On Friday, British Airways operated a full meal service in its Club World business class cabin for the first time in well over two years.
Since the pandemic started, British Airways has veered from ‘snacks’ to DO&CO meal boxes to the ‘single tray’ set up that ran until last week. This was effectively a Band 3/4-style Club Europe meal, served in one go, with only the main course being hot.
The driver for this was not the pandemic or cost – although clearly they were far cheaper than proper meals – but staffing, allowing Club World cabins to run on the legal minimum number of crew.
We are now back in business, so to speak, so I thought I would take a look.
The positive news is that the meal I was served on Saturday was not bad at all. You could see the hand of upmarket caterers DO&CO at work.
It was also served relatively quickly, despite fears of a return to 2-3 hour meal services. I have included timestamps below so you can see how the meal arrived.
Before we start ….
This is possibly the most boring picture we’ve ever published, but I took it as a reminder to myself to mention that hot towels are back.
For a pre-meal drink, I took the Rose champagne (Besserat de Bellefon Grande Tradition Rose). The standard champage is the Canard-Duchene Cuvee Leonie, which I know some people enjoy but doesn’t shout ‘premium’.
Order taken: 10.37am / plate arrived 11.13am
There were three options available:
- Smoked salmon, sauteed asparagus, tomato salsa, balsamic oil
- Caprese salad, mozzarella, tomatoes, basil pesto
- Piedmont pea soup, toasted Parmesan croutons (served hot – hot appetisers are back)
Each option comes with a mixed bean salad.
I took the salmon:
…. which was good. The balsamic vinegar gave it a kick which worked well, given the dulling effect that altitude has on your taste buds.
My daughter had the salad which also looked good, with surprisingly large pieces of mozzarella and tomato.
Plate arrived: 11.39am
As you can in the picture, the food is now being served course by course again. The crew made a mistake by leaving the empty bread basket and mixed bean salad bowl behind – you will see that it remains even in the dessert photo.
The options were:
- Braised lamb shank, crushed potatoes, braised onions, chargrilled spring onion
- Mango and mustard marinated salmon, garlic peas, glazed baby carrots
- Grilled tofu, roasted beetroots, celeriac puree, fava beans, slow roasted baby tomatoes, vegan jus
I took the lamb shank, partly as an experiment to see how BA treated it. I must admit that I was initially disappointed by the portion size, but in reality the picture I had in my mind – of a huge pub-style lamb shank being deposited in front of me – was never going to happen.
The meat was suitably juicy and tender, and disappointingly I couldn’t find anything to complain about.
The only issue is portion size. Compared to other major carriers – and I had flown Air France business class a few days before so I had a fresh comparison in mind – you simply don’t get as much on your plate with British Airways. It’s not a huge difference, but it is noticeable.
Cheese and dessert
Plate arrived: 12.02pm
There was no hanging around here, with my choice being put on my tray within 60 seconds of being requested, along with the coffee I ordered.
The options were:
- Chocolate marquise, orange compote, caramelised orange zest
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- Sticky date pudding, creme anglaise sauce (I am guessing this was the hot option)
- Cheese board, black grapes, onion and chilli relish
I took the chocolate option:
…. which was probably a little dull (basically a chocolate mousse in a chocolate coating) but DO&CO had done their best to liven it up with the compote.
Timing wise, it took 95 minutes from placing my initial order to being served my coffee and dessert. A fairer comparison is that it took 48 minutes from being served my starter to being served my dessert, which I consider totally acceptable.
Remember that if you are on an overnight flight and want to sleep quickly, you can request a ‘one tray’ meal with all of the items brought out at once.
I thought it was also worth adding in a picture of the coffee I had later in the flight.
As you just about see, it came with a pack of Walkers Shortbread and a Lindt Lindor chocolate. Progress indeed!
Closer to landing, the standard British Airways afternoon tea made an appearance.
The options were between two selections of three finger-sized sandwiches and a fixed sweet option (hazelnut eclair and lemon macaron, with a lemon and plain scone with clotted cream and strawberry jam).
This is still served in one go:
Again, it wasn’t bad, although it is virtually impossible to serve sandwiches on an aircraft without at least one edge going a bit dry.
The scones were as good as ever although I admit I may be in a minority in liking these. If you look closely at the rectangular dish at the rear, you’ll see that it is specifically designed to take the afternoon tea items.
Some of you will remember the days when you were given a cellophane wrapped pack of sandwiches to unwrap yourself, a la Tesco. Things have progressed.
Based on this meal, I am happy to declare the return of ‘proper’ Club World catering a success.
There was a collective gasp of surprise when, under Alex Cruz’s cost-cutting watch, upmarket DO&CO was given the Heathrow catering contract. It was never clear if budgets had gone up or DO&CO was willing to sell itself out in order to win a huge contract, but on the back of my meal I am pleasantly surprised.
Even its detractors need to admit that the new Club Suite package is working. The decor may be a bit too grey and Etihad has shown what can be done with the same seat on a higher decorative budget, but you can’t knock it. The IFE screen is a good size, the seat is comfortable and the seat controls work well.
The seat is good (BA is still the only European airline with a ‘door’ seat, not that I ever close mine), the food service is now good and the wi-fi works well – and at £12 for four hours is cheaper than some carriers. The crew were friendly and cheerful, but it is about time that some were given permanent Club World roles and given additional training in the food and drink on offer.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (September 2023)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
EDIT: Applications for this card are temporarily suspended due to IT issues with the British Airways On Business SME loyalty scheme.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.