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Review: British Airways Boeing 787-9 in Club World business class

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This is my review of British Airways Club World business class on a Boeing 787-9 aircraft.

On Good Friday we flew down to Abu Dhabi on one of the new Boeing 787-9 British Airways aircraft.  (Click here for the special 787-9 page on  This is the second, larger, iteration of the 787 and includes a small eight-seat First Class cabin.

Here are a few thoughts:

The Terminal 5B lounge is the place to be

On Good Friday, in a hugely crowded Heathrow Terminal 5, this was the state of the British Airways lounge in the Terminal 5B satellite:

British Airways lounge Heathrow Terminal 5B satellite

(Quick pause whilst all of those readers who have endured the overcrowded No 1 Traveller / BA lounge at Gatwick North recently pick themselves up off the floor.)

You may need to ask check-in staff if your flight will depart from a B or C gate as it is often not shown on the display boards until near to departure time.  Coincidentally, this leaves you with more time to visit the shops in the main terminal.

The front Club World mini-cabin of a 787-9 is the place to be

This is the seating plan for the 787-9 (click on the link halfway down).

Whatever you may think of the seating, the layout of the Club World seating on the 787-9 cannot be beat.  There is a 2-row mini-cabin (Row 6 and Row 7), followed by a galley and the Club Kitchen, followed by a 4-row cabin.

Even the 4-row cabin is a massive improvement than the ‘dormitory’ style Club World layout on the Boeing 777 fleet.  Row 6 and Row 7 is the place to be, however.   What you see in the photo below is the entire mini-cabin:

British Airways Boeing 787-9 Club World business class review

The interiors are classy

Again, irrespective of how you find Club World seating, it is hard to deny that the interior is very classy.  In terms of the ambiance created by the colour scheme and by the gently glowing Speedbird logo, the cabin looks very smart indeed.  I would honestly put it ahead of Qatar, Emirates and Etihad on this front.  The photo above does not do it full justice.

And, before anyone asks, the windows ARE noticeably bigger than on older aircraft.  It was most apparent at Heathrow where the 787 was stood next to a 747.

The seats are still well behind the competition

You can’t hide the fact, however, that the Club World seat cannot compare, in any way, to what is offered by Etihad on the A380 or 777, by Qatar on a 787, A380 or A350 or by Emirates on an A380.

This passenger is not exactly overweight but you can see that even he hasn’t got a lot of space:

Max Burgess

Many airlines are now flying 1-2-1 in Business Class, mainly using a ‘reverse herringone’ angled layout with all seats facing forward.  BA flies 2-4-2 on the 777, A380 and 747 and 2-3-2 on the 787 with up to 50% of the seats facing backwards.

British Airways has, to be fair, done as much as it can given the current design:

  • The seat was comfy
  • The taupe colour scheme is classy
  • I loved the fact the tray table can be slid back so you can still get out of your seat during the meal service
  • The reading light is excellent (and missing on many business class seats from competing airlines)
  • The IFE selection was perfectly acceptable and appears to have improved
  • Because there are overhead luggage bins in the middle section (some airlines take them out for cosmetic reasons) there is a lot of overhead space even though the seat has virtually no storage

The seat is, frankly, too narrow and lacks storage.  Privacy from the person next to you is poor (not a problem for me here obviously) and the privacy screen really blocks in the person by the window.  With the screen up, serving food is difficult.  Window passengers must jump over your feet to reach the aisle when seats are in bed mode.

Sitting in an aisle, I also felt very exposed every time a trolley came down the cabin – as the arm rests are so narrow I felt in permanent danger of being hit.  You can see what I mean here:

British Airways Boeing 787-9 Club World business class review

In terms of ‘best seat’, anything in rows 6 or 7 will be OK.  My daughter had 7K, by the window, which allowed her to get into the aisle without jumping over anyone as it was by the bulkhead.  This seat is also directly next to the Club Kitchen – which is now pathetically understocked – and the loos which is handy for kids.  The Club Kitchen and the galley separate you from the loo so there is no disturbance.

Whilst the middle seat in the middle block may seem unattractive (it is also rear facing), it has the advantage of being hemmed in from both sides.  On night flights it is apparently proving popular for passengers who wish to sleep because you are not disturbed by passing trolleys or window light.

PS.  If you are travelling to Dubai, as we were, it is well worth considering flying to Abu Dhabi.  A Mercedes from the airport (not pre-booked) to Dubai was only £40 and took just under an hour.  You can easily take 30 minutes in heavy traffic from Dubai International to many of the resorts.  More importantly, the Abu Dhabi flight leaves before the first BA Dubai flight so you get there earlier – we were in our hotel by 11pm local time.  You also get to experience the new 787.


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Comments (79)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Nick says:

    Glad you enjoyed it rob. I do agree looks smart. It’s just not evolved from years ago when I first flew club world in my mind. That said if the price was right I would be perfectly happy. I assume there will be a review of food coming up, as this is an area that ba usually scrimp on and turn a good experience into a shoddy one leaving you with a very bitter taste of the bean counters running the firm.

    By the way I assume this was a redemption flight? If so how many avios and taxes did you pay. Equally if it was cash again what did you pay if you don’t mind me asking. I’m gutted the Qatar sweet spot of Frankfurt Doha Abu Dhabi has shot up after the devaluation.

    • Rob says:

      Redemption, so I guess it would have been £550 or so tax. Don’t have exact figure to hand here on the beach.

      • Ian Boyle says:

        How busy is Madinat at Easter? Is it bearable?

