Review: British Airways Club World A380 (LAX-LHR) – Part 1

In Part 1 of this Review:

Introduction

When it comes to flying I’m a big believer in sticking to a product I like. Most of my flights are long-haul and personal comfort comes way above any need to discover what other airlines are like. That’s why almost all of my trans-Atlantic flights are on American Airlines.

American are good for me. In return for flying 100,000 miles a year they give me 8 systemwide upgrades which I use to upgrade myself (and occasionally Joanna! 🙂 ) from economy to business class on trans-Atlantic flights. And business class on American’s 777-300 aircraft is very good indeed (at least the cabin is very good….the service can be very hit-and-miss). If you’ve never flown AA’s 777-300’s take a look at this review from earlier in the year.

Having said all that, over the summer, I broke my normal routine and deliberately chose to fly on one of British Airways’ Airbus A380s. I’d found an excellent business class fare between Helsinki and LA and, while the fare allowed me to travel on any number of OneWorld airlines, I chose to try out British Airways for the return trip across the Atlantic.

British Airways Club World Review

Deliberately booking a British Airways Club World flight is actually quite a step for me. In the past I’ve been pretty forthright with my thoughts on British Airways (see here, here and here) but, as I’d never tried their A380 product I felt I probably should.

Joanna was with me on this trip and our return journey to the UK started off in the comfort of the Qantas Fist Class lounge at LAX, a very nice place to start. When it came time to board, the British Airways gate staff lived up to expectations and employed their tried and tested technique of calling all OneWorld elites at the same time in a bid to see just how big of a stampede they could create – quite a big one as it happens.

In the interest of fairness and balance I should add that my recent flights on BA have seen priority boarding conducted properly. Nice to see BA staff adhering to the memo sent out at the beginning of the year….albeit 8 months late.

Cabin/Seat

Our seats were on the top deck of the A380 which, unlike on the 747s, isn’t anything special because it goes back the entire length of the plane. There’s no feeling of being in your own private little part of the plane which is what makes the 747 upper deck so nice. The Club World seats on the upper deck of the A380 are laid out in a 2-3-2 formation across the cabin and are pretty much the same seats that British Airways has been using since the 1990’s.

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If you’re traveling as a couple and are on the upper deck of the A380 the seats to have are on either side of the aircraft. If you take two of the 3 seats in the centre section of the aircraft one of you will be looking straight at a stranger whenever the partition between the seats is lowered.

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I should hold my hands up at this point and confess to making a bit of an error. I have no idea why but I decided to select seats 50J and 5oK which, as you can see from the SeatGuru screenshot below, are flagged as not being optimal. I really don’t know how I screwed up like this…but I did. To tell the truth I’m not entirely convinced that we weren’t victims of a seat-swap but, as the chances of that happening are about equal with he chance of me screwing up, I’ll blame myself for this one.

British Airways Business Class A380 Review

While seat 5oK isn’t particularly bad (although it’s missing a window), 5oJ is another matter. The proximity to the lavatories as well as the stairs leading down to the lower deck means that the area around the seat gets a lot of traffic. And I mean a LOT of traffic.

The view from the seat looks like this:

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A curtain gets pulled across the aisle once the aircraft is airborne but that just flaps around every time someone goes through it and just adds to the annoyance.

Before I  booked this flight I knew what the Club World seats were like so there weren’t too many surprises on board. I deliberately put myself in the aisle seat (which I consider to be very exposed) so that Joanna could have the preferable, more cocooned, window seat.

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Apart from being less exposed, the window seats have an additional advantage over the aisle seats – there’s a lot more storage. As the photo above illustrates, the window seats have a good deal of storage space up against the fuselage while the aisle seats have a solitary drawer at floor level (which the window seats also have):

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This lack of storage is an issue on a couple of fronts.

Firstly, if you’re working, there’s often not enough room around the aisle seats to store everything you need so you have to leave half of your things in the overhead bins.

Secondly, because passengers in aisle seats are having to leave half the things they need on the flight in the overhead bins, they’re up and down like yo-yos throughout the flight. On a daytime flight this may be tolerable but have you tried to sleep while passengers are opening and slamming shut overhead compartments?! It’s not possible!

I wish that’s where the issues with the seat ended….but they don’t.

  • The footstool/footrest that pulls down to form the bed is beyond annoying. When the person in the seat behind yours needs to adjust their footstool you can feel them playing with it through your seat back….so you get woken up. The footstool also makes an inordinate amount of noise when being adjusted so when, inevitably, the person in the inside seat or the person in the seat behind you, has to put their footstool up to get out, you get woken up.

british-airways-club-world-A380-reviewMy hatred for these things is only surpassed by my hatred of selfies.

  • The armrests wobble. Both of them. Constantly. You can’t move your arms without the armrest wobbling….I tried and decided that it was physically impossible. On a 9+ hour flight that gets annoying.
  • As I mentioned before, the aisle seats are horribly exposed. There’s just a wobbly armrest between you and anyone walking past (including crew with serving carts) and the number of times you get bumped is ridiculous.
  • But the biggest issue with the seats in Club World is one that everyone’s known about for ages. It the fact that the passenger in the inside seat has to clamber over the passenger in the outside seat if they want to get out. And that’s entirely unacceptable in the second decade of the 21st century. When legacy US carriers can offer better seats than you, that’s when you know you have a bad product.

One positive about the seat (see? I’m trying to be balanced!) is that it’s well padded. The padding on the Club World seat is preferable to the otherwise vastly superior, American Airlines seat on the 777-300.

Connectivity/Entertainment

British Airways doesn’t offer WiFi on any of its flights. Although British Airways trialed WiFi on a single 747 in 2014 there’s no news about when, or if, WiFi will be rolled out to the long-haul fleet.

To the right of the seat (once you’re seated) is the remote control for the TV, a USB socket and a set of audio connectors.

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The power port associated with the seat is down at floor level on the right-hand-side together with another USB socket.

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The power port takes plugs from various countries so there’s no need for an adapter – that’s one less thing you have to carry with you.

The TV screen isn’t exactly large but it works well enough….

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A big positive is that the screen can be tilted downwards so viewing isn’t impaired when you’re lying down – whoever designed American Airlines’ screens could learn from this.

Entertainment-wise the selection was pretty good. 

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I counted 111 movies in total (I was having a bored moment) – Drama (34), Action (14), Comedy (35), Thriller (10), Family (14), Shorts (4).

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As far as TV shows go there were 75 episodes of Comedy, 10 different box sets you could choose from and 29 episodes of Drama.

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british-airways-club-world-A380-review

Add to that some news programs, documentaries and a selection of music and you have a pretty decent selection that would keep most passengers entertained.

I’m going to stop for a pause at this point because the article is at risk of becoming a bit of an epic. I’ll post more about the British Airways Club World experience, including details of the menu, food, drinks, service and the other amenities on Monday.

Continue to Part 2 of the review.

5 COMMENTS

  1. […] While I’m not a fan of  British Airways’ Club World product this is a plane I’d quite like to try – their all business class flight between London City Airport and New York. The seats are different from the Club World offering and I suspect the crew may be a bit more on top of their game for an all business class flight so the service should be pretty good. […]

  2. […] While I’m not a fan of  British Airways’ Club World product this is a plane I’d quite like to try – their all business class flight between London City Airport and New York. The seats are different from the Club World offering and I suspect the crew may be a bit more on top of their game for an all business class flight so the service should be pretty good. […]

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