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I check out the new British Airways domestic Club Europe

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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 (89)

  • Stu R says:

    It’s interesting to see how things have changed (not necessarily for the better) over the years ….

    I remember catching a BA ‘afternoon tea’ flight from Aberdeen to LHR in the late 80’s and being served a trio of salmon with a side salad, followed by scone with jam and clotted cream. Everyone on the plane was offered that, or if I recall correctly, there was a meat option.

    Thankfully, £ for £, I suppose we generally pay a lot less for our travel now than we did then!

  • Lumma says:

    I’ve never understood the attraction of domestic flights between Heathrow and Manchester (or perhaps even Newcastle), when travelling by train gets your from city centre to city centre far more efficiently.

    If you’re transitting through Heathrow then it’s probably worth it but I don’t see the point as a standalone. When I lived in Sunderland, I once paid for a return from NCL to LHR, then realised that it had cost me £30 more and I had to get up earlier to get to Newcastle airport than if I had went for the train.

    • John says:

      Last minute train tickets can sell out.

      Some people need to travel from Slough to Wythenshawe.

    • James A says:

      What if you live outside of Manchester (so it takes 45 minutes by train into the city) and your destination is 10 minutes from Heathrow (so miles from the city). That’s why I fly. Not everyone has the same circumstances.

    • 1nfrequent says:

      My office is in central London but I live near Heathrow so if I’m needed in Manchester or Newcastle then I prefer to take the plane where it’s cheaper because it saves me time. I’ve found that on last minute trips the plane can work out being cheaper than a train ticket as well.

      1F

  • Hingeless says:

    I wonder if it possible to fly domestic club to London and then get lounge access access at on a economy Long Haul flight at LHR as a result? This would be very worthwhile for those without loyalty access (Like mrs H)

    • John says:

      Unfortunately not

    • Barry cutters says:

      i think it is, the rules are a eligible flight the same day. i think that applies to before and after, it definitely worked for me once (a few years ago before i had status)

      • Nicky says:

        Last December I flew from Newcastle to LHR on a ‘business’ ticket and had access to the lounge at Newcastle: my ongoing flight to Miami was in Premium Economy and I definitely wasn’t allowed access to the lounge at Heathrow.

        • Genghis says:

          irst and Business Class customers connecting on the same day of travel, or before 6am the following day, can access the lounge when travelling between an international long haul (a oneworld international long haul flight is defined as an international flight marketed and operated by any oneworld carrier with a scheduled flight time longer than 5 hours) and an international short haul or domestic flight (and vice-versa).
          Lounge access will be determined on the international long haul ticketed flight (either First of Business Class) regardless of the ticketed class of travel on the international short haul or domestic flight.
          You must be prepared to show your boarding pass or itinerary showing travel in First or Business class on the international long haul flight, in order to access the lounge before your international short haul or domestic flight.

          https://www.oneworld.com/ffp/lounge-access

          I.e. Flying domestic Club and then a long haul Y won’t get you lounge access on the long haul Y sector

          • Barry cutters says:

            Ahhh so yes i was flying from states and connecting to Warsaw i think.

    • Alan says:

      Not eligible, I’m afraid.

      The BA Lounge access guide on Flyertalk has recently been updated and is well worth a read – really nicely done!

      https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1839746-ba-lounge-access-guidelines.html

  • the real harry1 says:

    The milk thing is surely simply because most people prefer fresh milk to UHT milk – it tastes better. No point removing the standard individual tray carton, just in case the fresh milk runs out.

    • Fraser says:

      The point would be to avoid almost every UHT carton going unused and ending up in landfill.

      • Peter K says:

        Maybe they re-issue the unused small UHT cartons on the next flight which is why it was battered…

  • Anna says:

    I had connecting flights via Heathrow last weekend, which were booked prior to the changes so effectively BA gave us a free upgrade to CE for the domestic legs (I know!). As Rob says, the cabin crew did amazingly well and got everyone served, even managing to offer a second round of drinks. Yes the afternoon tea was pretty dire, but on 3 sectors we got really delicious prawn/chicken/duck salads with very nice chocolate mousse or cheesecake to follow. On both domestic legs the CE cabins were virtually full so it looks like the demand is there.

    Having the wine and champagne from large bottles seems crazy, though, at the end of the flight there were 3 bottles of wine open with only 1 glass poured from each, so the rest was going to be thrown away. This must be a needless waste of money by BA.

  • TripRep says:

    I’ve got a cash domestic booking next month.

    Currently being offered a special price of only £65 to upgrade a single sector…..

    So the equivalent additional extra of £7.50 + 4500 for an Avios booking sounds in line with that.

    For an extra £65 each I’d be wanting to see better food.

    • Polly says:

      Trip rep, stick to your plans…unless chasing status, but Tal better for those TPs…
      How’s the case going? Looking forward to your update…

  • Paul says:

    It’s the quickest and cheapest way to get status points. £190 return (against a usual fare of £130) & 80 tier points are accrued for each return journey.

    I’m struggling to see a more cost effective way of getting tier points?

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    I have my first Business to Manchester from Heathrow booked for end of the month then returning into LCY, so looking forward to experience.

    Out of interest, the BA sale launched yesterday. Wanted Alicante £108 each way from LGW in September. Then added Manchester, now with domestic this could sometimes raise the price by as much as £250 return. On this occasion it went up by about £150 which is £75 each way Business into Heathrow. So seemed good. Then actually it also then offered routings via Madrid. So ended up paying a little bit more again I think another £50 for the 3 legs MAN>LHR>MAD>ALC. With the cost saving from gettting Heathrow to Gatwick and arriving at 5.30pm instead of 11 30pm it all worked out better than I thought! 200 tier points for about £300 not too bad I think!

    • Anna says:

      Could you not have used the new BA Man-Alicante route, or is the Saturday-only flight too restrictive?

      • Cheshire Pete says:

        Sale seats in September only seemed to be Mon to Wed, so travelling on a Sat didn’t
        Suit anyhow. Plus the direct from Manchester would only give 40 tier points each way! You get 100 when routing via LHR and MAD to ALC!

        • Polly says:

          Pete, that very good TPs earn, and it’s for a trip you wanted to do anyway.