British Airways Seems To Be Improving, No Longer On “Must Avoid” List

British Airways pioneered lie flat seats in long haul business class. The seats weren’t wide or private, but they were classy with blue fabric and brown leather. I actually liked the old lie flat business class seat that I flew fifteen years ago on British Airways (‘New Club World’) more than the seats that are now being phased out that are reminiscent of a sea of corporate cubes (‘Next Generation Club World’).

Five years ago I offered, Just How Bad Is British Airways Club World Business Class?

  • They squeezed in way too many seats. Boeing 777s had eight-across business class seating, while many airlines still had nine-across in coach.

  • They didn’t offer internet.

  • Catering was suffering from significant cutbacks, too.

You flew British Airways either because their schedule was most convenient to London Heathrow, or because they were cheapest – BA often was ‘the low price leader’ since they had so many premium seats to unload into the market. You didn’t choose to fly BA because of its product.

While BA isn’t going to be mistaken for Qatar Airways business class, ANA’s new business class, or EVA Airways, it’s much improved. Whereas a couple of years ago it made sense to avoid British Airways even in favor of its joint venture partner American Airlines (for better seats and semi-functional internet on long haul) that’s no longer the case on many routes. British Airways is becoming flyable again.

Make Sure You’re Flying The New Seats

British Airways’ new seats are competitive. They’re similar to American Airlines (“Super Diamond”) seats but with the addition of doors for privacy and greater attention to detail. The trick is to make sure that this is the product you’re getting.


Credit: British Airways


Credit: British Airways

Boeing 787-10 and Airbus A350 aircraft have new seats. Some Boeing 777s do, too. You can’t be guaranteed of new seats because of aircraft swaps (one Boeing 777 for another, the Airbus A350 you booked changes to something else by the time the date of travel comes around). But there are many routes they try to keep all new business class (like New York, regardless of aircraft type) and if you’re booking close-in you probably won’t see your A350 or Boeing 787-10 changed to something else.

Internet Now On Most Of The Fleet

British Airways also now has internet on most of its fleet, lack of which was a key reason I preferred to avoid them in the past. Their Airbus A350, A380, Boeing 777s all have internet. Most Boeing 787s have it. Flying short haul you’ll probably have internet unless you’re on an Airbus A319 in which case you probably won’t.

Food Is Getting Better Reviews

BA catering is now getting better reviews than meals served on American. I keep getting comments from readers like,

The food on BA Do&Co catering last week was amazing. Purposely didn’t book AA

On the return we had lamb shank and the best mashed sweet potatoes I’ve ever had in my life. Service was a joy.

Heathrow And Intra-Europe Product Are Negatives

To be sure connecting flights in what passes for British Airways business class in Europe (Club Europe) are sad, offering less legroom than Ryanair. London Heathrow terminal 5 remains a suboptimal place to connect, transit security can be miserable and getting packed into a train to head to and from remote gates suboptimal. British Airways lounges could be better.

And short haul catering still disappoints those used to European standards, but is better than what you’d see on a U.S. airline for similar-length flight.

BA With New Seats Is Now Preferred Over American, Except For Award Travel

It does seem like the airline is making strides towards improvement, so it’s no longer an airline to actively avoid unless the price gap is substantial enough. I’m actually excited for the British Airways business class trip I’ve got booked.

And what’s striking, then, with better seats now than American and more functional internet than American’s Panasonic, is that BA has better catering too – for many routes they’re now the preferred airline of the joint venture by a wide margin. American Airlines needs to step up its game.

You’ll still want to avoid award redemptions for travel on British Airways, of course, because of fuel surcharges passed onto program members that are often several times as much as a business class base fare.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. @Gary: BA european coach class food is better than ever. The reason: Since coach class food is always for-purchase, BA posed the question as “What level of quality do we want to offer?”. That led to Marks and Spencer as the choice, with the same food as they sell in their stores. The results are really delicious, exciting sandwiches, etc.

