In this trip report, I review Club World, British Airway’s Business Class, on an A380 from London Heathrow (LHR) to Vancouver (YVR), which I flew in September 2016. The Airbus A380 is the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft and is famous for being a “double-decker” with the upper deck extending along the entire length of the fuselage. It is also impressively green, with the lowest emissions per passenger of any large aircraft, and is 50% quieter than the Boeing 747-400 range. BA has 12 A380’s in its fleet and they fly from London to Lost Angeles, Los Angeles to London, to Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Miami, San Francisco, Singapore and Washington.
The business class product that BA offers is pretty much identical across its fleet and I have already reviewed business class or Club World on the Dreamliner B787-9, and on BA’s 777. But while BA’s Business Class raised the bar for Business Class worldwide a decade ago with the introduction of the first fully lie-flat seat, it is now outclassed by some of its competitors, especially those in the Middle East: Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways. Nevertheless, it remains one of the best (and my preferred) Business Class products on transatlantic routes and the overall experience is always consistent, very good and with a British touch. If you prefer to upgrade to first, you can see my review of First on the British Airways Dreamliner. I have also reviewed Premium Economy on the Dreamliner. British Airways features in my top top 10 best airlines for longhaul Business Class.
When flying out of London Heathrow to Vancouver you leave from Terminal 3. British Airways Club World gives you access to the Galleries Club Lounge in Terminal 3. Most British Airways Flights leave from Terminal 5 where you get access to the Galleries Club Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 but not the Galleries First (exclusively for First customers and Gold Executive Club members) or the Concorde Room (First Customers only).
Club World Cabin On The A380
On the A380 Club World takes 97 of the 469 seats and is spread across the main and upper decks. The upper deck Club World seats are in two smaller cabins situated around a central galley, whereas on the main deck, they are all together in a single cabin. The seats are arranged in the so-called “ying/yang” layout, where the seat next to you faces the opposite direction affording more privacy and space. I was in the main deck, which has two seats by the window, 4 in the middle, and another 2 by the far window. The layout means that the two inner seats on the middle row of 4 face the same way, and the outer 2 seats face the opposite way. For couples or people traveling together, these middle seats would be perfect, but they would feel a little too intimate for strangers! I was in one of the outer of these 4 seats. In my opinion, all the aisle seats are the ideal seats in Club World for solo travelers. If you like a window seat (which personally I don’t), then the window seat is fine, but you would have to climb over the feet of the person next to you, whereas if you’re in an aisle, there’s no one to disturb when you wish to walk around.
All 3 Business Class cabins offer a sophisticated and contemporary atmosphere, giving a reassuring sense of wellbeing and comfort. However, none of the Business Class cabins comes close to the intimate and private ambiance of the Business Class cabin on the BA Boeing 747 upper deck.
My favorite thing about flying Club World has got to be the seat. Spacious, comfortable with acres of legroom, a memory foam headrest, and most importantly, the chair converts into a 183cm (6ft) fully flatbed. This is billed as an environment for sleeping, relaxing, and working, and as such, you are given a quilted blanket. A power supply is available for laptops and other electronic devices, as well as a USB socket. A laptop-sized storage tray is available by your feet which is useful to keep your personal belongings at hand, as there is no seat pocket immediately in front of you as per the traditional setup. Privacy screens can be raised between the seats as soon as you are airborne, limiting the slightly awkward view you have looking directly at each other! You are also supplied with a luxury amenity kit that includes Elemis skincare products and various travel accessories.
Although the seats themselves do not match up to the likes of Emirates and Qatar, the cabin looks classier and less glitzy than Emirates in particular (take a look at my review of First on the Emirates A380, and you will see what I mean!). I prefer the more conservative look of the cabins on British Airways.
What Is The Best Club World Seat On The A380?
I do not like the layout of BA Club World (see seating plan) as I don’t like facing backward on the plane and 50% of the Club World seats on the 777, A380, 747 and of course Dreamliner 787 face backward. In fact, my favorite window seats all face backward!
The two upper deck cabins feel more intimate as compared to the larger cabin on the lower deck (because they contain fewer seats), so choose an upper deck seat. In addition, the upper deck is higher above the massive Rolls Royce engines and thus quieter. For solo travelers: the rear-facing window seats are more private and the ones you want to be seated in. In addition, the seats on the upper deck have a couple of side lockers which is very useful for storing personal items. If you cannot secure a window seat, your next best choice is the middle seat in the 2-3-2 upper deck configuration, as it has an extra storage compartment. However, note you will have to step over the feet of the passengers on either side unless you are in the rearmost row (in each cabin). The “honeymoon” center seats on the lower deck, where you’re basically seated as close to the person next to you as you would be in economy, are great if you’re traveling with someone you want to be that close to, though it would be downright awkward when you end up next to a stranger in that configuration.
