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Review: British Airways Club World business class, London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur (Part 1)

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This review looks at British Airways Club World business class from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur.

It is the second review from Jamie’s trip to Indonesia, trying out three different oneworld airlines in Business Class.  The first review in this series, reviewing the British Airways Galleries Club South lounge at Heathrow, is here.  Over to Jamie ….

“The first leg of my journey was an overnight flight in Club World from London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur.

Rob encouraged me to review this flight because he has flown British Airways so much over the years that he finds it difficult to write about it objectively.  This is why there are surprisingly few BA flight reviews on Head for Points.  Whilst I’ve flown business and first class with various airlines, it had been a few years since I’d flown anything other than economy with British Airways.

I was looking forward to the experience but had read many negative comments about the service.  However, I tried to approach it with an open mind.

British Airways 787

On arrival at Terminal 5 on a Sunday evening there was no queue and check in was straightforward and politely carried out by the desk clerk.  There was also no queue at the fast track security area and I was through in no time.

I spent some time in the British Airways Galleries South lounge (review here), then headed over to the gate when advised. The lady at the lounge reception recommended I allow twenty minutes to get there which I thought was generous, but actually, she was not far off. I was leaving from a C gate and had to get the transit train followed by a bit of a walk, which was about fifteen minutes in total.

There was to be no quick hop from the lounge to the plane for me today but I really shouldn’t expect that at such a large airport terminal.  I could have used the quieter Galleries lounge in Terminal 5B (reviewed by Rob here) but that would have involved two train trips – one to the satellite and then another from 5B to 5C.

Most people had already boarded when I arrived so I walked straight on and was directed towards my seat, 13K.

The plane was a four class Boeing 787-9 with six rows of business class in Club World in a 2-3-2 yin-yang configuration.  In a world where 1-2-1 is the norm, even with BA’s sister airline Iberia, this is never going to win any prizes.  Note that on the 787 fleet you do not get the ‘double bed’ seats in the middle of the centre block, because it is 2-3-2 and not 2-4-2.

These planes are virtually brand new and have a substantially more modern look and feel than the 747 and 777 fleets, even though the seat is virtually identical.

I’d chosen this particular window seat as it had unrestricted (but narrow) access to the aisle with no need to jump over anyone else, although it was rear facing.  There was a lady in the front facing seat next to mine talking across the aisle to a young man in 13F who turned out to be her son.  As Club World is quite cosy, I offered to swap seats with her son so they could be next to each other. The mum very happily accepted, although her son didn’t seem quite as thrilled. As it turned out, I was also quite happy with moving. My original seat felt a little claustrophobic, whereas this one on the aisle seemed far more spacious. I was happy to trade my old seat despite losing a window for it.

Here is my new seat, 13F.

BA Club World flight London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur

It is worth noting that row 6 and row 7 are in a separate mini-cabin on the other side of the galley.  If you are looking for a quiet flight then this area of 14 seats is the best bet.

Storage around the seat is minimal. There is a drawer down by your feet which is big enough to store a tablet, cables and your shoes but not much more. It also had a USB charging point and multi plug socket (at least UK/Europe) next to it.

I did have a whole overhead compartment to myself so had plenty of storage overall.  I never feel quite as self conscious reaching up into this in business class as I do in economy so it was fine.

And, speaking of self conscious, one of the first things I did was raise the screen separating me from my middle seat neighbour. I’m not sure what the protocol is on how long you should wait to do this but I didn’t want to stare at a strangers face and I’m sure he felt the same.

I tried to raise the screen ….. and it promptly dropped back down again after reaching the top.  Mild panic setting in, I tried again and the same thing happened. Panic turned to embarrassment.  On the third attempt I used my hand to hold it in place when it reached the top and this seemed to do the trick. I’m still unsure if I was not pressing the button for long enough or whether there was a genuine fault.

This Club World seat is advertised with a 72 inch pitch and 20 inch width. That was more than enough to stretch out nicely. In front of me was a magazine holder which flipped down to become a foot stool or part of your bed.

