As citizens of the UK, British Airways holds a place in all our hearts as the nation’s major carrier, with innovation such as the Concorde and British service being a pillar of their success . But does the same hold true in current times.
With recent improvements in the smaller areas of British Airways business class, I set out to see if the airline was still competitive against some of the big name Middle-Eastern airlines or even the Asian and American carriers. With an ageing fleet of Boeing 747s and an outdated seating configuration, can I really say that I’d rather fly BA than their competitors just for some good old fashioned British service and a bit of nostalgia? To find out, I booked a flight in British Airways Club World to Miami.
So without further fanfare, here is my British Airways business class review!
Everyone loves a deal… so when BA offered a business class flight to the Florida peninsula at a price I couldn’t resist, I jumped on board so to speak. The only problem was that I had to book so far in advance, but nothing quite feels like the beginning of a holiday and they say that anticipation is half the fun!
In recent times British Airways has been moving some of its flights from Gatwick back to Heathrow, and to ensure that schedules are maintained, about 15% of these have to be processed at Terminal 3. Not the end of the world but not the sparkling and expansive Terminal 5 that the majority of their flights are from. Regardless of the terminal though, the dedicated check-in desk for Club World passengers was situated at the very front of the area making it easy to find and meant no long walks with heavy baggage. After my first example of quality British service at check-in, I was upstairs and through security in record time, with the efficient Fast-Track making it so I could spend more time in the Lounge.
The British Airways Galleries Lounge at Terminal 3 is located down a long corridor that looks like a service way, before opening out to the lounge counters… first class to the left and club world straight ahead. The Galleries Lounge is large, being the major airline in the airport and having to cater for a large number of passengers, but all areas were well maintained. Even at 8am the facility was crowded with fellow business class travellers, but there was still seating available and ample space in the work and entertainment area.
Most people don’t realise, but once you are seated you can request waiter service of a glass of Prosecco to enjoy with the food offerings. At this time of morning the lounge offered an array of hearty hot breakfast delights, but there was pastries, cereal, and fruit also on offer. Taking only a small plate of pastries (I didn’t want to ruin my appetite for the food in-flight), I made my way down to the far back bar area where the crystal art piece hanging from the ceiling becomes the first indication of the luxury touches and attention to detail to be expected on my upcoming flight.
Before heading to the gate for priority boarding, I also stuck my nose into the new QANTAS lounge. Opening in early 2018, anyone travelling on a OneWorld airline in business class is eligible for entry, but with only a few inside compared to the masses in the Galleries Lounge, I’m guessing not many know they can. With dark wood grain furnishings and a more substantial breakfast offering than BA’s lounge, I highly recommend a visit. Just be aware that the a-la-carte dining area is only open before a QANTAS flight so you may be restricted to the buffet.
Staring out the window of the gate at the Boeing 747 was exciting! The distinctly recognisable shape with the bubble on top provided the nostalgia that I had been looking for with this flight, evoking memories of British Airways commercials from my childhood. While walking past the queue of passengers to board the original giant of the skies first is possibly the thing I like least about business class due to the stares, it also meant I was seated with my coat stored and perusing the menu before we had even begun to taxi.
Up until this point, I have to say that my review of British Airways business class is not looking good in comparison to a lot of other airlines… but I was about to be proven wrong!
Being greeted by name, shown to my seat, and offered a pre-departure beverage is now becoming fairly standard in business class, but it always surprises me when the cabin crew remembers little details about you. In BA’s case, these little things are front and centre… remembering the type of drink you ordered so a simple nod was enough to order another; remembering timings between courses so you don’t feel rushed; and remembering to deliver all of this with a smile… an often overlooked factor by airlines today. To sum it up… the service is beyond reproach!
The aircraft itself was unfortunately not of the same standard. Build in the 1990’s and last refitted in the early 2000’s, the £400 million investment British Airways are making into it’s club world cabin cannot come soon enough. Seated in my lie flat bed in 17A, my rear-facing seat was reasonably spacious considering the 2-4-2 configuration. To put this into perspective, most other airlines operate with half the seats per row in a 1-2-1 configuration, and by having the extra seats in the BA business class cabin means window seats like mine are private and secluded, but much less accessible once the passengers in the aisle seats recline. It also meant that every meal or drink ordered had to have the divider lowered between myself and my neighbour, and I was suddenly confronted with staring into the face of a fellow passenger.
Along with the service, the British Airways business class menu is a true highlight, with a fantastic selection of 4 starters, 3 mains, and 4 desserts to choose from. I settled on the Laverstoke Park buffalo mozzarella with heirloom tomatoes and basil, a main of seared fillet of British beef with root vegetables, followed by the cheeseboard showcasing 2 UK cheeses and 1 French with dried fruit. I paired these with a bold Australian red wine that the attentive cabin crew recommended. This restaurant quality meal was prepared and cooked to perfection, with the starters provided on a display trolley, and the mains and desserts delivered by hand which added an air of luxury to the dining.
Relaxing into my lie flat bed, I perused the selection of entertainment on offer, and the age of the Boeing 747 was once again at the forefront of my mind. With small screens that didn’t respond well to the touch, and a complicated design that meant the tray table and screen had to be stowed in a certain order if I wanted to get up, the saving grace was the fantastic selection of new release movies and quality British programs at my disposal.
With my eyes turning square, it was a delight to be served a true British afternoon tea before landing, complete with scones and clotted cream, once again with a smile. I utilised the latest upgrade that BA have made in improving their business class product, their association with The White Company for their amenity kits and bedding, by freshening up before returning my seat to its upright position and having my tray table stowed.
Time to stretch the legs and disembark to begin my holiday! With my coat handed to me on exiting the aircraft, I was on my way to customs and immigration with priority baggage, meaning very small waiting times which is always a blessing after a long flight.
Flying in British Airways business class on their Boeing 747 brought a tear to my eye… in both a good and a bad way. It pulled on the heartstrings with clearly British touches and a level of service that was exceptional, but also made me sad that it is slowly being left behind by other airlines in the physical product that you receive. One of my colleagues flew on BA’s new Dreamliner recently and said that their experience was entirely different, with new decor and seating in the cabin making it fresh and luxurious. Maybe it’s time for BA to begin retiring their B747 fleet, but the good news is that with some reinvestment, the product will improve to the levels of their service and dining, and they may just become the giants of the skies once again.
Would I fly it again? The answer is a resolute yes… but I may wait until the promised investment has been delivered.
Having the largest choice of destinations for long haul flights from London and the UK, British Airways is a great choice for the business class traveller that wants to go to different destinations and especially those that can utilise airline membership programs. This means that on the one airline, you can enjoy the Garden Route in Cape Town, the beaches of Sydney, and the bright lights of Las Vegas, all on a quintessentially British airline.
Want to know more about British Airways? Call us today on 020 8417 1366 and let’s talk about your upcoming travel plans.
Stay tuned for my return flight with American Airlines in their business class on their Boeing 777-300ER!