Ups and downs on the new British Airways business class service


The British Airways Club World seats aren’t changing but lots of other factors around the company’s business class offering are seeing updates. Fortunately for me, JFK is one of the first markets to get the new soft products on board and I was booked for a flight to London in mid-January to give the goods a go. The changes appear to be mostly positive with the caveat, of course, that you cannot please everyone. There are a few areas where I see the adjustments more as downgrades, but those are relatively insignificant overall.

After arrival I dropped by the front office for a quick chat with the pilots while waiting for the jetbridge to arrive.

Pre-flight

A good day at JFK is one where nothing goes massively wrong. By that measure, the British Airways experience is decent enough, though the terminal needs a lot of help. The renovation efforts at Terminal 7 are significant, as is the disruption they cause for many of the concessions in the terminal. A few restaurants are closed – bad news given how few there were to begin with – and several shops are boarded up, too. Fortunately access to the lounge and especially the Pre-flight Supper area is still available for business class travelers.



Dining on the ground prior to flying is not new to the BA business class product. It goes back some 20 years (at least) and is really a lifesaver to me. The flights are too short (sub 6 hours is not uncommon in the winter) to both eat and sleep and that means I’m focused on eating before the trip and sleeping during the flight. This trip’s visit to the buffet included a couple surprises, good and bad.

Nice to see a decent Champagne on offer. I had my share to prep for the short flight to London.

The dining area is slightly truncated due to the construction. I was on one of the earlier departures so it wasn’t too crowded but somewhere around 20 seats are currently lost to the construction. Of course, I didn’t realize that area was supposed to be closed off until I was already inside where the drinks used to be staged. Oopsie. The staff shooed me out eventually but not before I noticed that Laurent Perrier Champagne is being served.

Double your pleasure! The staff hooked me up with a pair of drinks to make sure I didn't go thirsty.
Double your pleasure! The staff hooked me up with a pair of drinks to make sure I didn’t go thirsty.

The key is that you have to ask; they don’t make it available for self-pour like they do all the other wines and prosecco. Luckily for me the staff working were sufficiently amused by my request that the bubbly didn’t stop flowing. At one point they were worried I might be too thirsty so a pair of flutes showed up.

The pre-made food is fine, though the panini section feels a bit down-market

The buffet area is still split into three sections: Soup & salad, cook-to-order, and pre-cooked entrees. The cook-to-order section no longer is such. It was a pasta bar on this particular night but rather than the prior visits where a handful of sauces and other toppings were on offer this was a single pasta (cheese tortellini), single sauce (cheesy something) and single topping (thick cut bacon). It was not a mix I would’ve chosen on my own but it was tasty enough. More importantly, it kept a solid base for the ever-flowing LP to rest on.

No more cook-to-order at the BA JFK Lounge; it is all self-service now.
No more cook-to-order at the BA JFK Lounge; it is all self-service now.

I also finally took advantage of the pre-flight spa treatment for the first time. I don’t know if it has always been booked full or closed or what in the past but my early flight time and arrival got me a slot for a head and neck massage prior to departure. The massage chair was pretty good. The technician was not. It was rather disappointing. Spending that 15 minutes with another glass of Champagne likely would’ve been more relaxing in the end.

The quiet area near the spa. This might be my new favorite part of the lounge, assuming I'm not dining.
The quiet area near the spa. This might be my new favorite part of the lounge, assuming I’m not dining.


Bedding & inflight dining

Once on board I headed upstairs to my seat and the new bedding from The White Company. The upgraded offering includes two pillows (large and small), two blankets (heavy and light) and a mattress pad. Much like with the United Polaris rollout the pile of bedding on the seat can be intimidating. BA keeps the blankets combined in a zipped bag, however, making the storage slightly easier. Eventually I tucked most of the stuff into the sidewall storage by my window and awaited pushback.

Too big or too small? I had trouble with the pillow sizes.
Too big or too small? I had trouble with the pillow sizes.

The new menu looks very nice but, as noted above, dining on board isn’t something I do. Maybe I’ll find myself in business class westbound one of these days to give the new food a go.

Here’s what is on the new menu for the eastbound flights. Not really anything I’d go out of my way for, particularly on the short hop.

Shortly after departure I was reclining the seat and sorting through the pillows and blankets to find the right mix of comfort for my short snooze across the Atlantic. Call me Goldilocks, but the big pillow was too big and the small pillow too small. Eventually I came up with a combination that worked but it wasn’t ideal. I do love having the option for a lighter blanket rather than only the heavy duvet.

Lots of bedding stuff to sort out with the new British Airways Club World offering
Lots of bedding stuff to sort out with the new British Airways Club World offering

One final note on the inflght experience is that the 747 I was on has the new Gogo 2Ku wifi system installed. Alas, it didn’t work at all for this trip. That’s mostly a good thing in that I chose to sleep instead of spending the flight testing the performance and various services but also bad news for the airline and vendor as the kit has been flying for a while now. It should be reliable at this point. Alas, it was not.

More from this trip:

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

4 Comments

  1. My biggest complaint with the BA CW service across the past year is the inconsistency in the wine offerings. They usually never have on board what is listed in the menu (both on flights leaving outstations and LHR) . They typically only have one of the Champagne offerings, and it is usually ALWAYS the Castelneau, which is significantly less tasty than the Henriot. Just an observation…

    1. Fair complaint – United often elicits similar – though not one that matters much to me. I’ll enjoy a glass of wine with an evening meal but I’m rarely eating on the eastbound and I’m usually less inclined to drink on the westbound. Not a teetotaler by any stretch, but it is not what makes or breaks the trip to me.

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