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Review: Club Suite business class on a British Airways A350

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This is the second of two posts about the arrival of BA’s A350. In the first article I looked at the event itself whilst this article will be a closer look at the Club Suite itself.

This is the first time that HfP – and indeed anyone apart from some select British Airways personnel – had seen the cabin. When Club Suite was first announced Rob was able to see a virtual reality mockup but it is quite hard to get a sense of the space through two tiny head-mounted screens.

The first thing you notice about the British Airways A350-1000 is the brand new plane smell.  If you have ever been on a new(ish) aircraft you may know what I mean.

What is the Club Suite cabin like?

Although the A350 wasn’t flying off anywhere, British Airways had set the aircraft up as if it was ready to welcome passengers onboard. Overhead mood lighting, as well as in seat lighting, had been switched on to give a fuller picture of what passengers can expect.

It looked very smart. Although it uses quite a muted colour palette of greys and some wood effect, it does look good:

British Airways A350 Club Suite seat

British Airways has retained overhead bins on both sides of the aisle as well as above the centre pair of seats, ensuring plenty of storage. They have NOT opted for adjustable air vents, although there are overhead reading lights in addition to those included in the seat.

There are two business class Club Suite cabins. The first cabin contains 44 suites in eleven rows whilst the second is much smaller with only three rows at 12 seats in total. In total there are 56 Club Suite seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration with all-aisle access.

British Airways A350 Club Suite cabin

The two cabins are divided by the self-service Club Kitchen:

British Airways A350 Club Suite kitchen

…. as well as two toilets (there are three toilets in total in Business). Although they did not have a huge footprint, the way the toilet and sink has been set up makes them feel quite spacious.

British Airways Club Suite toilet

The British Airways Club Suite seat

The Club Suite is based on the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat, rather than an in-house design, although it has been significantly customised. The Club Suite is the first time that the Super Diamond has featured a door.

British Airways A350 Club Suite cabin

The first thing that struck me when I sat in the seat is that it feels remarkably spacious. Despite the door and the fairly high seat surrounds, it does not feel cramped. With storage on one side and a retractable armrest on the other, there is plenty of room at head-height.

The seat itself feels comfortable, despite the fact that I am 6’2″ and have relatively broad shoulders. Here it is in seat mode:

British Airways A350 Club Suite seat

And here in bed mode, with The White Company bedding:

British Airways A350 Club Suite bed

and

British Airways A350 Club Suite British Airways A350 Club Suite bed

One of my main concerns regarding the Club Suite was that it might be too private. In renders and other photos the middle divider between the centre pair of seats looked very small.

It IS small – only about a foot (30cm) can be moved. However, this has been carefully positioned so that when both passengers are seated you can see each other without having to move forward or back. This affords privacy whilst still enabling conversations and a line of sight with your neighbour.

British Airways A350 Club Suite privacy divider

The literature pocket is at the top of the seat.

British Airways A350 Club Suite seat

Storage

Storage has also been improved on Club Suite. There are now four storage areas. The first is a small cupboard at eye-level which comes with a mirror. This is perfect for storing headphones or bottles.

British Airways A350 Club Suite seat

There are two shallow storage areas along the side console. One of these is outfitted with two USB plugs, a headphone socket and universal power socket as well as the personal in flight entertainment controller.

British Airways Club Suite storage

Finally, there is an open storage compartment at foot level, again suitable for headphones, water bottles or similarly sized objects.

Leg room

If you have read our previous coverage of the Club Suite you will know it comes with a foot cubby when in bed mode. This innovation has now become one of the most popular ways to ensure direct aisle access for every passenger without reducing the density of business class configurations. Most airlines are now installing seats with foot cubby holes, so British Airways is in good company.

At 6’2″ I was able to lay flat in the seat with no problems. The height of the cubby isn’t quite as generous although I do have decent sized feet and kept my shoes on:

British Airways A350 Club Suite foot cubby

Although not without its detractors, the foot cubby is a decent compromise when it comes to being able to offer direct-aisle access.

Tray table

The tray table is one of the stand-out pieces of engineering in the Club Suite seat. It slides out directly from underneath the in-flight entertainment screen, and can be latched in two positions: all the way out or, alternatively, at a half-way point. It is a full-width table which can be folded out. This means you can keep it as a small table for drinks or snacks, or it can be folded out to create a large table for dining. It is very nicely done.

