At this stage, I was also asked how I'd like to dine on the flight. As I was catching up on some work, I asked if it were possible to enjoy a condensed meal on one tray slightly after the main service. The cabin crew said there was no problem at all, but insisted they offered me the full service as it was my first time. How nice!
I'll share details of my culinary experience a little later, but I'd just like to mention a little bit more about my experience. Since I flew with BA last year, a number of their 747's have actually received a makeover; with more Club World seats (there are 86 now as opposed to 52 or 70), a top-notch IFE system and various other visual and technical improvements. I believe there are still a few flying around, but sooner or later all the 747's that are to remain in BA's fleet will look as good as the A380's. Just smaller of course. 😉
For the reason above, I'm not really going to delve into the InFlight Entertainment system. Let's just say it's known as "AVOD" and was pretty basic - with just a few movies, TV shows and audio tracks to enjoy. Although the screen was very small, the moving map was actually quite good. The refreshed aircraft feature a Panasonic IFE on a larger screen with a plethora of entertainment options. It's really very good!
After finishing off my work, I went for a little stroll and here's a view of the Club World cabin in the bubble. It's in a 2-2 configuration and unsurprisingly is very popular.
Food & Drink
The Club World dining experience is one which is meant to be enjoyed and the menu's are updated each month to feature seasonal and locally sourced produce where available. The food on my flight from London to Miami was actually quite good.
For the main-meal which is served about an hour after departure, I was offered a choice of starter, side-salad, main course and dessert.
The starter and main-course were tasty and the dessert was delicious. Since I dined after the main service, the Club Kitchen was also open at that point... so I enjoyed a pot of ice cream too!
If you don't know, the Club Kitchen is an area in the galley area where a variety of snacks are displayed for passengers to peruse and help themselves to. From fruit to ice-cream, chocolate and crisps... there's quite a variety. I don't drink, but a good selection of drinks were available.
A couple of hours before landing, British Airways offered their renowned afternoon tea which features miniature sandwiches, cakes and scones. Remember that I said miniature.
Unfortunately there were not enough cakes for everyone on my flight, so I went with the sandwiches and scones. Thankfully the crew informed me that a few snacks remained in the Club Kitchen, so they made sure I had few little things to keep me going for the rest of my day.
The service I received from the cabin crew on my flight was very good. They were very friendly and went out of their way to ensure I had a wonderful experience. I was amazed to learn they only had one night in Miami before flying back home, but they did have some great tips on how I could make the most of my time in the city. Let's just say it included shopping and a slice of Cheesecake.
I was pleasantly surprised with my very first Club World experience with British Airways. Although it was on an aircraft with an older hard-product, the food, amenities and service were fantastic. I've just made a few little remarks below about a couple of things:
- The ground staff at Heathrow really were not a cheery bunch, but I'm glad the cabin crew were the opposite!
- The seat itself was comfortable and it's very easy to convert into a flat-bed without any assistance.
- Even though the aircraft featured an old IFE system, it responded relatively well and I was able to watch a movie.
- The food quality was good. Not the best or worst... but the return journey was a different story.
- The Club Kitchen is a clever idea, and of course this feature is now present on many airlines.
I'm still not overly convinced by the seat layout, but it must work well for BA otherwise why would they still have it? As more and more airlines start to offer business-class seating with direct aisle access; who knows what the future will hold. But on the flip-side, the airline does offer a First cabin which features just that. So think of it what you will.
British Airways are a great airline and it's no wonder why millions of passengers choose to fly with them again and again. As long as they keep enhancing the customer experience, I shall always look forwards to travelling with them.
Just please change the catering out of Miami. Is that even Beef? *shudders*