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Review: British Airways Club World A318 business class, London City to New York (Part 2)

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This is Part 2 of my review of BA1, the British Airways service from London City to New York JFK, on an Airbus A318.

Part 1 of our BA1 review, which looks at the cabin and seat, can be found here.  This article focuses on the food and drink and IFE.

ba.com has a special page dedicated to the BA1 flight which you can find here.

Food and drink on BA1

BA1 used to set the standard for British Airways food, with the service originally operating in conjunction with the Roast restaurant in Borough Market.  Do&Co has now taken over and, whilst some elements reached their usual high standards, others did not.

I started off with glass of rose champagne, Besseret de Bellefon Grande Tradition Brut Rose, which is around £33 at retail:

Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK

The standard champagne is the Canard-Duchene ‘Cuvee Leonie’ Brut which is £22 at Amazon.

This is what the menu looked like:

Snack en route to Shannon:

Exotic fruit brochette (ie fruit skewers)

Vegetarian sushi rolls

Served Shannon to New York:

Starters

Fresh seasonal salad (see below)

Parsnip soup

Both served with bread basket

Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK

The bread was the signature Do & Co ‘three in one’ roll, which is great. The sweet potato salad looked very tired, although it appears better in the picture. If a salad could be said to be unenthusiastic, this is how it would look. It improved on tasting, with the base of coriander and chilli pesto adding some zing. I cannot comment on the balsamic vinaigrette since it was impossible to open the bottle.

Mains

Grilled marinated king prawns with slow-roasted tomato sauce and basmati rice (see below)

Braised Scottish prime beef cheeks, horseraddish dumplings, potato mousseline

Ricotta panzerotti

Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK

I went with the prawns. It was OK, although the sauce could have been tangier given that it was being served at altitude.

You will note that there was no attempt to clear away any of the excess cutlery or debris from the first course before the main was served.

Dessert

Flamed meringue, raspberry panna cotta (see below)

Fresh berries

Cheese board

Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK

I took the panna cotta, which was good. In typical BA fashion, however, it was dessert or cheese.

Two hours before landing in JFK, afternoon tea was served. This consisted of:

Sandwiches – cheddar on pumpernickel, pastrami with red cabbage coleslaw, shrimp Marie Rose with cress

Plain or lemon and date scones served warm with clotted cream and strawberry jam

Traditional Ploughman’s with scotch egg

Chocolate Battenberg

Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK

The Do&Co version of afternoon tea is a major improvement on the old Club World version.  For a start, you no longer get a plastic wrapped pack of sandwiches plonked in front of you on a plate.  The mixture of sandwiches provided still baffles me, however.

IFE and wi-fi

No newspapers or magazines are offered onboard or at the gate. Coupled with the lack of wi-fi and proper IFE, it made for a long seven hours.

I gave the iPad-based entertainment system a try.  The first set of headphones did not have the correct adaptor fitted.  The second set I was given did fit.  However, the maximum volume setting was ludicrously low – so low that I could hardly hear it over the noise of the aircraft.  I never found out if this was a faulty iPad – with the maximum volume setting locked too low – or faulty headphones.

The iPads used are now many years old, substantially thicker and with lower resolution screens than the current models.  Due to storage restrictions, there were only 14 movies plus a handful of TV, audio and gaming options.  To be fair, the movie and TV selection was decent as it usually is with British Airways.

Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK

The headphones were Sennheiser PXC 550’s.

Arriving in JFK Terminal 7

You can’t knock your arrival, landing as a domestic passenger.  I timed it, and I was in the Airtrain station in JFK Terminal 7 within five minutes of stepping off the plane (I was travelling just with hand baggage).  Coupled with my 2pm arrival, I was at my hotel by 3pm and had enough time to actually get something done on my arrival day – a rarity when I travel to New York.

Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK

Conclusion

The A318 BA1 service to New York via Shannon is generally called the ‘baby bus’ in the trade. There is a ring of truth in this joke, because in many ways a bus is what it is – a service for people who shuttle back and forth to New York on a regular basis and are not bothered about comfort or fripperies.

Obviously you are giving your customer the flat bed they require in business class, but the rest of the trip – the messy situation at City, no lounges, poor gate experience, lack of wi-fi, poor IFE provision, the Shannon stop – points to a service which is sold more on convenience than anything else.

Judging by the full house on my Monday morning flight you may think it is a recipe that works.  Judging by the weak loads reported on other flights, and the scapping of BA3/BA4 in 2016, I think it doesn’t.

I DO still recommend BA1 if you want to arrive in New York early in the day or live conveniently for London City.  It isn’t the right choice for anyone splashing out for a special treat – for that I recommend you head to Heathrow for a superior in-airport and onboard experience.  Gatwick, with the impressive new BA lounge complex, is also worth considering.

If you are an aviation fan and haven’t ticked off BA1 yet, I would do it sooner rather than later. Even if the state of City Airport and the poor in-flight experience don’t kill it off, I am fairly sure that Crossrail, BA’s new Club Suite / the new Virgin Upper Class Suite and the continued expansion of Global Entry will.

