The vast majority of flights I take are for pleasure, however now and then I travel the world as part of my day job as a hotel consultant. I recently had the pleasure of flying British Airways Business Class 777 from London Gatwick to Grenada and thought that I’d share my experience. Regular readers will know that I’ve flown BA Business Class free before using air miles – don’t worry I’ll touch upon how this can be done within this article as well!
Before I jump into this British Airways Business Class review I thought it would be useful to just highlight that British Airways refer to their Business Class product as Club World. Their European Business Class product is referred to as Club Europe (reviewed here). I was flying on a Boeing 777-200 which is laid out with 4 classes as follows:
- 14 First Class Suites (reviewed here)
- 48 Club World Flat Bed Seats
- 38 World Traveller Plus
- 122 World Traveller
I booked this Club World BA seats as a paying customer about two weeks before I was due to fly. As such it was expensive at £3,945 (especially compared to sale prices which can be found here) for the return Business Class British Airways flight. Now I wouldn’t ordinarily spend this much on leisure flights however during this BA Business Class review I’ll focus on whether I got value for money at this rate as well as looking at whether you’d get value for money if you were to redeem your BA air miles for the Clubworld flight.
Booking BA Clubworld
As I was travelling with work I had limited options as to how I booked my Business Class BA flight. If you have the choice, wait for one of the British Airways Business Class sales which tend to appear around June, September, December and towards the end of January – check here if BA have a current sale. British Airways also offer package holidays which can sometimes work out considerably cheaper than booking the BA Club World flights on their own – take a look here for current package deals.
Now we’ve explored the option of paying for flights, let’s take a quick look at the possibility of using air miles to book your British Airways Club World flight for free (but don’t forget you need to pay taxes!).
The BA Club Class flight I took from London to Grenada would require a total of 62,500 air miles each way. During peak times this would be 75,000 air miles. For a couple flying to Grenada out of peak seasons, you’d need 250,000 air miles for two return Business Class tickets on British Airways. With the clever use of credit card sign-up bonuses this may not be quite as hard as it seems – I’ve recently written about how to obtain a BA First Class flight which you can read about here. It’s a very similar principle for Club Class British Airways.
American Express Gold card (reviewed here) – If you sign up to the American Express Gold card and spend £3,000 in the first 3 months you’ll receive 10,000 air miles (or 12,000 if you use this link). Also encourage your travelling partner to sign up to the same card and once they’ve spent £2,000 you’ll have accumulated 24,000 American Express Rewards points which can be transferred to British Airways at a rate of 1:1. Note that after 12 months there is a charge for the American Express Gold card of £140 per year. I’d strongly recommend cancelling the card before being charged. You also earn 1 point for every pound spent on the card so if you and your travelling partner were to spend £3,000 you’d receive 3,000 points.
British Airways American Express Premium Plus card (reviewed here) – Now the best part about this card is not the 25,000 air miles (26,000 if you use this link) when you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months but the 2-4-1 voucher you’ll receive when you spend £10,000 on the card. This allows the holder to redeem 2 rewards flights for the price of 1, which in this instance reduces the total number of air miles you need from 250,000 to 125,000. By spending £10,000 on the card you’ll earn 26,000 air miles sign-up bonus alongside a further 15,000 air miles (rate of 1.5 points per £1 spent). You can also add your flying companion as a supplementary card holder to receive a further 3,000 points.
Recent changes to American Express rules now mean that to qualify for the sign up bonus on certain cards you cannot have held a personal American Express in the last 24 months. Fortunately you can still sign up and benefit from the bonus of the Premium Plus card if you hold a Gold Card. The same is not true in reverse. If you already hold a Premium Plus card you will not qualify for the sign up bonus on the Gold card. As such always sign up to the Gold Card first and then the Premium Plus card second – learn more about the sign up bonus restrictions and our suggested strategy here.
As such between the two cards you and a partner will be able to accumulate a grand total of 74,000 air miles which, when used with the 2-4-1 voucher, would provide enough miles for two one-way Business Class flights British Airways to Grenada. One thing to highlight is that your travel partner will need to transfer the American Express Rewards points to your BA Executive Account. To do this they’ll have to register you as a named person on their card.
British Airways Business Class 777 – Check In
Now you’ve seen how it’s possible to use credit card sign-up bonuses to obtain a free British Airways Business Class flight, let’s get back on with the BA Club World review. Having spent over £3,500 on the flight, you’d hope you would be able to select your British Airways Business Club seats in advance, unfortunately this is not the case! If you’re not a BA Executive Silver or above you’ll have to spend £62 if you want to be guaranteed to sit next to your flying partner! Online check in and seat selection opens for the masses 24 hours before the flight.
Due to my BA Executive card status I was able to book in advance and I chose 12C, a forward-facing, aisle seat. I’ll talk more about the BA Club World seats and their layout slightly later on in this review.
One perk of travelling in Clubworld is the dedicated check-in desks. There’s very rarely a queue which means you can speed through check in and have more time to spend in the complimentary lounge.
