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We travel in Club Suite business class on the first commercial British Airways A350 flight

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Yesterday was the first day of commercial operations for the British Airways A350-1000.

BA had rounded up a group of journalists, bloggers and (save us, please …..) influencers to try out the new Club Suite cabin on a real flight.  We were invited and, with Rob on holiday, the task of being one of the first people to experience Club Suite fell to me.

If you have been keeping up with the BA A350 coverage, you will know that it is operating on selected Madrid flights for crew training purposes for the month of August.  You can see the A350 Madrid schedule as we understand it here.  This is by far the easiest and cheapest way of experiencing the new British Airways business class seat.

With the Heathrow Airport staff strikes looming, the inaugural service almost didn’t go.  I feel sorry for the British Airways PR team who have had to contend with disruption to what are undoubtedly two of their biggest events of the year – the aircraft delivery and inaugural flight!  Thankfully, the first day of strikes were suspended and our flight could proceed as normal.

The day started in the Galleries lounge at Terminal 5B where one corner had been partitioned off for us. I decided to start my day off with several glasses of champagne and – you will be pleased to hear – managed not to embarrass myself…

BA A350 inaugural flight Alex Cruz

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz gave a short speech about the aircraft and took some questions – more on that in another article later this week.  We headed down to the aircraft for early boarding so that we could take photographs before other passengers arrived.

Alex did not join us on the flight due to the ongoing threat of strikes at Heathrow Airport and – presumably – the ongoing negotiations with BALPA.

The goodies were not restricted to the media contingent.  British Airways had set up an instagram frame, branded cupcakes and a full A350 cake at the gate, which no doubt surprised many of the economy passengers who may not have realised what a special flight they were on.

BA A350 inaugural flight cake

and

BA A350 inaugural flight cake

I was seated in 11A, which is the last Club Suite in the forward Club cabin.  All the Club Suites had been set up with a special BA100 pillow as well as an inaugural head seat covering.  In fact, every cabin had a special inaugural head seat cover.

British Airways A350 Club Suite

and

British Airways A350 Club Suite

and

British Airways A350 Club Suite Inaugural flight

We were quickly brought a glass of champagne and some nibbles:

British Airways A350 Club Suite

…. as well as this very stylish BA100 commemorative amenity kit, which will be available in Club World for the remainder of August.

The contents are identical to the existing White Company amenity kit, but I thought the shape and colour looked very stylish.

British Airways A350 BA100 pillow amenity kit

This is the second time I have been on the British Airways A350, and I must admit that the Club Suite continues to impress me.  The materials and fabrics used make this a very classy, sophisticated seat. The fabric lining inside the hard shell – similar to the fuzzy material inside your car boot – really softens the look of the Cabin.

Whilst it is not a particularly vibrant cabin – there are a lot of dark shades here – the cumulative effect of all the textures is one that feels sophisticated and is unlikely to look dated in a few years’ time.  Photos don’t really do it justice:

British Airways A350 Club Suite

What I particularly like about the seat is the tray table, which can be extended to create a very large and very stable surface, or can be used simply as a small shelf. As you can see, there was room to spare with my large 15″ laptop:

British Airways A350 Club Suite laptop

Because this was an inaugural flight, a decision was made to offer a slightly more substantial meal than the usual Club Europe meals on the London-Madrid route.

On recommendation from one of the cabin crew I went for the yellow chicken curry. It may not look or sound like much, but it tasted excellent and I overheard several people talk about how tasty it was.

British Airways A350 Club Suite Inaugural flight food

For this flight, the PR team and cabin crew had set up the rear Club cabin as a demonstrator with a kitted out bed and a variety of Club World food items, which looked great:

British Airways A350 Club World food

I made the most of it and had a quick lie down in the seat and closed the door.  At 6’2″ I am not exactly short, but the seat is really quite comfortable. British Airways has made an effort to make the foot cubby hole as spacious as possible.

British Airways A350 Club Suite bed

According to the lead designer of the seat, they re-engineered the tray table under the IFE to allow greater height for your feet compared to other seats based on the same Super Diamond frame.  Owing to the angled nature of the suite, the seat also offers more elbow width which is great when in bed mode.

The A350 also features a new in flight entertainment interface on its 18.5″ Panasonic screens.  British Airways recently signed a deal to allow use of the IFE on short-haul flights like those to Madrid, so we were able to try it out. The interface is very slick and looks great, although I didn’t have much time to use it on this 90 minute flight!

