In my last post, I talked about my experience with British Airways’ Club World and Club Europe hard product. To my surprise, I found that the seats weren’t quite as bad as most people have made it out to be. With that in mind, I wanted to follow up on that post by sharing some of my thoughts about British Airways’ new Club World and Club Europe soft product offerings, especially considering the recent upgrades that have been made.
British Airways Boeing 777-200ER Club World Cabin
Last year, British Airways rolled out a new service style for their Club World cabins, which was created in collaboration with Do&Co. While the service initially included an elaborate trolley service, this was cut back in favour of a simpler hand-delivered tray service for convenience. In the meantime, British Airways have also rolled out improvements to their Club Europe dining. Having heard quite good things about both of these meal service enhancements, I was excited to give it a go for myself.
The New Club World Service
Overall, I found that the food served on my Club World flights to be range from being amazing to decent while the food on my Club Europe flights ranged from decent to pretty bad.
For my first sector from Bangkok to London, the flight departed at noon and landed at around 7PM in London, which meant that we were served a full lunch after takeoff and dinner prior to arrival.
During boarding, the flight attendants came around the cabin with a choice of champagne or water. This was followed with the distribution of menus by the flight attendants.
British Airways Club World Pre-Departure Drink
British Airways Club World Menu
After takeoff, disposable hot towels were distributed, and the flight attendants came around taking drink orders. I chose the “Citrus Burst”, which is one of British Airways’ signature cocktails. It was tasty but (perhaps overly) reminiscent of Fanta… The drinks were served with some mixed nuts, which were stale and gross.
British Airways Club World Drink Service
Next, the flight attendants took starter orders. There was a choice between chicken satay, aubergine salad, carrot and ginger soup, and a salad. I ordered the soup which was flavourful but quite watery. The soup was also barely warm by the time it was served by the crew. I also had the chance to have a bite of the aubergine salad, which was very tasty. The starter was served with a lukewarm bread roll and butter. I don’t know if it’s just me, or if the bread and butter “plate” looks a little bare. I would’ve appreciated a small side salad, especially considering that this was a “lunch” meal service.
British Airways Club World Carrot and Ginger Soup
After my starter was collected, meal orders for the mains were taken. There was a choice between a fillet of beef, red snapper in masala sauce and gnocchi with mushroom. I picked the red snapper. Unfortunately, we encountered some pretty severe turbulence around this time and the service had to be temporarily suspended, so it took a while before the mains were served.
The main was served around 30 minutes after the starter was collected, and it was definitely worth the wait. The fish was cooked well and flaky, and the masala sauce was incredibly flavourful. The basmati rice and masala vegetable curry that came with the fish were both well cooked and flavourful. The delicious, hearty flavours made it more than easy to overlook the sloppy presentation. Overall, a really, really solid dish from British Airways!
British Airways Club World Red Snapper with Masala Sauce
Due to the turbulence, the service was once again delayed, so it took a bit of time to clear my main. Finally, dessert orders were taken, with a choice between a lemon meringue, mango mousse, warm bread pudding, fruit or a cheeseboard. Damn! That’s a lot of desserts. I ordered a bread pudding, which looked so good I forgot to take a picture before eating it all.
For the rest of the flight, the crew sat in the galley chatting while the cabin lights were slightly dimmed. British Airways have installed a “Club Kitchen”, which is intended to be a self-serve snack and drinks bar during the flight. I was really impressed with the selection. There were bottles of wine, cartons of juice, soda cans, water, a selection of chips (or crisps), Joe&Sephs Popcorn, as well as a mini-fridge full of fruit, small salad pots, sandwiches and cakes. Although I wasn’t too hungry between the meal services, I was really impressed with the quality and the variety of the selection. In addition, one of the flight attendants mentioned that they had some dessert left-over that they’d be happy to serve if I was hungry at any point during the flight.
A second meal was served prior to arrival into London, which started with a choice between a smoked salmon or salad starter, as well as a choice of coffee and tea. Interestingly the dessert (a bowl of fresh fruit) was served alongside the starter. I ordered the salmon and a cup of coffee.
British Airways Club World Smoked Salmon Starter
The salmon was nice but slightly slimy and wet (as is the norm with smoked salmon, though this was especially so). Nevertheless, I enjoyed it along with the accompanying wasabi dressing and lime. The fruit was nice and fresh, and I wished they offered more.