        We stayed at the WA instead – was really nice but the construction was bothersome as was the traffic getting on and off the palm

        • Rob says:

          It is a lot quieter than usual, perhaps because Easter is early or because the Russians have all gone (almost none here at all). We have walked straight into breakfast without the usual 2-3 minute wait every day.

          There are, however, 3 kids from the 72 kids in my daughters school year here. Fundamentally it is full of South West London residents.

          • Dannyrado says:

            I’m glad you said that. I was by the pool in the Jbh today and felt so out of place, being a tight ass welshman. I wasn’t sure if I’d walked on to the set of the only way is Essex..

          • Rob says:

            We were down there yesterday. I see they have a German restaurant now! Feel free to get a buggy to Madinat, home of the £7 coffee, if you want a pint with me amongst classy Russian ladies.

          • harry says:

            But doesn’t that sum it up nicely? You’re not exactly amongst kindred spirits…in a pretty nasty place…

            Enjoy the pints lol

  • Paddy says:

    My wife and I are travelling First in the 787-9 later this year. Could anyone suggest seats for both of us travelling together?
    From reading reviews, I don’t think it’s possible to dine together if we sit at window seats. Any insight would be appreciated.

    • roberto says:

      The two middle seats in rows one and two are the only real options in first for couples as there is no direct line of sight from any others on the 787-9

      We flew back from KUL and it was quite sublime from start to finish. Enjoy the chesse and port – it was excellent.

  • Alex W says:

    If they are so bad, why are BA using these CW seats on their brand new aircraft? Are they tied into a contract with the manufacturer? Or just complacent?

  • James Ward says:

    +1 for all the comments about how disappointing the CW layout is.

    But – on a more positive note – did you enjoy the other features of the 787: better pressurisation and humidity, lighting effects, etc? I’ve flown the 787 four times and I’m convinced you arrive in better shape. The crew on a VS flight earlier this month agreed. They told me that crew prefer to work this plane to any other, especially a 747.

    • Rob says:

      Hard to tell on a 6 hour day flight but certainly did not feel bad.

  • Mike says:

    Flying to Houston this week on the 787-9. As I’ve recently lost my BA status, I need to wait until T-24 to book seats. As it stands, the only 2 seats (together) showing as available in the CW section, are seats 13 AB or 13 JK together with the middle (triple) section of rows 10 thro 13. Any advice on whether to opt for row 13 as per one of the previous comments or position ourselves further up the cabin in row 10. Flying back in F on the 777 so,seating not an issue on the return journey.

  • CV3V says:

    Having just flown back on Saturday from KUL in CW I find it to be a product that does the required job and no more, however I do this on redemption – if I was paying cash I would feel short changed. The main benefit on such a long flight, compared to the ME3 carriers, is not having to transfer in the middle east. This means that after the meal then a bit of TV I can go to sleep for a few hours, wake up and watch a bit more TV and then have breakfast – flight done! From experience this has been far better for me and combined with the 787 I have suffered a lot less jet lag, however I would like it if the crew ‘opened’ those electronic window shades prior to landing as I have no idea where I am.

    The middle reverse facing seat on the 787 is noticeably wider than the other CW seats, if all you want to do is sleep then it looks a great option.

    Terminal 5B is the place to be, quiet terminal and a lounge which I have never seen overcrowded (although I am sure it does) – I was even able to walk up to the Elemis Spa and book a treatment.

    My biggest issue with BA is having to endure Heathrow. 40 min wait to clear immigration (at connections), caused by having just one desk open for EU passports, followed by a one hour delay for the connecting flight to GLA while they looked for a tug that worked.

    • Brian says:

      Is it not possible to open the electronic shades yourself? I know you can on Qatar’s 787 – presumably the same is true of the BA version. Agree absolutely that not having to change in the Middle East is a huge advantage and probably one of the reasons why CW is still popular, despite the inferior in-flight experience. I’d much rather be able to sleep/rest/watch movies/relax through than have to get off the plane half-way and hang around in a lounge feeling tired and unable to appreciate the lounge’s facilities!

      • CV3V says:

        to clarify, i was sitting in one of the forward facing aisle seats, so the window shades are under the control of the backwards facing window seats. Seems odd to me that the crew don’t take control of the shades for landing and un dim them, which is what i have seen on other carriers. On Saturday as we landed into LHR i hadn’t a clue where we actually were as all the shades remained dimmed (again).

        I spent years connecting for flights via Dubai at 2 am in the morning, DXB airport being one big noisy, crowded shopping mall. Going through security, finding the gate, waiting at the gate (Emirates always trick you with the boarding status) and then going through another meal service. Despite BAs shortcomings, avoiding a middle of the night connection is much more relaxing.

  • Oyster says:

    All these negative comments ignore one vital point. BA yingyang Club World is amazingly profitable. Why sell 8 seats in a given floorspace when you can sell 12?

    It’s very hard to get corporates to pay for anything other than BA. If I try and get my boss to sanction using QR to get to say Singapore he’ll question me on it, even if it’s much cheaper.

  • Colin mackinnon says:

    789 to Kul was my first BA CW. Could not believe there was nowhere to put my specs! Who on earth failed to provide a tiny space for specs? Are all CW seats like that? Suppose it doesn’t matter, probably won’t fly CW again. Oh yes, you didn’t mention the look much Rob. Flew back 789 in First – only one loo and so big waits and embarrassed looks between pax as we tried to work out who is next!

    • Danny says:

      +1. The lack of somewhere to put your specs in CW is even more amazing when you consider that some other airlines (such as Cathay) provide somewhere to put your specs even in economy (at least on their newer aircraft)!

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