It’s here! I flew on the British Airways Airbus A350 Club Suite to see what it’s really like. It’s the most hyped product British Airways have released in years, and is a flight I’ve been looking forward to for months. But is the British Airways Airbus A350 Club Suite all it’s hyped up to be? I headed to Heathrow to find out.
I arrived at Heathrow much later than I’d planned to for the 6:20am departure to Madrid. For the first month, the British Airways Airbus A350 operated the Madrid flights to build crew familiarity – and on this particular day the BA456/457 rotation was being operated.
Today’s aircraft had been delivered to British Airways less than a week before my flight – and mine was just her seventh commercial flight. It’s being used exclusively on the Madrid flights for the first month, to allow all the crew to get experience flying onboard.
The flight was already on final call by the time I made it to the gate, so I headed straight down the jetbridge onto the brand new aircraft.
I was welcomed aboard by the friendly crew and made my way left into the brand new Club World cabin.
BA’s Club World cabin on the A350 is in a 1-2-1 configuration – and they have crammed in an awful lot of club world suites. There are 14 rows of club world on the A350, taking up almost half of the aircraft.
The Club Suite is a new concept at BA, and is the first business class seat for British Airways that has a sliding door.
Before long the seatbelt sign came on, the doors were closed and we began our pushback.
The safety demonstration is done manually on the A350, for now at least. This is because there are separate instructions for the new club suites that aren’t mentioned in the existing video – so I imagine the video will come as soon as it’s been updated.
We had a short taxi out to runway 27L. Heathrow isn’t too busy this early in the morning so you don’t have to queue for long.
Our route to Madrid this morning took us southwest over the Isle of Wight, down across the Channel Islands and Britanny, before crossing the Bay of Biscay into Spain. Flight time today was 1 hour 55 minutes, at a cruising altitude of 41,000ft.
The Club Suite on the British Airways Airbus A350 is a brand new concept for the airline. It has a sliding door, a first for British Airways. My first impressions were that the suite felt quite dark and claustrophobic. With the door closed it feels even more so.
There’s a huge 18 inch TV screen at the front of the suite, which I’ll go through a little later in the review.
At the side of the seat is a little touchscreen control to adjust the seat – just like on the WestJet Boeing 787. This is a great little touch and feels very high tech.
The sliding door is great for privacy but does make the already claustrophobic suite even more so. The doors must be locked open for takeoff and landing – and just three days after the inaugural flight there were already issues with some of the doors, the passenger in front of me having to be moved as the door could not be locked. I wonder how many issues BA will face with the doors.
The table is huge, and has plenty of room for the lovely Club World food.
The seat does have a certain ‘IKEA-esque’ feel to it, due in a large part to the fake wood effect and exposed tray rails.
The Club Suite does offer some great benefits over the existing Club World seat – number one on this list of the amount of extra storage around the seat. The old Club World seat has barely any storage – but the Club Suite has a lot more storage and multiple power options.
The ability to control the seat position through the touch screen is a really cool touch, and something I’ve seen previously on the WestJet Boeing 787-9.
It was surprising that British Airways have gone for the old style, manual window blinds on their Airbus A350 in Club World. It would have been nice to see electric window blinds such as on the Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900.
Overall the Club Suite is a big improvement over the old Club World seat. My only issues were the lack of space in the suite, and the rather cheap feel to some of the seat.
In the lie flat position I struggled to lay in any position, which hasn’t been an issue on any other flat bed to date. Even British Airways’ existing Club World seats have more space, albeit with a lack of storage.
The forward club world cabin is huge There’s 11 rows of suites here. In the rear section there are a further 3 rows, with the bulkhead looking slightly more spacious.
I did find the aisles very narrow too – maybe it’s just a perception due to the high walled suites but it seems very tight, and I wonder if this will cause any issues with accessibility, beit for larger passengers or indeed those just needing a little more room.
Breakfast came around pretty soon, and I took the full english breakfast. Meals are something that BA do incredibly well in Club Europe. Food wise, I’d say BA’s European business class is one of the best in Europe.
British Airways’ Airbus A350s are the first aircraft in the fleet to offer wifi as standard. It is however pretty expensive – the smallest package starts at £5 for just 25MB of data – and the largest is a whopping £18 that gets you just 150MB of data. That said the speed is fairly impressive – I was able to get a download speed of 30 meg, with a decent upload speed of 3 meg too. With just 150MB of data though, at this speed you’ll get through it in no time whatsoever, especially when they start sending this aircraft on the longer flights.
BA don’t offer a sit down bar in Club World on the A350 like some other airlines do in business class – but there’s a self serve bar in the forward galley where, on the longer flights, you’ll be able to help yourself to a range of drinks and snacks.
By the door is a display indicating which passengers have pressed the call bell.