You can find out more about BA’s dedicated London City to New York service on this special page of ba.com


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Comments (49)

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

  • Paul says:

    “ It isn’t the right choice for anyone splashing out for a special treat – for that I recommend you head to Heathrow…..”

    And American Airlines. Superb on board product, particularly the 777-300. Great food, great IFE, WiFi and no need for mountaineering equipment to get in and out of your seat. The AA lounge is adequate but if you have status there is always a wide choice of one world alternatives including the fabulous CX facility.

    • M Todd says:

      My recent AA flight to NYC in Business was from a service point of view the worst Business Class I have ever experienced. The meals were almost thrown at you, the champage was warm, to which their solution was to serve it with ice cubes in, the key bit however being they didnt ask if that was ok, they just gave you the champagne and ran on to the next customer. When I got their attention and declined iced champagne the scowl of contempt I got would have been hilarious if I wasn;t actually paying for this service!

      The seat didn’t work fully and the food was average, it made me wish for BA! That all said the domestic Business Class crews on 4 different flights were actually really good! Maybe I just got unlucky but it made me rehtink flying AA again longhaul!

    • Nick_C says:

      If you are flying on AA in J, you don’t need status; you can use any, or all, of the T3 OW lounges.

      • Shoestring says:

        …and I can vouch for all 4 of them with my test last month!

        tbh the BA Business lounge was perfectly OK (not sure why it gets some stick here apart from crowded) and had a great selection of wines – hundreds of them! – plus Champagne on demand – and in many ways I think it tops the AA Business lounge

        • David says:

          Err, yes, of course it tops the AA lounge, but it’s still not quite CX or QF.

    • Steve Shaw says:

      My inlaws said something similar recently when they flew to North Carolina. They said the seat and the food was excellent, in fact they said the steak on the outbound was perfect but that the steak in First on BA on the way back was pretty average.

      I would never ever order steak on a plane (although the beef brisket is pretty good in Club World at the moment)

      • Lady London says:

        Ordered steak on Thai on the pre order option from BKK and it was excellent. SQ has done me OK on steak too (although longer ago).

        • Guesswho2000 says:

          +1 for steak on SQ, one of the best I’ve had in the air earlier this year. Although their lobster Thermidor is still the winner for me.

    • Rob says:

      See our recent review, in fact!

  • TokyoFan says:

    The vinaigrette is IMPOSSIBLE to open – we found this on our Buenos Aires flight last month!

    • Mark says:

      I’ve always managed to open it but never without lots of persistence and a lingering sense that it’s not worth the effort!

      • Steve Shaw says:

        i fly almost daily, i always have to use my teeth to open it but you cant bite too hard otherwise you crimp the cap and then its stuck forever.

        • Paul says:

          I always have to use my teeth as well, it’s the same with Iberia’s olive oil

      • Lady London says:

        When you could open it IIRC its not worth the effort.

  • LondonFoodie says:

    And I thought I was the only one that couldn’t open that damn vinaigrette bottle! 🤣

    I’ve flown the JFK-LCY twice back in 2011 and again in 2013. Was a civilized experience and I think the slightly longer flight time meant a bit more sleep time. Also as there was only service on demand the cabin was super quiet and sleep quality good. My 2011 approach was epic as it was in the middle of that January’s snow storm!

  • Crafty says:

    No chicken dish for you Rob! No wonder you weren’t happy.

  • Chrisasaurus says:

    If you reckon it’s noisy just see how it feels in high crosswinds on approach into JFK… Only time I’ve been anxious in a plane in a long time

    • Stu N says:

      We had an extremely uncomfortable flight on BA4 a few years ago, it was kicked around all over the place as we crossed the Atlantic. I’m not a nervous flyer either but I really didn’t like that one bit. I suppose that’s the downside of the smaller aircraft.

  • Andrew Gardner says:

    I did this journey last week. I eventually discovered you adjust the volume on the headphones by swiping up/down on the outside of the right ear piece!

    I liked the intimacy of the flight – how much attention I received from the cabin crew, and the fact they knew us by name.

    However being new to this ‘game’, this was my first business class flight, so I don’t know if this is normal or not.

    • Nick_C says:

      There should have been a leaflet in the bag that explains how to use those headphones (which I really like). You also tap the earpiece to turn noise cancelling on and off, which is useful for being able to talk to the cabin crew without having to remove the headphones.

      The only problem with those headphones is that they might not be fully charged. Last year I had three pairs die on me within 5 minutes, and ended up using my own micro usb cable to charge the third pair. This year, they died about an hour before landing.

  • Alastair France says:

    I guess the seats are more comfortable than the original BA1. And it will be quieter. But boy am I glad I had that experience just once.

  • Steve Shaw says:

    Are there photos on this page? The text seems to allude to photos but I can’t see any…

    • Rob says:

      If you use an AdBlocker you get no images in HFP and the text is unreadable. If it has taken you this long to work it out I am worried 🙂

      • Peter K says:

        AdBlocker affects how HfP displays?? I wish you’d mentioned this before 😏

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