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.