First impressions of British Airways Club Suite business class on the A350!

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This is the second of two posts about the A350 arrival. 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!

The Club Suite cabin

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 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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Behind at the scenes of the British Airways A350 arrival event

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Comments

  1. Philip says:

    Good article.

    Now all we nee to know are which Madrid flights the A350 will be scheduled on, so that we can check out the Club Suite for ourselves 🙂

  2. Even when the hard product is now in line with the competition I doubt that attitude of the stuff will change as well .Most of the time I find BA flight attendants arrogant , behaving like they own the plane and doing you a favour by doing their job .My experience is mostly on club. world LHR-HKG and JFK which i fly regularly and maybe 1 in 10 flight I get a ldecent crew.

    • More like 9 in 10 for me.

    • Personally I’ve never had a terrible crew on a British Airways flight. I think it’s often just because it’s typically British service and slightly reserved, in comparison to the insincere over the top American service going west or the subservient service you get from the Asian and Middle East carriers

      • Lady London says:

        +1 on the other carriers but have had a couple of BA longhaul crews where you felt all they wanted to do was get the food out, turn up the heat so everyone would call asleep and disappear for the rest of the flight. Not for a while though.

        M’y respect for an Airlines crew is based on how they treat Economy passengers. I’m still to be found travelling a lot there. Have been really impressed with Delta crew there.

    • Mikeact says:

      Some people are just never happy……you say you fly regularly HKG and JFK. Both routes have ample competition from London. If you’re that aggrieved I suggest you fly with another carrier.

  3. Catalan says:

    An excellent review and a great looking product.
    BA haters, please stay away from it!

  4. Thanks to HfP and Rhys for this article. Great pictures. The product looks impressive, my fears about the foot cubby are partly assuaged. I think this is a definite improvement over the existing product. Hopefully I will get to try it out but based on the routes announced so far I think it will be a while before I do.

  5. Vaughan says:

    Great review. The product looks a vast improvement. One of the earlier posts suggested HFP would post what dates the 350 would be doing the familiarisation runs to Madrid. Maybe after their own trip they might have some thing to announce.

    • There is a draft list doing the rounds but it keeps changing so we’ve deliberately not published it. As soon as they are officially timetabled we will post.

  6. Geoff says:

    Also looks to the same seat (without the door) as Saudia which I found very good – although that was also helped by excellent service.

  7. Clarence says:

    A bit O/T but out of curiosity can I book a flight for my daughter in law using Avios from my own BAEC account. I have never thought about doing this before.

  8. Toby Stevens says:

    Hiya. What about the seat belts across the shoulder and the belt?

    Was it restrictive?

    I am trying to figure out when in flat bed how it would work across the shoulder or do you not use that in flat bed?

    • The three point design is becoming standard across business class seats now. The across the shoulder part is for take off and landing only. During the flight the lap belt is all that is needed.

    • The shoulder strap is only needed for take off and landing I believe. I think regulations require this where there is a greater risk of the head hitting the seat shell, often due to angled seats.. i.e if thrown forward you wouldn’t go in the direction of the seat but straight forwards toward the seat shell causing injury.

  9. To those quibblling about paying for seat selection, it’s useful to understand that it actually helps their best customers. They have status and so can select their seat for free at the time of the booking. The fact that others can’t means it is more likely that they get the seat they want.

    It’s not odd that BA wants to look after its Gold and Silver customers the most.

    • Lady London says:

      British Airways also hands free seat selection at time of booking free of charge to its corporate customers.

    • Nick_C says:

      I understand that completely Tom, and that BA look after their frequent flyers very well – even though they may be traveling on very cheap tickets. Conversely it makes new customers and people without status feel they are not valued. And I’m spending my own money when I fly. Maybe BA don’t need to attract new business.

      I’m flying J on JAL in December for the first time. No experience of the airline, but just the fact I have been able to select seats FOC already gives me a good feeling about them.

      But my point was that with the new CW cabin, people like me will benefit as every seat will be a good seat, so I will take pot luck and be less upset that seat reservations are charged at a high price. I might even choose them over AA next time I have to buy a J ticket. Particularly when flying back from the US, in order to benefit from EU261 if there is a delay.

      • marcw says:

        Be grateful to BA! JAL is an outstanding airline.

      • Catalan says:

        ..but if I was say a Virgin Atlantic Gold or Silver customer booking a seat I’d be very upset if a load of non-status passengers had pre selected all the best seats ahead of me.
        I guess it’s who the airline values more.

    • Peter K says:

      I can see your way of thinking, but only offering your best customers what everyone else offers all customers is not really a plus, is it?

      • The Original David says:

        It is if you have status! If I can book a flight at a few day’s notice and get an exit row, I’m more likely to book BA.

        Realistically, anyone paying for just one CW return a year should have Bronze, and thus free seat selection at 7 days. Anyone whining about CW seat selection fees clearly doesn’t give much revenue to BA anyway!

  10. OT: upgraded green to plat through the link, spent 4K but didn’t get the 20K bonus MR. Anyone experienced this and had positive solution?

  11. Nick_C,

    You can’t get gold status with BA by flying on cheap fares. The way tier points work you have to fly quite a lot in J or F to qualify.

    I have been BA Gold for the last 3 years and that has involved over 20 long haul (5,000 miles plus) flights in F and J. They weren’t cheap at all, and I paid for them myself.

    So the ability to select seats for free at the time of booking is a perk for BA’s best customers. It particularly works well on a 747 where you can get the upper deck for J, and 1A or 1K in F, which I bellieve are reserved for BA Gold pax.

    Agree it would be better if all seats were equal, however.

    • marcw says:

      BS! 50 s/h flights or just a cheap QR business trip to Asia. I reckon, if well though, about GBP700/year

    • Nick_C says:

      I completely understand that. But you can achieve gold on flights your company pays for, then get lounge access, free seat selection, and a blocked seat next to you when flying on a cheap economy ticket for leisure.

    • Doug M says:

      This is untrue Tom. You can get gold on BA for as little as £2,500 ish. Some people may say that’s far from little, but which other major airline let’s you achieve top status for so little money. They are flash sales out of places like Stockholm to SFO or PHX. Route via Helsinki, and you’re looking 880TP for what is often in the £1200 range. Obviously it takes a certain mindset to be prepared to fly say ARN-HEL-LHR-JFK-LAX-PHX but BA being non revenue are one airline where top status is achievable at a relatively low price.
      FT has plenty of info for people that want to do this sort of thing, and plenty of posters that say they do, including the one typing this.

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