It isn’t particularly narrow like some other business seats and if you’re not a fan of the ‘cubby hole’ style of seat (where you feet end up in a small hole under the seat in front of you) then you will be happy with the Club World design.  You can wave your seat around freely … until the person next to you steps on them whilst climbing over you to get to the aisle ….

BA Club World flight London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur

Once I sat down, I was offered a hot towel and a drink. I chose a glass of Canard-Duchêne “Cuvee Léonie” Brut NV champagne. A quick look online reveals a bottle retails at around £30. I also had a bottle of water in the storage drawer. I was also given a little Hotel Chocolat box containing two chocolates.

Amenity kits and bedding were provided by The White Company, part of the new range fully introduced this year.  There was a nice black toiletry bag on my seat.  I’m not sure what material it was made of but it looked and felt good quality.

BA Club World flight London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur

The bag contained spa lip balm, moisturiser and pulse point spray, grey socks, eye mask, ear plugs, toothbrush and a pen – all standard items you expect to find in such kits. As an aside, the toilets also had White Company Spa Restore hand wash and balm.

BA Club World flight London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur

A reading light with dimmer switch was located behind my left shoulder. On my left within easy reach I had the IFE controller and head phone socket. Below this was another USB charging point.

BA Club World flight London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur

Just before take off I was treated to the new in-flight safety video which follows in the footsteps of the previous film. It brings back ‘director’, comedian Chabuddy G and a host of new celebrities auditioning for him. These include Michael Caine, Joanna Lumley, Naomie Harris and (groan) David Walliams. It is only mildly amusing but kept me watching throughout which I guess is the whole point.  I’m not sure I’d want to watch it multiple times per week if I was doing a lot of short-haul flights.

Once in the air I had a chance to look through the entertainment offering on my 10.4 inch IFE screen.  Whilst British Airways is never going to match Emirates or Qatar Airways for range, it claims over a thousand hours of film, TV and audio available. I couldn’t fault this as there was plenty to choose from.

Films included classics such as Stand By Me and Pulp Fiction through to new releases like A Quiet Place and Deadpool 2. There was also a significant selection of foreign language films from over a dozen countries. You could also binge on TV box sets such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and The Handmaids Tale.

BA Club World flight London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur

The headphones provided had soft ear pieces but were slightly too big for me. Consequently they did not work well in a noise cancelling capacity so I reverted to using my own pair.

BA Club World flight London Heathrow to Kuala Lumpur

British Airways is slowly rolling out onboard wifi service but it was not available on this flight.

Part two of this British Airways Club World Boeing 787 review, covering the food and drink, can be found here.

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Comments (41)

  • Max says:

    Possibly the worse business product out there.

    Much better options exist.

  • Riku says:

    >>You can wave your seat around freely … until the person next to you steps on them whilst climbing over you to get to the aisle

    “seat” should be changed to “feet”

    • Genghis says:

      13K->13F is a poor move IMO. I wouldn’t have given up a direct aisle access, good privacy window seat. 7K better though as in the smaller (quieter) front cabin. I do find lack of storage space an issue on 787s and 777s. I put my glasses in the drawer (but then diffficult to access in bed mode) and my bits and bobs I need when sleeping (water, eye drops etc) on the arm of chair / next to my head. Not ideal.

  • Ralphy says:

    Here’s the top and bottom of it.

    Be Club World is a crap product and the main reasons are:

    The configuration
    The total lack of storage.

    We all know about the configuration, which is appalling so let me talk about the storage, or lack of it, generally.

    As the OP pointed out, there is a bin at floor level for this is inaccessible when the seat is reclined. I first discovered this on an Avios flight to Sydney via Singapore. Where is one supposed to store spectacles safely? Or tablets, phones etc. I will tell you. Nowhere! Shocking product and design and illustrates BA’s total disregard for its customers and how it takes advantage of its London monopoly.

    However, one lives and learns and we just flew to Singapore again, on an A380 and if you bag a window seat on the upper deck there are massive storage bins that not only provide that essential storage space but also create a significantly greater actual space. I can’t imagine Jamie giving this up for anyone and for an isle seat for a thirteen hour flight!

    So I guess the moral of the story, whilst one has no option but to fly BA when using Avios and a 2-4-1 is, pick your flights and do your research.

