After discovering only hours before that the short hop over to Madrid would be operated by one of BA’s two new A350-1000 aircraft, we were excited to experience their new business class product for the first time. Are Club Suites just an overdue refresh to the tired Club World format, or has BA done something different? Read on to find out our opinion on BA’s new A350 Club Suites.
Flight No: BA0456
From/To: London (LHR) to Madrid (MAD)
Departure time: 06:20
Ticket Class: Business
Flight time: 1 hour 50 mins
Oneworld Tier Points: 40
Check-in & Fast Track
After such an ungodly wake-up call, check-in was understandably empty when we arrived! First Wing security was also very quiet, so we breezed straight through. The team working deserve a mention as they were very friendly and courteous.
Having come through the First Wing security and short on time, we opted for the First Galleries Lounge at the southern end of the terminal. To find it from the main south lounge entrance, you turn left and proceed into the BA First Galleries Lounge.
The lounge was very quiet when we arrived but quickly started to fill as business passengers started arriving for their early morning flights. With several hundred seats, and its labyrinth interior, there’s almost always somewhere to sit down/hide.
For those wanting to ditch their bags and coats, a complimentary bag and coat check is available at main foyer of the lounge – just don’t forget them!
TV screen were displaying rolling news, and there were plentiful newspapers and magazines.
A full English breakfast buffet underway in the refectory, which was where the attention of the lounge seemed to gravitate. Buffet and a la carte options (served at your table) were available.
There were also pastries and grab-n-go bacon sandwiches for those in a hurry.
For those looking for something lighter (anticipating a big breakfast on the flight!) there were selections of fruit, yogurts, and cereals.
Tea and Union Coffee machines were plentiful across the whole lounge – you’re never more than ten paces from one.
Although only 05:30, alcoholic beverage were starting to be laid out on the Gold Bar and also smaller wine stations distributed around the lounge. That said, by the time we left the ingredients for a basic screwdriver we’re still missing, let alone those for our preferred Bloody Mary. A selection of reds and chilled whites were offered alongside the Canard-Duchene Charles VII Blanc de Blanc and Grand Cuvee de la Rose NV champagnes (both retail ~£44).
Boarding was underway when we reached the gate, with passengers in group 2 being asked to board. The aircraft wasn’t quite ready, though. After walking down a very long air bridge, we waited for 5 minutes by a door indicating rows 1-11. When finally allowed to board, the advertised front door was suddenly changed and all passengers had to board through the middle door. We were given a very warm greeting at the aircraft door and also at our seat. The cabin crew were excited to introduce their new A350 to us and we were equally excited to listen.
Aircraft type: Airbus A350-1000
Number of classes: 3
Number of seats in flying class: 56
Position: left hand side of the aircraft, 4 rows from the front
In addition to a staggering 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
As it was a short 1 hour 50 minute flight, no amenity kit was provided. It will be nice to fly BA A350 Club Suites long-haul soon to see how their latest amenity kit stacks-up against rivals.
A White Company bedding pack and pillow were provided on each seat. White Company hand-wash and moisturiser were also provided in the washrooms.
The Club Suite is the brand-new business class product being rolled-out on BA’s fleet, beginning with their new A350-1000. The suite is significant advancement on the previous top-to-tail Club World “coffin” seats, offering all-aisle access, private pods in a 1-2-1 configuration.
What strikes you immediate as you approach the seat is the privacy, each seat is very enclosed and positioned in a way that shields you from the view of other seats. To add to this heightened screening, the seats having a sliding door, similar to those found on Qatar Airways QSuites.
Storage around the seat is excellent. In addition to ample storage in the overhead bins, the seat has 2 lockers across the ledge – one fairly shallow – and a vertical storage locker with a vanity mirror inside the door. There’s open basket in the foot well, although this has to be kept empty during take-off/landing.
There are 2 USB charging ports and a 110v mains socket inside the “gadget locker”, which also contains the IFE headphone jack and handheld controller. An interesting point about this locker is the requirement to have the lid open when charging devices, presumably in case one overheats or worse.
The seat is controlled using a touchscreen display beneath the storage ledge that allows you full control over the back rest and foot rest positions. There are also 3 preset buttons: take-off/landing, recliner seat, and flat bed.
