Flying Club Suite on BA A350’s FIRST OFFICIAL Flight

The British Airways A350 has caused quite some stir around the aviation and travel world over the past month since it was revealed. It’s the first time BA have made a change to their aging 2-4-2 business class which was once so revolutionary. With Toronto announced to be the stage for the plane’s inaugural long-haul service, I booked a seat in the new club cabin for just four days after launch only to be left disappointed when they moved the first outing to September 2nd bound for Dubai. I booked this flight immediately and have been counting down the days ever since until today where I finally got the test the cabin out for good.

Booking

To fly this plane’s inaugural in club, you needed quite a bit of cash as ticket prices were in the thousands. If you didn’t use my trick saving you hundreds of BA’s long haul flights, you really were losing out.

I booked an economy and premium economy return in order to review two of the three cabins but in order to try the Club Suite before anybody else, I was offered a space dependent upgrade to club world by British Airways. I was under absolutely no pressure to push any opinions about the product, however. The ticket cost me around £400 which I booked using my American Express Gold Card to receive 3x points.

The Aircraft 

British Airways took delivery of their first A350-1000 in late July 2019, I was on hand to witness the arrival and unveiling of the aircraft where I made this short video touring the cabin and the extract below is from my article touring the plane which you can read here

“The cabin features 56 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration with each seat boasting direct aisle access. World Traveler Plus (premium economy) has also benefited from a makeover in its soft product as new pillows, quilts and amenity kits are introduced. Finally, the World Traveler cabin is set up in 3-3-3 configuration with slimline seats and passengers will be able to use inflight WiFi throughout the flight”

Ground Experience 

I checked in at Terminal 5 in the Club section located at section H. The staff here were all super friendly and directed me on my way with my boarding pass.

As a club world passenger I was able to use the fast track facility in Heathrow’s Terminal 5. Compared to fast track lines in other airports, this one felt rather less premium and took a long 20 minutes until I was through. If I’m honest I don’t think there was a huge difference in timings between fast track and normal security.

The security pushes you out into the main concourse with the first of the two British Airways lounges located on your left. The Galleries north lounge was heaving when I arrived and the queue to get in was pretty long leaving me standing their for at least five minutes. Once I was in I couldn’t find anywhere to sit, even on the terrace and left instantly.

The other option for club passengers is the Galleries south located a 5 minute walk through the terminal with the other BA lounges. This lounge is less busy as I feel it is less well known and the offering of food seemed different. In this lounge they were offering salads and sandwiches with more space to sit.

I headed down to B gates as soon as it was announced on the screens hoping that there may be some sort of event to mark the flight. There wasn’t. Once there I visited the final business class lounge which I actually find to be the best of them all. It is much quieter than the other two with a similar food offering and service. It also has the perk of having an Elemis spa.

The Flight

I headed down to the gate as boarding begun and there was some serious crowding around the gate entrance as many passengers were at the wrong gate and thought it was the Philadelphia flight leaving from gate 32.

Nonetheless, boarding was strictly enforced in groups and as a group two passenger, I was in the tunnel around 15 minutes after I started queuing. Once we reached the jetbridge, the queuing continued.

The CSM personally welcomed me onboard with a ‘welcome back’ which I thought was a lovely touch and would go on to be the standard for the amazing crew throughout the flight.

I walked to 1A through the large front business class cabin where I was welcomed again by crew and sat down.

It took five or so minutes before I was offered a welcome drink and then soon after, a hot towel, the days menu and my amenity kit were offered.

Waiting for me onboard was a large pillow, a bag containing the bedding and a pair of noise cancelling headphones.

It was nice to see the screens were up-to-date with information from the days flight.

The Seat 

The new British Airways Club Suite is set up in a 1-2-1 configuration of reverse herringbone seats. The seat is similar to that used by airlines such as Air Canada but with the door attached. I played around with the door as soon as the seatbelt signs were off and my while my initial reaction wasn’t great, I grew to like it. I found that in a seated position I was able to still see over the top, thus making it less private than I thought it would be but while in a lie-flat position, the door made a huge difference and I felt fully enclosed.

To the left of the seat, you can find a storage compartment filled with reading material and a small tray for storage. Next to this is a reading light which is activated by pushing the top part into the wall.

Below this is the first cupboard storage which is actually rather small but fitted with a mirror. On the left side is another small storage bin, this one the most useless of them. And finally, in the middle, the largest of the storage bins was fitted with two USB ports, a plug socket, headphone input and remote control for the IFE. Interestingly enough I didn’t actually find myself using the remote control once as the screen was always reachable. For a full look at this, see the video.