    Compare this with the first-gen. choice of US airlines when they switched to for-purchase food. Sell the cheapest, most unimaginative, stuff at in-air markups. Little wonder that AA recently (pre-COVID) switched to a commerical restaurant chain (Zoe’s) for their food.

  2. BA has cancelled two of our upcoming trips from BNA (one in October, the other in December). Both were to an EU country connecting at LHR. After calling them and rebooking the cancelled segment on AA, the next day they cancelled the return segment as well. This is now the third rebooking of the same itineraries, respectively.
    The third agent I talked to said that it is because the US only allows a few US airport to be used by foreign carriers. Apparently BNA is not one of them (nevertheless BA still sold us the tickets from there.

  3. BA F food this month was much better than Lufthansa F on the way out. Beautifully presented, tasty. Wonderful crew.

    A shame Club class is downgraded to a one tray service – it was quite nice just before COVID with the full Do and Co experience. Hope they don’t make this one touch service a new standard esp with many planes not offering F.

  4. BA still on the no-fly list thanks to the spiteful treatment of latecomers. If you’re not at the front of the security line by 35 minutes-ahead you’ll be kicked off the flight, no exceptions, even if you can see the gate and there’s no plane there yet.

  5. Matthew at live and let’s fly reports that they switched his LHR-LAX flight to the awful business class. If they can do it on such a premium route there’s really no guarantee they won’t do it on any route. So I decided to book an AA flight instead

  6. Flew the new CW suites + CE right before the pandemic and was very impressed on both legs having never flown BA before and hearing such negative things. CE catering was surprisingly excellent on a 1 hour flight and was very impressed by the seat, catering, and crew on the long haul. But agreed that LHR is a nightmare to connect in, security just horrendous.

  7. It’s nice to know BA is facing up to their Lousy Leader status. But, my Travel Agent understands they still remain That Which Must Not Be Named.

    My experiences on BA have been unspeakably bad. It will be a couple of years before I try them again, by then we’ll see if it really is a make over or just a little fresh lipstick.

  8. I used to have BA credit card and amassed over 3mm miles used to get so many gold upgrade vouchers but never found seats available to upgrade so most of them went to waste. I realized much later (unfortunately) what a big mistake I was making on all the spend, I would have been much better of with AMEX spend. Coming to the real issue I have with BA the amount of surcharges are obnoxiously high and the real question becomes why would anybody have a BA credit card and fly BA business with over inflated redemption and fares compared to the inferior product they offer. Even now trying to use my left over miles the fuel surcharge to Europe is in thousands of $$$ and very few seats available in Business class with 8 seats spread. So needless to say I have stopped flying BA but it did cost me for my stupidity because I did end up being a lifetime Gold with BA. I will try to avoid flying BA at all costs in the future.

  9. I’m in the same boat as Manny, “upgrade vouchers but never found seats available to upgrade so most of them went to waste.” It is a complete waste of money to collect BA miles, as every single time I want to fly business class across the pond there are never any seats available. I’m sitting on 300,000 miles, with 2 award vouchers that are worthless to me. They did the same thing to me as others, simply cancelled my flights in May. I have had it UpToHere with British Airways. When they cancelled my flight in May I canceled them and flew Air France.

    When Premium Plus first came out we used to get the same meals and real silverwear as business class, then they cut that back to the coach meal. Thier Premium Plus is totally not worth the extra money, the seats are not any more comfortable than coach seats and they squeeze in a lot of seats. After over 20 years of flying BA at least once a year I am done with them. I was hoping to fly to Australia or maybe Japan business class using the frequent flyer miles in business class but forgetaboutit, never any award seats available to book. I’m done with them. I have decided to treat young people who would not be able to financially, to treat them on my miles and they can fly coach. That is how I am going to dump these worthless to me BA miles, I will literally give them away.

    I wish Gary would writ an article about how limited award seats are on BA as what good are those business class seats if you can’t book them with your 300,000 award miles?

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