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Review: British Airways Club World on an A318, London City to New York via Shannon (Part 1)

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

The introduction to this BA1 review which ran yesterday – click here – looked at the background and history of the service. I also ran through nine reasons why I think the service won’t survive much longer, especially once Crossrail opens.

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

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

Using London City

Having not flown BA1 since 2009, I thought it was worth giving it another try on this trip to New York.

I had a surprisingly trouble free trip from West London to London City Airport for my 9.40am departure. I was also pleasantly surprised by how quickly I cleared security at 8am on a Monday morning.

Of course, once through security, the shortcomings of the airport become very clear in terms of overcrowding. Whilst there is a lounge at London City in the Private Jet Centre (reviewed here, they will drive you to your aircraft) US security restrictions mean that BA1 passengers are not eligible.

It turns out that BA1 passengers are allowed a free breakfast at Pilots restaurant.  However, BA does not tell you this in advance.  You will be told if you are checking in luggage, but very few passengers on BA1 do this.

With virtually nowhere to sit, and not knowing a free breakfast was avaialble, I had to buy myself a seat by paying a shocking £3.59 for an Americano at the Illy cafe.  The display boards said that the gate would not be announced until 9.05am, just 35 minutes before departure.

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

At the gate

We ended up on Gate 21.  BA used to provide a buffet for BA1 passengers at the gate. This has now fallen victim to cost cuts and you find yourself sat at a random City gate, with minimal seating and no power sockets. It is hard to imagine a less premium experience. When boarding commenced, we had to walk across the tarmac to the aircraft steps – luckily it was a dry day.

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

Refuelling in Shannon

Before I look at the seating, it makes sense to talk about the Shannon stopover. Because the A318 cannot take off fully fueled from London City due to the short runway, a refuelling stop is required in Shannon. Whilst this is being done, you can clear US Customs and Immigration.

This wasn’t as easy as it seemed. We were on gate 114, which is the gate furthest away from the central area. We had a quarter-mile walk to the central services area, after which we had to reclear security.  I’m not sure if this was necessary a decade ago or not, but since London City is fully secure it should not be needed.  The upside was that BA1 passengers get to bypass any queue that may be there.

Once you have meandered through the duty free shop, you can head to US immigration. BA1 passengers can use the business class line and, whilst there were a lot of US flights departing together, I was through in minutes.  The immigration official was very cheerful and it was an easy process.

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

Once back at the departure gate, it is a fairly grim situation. There is a lounge which accepts Priority Pass, and in theory if you were first off at Shannon – as I was – you would have time to pop in for 15 minutes. I decided not to bother because we were so far from the gate.

Unfortunately, gate 114 is so far out of the way that the free airport wi-fi signal doesn’t reach it.  There are also no cafes.  Luckily I was able to tether my laptop via my phone but your roaming plan may not allow this. There were no power sockets anywhere near the gate.

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

Inside BA1

Here is a PR shot of the cabin. What you have is 8 rows of 4 seats in a 2×2 layout:

BA1 A318 interior view

I was in 1B, by the bulkhead.  This was handy for being served quickly and ensured I got my first choice of food.  With two loos at the front of the aircraft, I did get disturbed by the constant foot traffic.  The couple in 1C and 1D had an 18 month baby which I should say, for the record, was spotlessly well behaved throughout and played peek-a-boo with me at one point.

It is clearly apparent that these are old seats. Despite this, it still has a lot to offer. Each seat is set into a shell:

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

…. which means that there is no impact on the person behind if you go into bed mode.

The headrest is ludicrously comfortable and the footstool is near enough to be usable without reclining your seat.

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

The downside quickly become apparent though. Storage space around your seat is literally nil, apart from a slot for spectacles (which in 2019 now doubles as a slot for your phone). You and your drinks and snacks are sharing an arm rest with your neighbour.

The privacy screen is virtually non-existent:

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

….. and this is absolutely the wrong aircraft for you if this is a concern.

It is worth adding that the A318 is exceptionally noisy compared to an A380 or even a Boeing 787.

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

If you want to see more of the cabin, I strongly recommend this Google Street View tour of the interior!  Click to see it:

Google Street View of BA1 A318

Amenities

The White Company goodies are provided on BA1. This means a pillow – used by most people for lumbar support – a grey blanket and an amenity kit.  The amenity kit only appeared on departure from Shannon.

This was the first time I had seen a White Company amenity kit:

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

After the fantastic Oman Air one a few weeks ago, this was a bit of a disappointment. You get a tiny lip balm, tiny moisturiser, tiny pulse point oil, socks, eyeshade, pen, ear plugs, toothbrush and toothpaste.