This was followed by the main. There was a choice between stir-fried beef with ginger and rice, spinach and ricotta tortellini and a prawn salad. While I had originally wanted to order the prawn salad, they ran out so I went with the spinach and ricotta tortellini.
British Airways Club World Spinach and Ricotta Tortellini
While pasta is usually the safe option on flights, this dish wasn’t that great. The pasta had virtually no seasoning and I emptied out the salt packet provided with the meal to give it a boost of flavour.
The meal service took just over two hours to complete given the turbulence that the crew encountered during the flight. Given that it was a day-time flight, I wasn’t bothered at all by the slower meal service. Since I was sitting in a last-row seat with direct aisle access, the crew would typically step into the seat when serving me anything which I appreciated.
Meanwhile, on the return sector from London to Hong Kong, I was quite full after having a really big dinner, so I didn’t eat much on the flight. While I had originally pre-ordered a main course on the British Airways website, I ended up cancelling it. The flight attendants were quite happy to oblige.
There was once again a pre-departure service with coffee and water. The Customer Service Director then came through my aisle, addressing each passenger by name and handing out the menu, breakfast cards, confirming pre-ordered meals and taking starter orders. I appreciated how he had already pre-written my seat number when handing me my breakfast card.
British Airways Club World Pre Departure Beverage
This was followed by a hot towel service and another pre-dinner drinks service with the same stale nuts I was served on my Bangkok to London flight.
British Airways Club World Pre Meal Drinks Service
Despite it being a late-night flight, I was surprised that there was quite a lot of food that came with the starter dish, which I imagine some hungrier customers must have appreciated. There was a choice between burrata and a potato and stilton soup. I ordered the soup, which was way too thick but piping hot and flavourful. This was served with a side salad with cucumbers and peppers, leafy greens, and a bottle of olive oil and balsamic vinegarette. It was also served with a loaf of bread that had 3 types of bread all baked in the same roll. I found it slightly comical that they served the dish with disposable wooden chopsticks… Huh?
By this time, I was completely stuffed and quickly dozed off to sleep before my meal was even collected. Props to the crew for managing to collect my plate, especially considering that I was in a standard window seat without direct aisle access.
Had I stayed up for the main meal, there was a choice of black pepper beef with rice, vegetable curry with basmati rice and roasted chicken supreme. My parents had the black pepper beef which they enjoyed.
When distributing the menus, the crew also handed out breakfast cards which included a choice between waking up 90 minutes before arrival for a full meal, waking up 60 minutes before arrival for a drink or waking up 40 minutes before arrival and grabbing a drink from the Club Kitchen. However, I wish that the breakfast card would also include an option to choose a preferred meal, which could speed up the breakfast service.
In the middle of the flight, I wandered into the Club Kitchen to take a look. The selection was less impressive than on my outbound flight. The mini-fridge only a bag of bread and a tray of sandwiches which were labelled with a “do not serve” sign… Meanwhile, the drinks selection had been watered down to only a few cans of soda. Once again, the cabin crew stayed in the galley in the middle of the flight.
I woke up 90 minutes prior to arrival and was served breakfast, which started with a really impressive plate full of fresh-cut fruit, a bowl of strawberry yoghurt with nuts and a croissant, which was supplemented by a pastry basket which was brought around by the Customer Service Director. The fruit was fresh and chilled, the yoghurt was very tasty and the pastries were quite nice.
This was followed by a choice between a full English breakfast, a frittata or pancakes. Given we were on British Airways, I felt obliged to go with the full English breakfast. It was pretty filling, and tasty, although I found that my eggs were a little overcooked. I also ordered a cup of orange juice and some coffee.
Throughout the entire breakfast service, the cabin lights were completely dimmed which I appreciated, given that other passengers could rest while some were eating. In fact, I nearly didn’t wake up in time for the breakfast service and was jolted awake by the sound of clinking cutlery from my seatmate.