Below the storage areas is a screen for adjusting your seat position. The screen allows you to move different areas of the seat to your satisfaction or to be presets such as lie flat or takeoff mode. From talking to the crew, I was told you have to hold down the takeoff preset button until it has a green circle surrounding it so you know you’re in a position for takeoff and landing.

At feet level to your left, you’ll find the final storage compartment which is an area to store your menu and safety card. I also found it to be a good fit for the amenity kit.

In front of you sits your large IFE screen which I found to be very responsive and equipped with a good selection of films, games and map features. The map was fully touchscreen and was the same map as Cathay Pacific use. I was a huge fan of it then and I’m a huge fan of it still.

The tray table is released from underneath the screen by pinching a small clasp underneath. I actually found it to be a bit fiddly and struggled with it while moving the table back

Finally to your right, you’ll find a rising armrest operated by the same clasp as the table.

Because of sitting at the bulkhead, I was actually lucky enough to have huge amounts of storage infront of my seat too.

In terms of legroom I am still a tad confused as to if there was enough or not. I often struggled to reach the footrest while sitting up and eating but at the same time was touching the front edge of the seat while in a lie-flat position.

Each seat has personal lights above the seat but no air vents. I wore a polo shirt the whole flight and wasn’t cold at all.

One of the major downsides of having such a wide seat is that the aisles are very narrow. It was annoying that for cabin crew to walk past while you were in the aisle, you’d have to stand inside a vacant suite or have an awkward shuffle past each other.

Service 

After takeoff I was asked what drink I would like and opted for the champagne. The champagne served in business class is Carnard-Duchene “Cuvee Leonie” Brut which retails at around £30 a bottle. It tasted nice accompanied with a lovely bowl of nuts.

Soon after this I was asked what I would like to eat from the lunch menu which was served around 30 minutes after my order was taken.

As a starter, I opted for the Arabic Mezze starter. With Qatar Airways Mezze in mind, I was left a little disappointed and still a little bit hungry. The components all tasted good and it was delivered with a warm brown roll. I still think it is a shame that BA serve meals on a tray rather than a plate but that’s an article for another time.

Next up, I ordered the grilled chicken which was delivered around 20 minutes after finishing my starter. I found that because of the large cabin, food was still being delivered as mine was already finished so I moved my tray to the bulkhead storage and continued to work during this time.

The grilled chicken was actually very nice and filling. It was a shame my bread roll dish wasn’t removed or replaced and there was a definite lack of seasoning options compared to Virgin Atlantic or Qatar Airways.

Finally, after another long wait, my meal was replaced with a cheese plate to finish off. As I stated in the video review, I am usually far too full to eat desert or cheese onboard but this meal hadn’t hit me all to hard so I tucked in. The cheese was excellently presented and tasted fantastic.

After my meal, I asked the grew for a gin and tonic and the CSM suggested I try one of the cocktails. I opted for the gin zing which was brought with popcorn and a dairy milk chocolate because he could’t decide which one I would prefer.

After this, magnums were brought around which was a nice treat.

My final meal and drink came around two hours before landing in the form of ‘afternoon tea’. I was offered either a selection of small sandwiches or tapas and opted for the tapas because sandwiches are served in First Class and I wanted to try something a bit different.

The tapas tasted good and was perfectly accompanied by a hot chocolate.

If the food wasn’t enough for you, there was also a club kitchen set up in between the two cabins with snacks and drinks on offer.

Back to the flight

After my lunch service I attempted to turn my seat into a bed but with very little going for me, one of the crew members took pitty and helped me out. I wasn’t actually sure if they were expected to help or not but it seemed like he was helping me only because I was so bad at it myself!

I found the mattress topper to have limited comfort as it was quite small and easily became scrunched up when you moved around. The duvet and blanket, on the other hand, were both good and the pillow was very comfortable.

I actually ended up getting quite distracted from work after lunch and ended up lying back and watching Notting Hill with a few more glasses of champagne.

In terms of entertainment, the options were good and WiFi is provided too. The prices were quite high for the amount of data you get and I decided not to purchase. The prices are as follows: 25MB for $4.99, 75MB for £11.99 and finally 150MB for £17.99.

Conclusion

Overall, I had an amazing time onboard which was down to an incredible crew and fun passengers. From talking to the crew, I know that this wasn’t just a random selection but the creme-de-la-creme. Each crew member was super attentive and I was treated very well.

I think the seat is an enormous upgrade from the old product and I was impressed with both the privacy and comfort of the suite.

Although the food service was dragged out, the actual food was nice and not overly filling which was good as I so often leave an aircraft about 20lbs heavier.

In conclusion, I think BA have done very well upgrading their business class and I can’t wait to see them roll it out on more routes and aircraft over the next few years.