In sport, and in the air, records and benchmarks are constantly being shattered. Five years ago, you couldn’t find a business class seat with privacy doors on every seat. Now, you can’t even call them seats, they’re “suites” and there are quite a few. British Airways surprised critics in 2019 by delivering a new “Club Suite” complete with a privacy door.
While it falls well short of a new business class “benchmark”, it’s a very, very nice way to fly, and perhaps spaced out even better on the Boeing 777 than the new Airbus A350, even though the 350 is a nicer aircraft overall. Here’s what to expect on board…
I flew British Airways Club Suite out of my long time home airport, New York JFK. Despite a planned move from Terminal 7 to Terminal 8, where they will cohabit with American Airlines in just a couple years time, the airline refurbed the check in and lounge facilities to a nice level.
Those travelling in Club World or First Class can pull up to the far end of the terminal as the traffic goes, where there’s just a short walk to each respective check in area, before joining the TSA queue. Once through TSA, it’s up the escalator and a quick left and double back left into the lounge areas.
British Airways has improved pre-flight dining, and there’s even a separate area for Gold Executive Club members, in addition to fun features like a rotating wine tasting machine. For such a short transatlantic flight, it’s best to get that stuff out of the way before you board, unless you enjoy walking around London like a zombie – or at least looking like one – the next day…
Upon boarding, British Airways Club Suite business class on the Boeing 777 looks much the same as it does on the Airbus A350-1000, albeit with more galley space. It’s a remarkable improvement over the 20 year old “Club World” eight across setup found on birds like the Boeing 747 in just about every merit, with the exception of foot space in the sleeping position.
Storage space is exceptionally good, and unlike similar seats, British Airways was able to get this one certified so that you can leave a bag by your feet for takeoff and landing. That’s quite handy for those who want to quickly get into something.
I chose row 8 at the back of the “front” mini cabin, which feels much more personal and boutique than the longer rear Club Suite cabin, which is over double the size. It feels pretty “first class” in size and privacy, by BA standards.
For British Airways 777 Club Suite seating recommendations, I’d highly suggest this mini cabin which comprises rows 5-8. Any seat is great, and couples can face each other in the middle if they aren’t window seat geeks.
Other than that, there’s ample arm level storage along the suite, which lifts up with a click and touch pad access to control the seat along the contoured side. Just don’t forget your stuff, if you leave it in there…
The natural recline position of the seat itself is attractive, and not at all uncomfortable to sit in for meal service or work needs, like typing on a laptop. With your feet up, there’s a real feeling of ease. My favourite setting on this seat is the half recline lazy mode. It’s very inviting.
The flight entertainment system is nice, responsive and the screen is of good quality. I’ve always enjoyed BA’s selection of box sets and find them to be a perfect sleep companion. It’s not ground breaking in any technological way, but it’s an above average setup.
Hopefully it’s no surprise to any of you that some things in life are style over substance. On the whole, I’d say that’s pretty much how I feel about this door. It’s there, probably better than nothing, but really not much better. Unlike current benchmark seats, it’s low enough that every other passenger in the cabin is in sight for anyone of reasonable height while in a seated position.
Basically, it’s cool to say a seat has a door, and by my definition, it allows you to call your seat a suite, rather than a seat. I think British Airways tapped into this marketing material and… yeah. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see that you can actually see the headrests above the level of the doors.
Sleep mode is when the door does prove some merit, since you can sleep comfortably, knowing that only someone standing directly above you might see a belly or butt cheek which managed to slip out of your pyjamas. Don’t worry, there’s no judgement here, happens to the best…
As noted, the seat is “better” on almost all metrics versus its older self, but it leaves one thing on the table. These reverse herringbone style seats require losing the “open” foot area, in favour of a small box of sorts. If you sleep on your side, you’ll find this slightly more finicky than the old Club World as you move around. Shoes off will definitely help here, and they fit below just fine.
This is not specific to British Airways, but just a known element of virtually all reverse herringbone shaped seats. For shorter travellers, or those with small feet, it’s a non issue – but if you’re tall…
One area where there’s room for rapid improvement without needing to modify any seats, is bedding, particularly in relation to these new Club Suite seats, which have different requirements than the old seats.
I’d love to see BA specifically step up sleep comfort for these Club Suites, particularly given their ‘The White Company’ partnership. The bed sleeps well, but there are large divides which are new to this seat, and the little sheet does little to mitigate.
There are certainly other elements of the bedding kit given that could be “enhanced” away. The pillow is great, and the duvet remains mostly very good. For anyone that’s seen the movie Super Troopers, I’ll say the word “enhance” one more time.
Like many British Airways regulars, I’ll always have a soft spot for the Boeing 747, Queen of The Skies. The plane may be old, but it was built with real passenger and crew comfort in mind and that’s never more clear than in the galley spaces.
Crew have ample area to work and prepare service, and passengers even have room to socialise without being too much of a nuisance to the operation.
British Airways has made a point of being a “leader” in densifying aircraft, and space on this aircraft comes noticeably at a premium. The first crew member I encountered instructed me to hang my coat on my seat, since there wasn’t enough galley space. The next then offered to hang it without prompt, so I don’t know what to make of that.
The Club Kitchen is noticeably better on this aircraft than the new Airbus A350-1000’s, but it’s right next to a very active lavatory area and crew station, so it all just feels a bit chaotic. I attempted a visit and very quickly returned to my seat. For an overnight flight it’s a non issue, but if you’re on a longer haul flight and looking to stretch the legs, you’ll see what I mean.
British Airways has done an excellent job with their catering in recent years, particularly on the New York route, serviced by Do&Co. They’re the best airline caterer on the planet, by a Usain Bolt distance at my estimation.
I opted to eat pre-flight on this particular journey, but have eaten on about 10 flights on this sector over the last 6 months and have always been genuinely impressed by the food. For jet-lag reasons, I always advocate fasting on these overnight flights, but I’d completely understand why someone would tuck in.
If you do eat, focus on the appetisers and desserts, which tend to be Do&Co specialties.
For your drinking pleasure, British Airways serves Duval Leroy Brut Champagne, which is a nice entry level bottle used by many airlines these days. Hey, when the price is right. I think BA really knows its customers well on the booze side, and tends to focus on having a staple “old world” red and a staple “new world” white, which tend to be where pop culture drinkers gravitate.
A flat bed in the sky with a door to keep your butt cheeks from public display is a privileged way to travel and I think British Airways has done extremely well with this Club Suite. There are things I don’t quite understand, such as the big box of bedding for a semi uncomfortable bed, but they have ticked most of the boxes towards a great flying experience.
The entertainment system is reasonably fast, the screen is sharp, the storage is phenomenal and when you get a good British Airways crew, they’re amongst the best in the skies.
I will always yearn for the days where there was enough space in a galley to do some stretches or at least pillage the snack bar in peace, but those days are mostly over on all airlines anyway, even if BA seems to be going a step further. It’s not QSuite from Qatar or The Room from ANA, but this is a solid top 10 business class experience on the whole, and one anyone should enjoy.
Given the choice between an A350 and a Boeing 777, i’d take the more advanced air systems and cabin pressure comforts of the A350, but I like the setup Club Suite occupies on this Boeing 777…