I appreciated how quickly the crew served the meals on this late-night flight, although I still feel that it could have been sped up with the use of a trolley. Unlike Alvin, personally I don’t get the hype with “restaurant-style” trolley-less meal services, as I don’t see the problem with trolleys – especially on a late flight where the priority is sleep. While the crew were quite relaxed throughout all of the meal services, the service flow food or drink orders, heading back into the galley to get food, and then returning to the passenger to serve the food made the service longer than I felt was necessary. While I quite liked having hand-delivered trays on day-time flights where sleep isn’t necessarily a priority, I didn’t like it nearly as much when it cut into my sleep time on a late-night flight.
In addition, the high-walled, yin-yang design of the Club World seat truly makes it very difficult for the crew to provide a lot of the meal service. Things that might be easy with a more conventional seating plan, such as closing window blinds, or serving and collecting meal trays are all made much more challenging by the seating arrangement. For example, when during the meal services, the crew would have to lower the divider between me and my seatmate in order to serve the food, which was slightly annoying.
The Club Europe Meal Service
My Club Europe experience was honestly not that great. While I don’t expect much from European business class, I was still a little disappointed with the quality of the food and the lack of service that was actually provided.
On my flight from London to Lisbon, the service started with a disposable hot towel which was distributed shortly after takeoff, which was followed by the distribution of the menus. I appreciated that British Airways continues to have menus on Club Europe flights, especially considering that this has been cut by many competitors. There were no pre-departure drinks or pre-meal drinks. The service was conducted by a relatively younger mixed fleet crew consisting of the Customer Service Manager and a cabin crew member. The crew heated up the meals together, and each flight attendant took one end of the card, with one serving the food and another serving the drinks. While it felt a little like an assembly line, the meal service was super quick and efficient which I really appreciated especially on such a short flight.
There was a choice between a full English breakfast, an avocado omelette and a charcuterie plate. I ordered the omelette, which was pretty bad. The omelette was a little rubbery, and while there was some goat cheese to add some flavour, the dish was still quite bland, and the avocados had this weird processed chemical taste that ruined the dish. The omelette was served with some fresh fruit and a tub of strawberry yoghurt, both of which were fresh and tasty.
British Airways Club Europe Omelette
The meal service was concluded with another coffee and tea services. At this point, we were around an hour into the flight which I much appreciated.
Meanwhile, on the return, the crew took a… different… approach. The service was conducted exclusively by the Customer Service Manager who did a drink service before serving the main meal, all by hand. Meanwhile, the other flight attendant heated up the meals in the galley before heading to help out in Euro Traveller. While I appreciated the restaurant-style service that the Customer Service Manager was trying to offer, on such a short flight, I really just wanted my meal in and out of my face as soon as possible to maximise my rest considering the early departure time of the flight. Unfortunately, the service took forever, and we were over northern France by the time the service was over.
British Airways Club Europe English Breakfast
As for the meal itself, there was a choice of English breakfast and an omelette. I picked the English Breakfast, which was served with fresh-cut fruit and a plastic tub of yoghurt. What a mistake that was. The dish was pretty bad. While the tomato, the sausage and the bacon were nothing special, the egg was easily the worst eggs I’ve had on a plane. They had turned into this brick-like monstrosity with different shades of yellow. Yikes.
Once again, I’ve learned to not have too high expectations for Club Europe, but even then, if the existing meal offering is already so underwhelming, is it really that hard to make an effort to offer something a little nicer?
I was quite impressed with the new Club World meal service. I particularly loved the variety of the food that was offered, and I was also generally impressed by the quality of the food that was offered, as well as the presentation and the serviceware. There was a very obvious improvement from British Airways’ former meal service concept. My only major gripe about the service is that I still feel that the hand-delivered tray service is still too slow especially on a late-night departure on a full flight. While it works great and looks fantastic on daytime flights, it just took too long for me to maximise my rest.
Unfortunately, I was a little disappointed by my Club Europe experience, first by the actual quality of the hot food which wasn’t great. While I liked the efficient but friendly cart service on my flight to Lisbon, I wasn’t too impressed by the hand-delivered trays on the return flight which was just way too slow. I still think that considering the disappointing hard product, that British Airways can do a lot to improve the soft product in order to make the experience more premium. Unfortunately, I was disappointed that the meals I received were no better than any Cathay Pacific Economy meal I’ve been served on a short-haul flight.
What do you think about British Airways’ catering?