My flight was at 10.30am and when I passed through Gatwick’s premium security at about 8am (I wanted to get to the British Airways Business Class lounge early to do some pre-flight work) there were no passengers at all using the security lane! With 5 of the security team to get me through, I was whistled through in no time whatsoever.
British Airways Business Class – Lounge
In addition to this BA Business Class review, I’ve spent time writing a full review of the BA Club World Gatwick Lounge which can be found here (coming soon).
The Gatwick lounge is situated close to security and access can be obtained using the shortcut on the left hand side, before you take the escalator down into the world of duty free. There was a big queue on arrival. A passenger at the front wasn’t being granted access and was refusing to move – :L not cool. The reception desk serves both the BA Club World and First Class lounges. I turned right to the Club Lounge, which was modern in appearance with high ceilings and lots of natural light. The lounge is split over two levels so it never feels too busy, unlike those at Heathrow’s T5 (Reviews for each as follows: T5 North / T5 South / T5B).
I arrived for breakfast to find a good selection of pastries, cereals, fruits and, of course, bacon rolls.
One word of advice, while they don’t publicise the availability of Champagne, it is available on request. Just ask one of the friendly members of staff. There is the usual selection of coffee machines, soft drinks and highland spring water available. There were also 4 red wines and 3 white wines available. In addition to the wines there were numerous spirits:
- Gin – Gordon’s and Bombay Sapphire
- Vodka – Grey Goose and Smirnoff
- Johnnie Walker Red Label
- Southern Comfort
- Glenlivet Whisky
- The list goes on
The lounge also includes a business area fitted out with PCs and printers. There’s also a children’s areas if you decide to whisk the little ones away on a British Airways Club World holiday!
Boarding – BA Club World Review
The gate was approximately 10 minutes from the lounge. Having left it tight for time, when we arrived for boarding groups 1 (First Class) and 2 (Business Plus Executive cardholders) were already boarding. With no sitting around we walked straight on to the plane to be greeted by the ever-friendly cabin crew.
Frustratingly, sitting in Business meant that I turned right (see my recent review of when I turned left and experienced BA First Class here) and made my way to my BA Business Class seat – 12C.
BA Business Class Seats
Some 10 years ago, British Airways Business Class seats revolutionised Business Class travel with lay-flat beds. With significant progression over the last 10 years, are BA Club World seats now beginning to feel dated? Unfortunately so!
For those that are unfamiliar with the layout of the BA Club Class cabin, the 48 Business Class seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 layout. That’s 8 across!! Compare that to the Virgin Upper Class product which has 4 across and it won’t take a genius to realise that they fairly cram those Business Class BA seats in. I was sat in 12C which was forward facing and an aisle seat. For couples travelling together I’d recommend taking the middle seats although you’ll have to climb over passengers if they have their seat in its fully extended position and you’re also facing backwards.
One thing that is strange with the British Airways Business Class seats is that due to the confined layout you’ll find yourself staring into the eyes of a complete stranger in the seat directly next to yours. With the seats arranged one facing forwards next to one facing backwards and a divider that has to be lowered during take-off this is almost impossible to avoid for some of the flight. It works perfectly if you’re travelling with a companion, but not quite so good if you’re next to a complete stranger like I was!
British Airways Business Class seats are 21-inches (52cm) wide and if fully extended stretch to a 6-foot (183cm) lay-flat bed. At just over 183cm, it’s slightly too small for me but fine nonetheless. The quilted blanket and pillow are a mile apart from the cotton sheets you get in First Class but do suffice.
You’ll receive a White Company-branded leather amenities kit on arrival which includes toothbrush, pen, lip balms, moisturisers, ear plugs, eye masks and socks. This is a big step up on the historic Elemis kit and, on another positive note, the eye mask is definitely better than the one you receive in First Class!
The tray table extends to 18” x 14” which is fine for one person dining and can be folded in half to be used as a drinks table if needs be. The seat I was travelling in was particularly old and frustratingly there was no USB charger! There’s also a small storage tray which comes in handy for the various items I seem to accumulate during a trip.
In-flight Entertainment British Airways Club World
Given the age of the seats, the BA Club Class In-Flight Entertainment system is lagging behind some of its competitors. The screen – which cannot be used during take-off – extends to 12 inches and folds out of the central partition. The screen has the ability to pivot by 45 degrees which is useful when you recline in your seat, especially as the screen quality isn’t great.
The controls are also stored away in the central partition however are relatively slow and painful to use. One positive with the Club World British Airways offering is the noise-cancelling headphones, albeit I take my own which are slightly better!
I counted 54 films and, whilst there were a couple of classics, there was a good range of recently released movies to help the 10-hour Clubworld flight pass by.
Can’t remember what I was watching when I took this picture but it doesn’t look quite right! Anyhow you can see that the screens aren’t great.
British Airways are in the process of rolling Wi-Fi out across their fleet and they hadn’t yet got to the plane I was on! Being up in the air must be one of the last places you are completely uncontactable, which I quite like! Not sure how much longer this will last as they roll out Wi-Fi across the fleet.