British Airways A350 Club Suite tray table

In flight entertainment is provided by an 18.5″ Panasonic screen. It is fixed so can be used gate-to-gate which is an improvement. We weren’t able to test the IFE on our walk-through but this looks like a solid offering.

The best seats in British Airways A350 Club Suite cabin

Whilst all the Club Suite seats are nominally identical – all have direct aisle access, identical legroom and privacy – the seats are not perfectly aligned with the windows in the A350-1000. This means that, depending on which row you are seated in, you have between one and two windows.

Rows 3, 4, 7 and 17 all have one window only.

Rows 2, 5, 6, 8 and 16 have one and a half windows each

Whilst rows 1, 9, 10 and 15 all have two windows.

This is not a massive variance but might factor into your choice of seat if you are particularly picky.

Conclusion

I am, surprisingly, impressed by the new Club Suite.  My worries that it would feel too cramped and private have proved unfounded. When seated it feels remarkably spacious, and the addition of the door is a clear improvement.

Whilst it would be nice for the entire divider to retract between seat pairs, the sliding partition does allow for conversations. It is – obviously – not as ideal for families or couples travelling together compared to the previous Club World double beds, but it is not quite as extreme as I thought it might be.

The additional storage storage is a bonus, and the in-flight entertainment will be gate-to-gate which is a clear improvement.

The design and engineering of the tray table is exceptional. Whilst this may sound like an insignificant detail, if you consider how much the table gets used it is a small detail that elevates the whole travelling experience.

It’s safe to say that British Airways has outdone our expectations and developed a product that is really very good. The real test will be in a week’s time, when we are due to fly to Madrid on the first commercial flight with Alex Cruz, the BA CEO, himself …..


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Comments (118)

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

  • meta says:

    Does the armrest go down when in bed mode? On the pictures it’s up.

  • Alex says:

    Been watching on Instagram all afternoon – It does really look like a great product which they have spent time listening to issues on the previous club world product. I unfortunately won’t be flying this until early-mid 2020 🙁

  • Cristian Rivera agudelo says:

    When can we book to Madrid ?

    • Rob says:

      The rumoured dates are on Flyertalk. We have not published them because I keep getting told that they may change (and, indeed, they already changed once as the original list had it flying into September which is not now happening). As soon as it is in the timetable we will publish it.

  • BJ says:

    Let’s be frank- it looks super! Why bother with middle of the night transits in the ME when we can board this and sleep all the night away until we arrive at our destination? Why bother nit picking when, were it not for avios and the likes of HFP, most of us would be flying economy most of the time. Let’s just be grateful BA have got there act together and hopefully many of us can have a chance to try it within the next two years.

    • Shoestring says:

      because you get twice as many tier points

      • Andrew says:

        And a first class service on board (QR) rather than a sub-business service on BA. If you compare food pictures of QR and BA it’s like first class next to premium economy. Until BA up their game in terms of service in Club, I’ll be flying QR business or BA First (the new First service really is excellent).

        • Russ says:

          Wot Andrew said. Seriously BJ what are you smoking me old mate???

        • BJ says:

          I’ve flew all three main ME carriers in J and one in F, cannot honestly say I found food and service markedly better than BA. The most appalling service and dirtiest aircraft I ever flew was Etihad while I got gastroenteritis following a First flight on Emirates which may or may not have been due to the food onboard. Granted ME3 lounges are significantly better than BA lounges. Service on ME3 fell short of that I experienced on NZ Business First and QF First so I don’t use ME3 as a yardstick against which to measure other airlines. I’m not saying ME3 and not better than BA in general, they probably are, but the difference is not great enough in my view to justify the inconvenience. I prefer to sleep most of the flight if I can anyway so food, IFE and service are less important to me than seat/bed comfort.

          • Polly says:

            You have always been a big fan of flying direct to Asia anyway. AY being one of your favs with local connection avoiding LHR.
            Will def try for this new J 241 once it’s rolled out. So glad not to climb over or be climbed over. Main reason for trying for F 241 in the past.
            And its comfy now as either a seat or a bed…what’s not to like. Well done BA

        • Opuada says:

          I think it’s a little harsh to say BA’s current club service is sub-standard given the improvements they’ve made to the soft product over the last 2 years, to top that Do & Co are going to be catering all routes by March 2020. In my opinion, is it the best business class in the world? no but can it compete with the the Middle Eastern 3? EASILY.