    One caveat to mention however: I’m BA blue but American Airlines Gold (One World Ruby) so using that, could reserve such a seat seven days out. I did so to the minute, and got two of only three remaining window seats upstairs so this isn’t going to work if you can only reserve 24 hours out. The alternative would be to fork out an additional £100 per seat. Shocking when one considers that I’ve just booked iberia Madrid to Santiago (using the 90,000 miles promo) and could book my seat straight away for free and another example of how BA uses its London monopoly to gouge its customers.

    Why ANYONE would pay exorbitant money, privately, for a BA Club World seat is totally beyond me. And yet every time I fly the cabins are always full – and not everyone can be using Avios or flying on business expenses.

    Ps the staff are generally great, no complaints although on this trip I got the Bitch from Hell and have lodged a formal complaint such was her nature and (mis)demeanor. Worldwide fleet, as opposed to mixed-fleet, so bad attitudes do exist with some of them, but that’s a while ‘nother story!

    Ps, regarding the dividing screen. Smile, be pleasant, say hello and then say goodbye.

    • John says:

      You’ve got to the crux of the matter with your first two points.

      I think for me, CW gives enough space to lie flat and stretch out, and that is worth the money I pay for it (basically no more than ~£600 for a single long-haul flight given that I only buy ex-EU tickets or redemptions)

      The lack of storage is a serious problem on anything but the A380 upper deck side seats.

      Hopefully as I am dropping from BA Gold to Silver at the end of the year this will result in more upgrades from CW to F. I never got any in 3 years of Gold but used to get them twice a year as Silver.

    • Simon says:

      When is your trip to Santiago? We are flying Iberia to Cuba in business next March and would love to hear a review. On the other hand we are planning Santiago in 2020 using a 2-4-1 so on BA obviously.

      • Ralphy says:

        Hi Simon,

        Sorry, just looked in again so hopefully you will pick this up. We fly on the 1st Feb.

        I flew Iberia Madrid to LAX a couple of years ago in business, was a far superior product to BA, would be happy to stick up an outline review of the Santiago trip once I’ve done it.

    • Guesswho2000 says:

      I flew BA Club World last week HKG to LHR return, having never done so before (there aren’t many BA flights from Australia!). I knew what to expect, and had selected the rear facing seats at the back of Club World, so I didn’t have to climb over anyone, I agree about the absence of storage on the 777, the A380 is fine though, with the huge bins at the window side.

      All in all, it wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. I’d never choose it over QF/CX 1-2-1 layouts, or VA’s “The Business”, but I would pick it over QF’s old A330 2-2-2 J product, which is a bit tired, and often has me sitting next to someone with minimal privacy (as I regularly fly alone, although it’s still a bed, so better than nothing!).

      • Guesswho2000 says:

        And another plus for BA, the White Company bedding is fantastic, proper quilt allowed me to get a decent eight hours in either direction, I cant stand thin, blanket/sheet things!

  • Paul says:

    A generous review of a dated product from a business that it is protected at its home base and so can pretty much do what it likes.

    My 787 experience was similarly cramped but despite it being a new plane it was filthy and customer relations reaction to my complaint, backed by photographs was the big standard cut and paste corporate claptrap.

    In my case the first cabin was closed for a crew private event. As well as not seeing any of them again after 90 minutes of flying, the club kitchen was stripped of everything after 2 hours, in part because the food was so bad.

    As others have said, it’s beyond me why anyone pays for club world.

  • FlyUpTop says:

    Good review, we have booked 787-9 to SEZ next year and I specifically chose row 7 window seat and other. The section with row 6 & 7 look good but alas only managed row 10 on our RTN.

  • ankomonkey says:

    Jamie’s reviews continue to be well written with good flow and depth of subject matter 🙂

  • CV3V says:

    The window seats are a bit claustrophobic – on the KL flight I still chuckle at the director of a motor company who sat down in his window seat beside me (I was aisle seat), and he was rather cheesed off that his company had paid a lot of money to put him in a ‘toilet cubicle’. He then asked how much i had paid, given his criticism of the product i was honest and said it was on points – with so many other airline options you wouldn’t pay cash for CW, but not everyone knows biz products are different.