British Airways A350 Club Suite IFE

Conclusion

This flight was understandably celebratory – I spent most of it chatting to other journalists and bloggers during the flight. The BA100 pillow, special amenity kit and food will not be present on the remaining training flights to Madrid this month.

Nonetheless, I am very impressed with the new Club Suite.  Let’s be clear – it is not a life-changing product.  The seat it is based on already flies with other airlines such as Qatar Airways, which has already started replacing it with Qsuite, and American Airlines.  That said, the thought and customisation that British Airways has put into the Club Suite makes this a very, very good product.

You can read more about Club Suite, including which routes it is on here.


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Comments (66)

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

  • MT says:

    It does say it all when you end an article by saying another airline has started ripping out a version of it to be upgraded to a better product.

    I have to say overall BA surprised and impressed me with the Club Suite, we have to accept gone are the days when they are a leader in these things and my only concern with the Club Suite is its brand new to the market and a lot of time went into its design but it is not setting a new bar or inventing something, more just bringing BA upto date where so many airlines have been before. Thus how quickly will it be a second rate business class product again?

    That all said truth is BA doesn’t need to be the best, just have as good a product as the competition flying over the Atlantic.

    I will stick to F for westbound flights and other airlines for eastbound in F or QSuites! Not a dig at BA as they have launched a solid product which fits the market they are in well, just wish they could have been a little more inventive considering how late to the game they are with this seat!

    • SH says:

      I think Club Suite is an impressive product overall which will make me consider redeeming Avios on BA (rather than just QR in the future).

      But when I saw ANA’s incredible new Business Suite I was left wondering what the result might have been if BA had tried to come up with something truly new and inventive.

      The fact is that this is about offering something ‘good enough’ (which old CW wasn’t) and which allows a decent amount of density to be packed into the cabin.

      Fine for LHR-JFK, but I know that when I want to go to Tokyo I will be searching for ways to redeem Virgin miles on ANA to experience something really special.

    • C77 says:

      Curious as to what you think BA could have done differently to inovate and revolutionise Business Class beyond Club Suites.

      Essentially the world has caught up with BA…. And overtaken it. They had 20+ years of leading the way in Business Class travel with the flat bed revolution. And now they’ve done something about that and I think they’ve managed it well to catch up with this product. I’m not sure how far you can go beyond going flat within the constraint of an aircraft cabin given that planes aren’t made of elastic and the fine line of making the product economically viable while not alienating and destroying F. If QR QSuites is your benchmark here then I’m not entirely sure I share your enthusiasm – it’s an ok seat but it’s far from perfect.

      • MT says:

        I could be wrong as not been in the Club Suite yet but I have yet to hear anyone who has suggest it is close to QSuite, this review even makes it clear that it is below that standard. The new ANA seat looks miles ahead. So it seems there is a lot BA could have done rather than spending a long time in replacing a well past its sell by date seat with something that isn’t that new and by the time it finishes rolling it out will be decidedly old.

        I get the reasons they did, commercial reasons, but that doesn’t make it a class leading or revolutionary seat.

        • C77 says:

          With respect the seats been flying less than 24hrs – you’ve got the bloggers and influencers take on it where as perhaps the real truth will be trying it out for yourself and making your own mind up.

        • Nick says:

          Is anyone suggesting that it is revolutionary or class leading? And frankly does it really matter? Ive not flown it but that new seat looks the real deal. The fact that there is better out there is inevitable given different cost bases, but I don’t really see that it matters as the new seat looks more than good enough for very comfortable long haul flying.

          • iamfugly says:

            The point being made is all this fan fair for a seat (which has been a long time in the works) which should have been available on a BA plane for quite a number of years now.
            They are leading us to think this is cutting edge….it is not.
            Yes, admittedly, the seat looks great and it will no doubt be comfortable, exactly like the majority of other business class seats, which have been already out there for many many years.
            This appears to be the great BA swindle to make you grateful for a product which you were rightfully paying for and which they should have provided from the off. Not that rubbish 8 abreast thing! But anyhow, bygones. Lets all drool over how great BA is….finally.

          • Nick says:

            I think you are over thinking this. It’s an overwhelmingly positive move and as long as it as good IRL as it looks, it increases my redemption options as I’d given up on the old seat. I don’t care that it’s not the best; 5 years late; that other have had at least as good as this for ages etc etc. The only thing that really matters to me is I can now look forward to flying J with BA on some routes again so they may be seeing more of my custom where I have the choice to make. I have strived to stay blue for years but this might change things. I whinge about BA quite a bit but really, don’t see that there is anything legitimate to complain about here.

