British Airways is in the process of pumping £400m into improving its Club World business-class product. As part of this, in September the airline began offering revised dining options and in October launched a partnership with The White Company, allowing passengers to enjoy the brand’s bedding and amenity kits on board.
This is a review of a daytime British Airways London Heathrow to New York JFK flight, one of the first to receive these upgrades to the in-flight experience.
Pre-departure: Fast-track security at Heathrow Terminal 5 was well-organised and speedy, although I was taken aside before boarding the plane for additional screening (along with a few other passengers including the actor Jake Gyllenhall, who didn’t look impressed).
Club World passengers can use one of two Galleries Club lounges at T5, the one at the south end is bigger. Until 11am, various dishes for constructing a basic English breakfast are laid out, along with croissants, fresh juice and champagne. Passengers with a BA Executive Club gold card can also visit the Galleries First lounge, accessed via the new dedicated First Wing south entrance that opened in April. After departing the lounge, boarding was from Satellite Terminal B, which meant I had to take the shuttle. Club World passengers are given priority boarding.
Club World’s new White Company bedding and amenity kit
The seat:Plans are afoot for a new Club World seat design from BA for 2019, but until then passengers will continue to experience its signature “yin-yang” product configured 2-4-2. The layout sees some seats facing forward and others backwards. If the person by the aisle has reclined their seat fully flat to create a bed, though, whoever is in the window seat, which is the most private, has to step over their legs. It will be interesting to see how the airline improves upon this. The seat is 20.5 inches (52cm) wide and when fully extended it stretches into a six-feet-long (183cm) bed. As part of the enhanced service, White Company sets provide passengers with soft padded under-sheets, blankets, coverlets and squishy cotton pillows. I slept well on the return red-eye.
Eating and sleeping in Club World
Entertainment:There was a handy USB port for charging my phone, a UK plug socket for my laptop and, on this particular B747 flight, 4G Wi-Fi. (BA only has four planes in its fleet with wifi so far.) Prices vary, but access for the entire duration of a flight is set to cost between £14.99 and £23.99. Touchscreen entertainment monitors pop out of a side panel at eye level – the image quality was sharp and over-ear headphones are provided. There was an adequate selection of movies.
Food & drinks:I always like to start with a gin and tonic – in this case a Tanqueray with Fever Tree, served in cut glass. Three champagnes are available (Henriot Brut Souverian NV and Castelnau Brut/Rose NV) as well as a full bar encompassing Tiger lager, Ciroc vodka and Glenlivet Master Distiller’s Reserve whisky.
The modest wine selection was international: a choice of just two reds (a Pinot Noir from California and a Shiraz from Australia) and two whites (a Gavi from Italy and a Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa). We departed at 11:20 and the order for my main course was taken at 13:00 – I went for the truffled mascarpone tortellini, which was swimming in butter, but there was also braised heritage beef chunks with aubergine and poached Loch Fine salmon fillet.
In contrast, starters were brought around on a display trolley so you could take your pick of roasted beef carpaccio, tapas platters, smoked red pepper soup (delicious) and fresh seasonal salads. Also served in this way were the cheese plates and sweets.
Dining on board
Service:Upon boarding, a member of crew hung up my coat and offered me a glass of champagne, and once cruising, cabin service director Simon came around welcoming everyone on board and shaking their hand. As I was sitting at the back in row 22, it took quite a long time to be served. The trolley also slowed things down a little.
The cabin interior
Post-departure:Fast-track immigration upon arrival at JFK was record-breaking in how speedy it was – self-service kiosks for regular ESTA holders were a little slower but the queues weren’t that bad.
Price:British Airways return Club World business-class fares between London Heathrow and New York JFK cost from £1,452; return economy class fares cost from £386.