Row 53 (upper deck, front cabin): the window seats A & K are the single best seats on the plane since they offer direct aisle access without having to jump over the feet of other passengers. While the window seats on row 15 (lower deck) and row 59 (upper deck) also offer a clear exit route, they are less than desirable (see below). The middle seat in the 2-3-2 upper deck configuration on rows 53 and 59 not only has an extra storage compartment but also offers direct aisle access.
What are the worst Club World seats on BA’s A380?
Row 50 (upper deck, front cabin): the windows seats A & K are missing a window. Row 50 (upper deck, front cabin): aisle seats B & J are to be avoided at all costs since other flyers tend to bump into these seats when they return from the lavatory. Row 59 (upper deck, second cabin): the Club World seats A, B, J & K are aligned with the middle seats of the first row in World Traveller Plus, which means that you are an aisle width and just a cloth curtain away from the baby bassinets against the cabin divider on the other side. Row 56 (upper deck, second cabin: the Club World seats F, J & K are located close to the lavatory, which may be bothersome to some flyers. Row 15 (lower deck): the Club World seats A, B, J & K are located close to the lavatory, which may be bothersome to some flyers.
Club World Service
The service was excellent and just what I would expect from British Airways; professional, slick, and appropriately British. They went above and beyond to meet the needs of the passengers.
As part of the Club World service, you are entitled to priority check-in and boarding, plus shorter queues at security. This is a great time-saving bonus, and I found it particularly beneficial as it maximizes your time in the lounge. The shorter queues at security is very useful, particularly in the US, as American security is so thorough.
All seats on the A380 have on-demand audio and video, with literally hundreds of the latest films, documentaries, television shows, music, audiobooks, and games at your fingertips. As part of Club World, you have your own personal 10.4in flat screen plus noise-canceling headphones. The screen is tucked into the seat beside you and can be released and positioned as required. It can be tilted so you can watch it from the reclined seat position too. I enjoyed a couple of the latest film releases and listened to some music. You can continue to use the headphones to listen to music as the plane lands, although the screen has to be docked so you can’t watch any content. Another inflight entertainment feature that I would normally expect from a modern aircraft (and one which I know is featured by other premier airlines on the A380) is the availability of onboard cameras that allow you to view forward, downward, and tailfin views. It’s a shame that this was lacking as it can be an interesting way to pass the time, particularly when you don’t have a window seat.
Upon boarding, I was offered the choice between a glass of Champagne, water, or orange juice. I choose the latter since drinking alcohol on a plane gives me headaches. Shortly after takeoff, I received a refreshing hot towel. I was also served a soft drink and a small bag containing an assortment of cold salted and roasted nuts.
Soon thereafter, lunch was offered, all served on a single tray. BA Business Class food can be a hit and a miss IMHO, and this time the food was bad (probably the worst food I ever had on a plane).
There was only one starter, a poor-looking salad of tomato, mozzarella, avocado, tomato sponge, and basil dressing. The starter was accompanied by a fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette. For the main course, I had the classic macaroni and cheese with (2 pieces of) cauliflower and (3 pieces of) smoked sun-dried tomatoes. Finally, for dessert, I chose the strawberry and mascarpone crémeux torte with strawberry compote, which tasted excellent.
90 minutes prior to landing, I was served afternoon tea. I am not a big fan of BA’s afternoon tea and snacks concept (especially not of the sandwiches served in a plastic container), and it was not different this time. The afternoon tea comprised the following:
Sandwiches featuring sliced pastrami with American-style mustard, mayonnaise, and spinach, North Atlantic prawns with lemon and dill mayonnaise and apollo lettuce, free-range egg with rich seasoned mayonnaise, and baby spinach
A mozzarella and sun-dried tomato savory Danish pastry.
Sweets: lemon drizzle and chocolate and cassis Opéra cake
Contrary to other airliners, BA did not install a fancy bar on their Airbus A380 planes for premium flyers. Why would they when they can pack the plane with paying passengers? Nevertheless, the plane has a walk-up “Club Kitchen” onboard, where Business and First Class fliers can graze between meals. Unfortunately, BA has drastically reduced its selection of snacks in Club Kitchen. During the flight, the walk-up bar only featured retro sweets, Cadbury chocolates, and Kettle chips.
You can be assured of receiving a consistently high-quality product with BA’s Club World, and combined with the comfort offered from the A380, the package is good. But British Airways have started to nickel and dime, with a frankly poor “Club Kitchen” and overall food offering. They do not go the extra mile in their food or seating, unlike the Middle East and Asian carriers, which I prefer.
I have also compared British Airways Club World vs. Virgin Atlantic Upper Class including the Galleries Lounges vs. Virgin’s Clubhouses.