Love to Hate or Hate to Love, British Airways Business Class Gets the Job Done.
When asked what my impressions are of British Airways First Class, I usually respond with “it’s basically a really good business class.” That may be harsh, but compare it to something like Lufthansa A380 First Class, and you’ll immediately see what I mean (though LH F is by no means perfect…at all). So, does that mean that British Airways Business Class (Club World, as it were) is a really good premium economy experience, or is it something more?
In this post...
Reviewed in 30 seconds
How I Got Here
As a major fan of the 747-400 (and 747-8 variant), it’s one of the few aircraft that I may go out of my way to get on, especially if I can get a decent seat on the upper deck or in the mini-cabin in the nose, which is effectively beneath the flight deck. BA still operates the 747-400 to Seattle, so I jumped at the opportunity to redeem some American Miles from a Citi card that I had yet to use. Earning AA and BA miles is doable with the following cards, and which one(s) you choose will really depend on your spending patterns, and how hardcore you want to be about maximizing mileage earning and redemption value. I will admit I’m a little lazy, so I only have the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®, which when I got it had a massive 100k mile welcome offer which is no more. The BA/AA cards include:
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard®
- Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard®
- American Airlines AAdvantage MileUp℠ Card
- AAdvantage® Aviator® Red World Elite Mastercard®
- British Airways Visa Signature® Card
I’m more bullish on transferable points like Citi ThankYou, Amex Membership Rewards, and Chase Ultimate Rewards, but none of these programs are direct transfer partners for AA, which is why I only have the one Citi® / AAdvantage® card (which also happens to get me AA lounge access when flying their metal).
The business class lounge I went to was surprisingly good, given my experiences in their regional lounges and the Concorde Room in Heathrow, which was nice, but failed to wow me like Lufthansa First Class Lounges and The Singapore First Class Lounge & Private Room. Boarding was civilized, and what I would call par for the course for business class these days, so no real issues there. Heathrow is another one of those airports with remote stands, but fortunately, this flight had an actual gate, so we were able to board at L1 and walk up the stairs to the upper deck. All in all a good business class ground experience.
There’s nothing not to love about the upper deck of a 747, which always feels a little like you’re flying in a private jet – not that I have, but I imagine it might be something like it, only better. On the upper deck the BA business class is in a 2-2 configuration, which is superior to the 2-4-2 configuration on the lower deck (and, indeed,the 2-3-2 config on the 787). I’d describe the cabin feel as intimate and cozy, and not at all like you’re on a jet with hundreds of people on board. Lighting and finishes are what I would call standard.
Where to Sit
Window seats at the bulkheads are the win here, as it will feel a tad like a mini suite when the divider is up, and you won’t have to step over anyone to hit the lav. 62A was my seat, and I’d say that 62A and 62K are probably the best seats on the upper deck. 64A and 64K might also be ok up top. On the lower deck I’d do 20A and 20K for the privacy, but if you’re an aisle seat person then I would do any of the forward-facing aisle seats at the forward bulkhead(s), depending on which 747-400 configuration you fly on. Per usual, seatguru will let you down when trying to figure out which version you’re flying, so consult the BA seatmaps. Avoid at all costs any of the ‘middle’ seats, unless you’re flying with someone you really, really like.
Ah, the Club World seat… Not the world’s most amazing business class seat, but as I said in the beginning, it gets the job done. Sadly, with all except a select few seats at the bulkheads, you’re going to have to step over or be stepped over by someone, as the only seats offering direct aisle access are, well, aisle seats. Contrast that even to the 3 major US carriers, which for the most part offer direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 config in most (if not all) of their longhaul business class cabins.
I thought the shoe storage compartment was a nice touch, and as is the case on most upper deck 747 products, you’ve got a nice set of storage bins next to you, which while they won’t fit a full carryon, can easily swallow a backpack and computer bag – nice to have as the overhead bins on the upper deck are always small.
Sleeping in the Seat
This was a day flight, so I didn’t necessarily sleep, but I did recline all the way down and found the seat to be fully flat and comfortable, with only the most minor of gripes when it comes to where your seat transitions into the pop-down footrest – that was not as flat as I’d like, but it wouldn’t prevent me from getting sleep on an overnight flight.
Getting work done
Not the widest traytable, but it was flat and did allow me to get some work done. Hard to do with food on the tray, but then that’s true of most traytables in business class.
Again, great seat for lounging as you just recline into whatever position you want. The footrest is maybe a bit small, but it works and I was comfortable reclining to watch a few movies.
Food & Beverage
Eh, airplane food is airplane food, and I’d say BA business class offers totally adequate food and beverage in business class. Most of the time I find I’m just grateful to be served food and wine to help pass the time, and there are rare exceptions on either end of the spectrum, but business class food is generally just adequate – rarely exceptional and rarely terrible. BA is right in the middle of that bell curve in my opinion.
IFE & Video Screen
Time for a refresh! Which, if I’m not mistaken, has already happened. This version of the seat had a tiny screen with horrible resolution. Sure, most people are rocking tablets and laptops these days, but I’m that guy who likes to watch and work at the same time, so IFE is actually kind of important to me. I’ve only flown BA’s new first class, not the new business, but that business class seat looks like it has a much better IFE setup.
Standard business class amenity kit with Elemis products, matching the spas they have in their lounges.
Cabin Crew & In-Flight Service
I had heard mixed reviews about service on British Airways business class from the various blogs and forums out there in terms of the soft product, but my experience was great. Some of that could be because it was the upper deck “mini cabin”, but either way, it felt almost as good as some past experiences in British Airways first class.
The Bottom Line
If, and that’s a big if, I could guarantee a bulkhead window seat in British Airways business class (especially on the upper deck of a 747), I wouldn’t hesitate to fly it again. If I were to be stuck in a middle seat I would consider other options, but at the end of the day, any business class seat is a welcome luxury, and BA will not disappoint, unless you’re used to flying high end Asian and Middle Eastern Carriers all the time…