          • meta says:

            Do&Co food can be disgusting too. It’s not always top notch and I bet they have different pricing based on quality and BA is cutting corners there. Neverthless, BA has definitely improved. But so will ME3 and Asian carriers, so again BA will be behind in a few years.

      • BJ says:

        Only useful if chasing status which not everybody is.

        • Shoestring says:

          OK put it this (consolidated) way – you get twice as many tier points, a better seat and better food & service, whichever class you’re in

          apart from those minor details, BA does OK with this new bus in the sky

          • Shoestring says:

            so basically BA had better be cheaper

          • Jake Mc says:

            Only twice as many on Qatar – none on Emirates or Ethiad. Seats are not better on new emirates 777 (oddly enough).

            Qatar will offer good service & food but tbh on some journeys you will end up on worse seats – I imagine doha to Bangalore will be a short haul but BA will now offer direct with the new seat – I could be wrong there though.

            Whilst the ME3 products probably still are better, I think BA will have done enough to ensure the comparison of direct v indirect (with ME3) comes out in their favour. I expect direct business is where the majority of their income is from.

          • BJ says:

            When was the last time you tried ME3 food and service yourself Harry? Once you do get kids off your hands and start travelling East again are you planning on paying the extra avios to transit in your beloved ME or are you going to fly direct for as as fes avios as possible?

          • Shoestring says:

            ha ha good question

            as I’m same age as you, very good question

            you can only spend your money once

            it never used to bother me travelling 11 hrs in Economy – now that I am stiff & older, I have to weigh up (say) £750 of comfort on a plane vs £750 of hotels and delicious food the other end, the pot of money won’t be infinitely generous

            I guess we’ll judge each holiday opp on its merits & the points or offer prices

          • Shoestring says:

            those flats have a certain value, you can’t sell up and spend it twice

          • BJ says:

            Close on 50% increase in value in five years, £1300pcm rental, doing nicely 🙂

      • Oh! Matron! says:

        And P155 poor human rights… 🙁

    • Steve says:

      Because when you put lipstick on a pig, it’s still a pig?

    • Optimus Prime says:

      Is it possible to get to Australia/NZ for not more than £2000 with BA?

  • Benylin says:

    OT: booking F first time on BA, Boeing 777, Tokyo Haneda to LHR. Me and my partner, seating recommendation?

    I would like to be close to my partner 😂👀

    1 E and 1F available in row 1
    Everything else available

    • BJ says:

      If you need to look into her eyes and whisper sweet nothings all the way home you need the middle
      pair but if you are happy to join each other just for meals and the odd chat then you might like the window singles.

    • HAM76 says:

      Middle seat. It‘s not like the windows are out of sight. You can still see a lot of the outside world, but you are also next to your partner and share the experience. The most confusing thing, though, is that you have different flight attendants, as they usually work one aisle. The row itself doesn‘t matter much on a 777, IMO. I personally prefer to sit in the middle of the cabin to reduce noise from the galley. On a 747, though, the seats are really different and sitting in row one, of which there are only two seats, is a remarkable experience.

      • meta says:

        Yes and that’s why after my first F on BA with my partner, we’ve now switched to window seats. The reason being that despite asking for meal service to be at the same time, it wasn’t completely in sync. I think I waited 15 minutes for the main while my partner’s was getting cold. They did apologise, but never again.

  • Bloke formerly in India says:

    Underwhelming is my first impression from the pictures. It all just looks corporate, sterile and bland, but maybe that is the point – boring never goes out of fashion. The TV with oversized bezels looks like it was designed in 2005, and I love that they’ve gone with BSOD blue for a background as well. Or maybe it’s actually just British understatedness with enough luxurious, well engineered functionality that it works – it just doesn’t come across like that from the images.

    Still, at least the basics like some storage and direct aisle access are now addressed. I can live with boring provided it’s well thought out.

    • Charlieface says:

      BSOD Blue? Is there also an Updating Turquoise and a fetching Bash Yellow on Black?

  • Russ says:

    Thanks for this Rhys, sorry should have said earlier. Good first sweep review.

  • Opuada says:

    In my opinion, This seat is fantastic, it seems to offer fantastic privacy and plenty of space (even with the door closed). This is one of the best business class seats out there. (Qsuite being no.1). in my honest opinion I’d say the club suite comes in at no.3/4 after ANA’s new business class or Singapores Business, depending on which you prefer. Given BA’s extensive route, much improved service. When you sit down and think about it, once comepltetly rolled out, BA will EASILY be the go to airline for business passengers.

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