    • Rich says:

      Exactly MT – most customers and therefore shareholders will be very pleased with this product upgrade (in a few years once it’s rolled out) and that matters more to IAG than what we (the discerning minority) all think

      • Richard says:

        +1, BA are a business, they need to be profitable and this should help them.

    • Ben says:

      Personally I hate Q Suites. I find the door claustrophobic, made worse by the foot box, and as a shorter chap (170cm) my feet don’t touch the floor in seat mode! Love the super diamond seat so really pleased that BA chose this option.

  • Paul says:

    The yellow curry is standard. I had it on Friday enroute to Istanbul. It was indeed tasty but failed to improve what was otherwise a dire experience on that long sector.

    Boarding was farcical with no cupcakes for usInstead a farcical boarding experience that sees BA incentivise carrying too much hand baggage. More than 30 people volunteered to check in their hand baggage on my flight having been told the day before via text. The size of some of the bags was ludicrous and then they were not only board first but were rewarded with some sort of voucher – no doubt for BOB.

    Not helped by an hours delay on the ground at Heathrow which BA blamed on the weather, ATC staff shortages in every country we were due to fly over.

    Amazingly Turkish Airlines had none of those problems with their evening service on time and seemingly immune to both the weather and ATC.

    I am afraid it will take more than a AA/QR cast off seat with a door to get me back on board BA. It’s no longer just their seat, that ship sailed a long time ago. No, flying BA is simply an expensive chore and recent experiences on a variety of short haul carriers has opened my eyes to the gulf between “real” airlines and BA which hasn’t a clue about what it is anymore.

    • Catalan says:

      @Paul, so why do you continue to fly BA. I just don’t understand.

      • Stu_N says:

        +1. If it is the same Paul all the time, I really do wonder why he chooses to fly an airline he has such a strong and obvious dislike of.

        • Catalan says:

          Probably because he finds BA that much more affordable but would prefer the likes of SQ etc
          “champagne taste, but tap water money”!

    • C77 says:

      Lol @ long sector.
      It’s 3hrs 40 London to Istanbul. The fare difference between BA Club Europe and TK Business when I’ve checked has been significant. Too significant to justify TK for a lie flat seat and some inflight mezze.
      TK also have middle seats on their long haul business product – hopefully you don’t get one of those.

      • Lady London says:

        TK food seems nice though. Only done them in Y and was extremely comfortable and well fed.

        Despite a couple of recent reports of people not being looked after i’d also have a lot more confidence of being looked after if flying BA, than TK.

    • Russ says:

      +1

  • Yuff says:

    I would not have contemplated using BA CW unless they had this seat, although having to pay to reserve your seat when all other J class carriers, I have used, allow free seat reservations is annoying.
    Personally I’m pleased to have more choice from the UK for LH. destination if my £ allows me to buy anything worthwhile when I get there 😬

    • TGLoyalty says:

      I’d paying for a seat worth it when they are pretty much all the same with this club suite change?

      • meta says:

        Not really. Reading elsewhere the outward facing armrest doesn’t move, only the inner one. I am a side sleeper and always on the left. This means that one side of the plane is not good for me. As a non-status passenger that means that I might not get a seat that suits me unless I pay for seat selection. However, I’ll give it a try and then make final verdict.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          But that does mean 50% of the seats will be suitable. This isn’t like the old seat where a select handful of seats have direct aisle access or you’ll be stuck with some random in a middle pair etc.

          Though I feel seat reservation fees might fall with this seat change so you might still pay but a much smaller fee.

        • AJA says:

          I’ve never paid to reserve a seat. Those that need to really aren’t frequent BA J or F flyers. 1 paid flight BA LH CW (280TP return) and 1 paid SH ET (20TP return) flight is sufficient to achieve BA Bronze / OW Ruby which allows you to reserve for free 7 days out. BA Silver / OW Sapphire is achievable with 4 SH CE (160TP return) flights. That’s 1 return flight every 3 months. That gives you free seat selection at reservation.

          If you do one LH flight to the Far East with Finnair (440TP return) via HEL and 2 BA CE (80TP return) or 1 in Qatar Airways in J (560TP return) via DOH you then only have to do 2 SH BA ET (20TP return) flights and you also achieve BA Silver / OW Sapphire status.

