HomeAirlinesBritish AirwaysReview: British Airways A321neo Club Europe (Business Class)

Review: British Airways A321neo Club Europe (Business Class)

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Club Europe is the name that British Airways gives to its short haul Business Class cabin and on this trip, I was traveling between London and Cyprus which, at over 2,000 miles, is one of the longer routes on which Club Europe is offered.

It’s also a route on which BA often operates its largest short haul aircraft – the Airbus A321neo – so as we haven’t reviewed this aircraft before, this trip gave me chance to put that right.

Check-in & the airport

Unusually for me, I was traveling with a lot of checked baggage on this trip, so to save myself from having to find a large Uber on the day of travel and running the risk that a large Uber would not be available at the time I wanted to leave home, I made the most of BA’s ‘overnight bag drop’ option and drove to Heathrow the evening before I was due to fly.

Having parted with my suitcases and checked in the night before my flight, I got to Heathrow a little earlier than I would normally arrive on the day of travel because the First Wing security lines that I normally use* are currently closed and alternative arrangements have been made.

As I wasn’t sure how good the alternative arrangements would be, allowing extra time was prudent because when it comes to clearing regular security at Heathrow, the experience can range from ‘fine’ to ‘utterly appalling’, so it’s best to never leave anything to chance.

Fortunately, the alternative arrangements seem to be working well so there wasn’t any undue delay when clearing security and from arrival to taking my seat in the recently updated First Lounge took no more than 15 minutes.

*The First Wing can be used by First Class travelers and anyone with Oneworld Emerald status regardless of the cabin they’re flying in.

The A321neo Club Europe cabin

British Airways A321neo Club Europe cabin
British Airways A321neo Club Europe cabin

By design, the seats in most (possibly all) British Airways Club Europe cabins are no different from the seats that you’ll find elsewhere on the same aircraft, because this allows British Airways to use a curtain to increase and decrease the size of its Club Europe cabins with a minimal amount of effort.

a pair of chairs in a room
Only a curtain divides the Club Europe cabin from economy class

What this means for passengers is that the only difference between the seating in Club Europe and the seating in the rest of the aircraft is that in Club Europe, you get a blocked middle seat which, on this flight, didn’t looked blocked even though it was.

British Airways A321neo Club Europe seats
British Airways A321neo Club Europe seats
British Airways A321neo Club Europe seats
You can tell the middle seat is blocked because there’s no cover on the headrest.

While this arrangement is great for the airline and good for anyone who needs a bit more space at shoulder level, it’s not great for passengers who value legroom.

If you’re tall or have long legs, the standard Club Europe rows can start to feel cramped on longer short-haul flights (like this one).

a row of seats in an airplane
The seat pitch (leg room) in this cabin is just 30 inches.
a seat in a plane
With just 30″ of pitch, don’t expect to have much room for your legs in the BA Club Europe cabin.

Also, not only can the lack of space between rows make life a little uncomfortable (for some), but it can also cause issues for passengers who’d like to do some work on their flight.

Because there’s so little space between most of the rows on BA short haul aircraft, a person choosing to recline their seat will make it very hard for someone in the seat behind them to work on anything larger than a standard-size iPad as they’ll struggle to keep their screen fully open.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’ve faced this issue so many times that I’ve purchased an iPad cover that comes with a small keyboard to ensure that I don’t have to stop working when the person in the seat ahead of me decides that it’s time for a rest.

a tablet with a keyboard
An iPad cover that comes with a keyboard can be helpful when there’s limited space in which to work.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s better than having to work on a partially closed laptop screen.

If you’re fortunate enough to be able to reserve a seat in row 1, some of these issues go away.

In row 1 there’s no one ahead of you to recline their seat into your space and, usually, passengers seated in row 1 have a little more legroom than passengers seated elsewhere in the Club Europe cabin.

British Airways A321neo Club Europe seats
The legroom in row 1 is usually better than the legroom on offer in the other Club Europe rows.

