Musings on Club World.

I recently flew British Airways Club World from London to Dallas over the Easter holidays to both visit a wonderful friend, and also to tip me over renewing my Gold Guest List status for another year.

I’m sure many readers will be familiar with the product, so rather than write a full review of the experience, thought I’d do a mini one.

As I am an existing Gold Guest List, I only have to get to 3,000 tier points to renew it, which means no access to the Concorde Room, however at the same time I was travelling on my outbound to Dallas, another friend was off to New York who kindly guested me in.

Being Good Friday, the airport was pretty busy and the entrance to the First class check-in was queuing out into terminal.

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Terminal 5 First Wing Queue

Thankfully I was hand-baggage only, so just had to visit the very end desk to have my passport checked by a member of staff.  There wasn’t a long queue at security so was through and into the First lounge in a further five minutes.  As mentioned earlier, I was guested into the Concorde Room by a friend, however that was equally busy.  In the dining area, there was around a thirty minute wait for tables.  Outside on the terrace, I counted exactly two free seats.  Oh, and they had run out of their signature Champagne, Laurent Perrier Grande Siècle, and were serving the same as next door in the First lounge.  I had some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for breakfast which was fine, although the eggs were obviously processed, rather than cooked fresh.

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British Airways Concorde Room breakfast

My flight was departing from the ‘C’ gates so about 50 minutes prior to departure left the lounge and headed to the gate.  There seemed to be a problem with the escalators down to the transit, so a member of staff from the airport had roped them off, and was refusing to let people even walk down.

I eventually made it over to boarding gate where it hadn’t yet started.  However they were using the new group boarding which did seem to be enforced.

I was sitting in seat 62K, which is the exit row upstairs on a 747-400.  British Airways have two configurations of 747 in their fleet, one with 86 business class seats, and the other with 52.  The ’86J’ aircraft have had a bit of a freshen with an updated in-flight entertainment system, whereas the ’52J’s haven’t.  Mine of course was the un-refreshed type.

It was filthy.

The gentleman sitting opposite me got to his seat and broke out a packet of anti-bacterial wipes and cleaned the entirety of his seat.

There is quite simply no excuse for this level of dirt on an aeroplane in a premium cabin.

However, British Airways had loaded the new White Company bedding on the aircraft.

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Club World White Company bedding

The packet contained a quilt, a mattress bad and a blanket.  The pillow was already on the seat and is very comfortable.  The new bedding really is excellent and a massive improvement over the previous offerings.

The amenity kit I also liked and was also a definite improvement from the previous generation.  But that’s where the improvements ended.

The headphones were uncomfortable and rubbish.  The noise cancelling feature didn’t work as the socket where they plugged into was so worn that the contact was only made if you physically held the jack in place.  I gave up and used my own set of Bose QC20s.

The IFE screen was atrocious and unviewable unless the window shades were down.  The movie selection was limited and the airshow un-customiseable.  There was no Wifi.

That said, I had a lovely crew from the ‘World Wide’ fleet who really couldn’t do more for the passengers, however the food was still the old concept.

I opted for the chicken terrine to start and then the curry.

The crew offered drinks, which now appear to be delivered as a drink (rather than the constituent parts), and a packet of nuts.

The food, when it did come was pretty rubbish.  The main course in particular tasted like a Tesco ready-meal.

The crew however through the flight were delightful, keeping drinks topped up with an efficient service, without any long waits between courses.

Given the IFE was essentially unwatchable, I decided to have a nap and awoke a couple of hours before landing.  Afternoon tea was served about 1h 15min prior to landing.  Again, it was ok, but cellophane wrapped sandwiches are hardly premium.

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Club World afternoon tea

We landed about 30 minutes late into Dallas where a number of people had to rush to make their connections.

My return flight was quite similar to the outbound.  Again, I had a ’52J’ aircraft which was just as decrepit.  I decided that I wanted to get as much as sleep as possible so declined dinner and opted to sleep for almost the entire flight.

That I did, and very well.  The new bedding really is a step-change from the previous amenities.  Plus given the privacy of seat 64K I awoke with around an hour to go before landing.

Thoughts

The new bedding is great.  If you’re lucky enough to get a window seat that has access to the aisle without having to step over someone’s feet then it’s not a bad product.

I had a decent return flight because I slept and didn’t eat on board.  I guess that’s what a majority of people will do on a short over-night flight from the East Coast of the US back to London.  For that, Club World is great.

For anything else, or in any other seat, Club World is quite simply rubbish compared to what the competition are offering.

The aircraft are filthy, the lounges are over-crowded, the food is dreadful, and the seating concept is now almost 20 years old.

For most of my travel, I’m spending my own money, and I’m now choosing to spend it elsewhere.

With Avios, I’m spending it on partner airlines, despite having to pay ‘peak’ pricing.  When I’m forced to stick to BA, when using the American Express 2 for 1, or using a Gold Upgrade voucher, I’m lowering my expectations.  Considerably.

In summary, British Airways have far more fundamental problems that a new pillow and blanket don’t go anywhere near to addressing.

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