British Airways is now officially in the game…
Boarding an Airbus A350 is unlike any other flying experience. You immediately notice the high ceilings, whisper quiet cabin and the beautiful, extra large windows, but for British Airways business class customers who didn’t quite know what they were booking onto, they’ll also notice yet another stark difference, and rather quickly too – a remarkably modern and refined new business class cabin.
— Gilbert Ott | GSTP ✈️🌴🌏 (@godsavethepoint) August 5, 2019
Gone are the old seats and in are new business class “club suites”, complete with a privacy door to tune out the world, or at least your seat mates choice in entertainment. I was on board the first ever commercial flight, and put the new British Airways Club Suite seat through its paces. My verdict: it’s a sensational way to fly, but like many iconically British things, not without its quirks…
The British Airways A350 splits business class into two cabins, divided by a crew galley and a “club kitchen”, where guests can grab snacks in between meal services. As noted in our “best seats in every BA A350 cabin” look at the aircraft, Seats in rows 1, 11 and 15 would absolutely be my pick for business class, thanks to increased privacy, legroom, space or proximity to the exit door.
Upon settling into my seat, I was very pleased to find not one but two eye level storage spaces and a vanity mirror, which served, if nothing else, as a nice reminder to go to the gym. Unlike many seats which practically require a training manual, the controls really couldn’t be any easier to use, with three distinct buttons. One for takeoff and landing, one for all “chill modes” of half recline, and for the flat out bed. I’ll touch on the comfort levels for all three…
Upright: the seat enjoys an absolutely fantastic “upright angle”, with a really comfortable slouch position and excellent lumbar support. As I write this, I’m happily enjoying this seating position without feeling like i’m standing against a brick wall.
Half Recline: the “chill mode”, or rather movie mode, is my favourite position for this seat. I’d say the padding around the lower back is amongst the very best I’ve experienced in business class on any airline, and I loved watching some Curb Your Enthusiasm with a glass of wine. It’s extremely well done, and the arm rests make things really groovy.
But bed mode was a bit of a mystery, albeit a very comfortable one depending on how you sleep.
I’ll start with the bad.
My main gripes about British Airways new Club Suite in bed mode are focused on the one immovable arm rest each seat features, which takes away from potentially useful sleep space. If you sleep “coffin style” on your back, you’ll find this functionality very odd, and mildly claustrophobic for such an an otherwise exceptional seat.
At the same time, the other arm rest can be lowered to bed level, but it doesn’t feel as if it’s part of the same bed surface, in part because of the different fabric finishing, or in this case, leather for the arm rest. In addition, there’s a fair bit of space between the two. With those caveats, the lowered arm rest does help to create additional space for side sleepers and with any hope, the mattress topper will make it a feature that’s hardly noticed.
As far as the good goes though, there’s plenty.
Laying flat out in coffin mode, my 6’3’’ wide frame had at least a couple inches to spare in length, which is more rare than one might guess in business class, due to the fact that most seats are only 6’0” in length.
If you enjoy sleeping as if you’ve died, are in a coffin and are on your way to wherever you are headed, you really can do that here- and that’s something very few business class seats can say, including even the Qatar Airways Qsuite or ANA’s new “The Room”. I’m not saying it’s as wide, but in terms of the distance between the top top of your head and the bottom of your tippy toes, this is way up there.
For side sleepers who curl their legs up a bit, the seat is very good and offers better padding than say… 20/25 of the best business class seats. If there was more room created where the immovable arm rest is located, it’d be nearer a perfect score.
This is not the tallest privacy door on an airplane, but a darn effective one it is. In upright mode, I could see over the seat, but could not see shorter passengers, and could only see the head tops of those in front of me. Once reclined, even slightly – everyone disappeared.
The privacy door is really unobtrusive and gave me an odd amount of relief, comfort and confidence to write, watch or sleep in peace. I happened to be writing this on the plane, and there was a real comfort in knowing that anyone wishing to eavesdrop would have to pull an Inspector Clouseau to do so. You couldn’t exactly be inconspicuous, which is entirely the point. This is about privacy, and you’ll absolutely feel it – especially compared to the previous iteration!
As to the new Club Suite screen, which comes in at 18.5’’ in full HD quality, it’s superb. It’s genuinely fast, very responsive to hand touch and gestures and is easily the most intuitive and easy to use IFE system British Airways has ever offered. It was little touches like instructions on how to login to the wifi that made an actual difference.
As to the actual films, television and docs, I’ve long considered British Airways to have one of the better selections of film and television, with a steady mix of new hits and classic bits, and I’m glad to see that this has not changed at all.
With a window seat featuring the A350’s extra large windows, which happened to be very clean on this maiden flight, it was just a question of which entertainment to pick between the sky and the IFE. They just don’t make movies like they used to, but that’s hardly British Airways fault.
The best lavatory in British Airways A350 Club World cabin is definitely the one found in the front cabin, in front of row 1, and not just because you feel as if you’re practically in the flight deck. This is an ADA compatible lavatory with enough space to comfortably turn around. All the lavatories are nice, but this one is the best.
Aside from a cabin which propels British Airways to an extremely competitive top tier business class offering, it’s the plane itself which makes this a sensational way to fly. This plane is so whisper quiet, you just cannot help but love it. Colleagues can chat at a whisper without disturbing other passengers and engines are more of an idea than a constant state of sonic fixture. Thanks to the well documented anti jet-lag measures on the plane, passengers on long haul flights will really feel the difference. I do.
The tray table is also a nice touch. It’s positioned high enough and adjustable enough that you can comfortably slide in and out of your seat during meal service, without pulling the table cloth and thus knocking your entire meal into your perfectly pressed outfit. It’s the little things, and this was done well.
Overall, I am really excited by this new business class experience from British Airways. If I could’ve made the privacy door 6” higher, I would’ve. If I could’ve prioritised more bed width over arm rest and tray space, I might have. But those are entirely first world problems, and I really can’t help but feel grateful at 40,000 feet in the sky, in a flat bed long enough for anyone not playing in the NBA, with a privacy door to shut the world out. I give this a 9/10.