This is the end of Part 1.  Part 2 of my British Airways London City to New York JFK BA1 review can be found here.  If you are reading this via our daily emails, you have not been sent Part 2 – please click here to read it on the HFP website.

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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Review: British Airways Club World on an A318, London City to New York via Shannon (Part 2)
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Comments

  1. ChrisC says:

    1. Pilot’s restaurant is mentioned on the CWLCY page you give the link for

    “On departures from London City, relax and enjoy a complimentary meal with champagne in Pilots restaurant, …”

    2 The Gate 24 lounge did not fall “victim to cost cuts” at all. The space was taken back by LCY as it was needed as gate space for the LX A220 flights (IIRC the apron next to gate 24 was the only space large enough for the A220) and given the space constraints there was no where else for BA/LCY to move the lounge to. And the food and drink service was replaced by the meal at Pilots. TBH I prefer the Pilots breakfast over the previous cold offerings.

    3 Everyone has to walk across the apron to the plane at LCY! I’ve done this flight in January and even in the cold it’s a 60 second walk at most. On another trip is was raining so they got 4-5 people to dash over to the plane then the next group once the first had boarded so people didn’t get too wet waiting for people to board.

    4 All the times I’ve used BA1 we’ve left from a gate at SNN that is virtually opposite the exit from the CBP area (I think it’s gate 9 or 10) and there is an area of arm chairs next to the gate with signs that say ‘reserved for BA passengers’. So being at another gate – like you were- would in my experience be unusual. Again my experience at SNN is that they only pre clear passengers with flights close to departure as the facilities post CBP are limited (the duty free shop was a welcome addition a couple of years ago between security and the CBP). They used to have a board at the entrance to security listing what flight(s) there were processing and wouldn’t let anyone else not on those flights through though I didn’t notice it last time.

  2. “The couple in 1C and 1D had an 18 month baby which I should say, for the record, was spotlessly well behaved throughout and played peek-a-boo with me at one point.”

    You make it sound like the baby instigated the game of peek-a-boo Rob!

    • Chris L says:

      Wouldn’t surprise me…our 7-month-old likes to play a game on planes called ‘smile at absolutely everybody until she gets a smile back’

      • Awwww, that sounds like a very cute way to pass the time! I don’t imagine it takes long for that to happen!

    • It did. It went behind the galley curtain and started popping its head out!

    • In my 40 years of flying I have found it is the big babies of the 18+ years variety that are much more likely the cause of problems than real babies or kids.

      • Charlieface says:

        Personally I find it’s the 65+ and grumpy that are the worst (FTR most are not grumpy) but that’s ageist so I won’t say it…

      • Very true!

  3. RachelNR says:

    I was going to say everything that @chrisc said. BA1 is my fave way to get to NYC. Sorry about your breakfast experience – Every time I’ve checked in they’ve told me to show my boarding pass at Pilots, which is good and they are happy to ply you with champagne. Plus, on more than one occasion, I’ve shared row 7 with fellow avgeeks. Try it again!

  4. Pierre says:

    The amenity kit looks a lot like the ones they were giving on open skies a couple of years ago.

  5. roger says:

    OT- but on BA A350 Delivery

    Rob, here is an idea for you for a possible article.
    Since the news has broken about BA’s first A350 delivery, the readership may want to know the process between delivery and first flight. What steps are involved?
    Does the delivery already include the fitment of interiors?

    Obviously there are many more questions but you get the idea…
    I agree with many regular readership that in addition to plain miles and points, it is sometimes a good to know how aircraft deliveries and operations work

  6. I agree with you, Rob. I flew this service several times between 2009 and 2012. It did feel special back then. I tried it again last year and it was clear that the shine had gone off and everything felt sub par. I’d much rather have a few glasses of champagne, maybe a spa treatment and do a little shopping over at Terminal 5 before grabbing an upper deck seat on a 747.

    The Pilots restaurant gets a rating of 1 out of 5 stars on tripadvisor (one less than the Crown Rivers, JD Wetherspoon at T5), with people complaining about the ‘shocking’ food.

    https://www.tripadvisor.co.uk/ShowUserReviews-g186338-d1646428-r580356355-Pilots_Bar_Kitchen_Terminal_3-London_England.html

    • It looks as though the link that I posted is for Pilots Bar at Terminal 3, however clicking through, you’ll see the particular review, and some others, relate to London City.

  7. Antonio says:

    From your own article in November *2017*:

    “I’ve never eaten at Pilots, but I get a feeling it is – overall – a better experience than the gate lounge. I wouldn’t see this as another BA cost cutting exercise.”

    What on earth is going on with these BA1 reviews?! Show me on the doll where the babybus hurt you.