          That’s hardly frequent flying. But it does reward / incentivise customers to fly with BA as it is something that differentiates between its customers who do fly frequently and those who fly once or twice a year.

          Even as BA Silver I find I can’t always choose the ideal seat as BA Gold or GGL customers have preference over me. That’s as it should be and how status works.

          The price you pay BA is also for the convenience of flying directly from A to B from LHR (which for those outside of London or SE England isn’t an advantage). Apart from that often the premium fares on BA are competitive even taking into account seat reservation fees. You have the choice, but complaining that you’re hard done by really is a first world problem

          • AJA says:

            In my previous post, the Finnair flights assume you fly the UK – HEL sectors on BA metal. Likewise on Qatar I’m assuming UK-DOH sectors are on BA metal. If not you also need to do a further 2 SH ET (20TP return) flights on BA or IB. Even so that’s only 5 trips (Finnair/ BA) or 5 trips (Qatar/BA) to achieve status to avoid paying to reserve a seat.

          • meta says:

            You don’t have to be a frequent flyer to fly in J or F often. People can earn Avios and never pay for a cash ticket should they wish. Some people are also frequent flyers, just not on one airline.

        • AJA says:

          If you have enough Avios to redeem often for J and F seats you could spend a few more and use them to reserve your seat as well. My point that seat selection for free is an incentive to acquire silver or gold status still stands.

          • meta says:

            Not if you acquired your miles by spending.

          • The Original David says:

            Err, no. An Avios earned from a credit card is still an Avios, and can be used for seat fees, redemptions, BoB scones, tea, or anything else. If you’re dropping 200k avios on a few J returns, I’m sure you could scrape together a few more to cover seat selection.

          • meta says:

            No. I would be selling Avios to BA for substantially less than I acquired it at. And sometimes it’s not a few more Avios, we are talking about tens of thousands Avios on some long-haul routes.

    • ChrisC says:

      the pressure to pay for a ‘good seat’ will end with the new suite.

      At the moment there is a feeling that some CW seats are better than others – upper deck of CW on the 747 for example. Or those where you don’t have to step over someone – or have someone step over you for example

      All the new club suite will be direct aisle so there will be less supposedly better seats (because all the new ones are equal) so less incentive to pay

      • meta says:

        If you read other sites/FT, there are also window seats with two or three seats or even half windows. At least for me (as I outlined above), it could happen that there are 26 pax with status in Club Suite and they all take one side of the plane and I am left with undesirable one. But I’ll judge properly when I try it. I think the pressure won’t end completely, but it might lower the cost of seat selection to something more palatable as TG Loyalty said.

  • TripRep says:

    Nice timing for BA PR, you’ll be glad you went to Madrid instead of Valencia…

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/aug/05/british-airways-flight-lands-spain-smoke-fills-cabin-fire-broke-out-valencia

  • PB says:

    I am being flippant , but picture 3 of the interior reminds me of stalls in the stables .

  • Opuada says:

    Fantastic product. I think on the west BA have the best product and will dominate the Atlantic with this. Towards the east competition is quite high. The product is competitive but not the best. With the right price over competitors I would happily fly this to the east over competitors. To the west and Africa my no. 1 choice

  • AJA says:

    I like the look of this new BA product. I hope I get to try it out eventually. Unfortunately none of the routes announced so far are ones that I fly, not even the 777 routes that will also get the new product. It would be good if it could be rolled out quicker. Oh well.

    • ChrisC says:

      the limit on rollout is the seat manufacturer who can only make 3 seats a day so it takes getting on for 3 weeks to make enough to either put on an A350 from the get go or on a refurbed 777

      • TGLoyalty says:

        There’s also the fact that it would be done as part of the standard refurbishment / service etc plan.

        Reality is with something like a plane these things can take years as you can’t just take a long haul plane out of service every 3 weeks.

  • Mike says:

    Does the IFE have a video (HDMI/VGA/Displayport) input so you can use it as a second monitor for your laptop?

    I know the Qsuite does this, and I find dual monitor setups a lot more productive.

    Also, what is WTP like on the A350?

    • Rhys says:

      Nope, no video input as far as I could tell. WTP looks decent – they had the new quilts and pillows out which looked very good

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        Some people seemed quite annoyed WTP was 2-4-2 while Economy was 3-3-3. Been the case on the 777 for a while however….

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