Review: British Airways Club World A380 (LAX-LHR) – Part 2

a plane on the ground

In this part of the review:

In part 1 of this review I looked at the cabin and the seat on offer in British Airways’ A380 Club World cabin as well as the connectivity and entertainment provided. In today’s second and final part, I’ll take a look at the “soft product” side of things (anything that isn’t bolted to the fuselage) and a few other bits-and-pieces to do with the flight we took.

Food & Drinks

As always, there was a menu for all the food and drink offerings in the Club World Cabin.

The Bar (Spirits/Liqueurs/Beer/Soft Drinks) – click to enlarge:

the-bar-BA-A380

Champagnes – click to enlarge

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Wines – click to enlarge

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As is often the case I didn’t try any of the alcoholic beverages on offer so I’ll leave it up to the connoisseurs to pass judgement on the menu.

Dinner

The Menu – click to enlarge

dinner

For starters I ordered the hickory smoked king prawns….

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…which were quite nice (although a couple more would have been nicer)

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Joanna had the Heirloom tomatoes and baby beets with mozzarella….

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I can’t actually remember what she thought of the starter but, let’s face it, how wrong can you go with beets and mozzarella?

For the main course we both went for the herb-roasted organic chicken breast with salad:

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It was perfectly ok, not too dry (as is often the case with airline cooked chicken) and it tasted better than it looks in the photo. Bacon lardons aside this looked like the healthiest choice on the menu and, for a “healthy choice” it wasn’t bad.

Joanna decided against dessert, but I knew I’d have a blog to write so I brought on the calories with the final course – triple mousse cake. Whatever health benefits I may have garnered from having the chicken as a main course were nullified (and more!) by dessert.

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This was actually very good and, combined with what British Airways do best (a good cup of tea) it was a pleasant and very filling end to the meal.

Overall the food was fine. It wasn’t anything special (not by a distance) but it was middle-of-the-road as far as business class meals across the Atlantic go. I’ve had much better on American….but, then again, I’ve also had much worse.

Breakfast

The Menu – click to enlarge

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Breakfast was served about an hour and a half before landing and, with Joanna still sleeping, I gave up on what ideas I had left about eating healthy and tucked in….

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The juice was ok and the various fruit were really good. The melon wasn’t soggy and everything was chilled just right.

The next part of breakfast was where the true calorific damage was done….with a traditional English breakfast (although I’m pretty sure that hash browns aren’t in any way traditionally English)

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This wasn’t bad at all. Sure, if it had been served at the Wolseley I would have sent it back but this wasn’t the Wolseley and, compared to most slop I’ve tried at 38,000ft it was ok.

As airline breakfasts go this was one of the better ones. The breakfasts on American (and just about all the other US airlines) are pretty terrible so, for trans-Atlantic comparison purposes this wins comfortably.

Club Kitchen

On long flights it can be awhile between meals and, let’s face it, passengers get hungry at different times (I often sleep through dinner on overnight flights and then wake up two hours before breakfast feeling pretty hungry) so British Airways provides something they call the “Club Kitchen”.

The Club Kitchen is just a larder/fridge stocked with drinks, sandwiches, snacks and fruit that passengers can help themselves to during the flight. The main menu actually tells you what’s on offer (click to enlarge):

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And this is what the contents look like:

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Other than an apple I didn’t try anything out of the Club Kitchen but it was good to know there were food options available for the insomniacs among us – we’re a sorely underrepresented group on a lot of airlines! 🙂

Amenities

The amenity bag you’re given upon boarding is a drawstring Elemis bag:

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The contents are pretty much the same as you get in most average business class cabins:

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The blankets (which I forgot to take a picture of) were good. Better and larger than offered on both American and United across the Atlantic.

Both bathrooms at the front of the upper deck are a great size and come appointed with Elemis products:

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british-airways-club-world-review

Service

One thing which stood out was the number of languages that were spoken by the crew. Other than English speakers (obviously) there were crew members who could speak German, French, Cantonese, Japanese, Spanish and Italian….and that’s impressive. I’ve flown on US airlines where English appears to be a struggle for some!

Other than that everything else was mediocre at best. 

I often hear that one of the big differentiators between the “British Airways experience” and other trans-Atlantic airlines is the crew and the service – but I’ve yet to experience this for myself. Perhaps I’m just unlucky but I don’t ever recall having a stand-out crew member on any of my British Airways trans-Atlantic flights. And this crew wasn’t any different.

Smiles were infrequent, the food service was brusk and there was little or no effort put into keeping noise levels down when passengers were trying to sleep. At times it even seemed like there was a competition going on to see which crew member could knock their service cart into the most passengers  – a lady behind me actually complained about this. It was pretty poor.

I’m starting to think that BA loyalists who spread the stories of “great” British Airways crews are actually doing more harm than good. These great crews are clearly a rarity rather than the norm and talking up the crews only leads to disappointment when you, inevitably, get mediocre service.

On American I know I’ve got, at best, a 50-50 chance of a good crew, so I have absolutely no expectation when boarding the plane….. and I’m rarely disappointed. With BA I keep holding out hope for this legendary (mythological?) “great service” and I’m almost consistently disappointed. I really need to learn to lower my expectations based on my own experiences rather than listening to others :).

Overall

The offering is poor. Actually, it’s worse than that. It’s simply not good enough. If we’d paid anything close to regular price for the ticket I would have been seriously annoyed.

Were there good things? Sure, the tea (almost always good on BA), the blanket, the seat padding and the number of languages spoken by the crew. Most other things were entirely underwhelming.

The seat is old, poorly designed and out of date. There’s nowhere near enough storage space around the aisle seats and there are any number of ways you can be disturbed during a flight.

The tray tables sag (a lot) when anything is placed upon them (they’re inadequately supported) and the overhead bins on the sides of the aircraft (at least on the upper deck) are laughably small.

And, of course, if you’re in a window seat you have the joy of having to clamber over your neighbor every time you get up.

When other airlines are offering over-water WiFi, cabins with all-aisle-access seats, seats with a lot more privacy, seats with a lot more storage and overhead bins you could fit a couple of small children into, you have to wonder how BA is getting away with offering this as a business class product.

Will I fly BA Club World again? Maybe. But only if I want to try out a new product or if there’s a fantastic fare to somewhere I want to go. I can’t imagine booking under other circumstances. The value just isn’t there.

Even if you’re using Avios, Club World seems like a serious waste to me. The high surcharges that come with long-haul award redemptions on British Airways make it an economically poor proposition for anyone other than the Avios-super-rich. If you have a companion certificate there may be some value to be had but, until the airline improves the offering onboard, you’ll still be purchasing a second rate product.

So, have I missed something? Am I being overly harsh or have you had similar experiences with British Airways?