British Airways finally launched its new Club Suite business class product in 2019. This was a long-awaited upgrade to its Club World product – revolutionary when it was launched, but now very dated. The only route where you are (almost) guaranteed Club Suite currently is London Heathrow to JFK (with all flights served by a renovated Boeing 777-200 or 777-300 aircraft). On a recent trip to California, I made sure to route this way to try out the new Club Suite offering for the first time.
This review looks at my experience onboard BA 173, an 11:40 departure from Heathrow Terminal 5. This was booked as a cash ticket from Madrid and I had flown in the night before BA Club Europe from Madrid.
Check-in and fast-track security
The British Airways business class check-in at London Heathrow Terminal 5 (known as Club World for long-haul services) is usually efficient and fast. There is a large dedicated area at one end of the terminal.
BA Club World check in at Heathrow. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
There is also a fast-track security entrance close by. The airport was very busy on this Thursday morning. There was no wait for check-in, but it took around 30 minutes to clear security, with just one lane open. Heathrow (along with other UK airports) continues to suffer staff shortages, which was very apparent here. The wait for standard security looked even longer.
Fast track security is offered for Clun World, First, and oneworld status members. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
Quiet lounge in Terminal 5B
British Airways has three business class lounges in Terminal 5 (along with a first class lounge and the Concorde Room for ticketed first class only). On this visit, I went first to one of the main lounges in the A gates area. Just like the main terminal, this was extremely busy. I managed to get a cup of coffee, but ordering any food would have been a struggle.
Main south lounge in Heathrow T5. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
British Airways moved during the pandemic to an app ordering service for food and drinks – and has stuck with this since. Drinks are now self-service, though. To be fair, the service is good, and the food is an improvement over the buffets offered in the past. When lounges are very busy, though, it is difficult to find a table, which you need to be able to place an order.
My flight was departing from the C gates. With over an hour to wait, I decided to move to the lounge in the B gate area. You can break the train journey to the C gates here easily and visit the lounge, and I would recommend that to anyone who has time to do so. The T5B lounge is much quieter, but offers the same food, drink, and seating options. The views are not as good, though – over the apron and gate area rather than the runway.
BA lounge at Heathrow T5B – it couldn’t be quieter!. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
Boarding and departure
The flight boarded on time from the C gate area – a 10-minute journey from the lounge using the train once again. Boarding was fast and calm – despite both business and first class being full.
Our 777-200 aircraft on stand. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
I had chosen seat 11K – a window seat in the main cabin just ahead of the wing. The Club Suite cabin on this 777-200 was split into two sections. The main section is a huge 15 rows (54 seats), with a smaller three-cabin row in front. The front cabin is likely quieter if you prefer that, but I actually prefer the space and openness of the larger cabin. There is also a two row First cabin ahead of the smaller Club Suite cabin (BA operates New York JFK flights with four classes of service).
I was quickly offered a pre-departure drink and a menu – although the traditional “welcome chat” from the crew seemed to be dropped! The usual White Company amenity kit was handed out.
Boarding with fulll cabin. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
After boarding, a delay was announced due to cargo loading issues. With tight slots at Heathrow, it is understandable that airlines do this, but it is still frustrating when it happens after boarding. The delay stretched to an hour waiting at the gate. In Club World, though, this is much easier to deal with. I used the hour to explore the new seat, do some laptop work, and enjoy another drink.
The new Club Suite seat
For many years, I have tried to avoid British Airways Club World on long-haul flights where there are other options. The standard 2-4-2 “yin yang” seating may have broken ground with the first flat bed in business class but is now showing its age. Other carriers have moved on to offer much better products, with 1-2-1 seat layouts, all aisle access, and flatbeds quickly becoming standard offerings.
The original BA Club World – still found on most routes. Photo: British Airways
The new Club Suite changes this for British Airways. Overall, I was very impressed. It offers the much-needed 1-2-1 layout with aisle access and a full flay bed – but goes further than this.
The seat is the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat, with some modifications. Most notably, the addition of a closing door. There is also a full seatbelt with a shoulder strap that must be used for taxi, take-off, and landing. This is unusual in such a seat and certainly takes some getting used to.
