I check out the new British Airways domestic Club Europe

One of the more positive British Airways developments this year has been the launch of Club Europe business class on domestic flights.

You can argue that this was forced on British Airways as a way of protecting its long-haul revenue.  Connecting passengers from First Class or Club World long-haul flights were not impressed to find themselves in a potential middle seat with minimal leg room and needing to pay for food and drink.  It only needs one or two £4,000 long-haul tickets every day to disappear to another airline to undermine the entire buy-on-board / reduced leg room economics.

(Not that leg room is any better in Club Europe, of course, unless you are in Row 1.  It probably feels more spacious if you are sat at the front with an empty middle seat.)

My key question was ….. could the crew cope with serving a 5-row (probably 17 passenger) Club Europe cabin on the 35 minute flight to Manchester?

The answer is Yes.

My outbound was the 10.10 departure from Terminal 5.  This meant that I missed breakfast by 11 minutes.

(As an aside, I also got to try the First Wing for the first time, and it worked well.  The only downside is that if you arrive by tube, as I did, you have to walk the full length of Terminal 5 to get to the First Wing area.  It is easier when arriving by taxi as you can ask to be dropped at the far end of the terminal.)

The crew handed out hot towels whilst taxiing to save time once airborne.  I was offered a choice of a continental meat plate or a cheese and tomato panini.

I took the panini:

British Airways domestic business class meal

The good news is that it was hot and, as cheese and tomato paninis go, tasty.  In typical BA fashion, however, they messed up the little things:

the presentation is not great – the fruit, for example, is weirdly positioned in one half of the plate

there is butter on the tray – happily the staff did not insult my intelligence by offering me a bread roll to accompany my panini, although they were available if I wanted one

the UHT milk carton is upside down and had taken quite a battering somehow

…. and when I asked for a coffee, the milk was added by the crew from a carton on the trolley, so what was the UHT milk for?

the coffee cup was freezing cold, which led to an interesting sensation when I tried to drink the hot coffee out of it.   It also made the coffee go cold more quickly, which is a shame as the new tall mugs should hold heat better than the old short fat ones.

there was no ‘cleaning towel’ – these seem to have gone for good

The crew was excellent, however, and everything was served, consumed and cleared away in good time before our landing into Manchester.

Whilst I am very sceptical about the idea of offering a panini as a ‘meal’ on, say, the evening flight from Frankfurt to London, as a mid-morning snack it was perfectly acceptable.

I returned on the 15.45.  This was an ‘afternoon tea’ service which got me the choice of a cheese ploughman’s lunch or a sandwiches and cake combo.  I took the latter:

British Airways domestic business class meal

This was, frankly, poor.  The sandwiches are as pathetic as they were before the recent Club Europe catering changes.  The scones have been replaced by an odd piece of cake.  Yet again, the tray contains a UHT milk carton even though my coffee came with milk in it as I requested  it white.

That said, it was 4pm in the afternoon and I wasn’t in need of a major meal.  You also need to remember that this is still a major improvement on the (non-existing) meal that a connecting Club World passenger would have received previously.

One issue was that the passenger in 2D (I was in 1D, 1A and 1C were also taken) was served first.  I’ve no idea why – he didn’t seem like off-duty crew – but it seemed a little odd to me and presumably also to the other passengers further forward.  It wasn’t because he had a special meal ordered because he was given the same two choices as the rest of us.  As he was in Row 2 out of five, there was no risk that he wouldn’t have got his first choice either.

Is domestic Club Europe worth it?

One little-regarded side effect of the introduction of domestic Club Europe is that it allows non-status passengers to get British Airways lounge access on domestic Avios redemptions.  This wasn’t possible before.

My flight was 7,750 Avios + £25 each way.  A EuroTraveller ticket would have been 4,000 Avios + £17.50.  A cash ticket in EuroTraveller would have been over £300 as the trip was arranged with just 24 hours notice.

The extra 3,750 Avios and £7.50 gets you (assuming you don’t have BA status):

additional baggage allowance (unlikely to be needed, admittedly, if you are only travelling domestically)

fast-track security

lounge access

priority boarding

free food and drink on board

empty middle seat

seat at the front

….. which is a pretty good deal in my view.