  8. Just thought u don’t mention anything that one can check in upto 20 min b4 departure
    I live 20 min from lcy and have used this flight many times leaving 1h b4
    Leaving from lhr adds on almost 2 hours on journey as check in closes 1 hour b4

    • Shoestring says:

      9.25 hrs flight LCY-New York

      vs 7.50 hrs flight LHR-New York

      so the LCY flight door-to-door takes an hour & a half more, depending on NY airport

    • marcw says:

      Probably one of the reason I try to prioritise LCY when travelling (well I used to, don’t live in the UK anymore).

    • Good luck guaranteeing getting through security if you rock up then 🙂

      Unless I could walk to the airport I would be crazy to risk all my public transport ducks being in a row to cut it that fine.

    • Lady London says:

      I thought Rob was cutting it a bit fine actually.
      Basically if he’s had any problem on public transport he’d have had to find a taxi quick. And hope the tunnel to LCY wasn’t backed up.

      • David says:

        He had 1hr 15m in hand – that is a roomy margin for error. I normally leave my SE16 flat 1hr 15m before an LCY departure!

  9. Sorry for the OT comment but it is about BA.
    They have just cancelled our flights to Palma during October half term and there is no other suitable flight the same day.
    They are happy to refund the flights, which were avios anyway, but do i have any right to compensation as any other flight is going to be inconvenient on the same day. They can get us on an indirect flight the next day via Madrid. CS said I am not entitled to any compensation but I’m sure that would be their stock answer even if I was entitled to something.

    • Shoestring says:

      no compo (more than 14 days’ notice)

      but they are obliged in law to re-route you at no extra cost to you – if you can find a better route for your needs, you can try to insist that they re-ticket you on this one, even if it is on a competitor airline

      see how you get on – if they refuse, you could test that at MCOL, but outcome would probably hinge on how reasonable you were being in your insistence on the alternative route that suited you better

      if you could find a better BA or Oneworld alternative route, they’d be likely to book it for you on the spot, eg could you go on BA/ IB London-Madrid-Palma? or BA/ Vueling London-Barcelona-Palma?

      • Thanks Shoestring 😉
        I think it will be lhr-mad-pmi the following day, might see if they’ll upgrade us for the inconvenience

      • Lady London says:

        I would not accept the following day at October half term. I’d even tell them to ticket me via Zürich or Vienna if necessary.

    • Lady London says:

      Hi Yuff,
      did you check the flight is actually cancelled?
      IIRC I’ve had both BA and BD send me flight cancellation notices.
      One when I was travelling on an award ticket, one when I had secured a very low cost seat well in advance. Then a team had won a match, and suddenly everyone wanted to fly from Glasgow that day.

      In neither case when I was notified of this “flight cancellation”, was the flight actually cancelled. The airline just wanted to offload me because they could sell my seat for considerably higher now.

      One flight was still there selling, when I had an email notice in my hand saying it was “cancelled”.
      The other flight did indeed disappear, but I kept watching and presently, a different numbered flight at close to the same time appeared. I got the airline to reverse my being offloaded in one case, and got moved to the “new” flight in the other.

      I know you’re very experienced Yuff and you probably checked already, but what triggered me was your mention that this flight is Palma at October half-term. Which is exactly when an airline might be tempted to employ such shenanigans.

      btw Easyjet has loads of flights to Palma from lots of airports in the UK, have you taken a squizz? might be another option so you can decide your next course of action.

      • Charlieface says:

        A different flight number is technically a cancellation and can be claimed as a refund or reroute even if the new flight is at the exact same time.

      • Thanks Lady London,

        The flight has been cancelled and it’s during the middle of the week so not peak fares, although our return cash price fare was £300 each into LCY.
        If anything I think it’s cancelled due to lack of demand as Mallorca isn’t hugely busy at the end of October/beginning November

        • Heads up, just called BA to change my flights and got through to a US call centre, I think, and agent said I had to book the next flight with reward availability. So I asked them to speak to a manager as that information was incorrect, they came back but and said I could book the next convenient flight but whilst I was on hold I found an easyJet flight from Gatwick, leaving 1 hr 15mins after the cancelled flight, that was £37 each so may book that instead of losing a day in Mallorca…..

  10. Bob Blackman says:

    “This was the first time I had seen a White Company amenity kit:
    Review British Airways Club World BA1 London City to New York JFK
    After the fantastic Oman Air one a few weeks ago, this was a bit of a disappointment. You get a tiny lip balm, tiny moisturiser, tiny pulse point oil, socks, eyeshade, pen, ear plugs, toothbrush and toothpaste.”

    You are quite negative aren’t you? Even a pretty regular lip balm is ‘tiny’; and the Oman flight was in First class wasn’t it?

    Your editorial slant is getting tedious.

    • No, did Oman in both classes. J bag is literally twice the size and each item is literally twice as big.

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