Earlier this year, British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz announced a £400 million investment into BA’s long-haul Club World business-class product, with improvements to food and sleep made priorities, followed by the roll-out of onboard Wi-Fi and an entirely new seat design from 2019.
Aircraft flying the London Heathrow to New York JFK route were chosen as the first to feature the upgrades, with new “restaurant-style” catering beginning in September, and bedding and amenity kits from British homeware brand The White Company introduced on October 24. In total, BA’s fleet has roughly 6,000 Club World seats so it will take until the end of next year until these changes can be found on all its planes.
A spokesperson for British Airways told The Telegraph that “as we have done with [buy-on-board] M&S catering on short-haul routes, it is good to set up these partnerships with well-known brands as it gives you a certain distinctiveness”. He added: “The White Company is very well known in the UK and is starting to be discovered in New York so there are advantages for increasing awareness.” (The White Company recently opened its second US store at 155 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan.)
The new Club World amenity kit CREDIT: NICK MORRISH
In an ever-more competitive marketplace, brand collaborations are proving a popular way for airlines to stand out – American airline United’s new Polaris business class, for example, has bedding from Saks Fifth Avenue and Soho House washbags filled with Cowshed toiletries.
In BA’s case, passengers will have a large White Company pillow, a soft woven blanket with satin trim, a light, specially developed duvet and padded under-sheet. Amenity kits contain a jersey eyemask, a lip balm, moisturiser and a calming “pulse point” balm from its Restore & Relax Spa Collection.
Club World starters presented for trolley service CREDIT: NICK MORRISH/© BRITISH AIRWAYS 2017
The White Company products will be available on all Club World flights by summer 2018. People on night flights are also given the option of sleeping longer, with breakfast cards completed in advance for those who want to be woken. Pyjamas are only available to those flying in First.
BA’s new approach to catering sees passengers choose from freshly prepared, pre-plated starters, desserts and cheese from a trolley that is wheeled down the aisle, rather like in a traditional fine-dining restaurant.
During my flight, we chose from roasted beef carpaccio; a tapas selection of tuna and tomato tart, avocado, jamón Ibérico and aged Manchego; smoked red pepper soup with a cheese straw; and seasonal salads. Also presented on bespoke white china were sweet options ranged from tiramisu and warm chocolate soufflé to diced mango and watermelon.
Main courses are ordered from the á la carte menu as before. Across the board, the emphasis is on “provenance and seasonality”. More stylish (yet durable) cut glassware is another new feature, and there are three champagnes available – Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain NV, Champagne de Castelnau Brut Réserve NV and Champagne de Castelnau Brut Rosé NV.
BA’s new Club World afternoon tea service CREDIT: NICK MORRISH/© BRITISH AIRWAYS 2017
Colin Talbot, British Airways’ head of catering, said: “We’ve really focused on attention to detail with the new Club World menu, with the aim of delivering a real restaurant experience in the sky. We’ve considered everything from flavours and textures, to look and feel, all of which have to work at altitude. The dishes are designed to pop with taste and the table settings are both elegant and practical.”
As well as a new First Wing check-in area at Heathrow Terminal 5 and the introduction of a Club Europe cabin on UK domestic services in 2017, other enhancements BA is working on will include renovations to lounges across its network, and the installation of high-speed 4G Wi-Fi across its long-haul and short-haul fleets over the next two years. At the moment, just four planes have it.
British Airways Club World business-class return fares between London Heathrow and New York JFK in December cost from £1,452; return economy class fares cost from £386.