If you already have status, as I do, it is a marginal call – although, for my outbound flight, there were no Avios EuroTraveller seats available so I had no choice.

As I am Avios-rich, I consider the extra 3,750 points + £7.50 each way a fair price for a seat at the front (1D), empty middle seat (the outbound flight was virtually full so I wouldn’t have had that in EuroTraveller unless I got a Gold seat-block) and the outbound panini, fruit plate and coffee.  The meal on the return was less impressive and the flight was emptier, but I would still do it again if I had to take the same flight next week.

I was, overall, impressed by the whole domestic Club Europe experience compared to how things were before on internal UK services.

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Comments

  1. I’ve travelled domestic CE a few times so far but not yet to Manchester. My evening meal LHR-EDI was a small but sufficient chicken salad. LGW-GLA was similar but was actually slightly nicer. GLA-LCY was the best one of the lot with a choice of two hot options and a menu card.

    http://saveecrewards.co.uk/blog/review-ba-cityflyer-club-europe-ba2215-gla-lcy

    I’d definitely recommend CE on the LCY routes if catering matters to you even though it’s still complimentary in Euro Traveller where you can enjoy the individually wrapped crisp.

    http://saveecrewards.co.uk/blog/review-ba-cityflyer-euro-traveller-ba8717-edi-lcy

    Berlin – LHR-TXL I had an evening meal and it was similar to what I had to EDI. As my return flight was afternoon tea I decided to order a special meal and got a nice vegetarian sushi rather than the crappy sandwiches. I requested vegan to avoid being offered ones of those paninis which I think look awful.

  2. James A says:

    As you point out the loss of several £4000 club world connections from northern or Scottish cities are a game changer. As for me in gla and having had years of the service being turn away to be ripped off for almost a year and asked to pay for food and a cup of tea/coffee really was the last straw.
    To Mr. Cruz and his cronies; too little too late.
    As a BAEC Gold for years paying my own £4K fares from gla to USA I’m now saying bye Bye freed BAstards.
    And I’m sick of blogs and columns like this bring a BA’s PR department and bigging their crap up!
    Let’s call it what it is: tokenism. Too little too late after ripped by we Elites off !

    • Graeme says:

      You really are very bitter, and your comments are a recurring theme.
      For the sake of your sanity and health I’d try and move on!

    • I’d feel a bit of a diddy too if i used my own cash and spent it on BA CW.

  3. Callum says:

    A milk carton being upside down on the tray has to be the most ridiculous complaint I’ve ever read on here!

    (I know you’re not making a big deal about it)

    • Presentation is ‘free’. It literally costs BA nothing but makes a major difference to how things are perceived. This is why, for example, Club World passengers get annoyed when they get tossed a packet of shrink-wrapped sandwiches as a ‘meal’ when it would take the crew all of 30 seconds to open and plate them attractively.

      On its own, it is obviously trivial. Taken with all the other things I list, it becomes part of a pattern.

      • Callum says:

        I said I know you aren’t making a big deal of it, but I still think it’s absurd – even when combined with the horrific practice of putting fruit on the side of the plate instead of in the middle!

        It doesn’t help that I’ve always been uncomfortable with the “trappings of wealth” and being waited on though – it reminds me of slavery (not that I think it’s remotely similar from a logical viewpoint of course!).

        • mark2 says:

          I think you need to get out less!

          • the real harry1 says:

            that napkin’s not exactly straight, either

          • Callum says:

            Do I? I can’t say I really understand that, presumably jokey, insult! Unless my discomfort for opulence or having quasi-servants means I shouldn’t be interacting with people? (Jokes on you, more time to make comments here!)

        • Calum, its thinking like that that has brought to BA to the position its in now i.e. playing catch up. I flew with both QR and AA last year and one of the little things that impressed me was the the placing of the coaster to ensure it could be read. Silly and pointless in many ways but it demonstrates a desire to get the little things right. When you do that much else follows. BA lost that many years ago and service has been in decline since. There was a time when First Class crews would be able to talk knowledgeably and engagingly about the wine and the food. Thats long gone and when I last asked for vodka martini in First I was handed a bottle of vodka, a bottle of vermouth, a glass with ice and a saucer of olives. Perhaps the crew thought they were be smart, perhaps being helpful. But for premium class crews to be unable or unwilling to mix a pretty basic drink shows scant regard for service.