    • FlyUpTop says:

      More claustrophobic than the “Coffin” in the middle?

      • CV3V says:

        Never tried the middle (coffin), or the window (toilet cubicle), the middle does have some appeal given its privacy, but I just know i will be the guy that trips up over someones legs when trying to get out of that space. In CW i have only ever booked the forward facing aisle seats at the bulkhead (taking the 2 either side of the aisle).

        In December I have flights in CW on 777, and First on 747, and i really cant say that i have any sense of anticipation these days, my usual travels are on 787-9 so i am prepared for a degree of disappointment on these old 777s/747s.

        • Mark2 says:

          I recently flew out on 777 and back on 787 and could barely tell the difference.
          The ventilation on 777 is a bit noisier is all that registered with me.

          • Rob says:

            Windows are bigger on the 787, business cabin is smaller (especially if you’re on the high density 777), in theory air pressure is ‘better’ although I don’t do enough long-hauls to really notice.

        • Genghis says:

          I notice the air pressure and dryer air on the 777. To borrow FT’s T8191’s term, the 777 is a “noisy long-haul cattle truck”.

      • AndyW says:

        Flying back from NY on a Red-eye (787) I actually quite liked the coffin. No one stepping over you, no one knocking you as you get on the aisle. Got a pretty solid sleep.

  • Brian says:

    Thanks for your review. I have to take issue with one aspect though.
    [Quote]The plane was a four class Boeing 787-9 with six rows of business class in Club World in a 2-3-2 yin-yang configuration. In a world where 1-2-1 is the norm, even with BA’s sister airline Iberia, this is never going to win any prizes[/Quote]
    Geometrically BA’s ying-yang is very similar to other airlines alternating 1-1-1 layouts. The difference is that the person behind you’s feet are by your head rather than the person behind you. This has some benefits in terms of storage, fixed monitors allowing gate to gate IFE and all/majority aisle access, but no real benefit in terms of seat width or length. There is an arguable disadvantage for the “foot coffin”. BA could, at a penstroke, renumber CW seats and go from 2-4-2 to 1-2-1. It would be a cynical move, not address any of the shortcomings of the seat and the blogosphere would meltdown, but they could.

    To me the new bedding looks great, I like the club world seat and cabin. The presentation of the food looks to be improved significantly since my last flight 2 years ago on that route. Progress has been made and there is still some way to go, but I think this review reinforces my opinion that CW is average/good, but overall not class leading. It’s not the dire, cramped, inedible experience that some would have you believe.

    • Catalan says:

      Totally agree Brian with your comment above. Club World is definitely not world leading but it is definitely not the crapped, uncomfortable business class some HfP readers mention here on numerous occasions (but still persist with flying BA).
      My most recent longhaul flight was with Virgin Atlantic. Apart from the fantastic Clubhouse at Heathrow their hard product is little better. Absolutely no seat-side storage (apart from a tiny foot stool cubby) and the palarva that you have to endure to convert your seat to a bed and back again is beyond anyone’s patience.

    • Catalan says:

      *cramped (Freudian slip?) lol

    • Nick_C says:

      Look at the seat dimensions – 72 by 20 on BA, 75 by 20.5 on AA. So the AA seat is 6% bigger.

      And the size of the seat is just a small part of the story. You get a lot of personal space around you on AA, and lots of storage space.

      The proof is in the second cabin on the 77W.

      On AA, you will find 44 business class seats, all with aisle access.

      On BA, you will find 56 “Club World” seats.

      So 27% more personal space and storage space (including the overhead lockers) on the AA 77W

      And with a 1-2-1 configuration, half the passengers have window seats, instead of 1 in 8 on BA.

      • Nick says:

        A window seat that Rob recently questioned how anyone could look out of as you point the wrong way 😂

        I agree with the ‘dissenting’ voice above. I quite like the ‘openness’ of CW, hate the claustrophobic new seat with a screen permanently in your face on IB, and can easily see the attraction of a long direct flight over a nighttime stop in the desert. I also would prefer 56 seats in the same space rather than 44 – any fool can see that this would raise prices in such a constrained market and it’s already expensive enough, thank you!

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