- British Airways’ business class offering was described in
a recent study as being like “Ryanair but with free food,” but
is this really true?
- It’s safe to say the experience differs wildly depending on
whether you’re flying long or short-haul.
- I realized this when I experienced the new long-haul business
class service followed by the short-haul the next day on a British
Airways press trip.
- Is it really worth paying to fly business class on a two-hour
flight? Here’s how the long- and short-haul services differ.
- Visit Business
Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Things haven’t been plain sailing for
British Airways of late.
Despite the airline celebrating its centenary this year
(complete with a visit from Her Majesty), becoming the third
carrier to use ginormous A350 planes, and unveiling swanky
new business class Club Suites, it’s had to weather some
Which? described the airline’s business class service as akin to
“Ryanair but with free food,” although it’s unclear whether the
long-haul or short-haul service was reviewed. Ryanair is a famously
low-cost UK airline where customers have to pay for a number of
add-ons — food included.
The airline’s business class or “Club” offering varies wildly
depending on whether you’re traveling short-haul within Europe
(Club Europe) or long-haul (Club World).
This was hammered home to me particularly clearly when I had the
privilege of flying on a British Airways press trip to Madrid as a
taster flight to launch BA’s new Club World seat, and then a flight
back in a standard Club Europe seat.
Here’s how the two compare.
I hadn’t realized that flying business class on a short-haul flight
actually doesn’t mean different seats from economy …
… it just means there’ll be no one sitting in the middle seat,
but a little table instead.
It was nice not to have anyone next to me …
… but it wasn’t a patch on the incredible new Club World suites
that I’d just experienced.
The Club Europe seats certainly weren’t shabby — they were
cushioned, made from leather, and with an adjustable headrest —
but were narrower than the Club World seats.
I didn’t necessarily need the extra width of the Club World seats,
but it was certainly welcome, and made the suite feel nice and
spacious. Also, being given a pillow and cushion is certainly a
luxury I could get used to.
I also absolutely loved the leg-room of the Club World suites, and
it was a joy to be able to stretch out.
Unfortunately the same could not be said for the Club Europe seats.
In Club World (below), I was immediately offered a glass of
Champagne upon arrival, but this luxury took a little longer to
arrive in Club Europe.
Still, I was at least given a warm towel and the menu before we
took off — unlike British Airways economy, you get a free meal in
Club Europe, and the company is currently making a huge investment
in an upgraded menu set to launch on September 12.
There was no luxurious leather toiletry pouch, but to be fair, you
can probably live without an eye mask or earplugs on a short-haul
There was a choice of three mains: Braised Welsh lamb shank with
grilled vegetables and celeriac mousseline; homemade spinach
gnocchi with sun-dried cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and panna
sauce; and Loch Fyne smoked salmon with avocado, creamy celeriac,
and grilled prawns.
The drinks menu was pretty extensive too, featuring champagne, two
white wines, two reds, a selection of spirits, and beers. I noticed
that the drinks on offer were different from the ones available for
purchase further back in the plane.
The menu looked pretty similar to what was served in Club World,
including not only one of the same main course options but an extra
Back in Club Europe, cabin crew started serving refreshments as
soon as the seatbelt sign turned off. I opted for a Diet Coke,
which was served in a real glass. Handed out in packets, the nuts
didn’t feel as fancy as the ones I’d had in Club World, but they
were still tasty.
While I waited for the seatbelt sign to be turned off, I noticed it
was of the basic variety I’ve always seen …
… unlike the upgraded versions on the A350. It was small things
like this that made the plane feel more modern and luxurious, and
subsequently made the smaller plane feel basic in comparison.
In Club Europe, it was useful to have both a magazine rack at the
top of the chairs and a pocket lower down where you could put a
water bottle — considering more and more budget airlines now have
zero storage at all on the backs of the chairs, I appreciated this.
Of course, it wasn’t a patch on the storage options in the Club
World suite though, which seemed to have endless compartments to
keep your necessities organised.
While the seats turned into fully flat beds in Club World (below),
they only slightly reclined in Club Europe.
As delicious smells wafted through the Club Europe cabin, I
realised it was food time. I was keen for the gnocchi, but being
towards the back of the cabin I was concerned they might run out as
orders hadn’t been taken in advance. Fortunately for me and
unfortunately for the guy behind me, I got the last one.
It was essentially a four-course meal served at once: Greek yoghurt
with roasted tomatoes to start, the gnocchi, a “celebration of
British cheese,” and Tiramisu, and I was offered a choice of two
bread rolls too (brown or white herbed). I enjoyed having a proper
napkin, cutlery, and crockery, but felt like I could’ve done with a
side plate for the bread roll.
The gnocchi was flavorsome and comforting, although it wasn’t super
hot and there were some lumps of cheese that I think should’ve been
melted better (the cabin crew had just whipped off the foil when
they got to me). It was super oily, but the sauce was delectable
when soaked up with the bread.
I felt the whole meal was lacking in vegetables (and felt the same
in Club World), especially if you’re not a tomato fan. It was also
an incredibly dairy-heavy meal, but I’m not complaining about that.
The yogurt starter was a bit odd to me — it tasted overwhelmingly
like lemon, mint, and chili and I didn’t really rate it.
It seemed to take ages for the cabin crew to come round again
offering drinks, and I was gasping by the time I finally got some
water. It was also handy to be able to put my finished tray to the
side instead of having to leave it sitting in front of me.
I finished my dairy-based feast with the Tiramisu, which was in a
cup made from plastic.
The food seemed a pretty similar standard to what I’d been given in
Club World, but I did enjoy the latter more (below). I don’t know
whether it was the fact that it was served laid out on a table
cloth, that I was so excited to be in the suite, or simply that I
preferred the dishes, but it all seemed more delicious to me.
VERDICT: The food was nice, but I couldn’t really see why anyone
would bother flying business class for a two-hour flight.
Is flying business class on a short-haul flight worth
As far as I can see, I have no idea why you’d pay so much more
money to travel business on a short-haul flight: A return flight
from London to Madrid in BA’s Euro Traveller class (economy) starts
at £70 ($85), whereas the same trip in Club Europe (business)
starts at £326 ($396).
Yes, going fast-track through security is great and having
lounge access in the airport is a perk, but when it comes to what’s
onboard the actual plane, I don’t think it’s worth it.
The food was nice, but given you’ve just had access to free food
in the lounge, you don’t really need such a decadent, indulgent
If I’d paid for my flight, I’d probably have felt like I ought
to order champagne even though I didn’t want to drink, purely so I
could get my money’s worth.
The best thing about my Club World experience was the comfort,
privacy, and spaciousness of the suite, and you don’t get any of
that in Club Europe. Yes, it’s more pleasant than flying economy,
but £250 ($300) more pleasant? I don’t think so.
Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News
I flew in British Airway's brand new long-haul business class suites followed by the short-haul equivalent the day after, and I have no idea why anyone pays for the latter