When British Airways debuted its new Club World cabin in 2000, the product was a novelty for business class with its ﬂatbed seats on long-haul ﬂights. Other airlines, in comparison, reserved ﬂatbeds for their ﬁrst-class passengers and offered business-class ﬂiers partially reclining seats. The industry was abuzz about this innovative feature and rushed to catch up with seats that would compete.
Can BA have the same wave-making impact with its latest and most signiﬁcant Club World iteration? I recently found out when I ﬂew the carrier on what’s now called Club Suite between Newark Liberty International Airport and London’s Heathrow. The new cabins with 79-inch ﬂatbed seats were introduced just prior to the pandemic on BA’s A350 aircraft and are being rolled out on its ﬂeet of Boeing 787-10 and Boeing 777 aircraft.
I had ﬂown the old Club World more than a decade ago, but I immediately appreciated the redesign on my Boeing 777 trip. The latest cabins are ﬁtted with 48 to 76 seats, depending on the plane, in a 1-2-1 conﬁguration. Every seat now offers direct aisle access—the previous model had window-seat ﬂiers (me on one leg of my last BA journey) stepping over another passenger to reach the aisle.
Privacy is another key feature with sliding doors that transform the seat into a mini-suite. I felt cocooned throughout my ﬂight and relaxed in a way that I’m usually not when surrounded by other ﬂiers. The new seats, with three inches of foam and a ﬂexible base that makes it more comfortable to sit for long periods of time, certainly helped.
And then there’s the additional storage—40 percent more, to be exact. I normally ﬁnd myself running out of storage space when I ﬂy business class, but now I had more than I could use. The possibilities include a bottle holder, magazine console, spacious compartment underneath the footstool, and another at shoulder height with a mirror for smaller items such as an eyeglass case and vanity kit. The airline’s executive designer, Peter Cooke, says that these seat changes are a direct result of customer feedback.
Amenities are the fun part of ﬂying in any premium-class cabin, but with Club World, they’re more expected than impressive. The lineup includes a bed topper, large blanket and soft large pillow with a cotton pillowcase from The White Company, a popular British lifestyle brand. Amenity kits featuring a lip balm, relaxation spray and soft eye mask are also courtesy of the brand.
I was more into the HD 18.5-inch entertainment screen, on which I could indulge my weakness for British television shows. The viewing options also included a generous selection of new releases and popular movies. I was disappointed in the Wi-Fi, however, which was nonexistent for much of my journey. My fellow passengers had the same gripe.
Now, let’s talk about the food, which so many of us look forward to enjoying when we’re sitting up front. BA’s onboard culinary experience offers a menu that emphasizes British traditions and ingredients sourced from small food purveyors and farmers. Expect dishes such as roast lamb and beef, Yorkshire pudding and shepherd’s pie.
The biggest meal, which kicks off the three services offered on most long-haul ﬂights, includes a starter, entrée, dessert and cheese. I was surprised that there were only three options for the main course, but my chicken with rice pilaf was tasty and fresh. For imbibing, the menu features cocktails such as the Johnnie Ginger, crafted with whisky, orange juice and ginger ale, and top-shelf spirits such as Tanqueray gin and Johnnie Walker Black Label Scotch whisky. The champagne is an effervescent Canard-Duchêne Cuvée Léonie Brut, and the solid collection of wines hails from all over the world. Midﬂight, I could help myself to snacks such as popcorn, Lindt milk-chocolate balls and potato chips (“crisps,” as they’re called in Britain). The pre-landing meal is smaller and generally comprised of a sandwich and sweet dish, along with cheese.
It’s worth noting the polished and pleasant service—the staff was professional and willing to please. And I can’t leave out BA’s Club World lounge. The pre-Covid buffets with hot and cold dishes are still a feature, although the choices are far more expansive in Heathrow compared with Newark. The lounges also offer tableside service where passengers scan a QR code and order dishes from a short menu that includes hamburgers, pastas and entrée salads. After making my selection (a burger, no bun, and tossed salad), I entered my table number, and a server delivered the dishes in less than ten minutes. My journey was pleasant all around, and that’s not a given these days in an industry fraught with ﬂight cancellations, delays and staff shortages.
Overall, Club World ranks among the top business-class products in the skies today, as it was when it debuted more than four decades ago. The design and amenities may not be one-of-a-kind anymore, but the high quality is still ﬁrmly in place.