Club World is the name of British Airways’ long-haul business class cabin. BA is in the process of upgrading the Club World in flight service and will roll out a new seat in 2019. Here are the latest developments in Club World.
It’s now almost one year since BA launched its new Club World bedding and meal service, and almost two years since it was first announced to investors in BA’s parent company, IAG.
Having experienced it on a number of different aircraft and routes, it’s a good time to put pen to paper and gather some thoughts.
Progress of new bedding and catering roll-out
By way of a quick primer, the new White Company bedding is now available on all Club World routes to and from all London airports.
The new catering service is taking longer. It should be on almost all Heathrow routes by the end of the year. The new service is now available on most, if not all, North American routes. The latest routes to receive the new service are Singapore-Sydney, Cape Town, Johannesburg, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. There are still a number of routes to Central and South America, Africa, The Middle East and Asia to follow. The last Heathrow routes are likely to be the Airbus A321 medium haul routes to Amman and Beirut. The new service will be rolled out at Gatwick in 2019.
It’s a short overnight flight from Montreal, typically leaving at around 21:30 with a flight time of around 6.5 hours.
By comparison to the rest of the airport, particularly the queues at check-in for Air Transat and Royal Air Maroc, the BA check-in desks are a haven of calm.
Regardless of what cabin you are travelling in you should find check-in by the local BA team relatively quick.
Turning to security screening, there is an expansive security screening area. There is a dedicated priority security line. However, you would be forgiven for not noticing if you didn’t know it was there. As you head from check-in security you need to walk right to the very far end of the entrance to security.
Salon Banque Nationale Lounge
BA has long used a third party lounge facility at Montréal.
With just one flight a day, and very little else by way of Oneworld alliance presence, this is not surprising. If you’ve flown BA from this airport before March 2017 you may have used what was known as the TD First Class lounge which faced into the airport. This has now closed and BA now uses a new Salon Banque Nationale / National Bank lounge at Gate 53.
Note that the pictures of this lounge on the airport website are dated. The purple chairs were not in evidence and the vast majority of seats are grey armchairs.
If you don’t have access to this lounge by virtue of cabin or frequent flyer status, the lounge can also be booked via Swissport. Again, note that the pictures on this site are of the old lounge which has closed.
I was fully prepared to write damning review of this lounge facility. Not only that, I wasn’t sure whether it would be possible to get into the lounge in the first place!
On two occasions last year there were long queues to get into the lounge. Many BA passengers were turned away due to overcrowding. This is not what any passenger needs before a long-haul flight.
However, based on signage at the entrance, measures have been taken to reduce overcrowding. There was little difficulty finding a seat. However, the lounge may be much busier when Qatar Airways are flying to Doha (on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday) or when Turkish Airlines are flying to Istanbul (on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday).
If you visited this lounge in its opening months you may have been handed a voucher at check-in because it didn’t have an alcohol licence. However, there is now a staffed bar offering beer, wines and cocktails. There is a dedicated family area of the lounge where, presumably due to licensing restrictions, you can only consume alcohol with a meal.
There is also a buffet offering hot dishes such as chicken and rice which, to be honest, did not look particularly appetising. There are also cold salads, fruit, breads, and snacks such as pretzels. Sadly, there are no showers.
The lounge does benefit from floor to ceiling views of the airport apron. It is much brighter, but the old lounge was preferable for having a much wider range of seating and generally a much calmer atmosphere.
Who can resist the French Canadian charms of Montreal?
Its heady cocktail of European joie de vivre and North America minus the bad bits of its next door neighbour all has instant appeal.
So here’s our review of a flight in BA Club World to Montreal. This was also an opportunity for a third take of BA’s new Club World Service after Philadelphia and New York JFK.
Our second review was different from the first review. And this review is different again! Whether this is by accident or design is unknown.
First, a quick primer on the Montreal route for BA:
BA Club World to Montreal
This route is ordinarily operated once a day with a three class Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner.
However, as BA has been grappling with engine issues on its Boeing 787 fleet this route has been regularly substituted with a four class Boeing 787-9 aircraft, as it was on this flight.
The first indication was about a week before departure as an e-mail was received from BA advising of a seat assignment change. Sadly, the First cabin was closed and not available for Club World passengers.
The Club World cabin is largely the same on both Boeing 787-8 and Boeing 787-9 aircraft with two “demi” cabins separated by the galley in a 2-3-2 configuration. On the Boeing 787-8 it is three plus two rows. On the Boeing 787-9 it is two plus four rows. Generally, the further forward in the aircraft you are, the better.
The 2-3-2 configuration, also found on the upper deck of the Airbus A380, is unique in that there is a single rear-facing middle seat which is both wider than other seats and very private. Having experienced it on a different flight, I did not like being not able to see out of the windows on take off and landing.
In general, Club World on this route is busy but rarely full/oversold, given the relative lack of business links between the UK and Quebec. If you are Silver or Gold Executive Club cardholder you have a good chance of being upgraded from World Traveller Plus as this cabin is often oversold. Fixed price one-way upgrades from World Traveller Plus are often offered in the Manage My Booking tool and the BA smartphone app at around £400+.
