British Airways’ “Club” business class cabins are some of the most extensively reviewed products out there, and the consensus seems pretty simple: it’s not that great. The current “dorm-style” Club World cabin has been panned by everyone and their mother and their Club Europe product is little more than an economy seat with a blocked middle seat and free food.
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Cabin
However, on a recent trip, British Airways offered some really compelling fares to Europe from Bangkok, so I decided to bite the bullet and try the product out for myself to see how the product fared, especially when compared to some more highly regarded competitors such as Cathay Pacific and Finnair.
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777 Business Class
Well, I’m happy to say that I (surprisingly) enjoyed all of my flights with British Airways. So, I thought I’d give some brief thoughts in a three-part series, covering the seats, the service, the amenities and the food.
The Club World seat is not that bad.
British Airways is one of the few airlines that have continued to stuff Business Class seats in an 8-across configuration in a yin-yang, forward-backwards pattern. On paper, these seats don’t look great. The 8-across configuration is cramped, the forwards-backwards design is awkward and the lack of direct aisle access is uncompetitive.
British Airways Boeing 777-300ER Club World Seat
However, I found the seat to be surprisingly comfortable. On both legs, I selected window seats, which seem to be preferred by most flyers for their privacy. I will just note that on both of my Club World flights, I was either sitting near my family or in a direct-aisle-access last-row seat, so getting to the aisle wasn’t as challenging as it could be. However, I could definitely see how the lack of direct aisle access can be problematic for solo travellers, as it was still a bit of a struggle to squeeze out of my seat.
British Airways Boeing 777-300ER Club World Seat
As for the forwards-backwards design, I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. On the outbound, I was seated next to my mother. We were able to chat throughout the flight and even share a drink. However, on the return, I was seated next to a stranger which wasn’t quite as pleasant. The divider between the seats needed to be down during the safety briefing, which meant 20 minutes of awkward eye contact (or rather, trying to avoid eye contact). After the briefing, however, I popped the divider up, where it stayed for most of the flight.
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Seat
Maybe I’m not quite as jaded about premium cabin travel as some travel bloggers, but I found the seat to be perfectly spacious. While it is definitely narrower than other Business Class seats, but at no point did I find it to be actively uncomfortable or cramped. In fact, I found that the seat was perfectly spacious when I was seated. The seat was quite nicely padded which, combined with the (slightly flimsy) pull-down footrest, created quite a comfortable lounging position. Attached to the footrest was a magazine rack which didn’t hold much except for the in-flight magazines.
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Footrest and Magazine Holder
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Footrest “Down”
The seat was also very comfortable in bed mode. The padding is soft, the bed was long enough and I liked that my feet and legs weren’t constrained into a cubby hole, making the seat feel more spacious. In fact, on the return leg from London to Hong Kong, I slept for 9 hours, which is a better night of rest than I’ve had in any reverse herringbone seat.
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Bed
As for the rest of the seat, I found that the in-seat storage situation wasn’t quite as bad as I feared. The storage drawer provided was quite big and comfortably held my 13-inch laptop, charging cables, amenity kit, water bottles and headphones with some more space to spare. My only issue with the storage cabinet is that I needed to put up the footrest in order to access it when the seat was in bed, which was pretty annoying, but not a dealbreaker. I also loved how the table could be moved forwards and backwards, and that the entertainment screens could be tilted down for viewing when in a reclined position, both of which are features you don’t find on many newer Business Class products.
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Storage Container and Power Port
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Table
On the outbound to London, I flew on a Boeing 777-200ER, which had an older generation of the Club World seat. The seat hasn’t been updated since 2006, and it really showed. The entertainment system was ancient. Although the system itself was relatively intuitive, it was just so painfully outdated and the quality of the content was just awful. Everything was super grainy and I needed to close the window blinds before I could watch anything on the television. The entertainment controller was similarly ancient. In addition, there wasn’t any USB power. At least there was an AC power plug next to the storage cabinet, but even then, it made using my phone while it was charging a bit of a struggle.
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Entertainment Screen
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Entertainment Controller
Meanwhile, on the return to Hong Kong, I flew on the slightly newer Boeing 777-300ER, which had a newer version of the Club World seat. While the “bones” of the seat are the same, the hardware was upgraded significantly. The screen quality was decent (but still not great), and the system was significantly more modern and well-designed. The handset controller was also much more modern and easy to use. However, I will note that the even on this aircraft, the touchscreen didn’t really work well. I also appreciated the addition of two USB ports on this aircraft – one near the side of the seat and another next to the AC power port near the storage cabinet.
British Airways Boeing 777-300ER Club World Entertainment Screen
British Airways Boeing 777-300ER Club World Entertainment Controller and USB Port
My main criticisms of the seat, in addition to the lack of direct aisle access and the awkward forwards-backwards layout, would be that it was poorly cleaned and maintained. The armrests were really wobbly, the pull-down leg-rest was flimsy and didn’t “lock” into place half the time, and there were dirty crumbs everywhere. In addition, aside from a small dimmable reading light, there really wasn’t any other source of lighting and it was a bit of a challenge to photograph meals or to read when the cabin lights were fully dimmed.
Overall, I thought the seat really wasn’t actively horrible. Of course, it lacks direct aisle access, the yin-yang design makes for some awkward moments, and the hardware on some of the older aircraft is pretty bad. Despite this, the seat was surprisingly very comfortable and spacious, the bed was excellent, the storage situation was pretty good and I also appreciated the little touches such as the movable television and the mobility of the tray table.
What About Club Europe?
I’ll note here that I didn’t take any pictures of the Club Europe cabin because I wasn’t going to review it, so I’ll just pinch one from a Euro Traveller review of mine from a few years ago.
Club Europe is British Airways’ short-haul Business Class cabin, and it’s basically Economy with a blocked middle seat. For the time being, British Airways continues to install a small centre console in the middle seat which can be used to hold drinks or meal trays, although it is to my understanding that this is going away on newer aircraft, which is such a shame. I appreciated the centre console which I found added a more “premium” touch to the product.
British Airways A320-200 Club Europe Cabin
On both of my Club Europe flights, I lucked out with a bulkhead seat, which had excellent legroom. However, I had the chance to try out some of the non-bulkhead seats and I found the 30-inch pitch to be really uncomfortable. British Airways is now installing some seats with a 29-inch pitch on their narrowbody aircraft, which sounds brutal. I wish that British Airways would at least install more legroom for Club Europe seats, but this seems unlikely.
As for the seat itself, I thought that it was quite well padded and the adjustable headrest was comfortable and easy to use. However, there were no power ports on this aircraft, which is something that British Airways is apparently adding to seats on some aircraft. I would have also appreciated something like a tablet or a phone holder to allow passengers to view their own content on the flight.
Given that this is European Business Class, I didn’t expect much from the hard product. However, I still feel that there are some small touches that British Airways could have added to improve the hard product.
British Airways isn’t necessarily known for its existing hard product offering in their Club World and Club Europe, although I’m sure the new Club Suite configuration will change that.
Despite this, I really didn’t find their Club World cabin to be as bad as most people make it out to be. Sure, the lack of aisle access and yin-yang design means it’s not as competitive as a reverse-herringbone or staggered configuration. However, I found the seats to be decently comfortable and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly the Club World seat again.
As for their Club Europe cabin, one can’t expect too much from European business class offerings. Even then I still found that with no extra legroom or amenities such as a tablet holder, and a soon-to-be-cut centre console, British Airways is missing out on opportunities to differentiate their Club Europe product, which is disappointing.
Anyone agree with me on this one? Have you flown British Airways’ Club World?