Pretty soon we were commencing our approach down into the Spanish capital Madrid.
We touched down, right on time and taxied into Terminal 4S, the satellite pier of terminal 4, which is where all non-Schengen Oneworld flights leave from.
I had less than an hour to get through the connections channel and back to the aircraft at the gate, which is fairly easy to do at T4S – although you don’t have much time to hang around.
You just head straight to the connections channel for the S gates, which takes you through a quick security checkpoint and then you’re back in the departure lounge.
I even had time to pick up a bottle of Sangria in duty free.
I headed straight down to the gate where boarding hadn’t yet started.
The beautiful A350 was still standing right where I left her.
This time I was sitting a couple of rows forward in 9K.
Row 9 offers a slightly improved view of the engine than rows 10 and 11.
There were a few more trip reporters and vloggers on the return flight to London, many of whom had come out the day before.
Before long, we pushed back to get back in the air to London.
Madrid was pretty busy this morning and we had quite a queue to takeoff. Eventually we lined up, and powered up once more to get in the sky.
Our route back to the UK took us north into the Bay of Biscay before crossing Britanny and the English Channel, before descending over the city of London into runway 27R at Heathrow. Flight time back to the UK was 1 hour 51 minutes, at a cruising altitude of 40,000ft
The flight back to London had a lunch service, which today was a choice of Cod, Risotto or Chicken Salad.
The inflight entertainment system on the A350 is great. There’s a huge choice of movies TV and box sets to watch, as well as music. You can order duty free through the screen too.
The moving map is pretty good and offers a range of views. One other area where BA have taken the cheap option however is the ability to watch the tail camera with outside views of the aircraft. BA don’t have any external cameras on the A350, just like on their other aircraft. Lots of other airlines with the A350 take this option, and the aircraft has the camera built in already to serve the flight deck – but it’s an extra option to feed it to the inflight entertainment that BA didn’t pay for.
The more I sat on this aircraft the more I noticed little things that felt very cheap and plasticky. The grills for example in the footwell, which were made of a really thin plastic, and bent with the slightest bit of pressure.
The footrest seemed to be broken, or at the very least very flimsy, and flexes whenever you rest your foot on it. The club suite door is also quite thin, leaving it feeling very cheap, especially with the strange carpet on the back of the door that looks like it’s come from the leftover carpet scraps of BA’s last office refurb.
Between the seat and the wall, BA have skipped a nice piece of plastic trim in favour of some polystyrene, which doesn’t fit particularly well and once again looks pretty cheap. I imagine it won’t be long until you board to find empty crisp packets and stale peanuts down there.
This is a shame, because the cabin does, on the surface, look very smart. They’ve made a real effort to make this a stylish, understated cabin – and it could have been really nice, like Qatar Airways or Singapore Airlines’ A350 cabins, had it not felt quite so cheap.
It was soon time for lunch, and I ordered the Cod. This was really nice, and again part of BA’s excellent European business class menu.
I noticed a rogue piece of blue packaging tape still attached to the seat – which of course I pulled off. How often to you get to take packaging tape off an airliner seat!
As we commenced our descent, the crew came around to lock the suite doors open again, and we descended across Southern England towards London.
The approach was, as usual, spectacular, and we saw the whole of London’s skyline as we descended into Heathrow.
We touched down on schedule and taxied into the C pier at Terminal 5. We parked on C65, just one gate down from where we’d left earlier in the day.
After a round trip of over 1400 miles to Madrid and back, I was back in London just in time for lunch.
I’m pretty torn about the British Airways Airbus A350. On the one hand, you can’t deny the A350 is one beautiful aircraft. It really looks the part, and offers one of the most comfortable and quiet cabins on the market. You can’t deny that BA’s Club Suites are a massive step up from the ancient club world cabin fitted to most of their other long haul aircraft. There’s more storage, more power options, and they finally got rid of that ottoman. The door is a nice gimmick, but in reality doesn’t seem to offer much more privacy than the suites have anyway. The seats are very claustrophobic and cramped.
There seems to be less space both in terms of length and width, and I’d struggle to get a good nights’ sleep on that bed. There’s no room to lay straight, and no room to lay sideways either. The seat also feels incredibly cheap and plasticky, and with the lack of little extras like the electric blinds, external cameras and a bigger bar area, it’s clear that BA have taken the base model. I get that this is a way to save on both cost and weight, and crucially it lets BA cram as many people as possible into the aircraft, but sadly this all leaves BA looking pretty cheap compared to the likes of Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines.
That said, I’d probably take the British Airways Airbus A350 over almost any other aircraft in the BA fleet for long haul flights, with the exception of perhaps the 747 for nostalgia reasons, especially if I didn’t need to sleep. The extra storage and power is really useful, and the inflight entertainment is excellent too.