This particular seat, 7A, benefits from both being by the window and having direct access to the aisle.
Well, BA uses a different catering company, Do & Co, on New York JFK from all other long-haul routes.
This review is also conducted on one of a handful of transatlantic day flights from the US to London Heathrow. Whilst these flights do necessitate an early start and a short day is lost to flying, it is infinitely more pleasant and relaxed than a red eye.
There’s no rush to get the seat fully flat after take-off. Nor any need for the crew to have to navigate the sometimes visible tension between those passengers who want to maximise every moment for sleep and those who want to sit back and enjoy the service.
It should also be said this particular flight only operated out of sheer luck. On the day of this flight, this was the only BA flight to operate between New York and London. All other flights were cancelled due to severe weather on the US East Coast. Had this flight departed a mere one hour later it too could have been cancelled. Continue reading “BA Club World Catering: New York JFK – London Heathrow”
Is there a better way to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from London Heathrow than seated on the upper deck of a BA 747?
It may not be the most modern aircraft jostling for position on the taxiways at Heathrow before take-off. However, the 20 seat cabin has long been sought after for its private jet like experience where passengers sit oblivious to whatever is happening down below.
A flight from London Heathrow to Philadelphia, which is the subject of this review, marked a return to the upper deck after many flights with its younger upstarts the Boeing 787 and Airbus A380.
And what better way to sample BA’s new Club World service for the first time.
It made its debut on London Heathrow – New JFK in September 2017. Only very recently has it been extended to more routes, so London Heathrow to Philadelphia was the author’s first opportunity to try the new service.
British Airways is to add its new Club World catering to an additional 10 routes from London Heathrow from Thursday 1 February 2018.
The new catering involves radical changes to the presentation of meals, with starters and desserts chosen from a cart in the aisle. Currently, the new catering is only available on London Heathrow – New York JFK, where it debuted last September.
By region, the new routes are:
Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, New York Newark, Philadelphia, Washington Dulles, Montreal and Toronto.
Gone are the are the post take-off packets of nuts and paper sachets of salt and pepper. The airline will introduce entirely new menus, crockery and glassware.
The way you choose your food will also change. You will choose your starter and dessert from a cart displayed by the crew in the aisle. The starter will also include a choice of hot soup, which is not presently on the main menu.
You will pre-order your main course as normal. However, the choice of main courses has been reduced from four to three.
For dessert, you will have a choice of desserts from a cart and a cheese board.
If we were to make one criticism, it appears BA have not introduced any further choice of coffee in Club World!
Any one who has flown British Airways’ Club World long-haul business class on more than a handful of occasions will be more than familiar with the in-flight service.
It begins with the offer of pre-take off drinks of champagne, orange juice and water. The hot towels, amenity kits and bottles of water are dispatched. There is a bar and main meal service, with one choice of coffee to follow. A widely varying offer of snacks are available in the self-service Club Kitchen. Before landing there is a second meal service, typically Afternoon Tea or a light breakfast, depending on the direction of travel.
Over the years the catering budget has gone up and down, depending on external and internal financial pressures. There have been small initiatives, such as the Heston Blumenthal inspired “Height Cuisine”, changes to the presentation of meals and the ability to pre-order a main course. The Club Kitchen gets periodically gutted and restocked. The quantity of sandwiches and cake for Afternoon Tea has been forever tweaked with. However, the service has fundamentally remained the same.
British Airways has outlined its initial plans to invest in its long-haul business class cabin, Club World. These include radical changes to food & beverage, new bedding and new service routines designed to maximise the available time for sleeping on flights.
BA has announced today (4 November 2016) at the Capital Markets Day of its parent company, International Airlines group, a significant investment in its Club World long-haul business class cabin.
At the outset, we should say this is unlikely to involve BA removing its “yin-yang” 2-4-2 Club World seating configuration from existing long-haul aircraft.
A new Club World seat is planned for the Airbus A350 aircraft which is not due to enter service for some time. However, this is expected to maintain the 2-4-2 configuration, but with modifications to provide direct aisle access for all.
Whilst this is uncompetitive against many airlines which have introduced business class seats with all aisle access, BA favours the density of seating afforded by this configuration.
What BA does promise is a significant improvement in food & beverage through, for example, the ability to pre-order a wider range of meals online in advance of a flight and a complete redesign of the in-flight service.
BA also promises investment in cabin crew training and an improvements to cabin ambience to provide a better environment for sleeping (we’re not quite sure what that will be).
In the interests of expectations management, this investment is unlikely to involve increases in cabin crew numbers in the cabin nor changes to the size of the galleys on the aircraft, so we would not expect anything truly radical. BA is also not likely to introduce anything that adds significant weight to aircraft or could result in high levels of wastage.
No date has been set for the changes. However, when they are implemented it is likely they will be introduced gradually across the route network.
You can view the full slide deck from the Capital Markets Day here.