Travel Note – British Airways Club World

By | May 17, 2013

I don’t want to do a Joel and setup a travel blog, but I did want to pass comment on my recent travels to and from Canada with British Airways.

Those of you that know me will be aware that I am a die hard Virgin Atlantic fan (and am proud to be a gold flyer with them) and that usually when I am traveling in the USA or Canada to destinations where Virgin don’t fly I will use JFK or LA as a hub and then route to where I am going – this was proving to be an expensive option to get to Toronto so I decided to take the plunge and long-haul with BA direct from London to Pearson.

I use BA a fair bit around Europe with BA (I’m a silver flyer, which I guess means I actually fly quite a lot around Europe with BA…) but have not taken the long-haul plunge with them for a while due to a bad experience a few years back, but what the heck, the conference were not paying a full reimbursement so I was look for the best value option for my needs.

My impressions:

The First lounge at Terminal 5 is nice. I have always thought that the Galleries lounges are a little bit “cheap” with a poor selection of food, but great drinks choices. The first lounge is a proper oasis, like the Virgin Clubhouse in T3. I asked nicely to be allowed in as the regular lounges were packed, the gatekeeper lady was very gracious and let me in with a mischievous wink. Hats off! One day I’ll make it into the Concorde Room…

Boarding was seamless as you would expect, interlopers were dealt with efficiently and politely, great handling by the gate staff.

The interior has not changed since I last flew Club World on a 747-400. In fact due to the advances made by other airlines, the Club World cabin is now looking shabby and dated. They still have that strange layout where if you are in a window seat (which I know from experience gives you a great bed mode experience!) you have to climb over other folks when they are in comfort or bed mode – not a problem for me but anybody who is even slightly infirm (or short) would struggle, I still don’t get why they did this…

The seat is still very comfortable. I have always thought this about the Club World seat, it’s wide, firm and reclines in a really nice way with lots of adjustment for firmness etc. Although old now, still very comfy and great in bed mode. Per my point above, if you want a good sleep, get a window seat (on a 747 at least) you get the entire gap with 2 “walls” either side. Wide and comfy people, wide and comfy!

The big thing for me was the service. I get that BA have to justify the First Class additional price jump but simply put, they are being left well, well behind in cabin service. The people are great, as ever – older, wiser and more “professional” than many other airlines, but the service just lacks something. In my view the Club World service is on par with the Virgin Premium Economy service but with a better seat. Virgin Upper Class is “fairly fine dining in the sky” with table service for drinks and food, BA Club World is “trolley and tray”. Don’t get me wrong, the food is ok, but the service just lacks. Compared to the leaders (such as Emirates) this service is really far behind. Again, I get that BA have to justify the First offering but Club World seems to be lost in a time warp.

One final point – deplaning was kooky due to the layout of the cabins. Due to the location of the First, Club World and (forward) Premium cabins whether the very front or wing front doors are used, Premium passengers were deplaned ahead of Club World. Very odd.

Will I use BA again for long-haul? I am! I am coming out to Washington in a few weeks and have booked BA (again due to a Virgin hub option being too pricey) for the trip.

I prefer Virgin, but BA did a good job and are slowly redeeming themselves for the issues of a few years ago.

Oh, and I do enjoy sitting backwards and watching the wings flex. Visual proof of the physics of flying is both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

more to follow…

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