British Airways A321neo Club Europe seats1C is usually the best seat in the cabin as the bulkhead doesn’t extend all the way across the three seats and so legroom is improved even more.

One issue that is often faced by passengers sitting in the front row of a British Airways short haul aircraft is that there can be limited space to store hand baggage in the overhead compartments.

This is usually due to the fact the first few overhead compartments are where some essential aircraft supplies are stored and where crew members sometimes store their bags.

On this aircraft, that doesn’t appear to be an issue as the two compartments for supplies are relatively small and the only bags being stored above the seats belonged to passengers.

an open shelf with a red and yellow tape measure

luggage on a shelf in an airplane
Passengers in row 1 had plenty of space for their bags in the overhead compartments.

Power and wi-fi

Most (possibly all) British Airways short haul aircraft now offer onboard wifi and power.

On the A321neo, universal power outlets together with a single USB port are located under the seats.

a close up of a power outlet

And the wi-fi service can be accessed by visiting shop.ba.com once you’re connected to the “BAWi-Fi” network (if your device doesn’t automatically route you to that page).

a white rectangular object with black lines

On this flight, British Airways offered three wifi options which can be purchased in GBP, USD, or Euro.

a screenshot of a phone
Click or tap to enlarge
a screenshot of a phone
Click or tap to enlarge

To change the currency you’re charged, you have to select your currency of choice on the shop.ba.com home screen and before you proceed to the wifi options.

a bowl of meat on a table

Be aware, however, that if you have a USD/Euro credit card that doesn’t charge foreign transaction fees you may be better off paying in GBP than in your home currency as BA doesn’t always offer a great exchange rate.

On this flight, for example, I used my Chase Ink Business card to pay £11.99 instead of $16.49 for a full flight pass and when I checked my statement, Chase had converted the £11.99 to $15.32.

blue text on a white background

Yes, a $1.17 saving isn’t exactly significant, but why pay more than you have to?

As far as connectivity goes … it can be hit and miss.

I get disconnected from BA’s wifi far too frequently, but when the service is working as it should, the speeds offered are usually pretty good and the overall quality of the service is better than what I often experience on domestic flights in the US.

Note: When paying for the inflight wifi, I deliberately used a Chase Ink Business card that offers a bonus for internet spending but because BA and not a telecommunications company processed the payment, no bonus was forthcoming.

Dining and drinks

This was an afternoon flight, so lunch was on offer and was served 30 minutes into the 4 hour flight.

For the main course, there was a choice to be made:

  • Pork medallions
  • A prawn salad
  • Spinach rotolo

All the meals were served with a beetroot salad, a small cheese and biscuits selection, and a panna cotta for dessert.

For the main course, I chose the spinach rotolo.

food on a tray with food

a bowl of salad on a tray a bowl of food and a package of cheese on a table a cup of orange and white dessert

The drinks that were available included champagne, red/white wine, spirits with mixers, juices, tea, coffee, water, and sodas, and that should be enough to keep most passengers happy.

The food was ok, and the service was very good, with the crew seemingly keen to do as good a job as BA will let them do.

The meals were served and cleared away efficiently and there were no shortage of drinks offers – drinks were offered on at least 4 occasions other than during lunch – but unless I missed it while I was working, the snack basket with chocolates, cookies, and chips (crisps) that is usually served later in the flight didn’t materialize this time around.

In summary

A Club Europe fare gives passengers access to airport lounges, a guaranteed empty seat next to them, complimentary inflight food and drinks, boosted Avios and Tier Point earnings, but not much else.

The seats in Club Europe offer the same legroom as the standard Economy Class seats and they offer the same amount of width, so the seats in row 1 are the ones to reserve for if they’re available.

For infrequent flyers who don’t hold elite status and who are looking to “treat” themselves, the combination of lounge access, dedicated Business Class check-in desks, priority boarding, and attentive onboard service may be enough to justify paying for Club Europe every now and again, but for a lot of people (especially those who hold an elite status that gives them a lot of the benefits of Club Europe), I continue to believe that this isn’t a product that offers great value.

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