From time to time, British Airways put long-haul aircraft on the Madrid to London Heathrow route. Usually, it’s a Boeing 777, but on this occasion it was their new Airbus A350-1000 aircraft. This meant the business cabin was BA’s new Club Suites, instead of the regular seats found on short-haul aircraft. What a treat! Here’s our honest review of the British Airways A350 business class product.
Flight No: BA0457
From/To: Madrid (MAD) to London (LHR)
Departure time: 10:55
Ticket Class: Business
Flight time: 2 hours
Oneworld Tier Points: 40
Check-in & Fast Track
A friend and I checked-in at Club Europe desk, where we found the sole agent was fairly rude and very unhelpful. After asking me what time the flight departed, he then slammed our boarding passes down and simply said “OK.” Those were the only two things he said – nothing about the status of the flight, fast track security, the location of the lounge, the need to travel to the satellite terminal after security. This was far from a business class check-in experience – retraining urgently required.
Fast Track security at Madrid Terminal 4 is hidden away down the side of a shop. After the mission of finding it, we were pleased at how efficiently we passed through and out into the melee of Terminal 4 airside.
Terminal 4 at Madrid Airport is a chaotic and confusing maze of escalators, lifts, and signs. So many signs! After finding our way through the maze from Fast Track security to the lifts for the intra-terminal shuttle, we boarded a train to Terminal 4S.
We found the Iberia Premium Lounge Velázquez hidden in the middle of the duty free shop and entered to find it very busy and very warm. The sun was shining brightly and there was a great view of the aircraft on the apron. It was, however, far too hot to be comfortable enjoying the view.
Warm breakfast food (omelette, bacon, mushrooms, tomato) was provided, although it was lukewarm. Tea and coffee stations were available, but the coffee was decidedly bad.
Water, orange, fizzy drinks/sodas were available, but alcoholic beverages were not provided on the morning we visited.
It was a long journey from the Iberia lounge to the aircraft at gate 42, with boarding largely complete when we arrived. That meant no queues for any of the priority lanes, and no waiting along the air bridge. We were direct to board using the forward air bridge and strolled straight onto the aircraft, where we were warmly greeted and shown to our front row seats. We were given a hot towel and a Club Europe menu shortly after being seated.
Aircraft type: Airbus A350-1000
Number of classes: 3
Number of seats in flying class: 56
Position: Front row on the left hand side of the aircraft
In addition to 56 Club Suites, the aircraft also carries:
56 Premium Economy seats over the next 7 rows
219 Economy seats at the rear of the aircraft
Amenity Kit & Washrooms
As it was a short-haul flight, no amenity kit was provided.
The onboard washrooms were clean and still looking very new. White Company hand-wash and moisturiser were provided in the washrooms.
As this was a brand-new British Airways A350, the business class cabin was Club Suites (being rolled-out across the BA fleet to replace the old Club World business class product). Each is wrapped by its own private enclosure, with a privacy door that can be closed once the aircraft is airborne. Read our full A350 Club Suites seat review.
On this flight, I got the added bonus of flying in 1A, while my friend traveled on the other side of the aisle in 1D. I found 1A seat had a more spacious feel to other window seats, due to the positioning of the two windows and also the slightly longer footwell. The seat is in the bulkhead, so benefits from what I’d estimate is an extra 6 inches of legroom.
One of the USB sockets in the “entertainment locker” failed to provide power, fortunately the second socket did.
While no significant previous passenger debris was to be found around the seat, there were plenty on crumbs and dust on the seat.
What is the best seat on British Airways A350 business class? 1A and 1K have a slightly deeper footwell than other seats, so might be more comfortable. 1A and 1K, and 15A and 15K also have 2 unobstructed windows, creating a seating experience very similar to the current BA First window seats. Call BA or ask at the check-in desk if you can’t book 1A and 1K online. See the seating plan on SeatGuru.
Each seat has a large, fixed entertainment screen that permits gate-to-gate entertainment, unlike the older Club World seat. The software is responsive to the touch, making it relatively easy to find and play a movie. A refreshed flight information screen provides plenty of information about your journey, but sadly no live feeds from external cameras, as can be found on Qatar’s A350s. The help section provides useful information about using the seat’s features and how to maximise comfort.
As it was a short-haul flight, the standard Club Europe beverage service was offered. Food and drink were served at the same time, shortly after takeoff. Being sat at the front meant I didn’t have to wait long. Those at the back of the cabin may need to press the call button if feeling sufficiently parched, as it’ll probably take the crew a while to reach there.
Lunch was served shortly after take-off from Madrid. After telling the crew my choice of main from the menu, they returned very quickly with everything together on a single tray – it’s impossible to criticise the speed/efficiency of this type of service on such a short flight.
I opted for the fish. There was a decent serving of cod on the plate, which was nicely cooked, and paired well with Pierre André Macon-Villages Burgundy.
The cheese and chutney were served with crispbreads rather than crackers. They were a little bit hard and tasteless compared to regular crackers. Anyway, it’s a cracker!! Cropwell Blue and Red Leicester are both cheeses we regularly have at home and very much enjoyed tasting them at 35,000 feet. The pairing with the Cittadini Primitivo was very tasty – lots of dark berries and sweetness to compliment the savoury cheeses.
Desert was a ridiculously indulgent DO & CO’s chocolate mousse that almost certainly requires an 1-hour spin class to offset! This paired fabulously with the Las Olas Malbec, mandating a further 20 minutes on the spin bike.
With no table cloth, or lip on the tray table, I did find the tray had a tendency to slip off the table towards me. I expect the table cloths used on long-haul Club World will prevent this.
Overall, this was a nice Club Europe meal service and will no doubt leave us feeling downgraded when we next fly A320 business class.
We arrived late into Heathrow because a couple of passengers missed the flight and needed their bags to be offloaded. Additionally, the captain reported a very strong headwind (~100mph) that extended the flight time to 2 hours. The flight crew flew the aircraft at 40,000 feet to counter the some of the headwind and poor weather, although we arrived at the gate some 30 minutes later than scheduled. We arrived at satellite C gates, which meant a train to the main terminal.
Once again, our bags weren’t on the baggage reclaim belt in an acceptable time-frame. In fact, they weren’t even on the flight. We learnt BA had loaded our luggage on the following flight and we had to wait 2.5 hours at Heathrow for them to be returned. We would’ve tried our luck at the BA arrivals lounge, but it closes at 14:00 each day, so we just had to wait in Café Nero! It seems the chaos at Madrid Airport extends beyond the crowded terminal and even effects baggage handling.
Madrid can be a tough airport to fly from. It’s busy and is unpleasant to navigate. Had the check-in staff provided a little more guidance, we expect the journey through the airport would’ve been easier. The hard-to-find lounge, while spacious and providing adequate amenities, was underwhelming.
Things changed once we left the gate.
A350 and Club Suites combine outstanding Airbus engineering with a stylish British Airways cabin product. As with our first BA A350 flight, it’s immediately apparent that the crew are proud of their new product, excited about the future and have renewed energy. It was also very nice of them to invite me to take a look at the flight deck. We’re looking forward to flying BA’s A350 somewhere in the world again soon.
Aside from the aircraft and in-flight service, the ground elements on this British Airways A350 business class trip made the overall experience quite unpleasant. So much, in fact, that we’ll be avoiding flight itineraries with connections in Madrid.
Unless you’re going to Madrid, don’t fly through Madrid-Barajas Airport. It’s chaotic and unpleasant, making it far from a nice place to spend a layover of any duration.