British Airways 767 Club Europe (a.k.a The Upgrade I Didn’t Want But Was Eventually Grateful For)

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If there is one definitive piece of evidence that proves that no one with serious power at British Airways reads this blog it’s the fact that the airline upgrades me quite regularly….at least on short-haul routes (for those new to TFM you should know that I’m normally very, very critical of BA).

The issue is that I almost never actually want to be upgraded on a BA short haul flight.

My oneworld status ensures that I get to select my seats at the time of booking and, unless I’m really limited in the dates that I can fly, I will always avoid flights on which I can’t select an exit row seat.

AS I’ve mentioned before, British Airways short-haul Business Class (Club Europe) generally offers no more legroom than a regular Economy Class seat…and that means that the Economy Class exit row seats always offer more legroom than the premium cabin.

It’s a little screwed up.

On most of its short-haul aircraft BA operates cabins with 6 seats across the aircraft (3 either side of a central aisle)…

a close-up of a remote control

….and some will argue that, because the airline blocks the middle seats in the Club Europe cabin, that offers more room than you get in Economy Class.

To a degree that’s true – you do get more room at shoulder level – but as the arm rests don’t generally move you don’t actually get all that much more space for the rest of your body.

a row of black and white seats in an airplaneBritish Airways A320 Club Europe Seating

On some short-haul routes British Airways still flys its antiquated 767 aircraft and, on these planes in particular, an upgrade out of an exit row can be a serious downgrade.

The 767 is a widebody aircraft and, in BA’s Club Europe configuration, the 767 offers 2 seats on either side of the aircraft and 2-and-a-bit seats in the centre section.

a close-up of a remote controlBritish Airways 767 Club Europe Seat Map – Courtesy of

Unlike on the narrowbody aircraft, there is no gap between the Club Europe seats if you’re on either side of the 767 and the gap between the seats in the centre section isn’t a full seat – it’s considerably narrower.

What this means is that, if you find yourself upgraded out of an exit row on the 767 and into one of the seats on either side of the aircraft, you lose the extra legroom of the exit row and don’t get any more room to your side.

That’s a real downgrade.

My 767 Club Europe Experience

While I’m used to getting BA short-haul upgrades when flying on my own (or very occasionally when I’m flying with Joanna) I wasn’t expecting what happened last week.

A few days ago Joanna, mini-Joanna and I were all booked to fly out to the Mediterranean in BA Economy Class (on one of the airline’s 767s). Joanna and I had reserved two exit row seats and mini-Joanna was booked to be in the seat across the aisle from us.

When I went to check-in online I saw that all three of us had been upgraded to Club Europe.

Firstly – wow! A tree person operational upgrade!

Secondly – Ugh!

I knew that we wouldn’t really need the free food and drink that come with the upgrade but, with the flight being over 4 hours long, I had been looking forward to having the acres of legroom that come with the 767’s exit row.

Still, there was nothing I could do about it. Our exit row seats had been given away at this point so it was unlikely that a request to be downgraded would see us back in the extra legroom seats so sticking with the upgrade was the best thing to do.

But then, a few hours later, a thought occurred to me. Perhaps the unwanted upgrade came with a silver lining after all.

Out of the three of us only I have an airline status that grants entry to the BA lounges at Heathrow…and that status only entitles me to guest one other person into the lounge with me.

This would mean that, if we were traveling in Economy Class and all wanted lounge access, we would have to use one of our Priority Pass memberships to use the Aspire Lounge at Terminal 5…and the Aspire Lounge isn’t very good at all.

a bar with a counter and chairs in a room with a large windowAspire Lounge Heathrow T5

However, with a Club Europe boarding pass each of us would have access to one of the far superior (and actually pretty nice) British Airways Galleries Business Class lounges and that would get the trip off to a much nicer start.

a sign on a wall

Sure, we still wouldn’t have copious amounts of legroom on board, but at least we would all have a good amount of comfort in the terminal.

On the day of the flight we all checked in at the British Airways First Class area at one end of Heathrow Terminal 5 and then proceeded to use the priority security entrance at the opposite end of the terminal to avoid the long lines.

We cleared security pretty quickly and we were soon in the comfort of the British Airways Galleries Lounge (South).

a room with couches and tablesBritish Airways Galleries South Heathrow T5

Our flight ended up being delayed by over an hour so the more comfortable lounge was appreciated all the more.

Once at the gate a further advantage to being upgraded became obvious.

This is the height of the summer travel season and, the kids are all on school vacations and half of the UK appears to want to visit the Mediterranean – there were a lot of very noisy children on our flight and they were accompanied by adults with, apparently, no means of controlling them.

a group of people sitting in chairs

The gate area was about as relaxing as a war zone.

Still, more often than not, small children going on a Mediterranean vacation don’t sit in Business Class and that was the case on this occasion.

We did have some kids in our section but they were extremely well behaved (well done to the parents) and, as we had been upgraded to row 2, we were about as far away from the cacophony of Economy Class as we could get – that was bonus number two to the previously unwanted upgrade.

Joanna and I were seated in the center seats of row 2 so, unlike those seated on either side of the aircraft, we had the benefit of a space between us.

a seat with a few packages in it

As you can see it’s not actually a full seat between the two seats we were occupying (more two thirds of a seat) but it was better than the non-existent space between the seats on either side of the aircraft.

a seat on an airplane

The legroom wasn’t great…..

a person's legs and a laptop on an airplane

….especially compared to what the exit rows approximately 23 rows behind us offer:

a person's legs and feet on an airplane

The biggest issue was one partly of my own making – I travel with a 15” MacBook (because I like the big screen) and trying to work on a laptop of that size with the limited amount of room between seats that BA Club Europe offers is a challenge. The MacBook is often right up against my body when I’m trying to type and that’s not comfortable.

Nevertheless that isn’t a terrible hardship to endure in the grand scheme of things 🙂

The crew on board were very friendly and the Cabin Services Director was a particularly charming lady. Service was pretty good and I allowed myself a glass of champagne early on in the flight (I would be driving a rental car in around 5 hours so one glass was probably enough).

two glasses of beer on a table

Menus for the flight were handed out soon after take off…..

a menu on a table

a menu on a table

…and I noticed that they were exactly the same as the menus I’d seen on the same flight in May (come on BA, let’s have a little bit of variation!)

Back in May I had ordered the chicken (which had been ok but nothing special) so this time I ordered the cod.

BA serves up the starter and both desserts (yes, you get both the cake and the cheese and biscuits) at the same time…..

a plate of food on a tray

…and one of the first things you may notice is that when the menu mentions “prawn” in the singular the airline means it quite literally!

a plate of food on a table

When the main course arrived I can’t say that I thought the meal looked all that appetizing…

a plate of food on a table

….but, once I tried it, the cod was delicious and the wasabi mash wasn’t bad at all.

The vegetables weren’t anything special but, overall, this was definitely one of the better main courses I’ve had on BA short-haul.

The chocolate tart was good….

a plate of food on a tray

….and Stilton was a nice change to the block of cheddar I seem to get served on a lot of airlines:

a plate of food on a tray

The crew were very good at coming through the cabin frequently to offer drink top ups (or completely new drinks) and everything was done with a smile – it was a very good crew to have.


This was actually a pretty good flight and, as it transpired, I was grateful for the upgrade that at first I really didn’t want.

The loss of legroom in favour of a more comfortable lounge and a quieter aircraft cabin is a trade I’m happy to make.

So I take back what I’ve said in the past…not all BA short-haul upgrades are as pointless and as big a downgrade as I thought 🙂


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