BA Club Class – Drinks
The selection of decent drinks in British Airways Business Class doesn’t just stop at the lounge. As I sat down in my seat I was greeted by the familiar words of one of the cabin crew – “A glass of Champagne, sir?”. There’s a reasonable selection of Champagnes, wines and other beverages when flying BA Business Class. Rather than typing these out, I’ve taken pictures of the various menus which are set out below.
The Champagne Henriot Brut Souverain NV retails at about £40 per bottle. It picked up a bronze medal in the Cellars in the Sky Awards.
Passengers in Club World BA also get access to the snacks and drinks bar located next to the gallery. Don’t get illusions of grandeur when I say bar, I’m talking a small fridge and a selection of snacks – perfect if you wake up and the crew aren’t immediately available.
Business Class BA – Food
I’d been hearing for some time about the BA new Club World catering. However, just like the Wi-Fi, this hadn’t quite got as far as the BA 777 I was travelling on :L. Always a next time, I suppose.
There was a choice of either Smoked Scottish Salmon or Roasted Vegetables with whipped goats cheese salad. I’m always a sucker for smoked salmon so went for this. Besides the dead rocket salad, both the salmon and pate were nice.
With four main dishes on the British Airways Business Class menu there was a good selection, although I have to admit I stopped reading when I got to the British Fillet Steak with crushed potatoes and a red wine and pancetta jus. For dessert I settled for the cheese board, by which point I was completely stuffed.
Afternoon tea was served about an hour and a half before landing in St Lucia. This included a selection of finger sandwiches, a couple of desserts and a scone with clotted cream (if like me you need even more desserts!).
How does the BA new Business Class catering differ? I thought it would be useful to take a brief look at how the BA new Club World catering is changing and how you can find out which service you’ll receive.
The service launched in February 18 and unfortunately is only available on the London to New York JFK route at the moment. Changes include:
- Drinks: Upgraded glasses to include crystal tumblers
- Textured menus/different table clothes/porcelain salt and pepper
- Trolley service for Starters
- 3 main-course meals as opposed to 4
- Four choices of dessert – again trolley service
Whilst the new BA Club World catering sounds good, I feel the trolley service is somewhat of a step down from the current offering. I’m hoping to test out the new BA Club World catering soon and will post an update as soon as I have.
Business Class British Airways Service
Throughout the flight I couldn’t fault the cabin crew. Upon arrival one of the cabin crew hung up my coat, although I never seem to get this back before landing which is frustrating! Don’t worry this isn’t if you’re just travelling in Business Class BA but also in First (although I’d spent 10 times as much for my Club World seat than I had when I’d redeemed my air miles for First!).
Some people complain about the amount of time it takes for trays to be removed however this was never a problem on either my outbound or return flight. As I had a relatively swift turnaround in Grenada, I had the same crew flying both routes. Some recognised me and welcomed me back which was a nice touch!
BA Club World Review – First Class vs Business
So the question on everyone’s mind: British Airways First Class vs Business? In the last three months I’ve been lucky enough to fly both Club Class British Airways and First Class (reviewed in full here). Noticeable differences include the Concorde Lounge (reviewed here – and only available at Heathrow) for First Class passengers only. This is one, if not the best, lounge in the UK at the moment. The BA Club World lounge is miles behind Concorde Room, with £120 Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle flowing and a la carte dining. Other airport benefits with First include dedicated security (although Gatwick premium was amazing!).
On board the level of service in First Class is a step up when compared to Business Class. Seats are considerably larger; not surprising given the 8-across layout of the BA Business Class seats. When flying in First Class my other half and I were able to dine at the same table, with the footstool in First converting to another chair – a great way to start a holiday!
Now the difference in price between First and Club World British Airways is staggering. Even if you were to use the BA Sales page here, a single British Airways Business Class ticket to say St Lucia would set you back £1,464 in comparison to £8,185 in first. Is the 5-times difference worth it? No, I wouldn’t say it is. However if you take a look at redeeming air miles, the BA Business Class seat would set you back 75,000 and the First 100,000. In my eyes that’s a no-brainer for an additional 25,000 points!
BA 777 Club World Review Summary
All in all I’ve got mixed views about the British Airways Business Class product. Yes the service is great, the food and drinks are good and the ground facilities are a step up from most of its competitors. However the once-revolutionary, lay-flat seat is now beginning to appear somewhat tired. With 8 across, the layout of the BA Business Class seats feels cramped although both the central seats and window seats offer decent privacy with the shutters up. IFE is again dated and resolution quality is poor.
That said, travelling BA Club World is a significant step up on both the premium and economy product. There are occasions when Club World BA can be booked in a sale (check here) for little more than the price of a premium economy ticket. If you have the ability to wait for the sales, there is definitely a bargain to be had!
Like always I hope you’ve enjoyed this British Airways Business Class review. I love to hear about your experiences so please do post below this BA Business Class review if you have any comments.
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Is BA still using this weird seat configuration in Club World? – if as a couple you go for the middle two seats, you should also mention that as well as staring into a complete stranger’s eyes,
there’s a ridiculous amount of “screen up, screen down” every time cabin crew serve you each drink, each course etc!
But I am very pleased to have discovered you site & commend you for trying to. decipher the arcana of airline reward programmes!