        • All hospitality is about ‘show’ – we all know the staff parts of a hotel or restaurant are not as smart as front of house, and that the staff don’t dress that smartly on their days off. But you create an illusion, an experience. When you break that, it falls apart.

  4. Re the passenger in 2D a similar thing happened to us last year on a business class flight to Malta. One member of the cabin crew was pinging all around the cabin requesting menu choices from certain passengers with no obvious order and we couldn’t work out why. It turned out she was serving the meals in order of status. Maybe a similar thing was happening on your flight and that passenger had Gold Guest List status.

  5. Julie Kalama says:

    I got Club domestic as a connection to PE long haul to the US – a pleasant bonus especially with lounge acess

  6. James says:

    OT – I recently completed a Accor stay.. 4 nights at the Beijing Sofitel. I kinda went for it due to the Iberia promo. But im a little lost. I set my account to automatically convert to Iberia avios. But I checked my Accor account today and points are in that account and theres only 988 of them. I expected more! around the 2000 mark?
    Anybody know anything?

    • NigelM says:

      Well how many you get largely depends on your status with Accor – if you have platinum status you get a big bonus in addition to the base points. Does it show a base amount and then a status based amount?

  7. NigelM says:

    Also, don’t forget 2000 points equals 40 euro value. The thousand points you got equates to around 2000 euro cents – could that be the mix up?

    • James says:

      Well the promo made it 7 Avios to £1.. according to the headforpoints article. I’m sure I naturally double checked it too. So the hotel was £330 for the entire stay which x7 is 2310. But maybe if they have gone into my Accor account they may boost once they enter my Iberia account ?

  8. AndrewG says:

    I got an upgrade to CE tonight on way home to Glasgow. Nice surprise. Didn’t need to down that second GnT in the lounge before boarding if I had known!! There were 5 rows of CE and 1 empty seat so 19 of us. They only had 3 cheese and tomato paninis which were taken by 3 of the 4 people in row 1 so everyone else had to have a salad. But 2 free GnT’s on board made my Friday night flight home that little bit nicer!

  9. TheFrequentFlyer says:

    Wow, the air must be thin up there in your ivory tower! Upside down milk and fruit arranged not to your liking. As someone else said, trappings of wealth have clearly gone too far.

    • If you ran a restaurant like this, you’d go bust …..

      • TheFrequentFlyer says:

        Don’t get me wrong, I like the ‘nice things’ in life and I’m happy to pay for that, as I’m sure most people here are, but there’s a fine line between expecting great service and pompousness. Personally I am always conscience of not coming across as ‘better than them’ even though some might say I’m fortunate to be able to, but I think these complaints fall on the wrong side of the line.

        And if a nice restaurant happened to be giving out UHT milk packets with the after dinner coffee, I don’t think they’re going to go bust if it happens to be upside down.

        • But you are taking the comment out of context. What I wrote is that, basically, the presentation of the meal is a shambles and here are a number of reasons why. None of the reasons in isolation is a problem but put together they form a different picture.

      • C’mon Rob that’s completely not true… you just have to visit chinatown in London to see restaurants that have been around for decades and continue to thrive, despite the service being quite frankly atrocious.

  10. Derek Scott says:

    For me, the meal on domestic connections is not an issue. What I’ve had beef with BA for years is when using Points for Upgrade, with a domestic connection from EDI onto long haul, is the mix of connections options presented that is the main problem.

    More often than not, LHR-LHR Connections are offered much less than cross airport LGW AND LCY options to connect to T5. Sorry, but who in their right mind would want such a cross-London journey, unless you were fitting in a business meeting in between,

    I’ve fed back to them through their Customer Relations and regular surveys, but nothing seems to change.

  11. Eli Gold says:

    Chill out everyone Rob is here to give his opinion! Don’t like it, don’t read it.

    For those that fruit on the side of the plate = poor service, it’ll be something to take into consideration. For those that it’s too trivial, ignore and move on.

    Thank you Rob for all your info and updates.

    I’m especially keen to read your experiences about domestic CE as I use it from time to time and am looking forward to flying LHR-GVA CE in August (Meal will be Kosher though, so any info on that would be cool – my bet is that Kosher CE meal will beat those mentioned).

    Thank you