British Airways is the airline I achieved my first airline Gold status with, the first airline I flew business class with, and the first airline I flew first class with. Most of my aviation firsts can be traced to our national airline. But, I haven’t flown them for a while, as they’ve slipped down the customer preference rankings and out of my first preference spot as other airlines have eclipsed them.
I was therefore interested to try their new Club Suite – a brand new, closing-door business class seat which promised to bring BA back into the game.
I took the opportunity to make a video of my experience for my YouTube channel:
My day started with being in transit at Heathrow following an internal flight from Inverness.
BA and Iberia are the only tenants of Terminal 5, which survived a turbulent opening in the spring of 2008 to become a solid and dependable airport terminal.
Business class passengers can enter one of the Galleries Club lounges; there are three at T5, with Galleries South being the biggest and favourably located for the shower complex.
It’s not a bad lounge, certainly competitive with other home-base airline lounges in Europe, and there’s always good coffee to be had.
BA’s A350-1000 was sitting out at the C gates; currently, the airline has three examples; when I took this trip they were flying to Toronto and Dubai. A further 15 are on order.
Inside, no great surprises with the cabin ambience; the finishes are similar and use the same palette as BA’s legacy Club World cabins.
The new suites are essentially Super Diamond suites (similar to Aeromexico, WestJet, Air Canada and many others) – with a door. BA are also retrofitting some 777s with this suite, too. There are 56 of these seats on the A350.
It’s a good looking suite and the conservative colour palette suits it down to the ground (or up to the skies? Sorry!).
Waiting at my seat was a White Company amenity kit and a bottle of water.
Takeoff was punctual and we rose into British autumn skies and turned northwest for Canada.
Wifi is enabled on BA’s A350s but the pricing was clearly wrong; crew told me the aircraft had not been reconfigured since its short haul jaunts to Madrid the previous month and the pricing was wrong. In any case, the pricing was extortionate. I paid for 150MB, and it worked fine, but hopefully this preposterous pricing has changed.
Service began with drinks and warmed nuts. So far so good.
The Super Diamond seat’s biggest strength is in the copious storage options:
The largest storage pod has the remote, two USB ports and a universal socket contained within.
Onto the door, which can be closed only after takeoff. It does not attach to the partition or lock, but rather stays in place through inertia and there is a small gap even when “fully” closed.
The door is a gimmick. It doesn’t provide any practical privacy, as all the service is done with it open and when asleep you can shut out the world with an eye mask. Almost no passengers used the closing door on this flight.
The table was sturdy and can be locked in two different places to allow you to exit even when the table has things on it.
The menu on the flight was as follows – BA is a very conservative airline when it comes to food and there were no surprises:
Starters were served about an hour after takeoff. My salmon dish was excellent.
Service then began to slow, and my beef took over an hour to arrive! When it came, it was delicious but poorly presented, with far too much jus.
Dessert was also a further hour and this all meant that the service took nearly four hours to complete from takeoff. When it came, it was disappointingly small and smacked of cost-cutting.
The crew explained that this was the first week where the entire cabin had been put up for sale by revenue management and there were some certification issues with the onboard trolleys, which meant the staff were hamstrung.
I had similar issues on WestJet’s inaugural flight and am happy to write off the experience as teething problems; BA had issues when the A380, with its giant cabin, came into service, but these are happily mostly resolved.
The IFE was in high definition and the selection was excellent; cult classic Derry Girls was available to watch.
As a bed, the suite is very good, wide and long enough for most to sleep comfortably, with great White Company bedding. The mattress pad looks like it’s designed for a different seat though.
A view in bed mode with the door closed:
There are three business class lavatories for 56 seats; not a great ratio, but I didn’t notice any queuing on the flight.
The mid cabin galley houses Club Kitchen, a self service area for snacks and soft drinks throughout the flight. It was well stocked.
Thanks to the crew for allowing me to wander through Economy (3-4-3):
…and Premium Economy (2-3-2).
There’s also a small crew rest area on these aircraft for when the aircraft is deployed on much longer routes.
Afternoon tea was fine, and was served 90 minutes prior to landing. BA take this seriously, but for my money, Virgin do it better!
We arrived into Toronto on time and in bumpy weather. It was unseasonably mild.
In summary, a hit and miss experience. I’m not convinced of the utility of the door – the seat’s biggest selling point – it’s certainly no match for a proper enclosed suite like the Qatar Q-Suite. I was also disappointed with the slow service, but optimistic BA can pick this issue up and make improvements.
In any case, had BA installed these seats without a door, they’d be standard Super Diamond seats and I think there would be no cause for complaint. It’s a reliable and solid seat which does all the basic things well, so the door issues shouldn’t be taken as seriously in the cold light of day. It’s nicer to have it than not – although don’t let the hype get in the way of reality!