In the lie-flat position the seat back rest seemed to vault up when you push your hips down into the seat. This may be bothersome if you move around in your sleep.
The seat has a 3-point seatbelt system that we haven’t encountered on any other aircraft before. We did note some passengers finding it uncomfortable, although we saw no difference to the seat belt we all wear in a car. In fact, being able to unclip the shoulder restraint meant it was still comfortable to use when the seat is in the lie-flat position.
We have to call out the cleaning again. Cabin cleanliness an ongoing problem on BA aircraft and this brand-new A350 is already heading the same way as the scruffy 747s. Not only did I find someone’s old socks in my footwell, a quick tour of the empty cabins unearthed discarded ear plugs and tissues. We could already see dust and grime collecting in the cracks and crevices. While we know the aircraft has been in service for a few weeks and has been back and forth to Dubai many times, passengers shouldn’t be finding the cabin this dirty. The ground crew need to improve the quality of the cabin cleaning.
What is the best seat on British Airways A350 business class? Row 4 was great for us; not too close to be affected by the noise from the galley at the front and not too close to toilets and Club Kitchen in the vestibule area. So, if you want a window seat, take 4A or 4K. If you’re traveling together like we were, you might prefer 4E and 4F. There is also a mini Club cabin behind the main one that contains just 12 seats. While it may appear more exclusive, we’d be worried about being sandwiched between the Club Kitchen and the infant bassinets in the Premium Economy cabin behind. There can also be the risk of being forgotten when not sat in the main cabin. If you’re a tall person, 1A and 1K have a slightly deeper footwell than other seats, so might be more comfortable, if you’re able to reserve them. Call BA or ask at the check-in desk if you can’t book them online. See the seating plan on SeatGuru.
Each seat has a large (18.5″), 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. Despite being a short-haul flight, the system was loaded with the full long-haul entertainment selection, which included 15+ very recent releases plus an extensive back catalogue of favourites. There were also TV and audio options.
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.
While the IFE system is a step up from the previous BA Club World offering, the screen size does feel a little smaller than what other airlines are launching in their business class cabins – Qatar QSuites boasts 22″ and Emirates Business Class 23″ – and wonder whether this could force a earlier-than-anticipated refresh. The large black frame around it feels like lost visible screen space. Anyway, a step up nonetheless.
As it was a short-haul flight, the standard BA Club Europe beverage service was offered. No drinks were offered before or after take-off, just at the start of the meal service. At that time of day I don’t think anyone missed an initial round of drinks and appreciated the food coming just that little bit quicker.
It would, however, have been nice if some water had been offered/provided with the food.
Being a 06:20 departure, breakfast was served. Food and drink were all served together on a single tray, with metal cutlery and a fabric napkin.
My wingman and I chose the full English breakfast, which came with a small bowl of fruit, a yogurt dressed with fruit and seeds, and small croissant accompanied by a disproportionately large pot of jam. The scrambled eggs were a little dry and mysteriously tasteless, but the sausage was nice.
I opted to wash it all down with a cheeky glass of the Nicolas Feuillatte champagne – it’s 5pm somewhere! Crew were happily came around with the bottle, topping up champagne glasses a second time.
For the remainder of the flight the crew unlocked the privacy doors and let passengers enjoy a short rest in their A350 Club Suite beds, complete with White Company bedding.
After a smooth approach and then a rather hard landing at Madrid-Barajas Airport, we had a very short taxi to gate 508 at Terminal 4S. An air bridge was attached to both the forward and middle doors, allowing both Club and Economy passengers to disembark simultaneously. We passed swiftly through e-passport gates where we found the flight connections screens. As we’d arrived in Terminal 4S, we had to take a train and then a long walk to the baggage reclaim belts. Despite having a priority tag on the bag, it came out last – which is regularly the case. We’re seriously considering whether it’s better to ask for no priority tag at check-in.
A350 and Club Suites are a triumph for British Airways. Not only is it a lovely hard product to fly, you can tell the crew are proud of their new product, excited about the future and have renewed energy. If BA ground crew can keep the aircraft in good shape, this will be a game-changing business product for the airline.
An A350 Club Suite typically gets 1.5 windows. That is, the suite can partially block one of the windows. Every few seats, the stars (and windows) align perfectly, affording you a fantastic First-like two window vista. Seats on Rows 1 and 15 benefit from good window alignment.