BA Club Suite seat. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
Overall, the seat feels open and spacious. Two windows for the side seats help, as does a decent-sized feet area – something I often find cramped with this type of seat.
BA Club Suite seat. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
There is an extendable, large table with two different locking positions and a fixed storage shelf next to the seat. Several additional storage areas are provided, too, including a useful floor level shelf, two separate opening areas under the fixed shelf, and a headset cupboard with a mirror to the side of the seat.
There could be improvements, though. There is no large storage area for a laptop or paperwork – meaning this has to be left on the shelf. The seat and screen controls are also located in the large opening cabinet below this shelf – frustrating when you have items placed on top!
There are several small cabinets for items. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
The sliding door is the most exciting addition – much marketed by British Airways. This changes the product from a seat to a “Suite” and is not something offered by many airlines in business class. I was a bit skeptical beforehand about its value – after all, it is only partial cabin height so does not fully close in the seat. But when reclined or lying down, with the door pushed closed, the suite feels very private.
BA Club Suite seat with sliding door. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
Food service still limited after the pandemic
It can’t all be good, though, and the onboard service is currently slightly disappointing – given the prices and expectations of business class travel.
I have heard many comments and complaints about British Airways’ continued reduced service onboard. Like most airlines, food and drink service was severely limited during the pandemic. The airline has been slower than many, though, to return to full service. Although hot meals and full bar service have returned, the meal continues to be served together on one tray. This is faster, of course, but it does take something away from the experience. The main meal starter and deserts were also relatively small portions.
The first meal was served soon after take-off. I chose the roasted lamb shank, which was very good. The other main course choices were fish pie or a ricotta mezzaluna pasta dish.
The meal was good, but all served together. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
A lighter meal was served around an hour before landing. This was just a choice of two sandwiches, followed by cake or scones. For a relatively short flight, and given that many passengers will also eat in the lounge before departure, this was understandable, but still disappointing not to be given the choice of something more substantial. It is worth noting too that British Airways does not allow an advance choice of meals. American Airlines does so on the same routes (and longer domestic ones, too), and this is reassuring to guarantee availability.
The second meal was quite disappointing. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
The current bar offering is also disappointing. There is a full offering now of beers, spirits, and wine but some limited choices. There are several gins, but just one vodka and whiskey, for example. As for wine, British Airways has decided to offer just two white and two red wines, with one of each being an unnamed “cellar selection.” This is a strange move, leaving passengers not knowing what they are drinking. It must be motivated by uncertainty over stock and supply but is not something commonly seen in business class.
WiFi and entertainment
British Airways has finally started to offer onboard WiFi. This is now available on most widebody aircraft but not on the narrowbody fleet. This was my first flight with BA to have WiFi, and I was keen to try it out. It is a shame that WiFi is not offered free in Club World – it is in first class. Pricing is reasonable, though. On this flight, access was priced at £4.99 for one hour, £11.99 for four hours, or £14.99 for the entire flight.
Connection options for this flight. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
The screen is a significant improvement over the old Club World one. It is larger and clearer and the airline offers a vast selection of movies. There are several featured new releases, but a library of hundreds of other movies too. This is becoming common and is a great bonus for frequent travelers who may want more variety. I opted for the latest James Bond release – I had seen it before but enjoyed it again!
Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
Arrival into JFK
Our flight made up some of its delay, but it still arrived into New York JFK Airport around 40 minutes late. First and Club Suite passengers disembarked first, which can be a big advantage with often lengthy immigration queues at US airports.
A last look at the cabin before disembarking. Photo: Justin Hayward / Simple Flying
Arrival at JFK Terminal 7 was a delight. British Airways has by far the most international arrivals here (it is also used by Aerolineas Argentinas, ANA, Iberia, and LOT), and you will often be the only arrival. We were the only arrival, and I was happily through immigration, customs, and baggage collection within 30 minutes. Having had immigration and customs delays of several hours when arriving on American Airlines flights before, this was a great experience!
Have you flown British Airways’ new Club Suites? Are you looking forward to further rollout across the fleet? We’d love you to share your thoughts about the product and the current Club World service in the comments.