BA Club Europe new catering review – a genuine enhancement or more cutbacks?

BA Club Europe new catering review

As I announced in this article, the new Club Europe catering was launched on Sunday 26th March with the start of summer schedules. This was part of BA’s pledge to improve its business class offerings, which they made to shareholders last year.

This article will look at my personal experience as well as what the changes mean overall. I flew from Malaga to Gatwick which is classed as a long route.

What can you expect on your Club Europe flight?

The food you were given before was determined by what ‘band’  (1-4 ) your flight fell into. This broadly correlated to the length of flight. BA has used the catering changes to alter this arrangement into new categories. The categories will now be as follows:

Very Short

Leeds Bradford, Manchester and Jersey

Breakfast: hot bacon roll, fruit and yoghurt for breakfast (Jersey gets the hot breakfast as per short)

From 0930: a cold plate  (09.30+ departures). This is currently a continental brunch type plate with meat, cheese and egg but no salad.

Short and Medium

Short includes all other domestics, Biarritz, Billund, Paris, Friedrichshafen, Grenoble, Amsterdam, Basel, Dublin, Brussels, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich, Frankfurt, Zürich, Geneva, Genoa, Lyon, Luxembourg, Nantes, Montpellier, Stuttgart, Toulouse and Bordeaux.

Medium includes Oslo, Barcelona, Bergen, Bilbao, Copenhagen, Gothenburg, Limoges, Mahon, Marseilles, Prague, Pisa, Pula, Innsbruck, Nice, Vienna, Zagreb, Porto, Madrid, Palma, Rome, Milan, Pisa, Bologna, Stavanger, Venice, Innsbruck, Salzburg, and Verona.

These routes will receive:

  • Breakfast (to 09.29) – hot breakfast including a vegetarian choice with yoghurt (no fruit plate)
  • Brunch (09.30 – 10.59) – a large hot sandwich (currently Caprese/Caesar chicken from/to LHR) or a cold plate as per very short
  • Lunch (11.00 – 13.59) – salad (currently ex LHR a tiny coronation chicken and prawns with no actual salad) or a large hot sandwich as per brunch plus bread basket and a dessert pot
  • Afternoon tea (14.00 – 16.59) – 3 cold finger sandwiches or a ploughman’s salad (meat, scotch egg and cheese selection with bloomer bread) with cake.  Scones have been removed
  • Dinner (17.00+) – as per lunch

For the Medium routes, there will be snacks and a bar round before lunch and dinner. Wine and champagne are served from full-size bottles.

Long

Long’ is everywhere else including Alicante, Athens, Malaga, Helsinki, Dubrovnik, Malta, Gibraltar, Faro, Lisbon, Ibiza, Rome, Budapest, Tallin, Warsaw, Krakow and Stockholm.

  • Breakfast (departures up to 09.29) – a hot breakfast including yoghurt and an additional Danish pastry (no fruit plate)
  • Rest of the Day – appetiser, two choices of hot main course plus dessert and cheese plate.

    BA Club Europe new catering review

    Very generous bar round!

  • Wine and champagne served from full-size bottles

On the longer of the Long routes, drinks will be offered with tea and coffee.

Other changes:

  • Club World crockery, although glasses will remain the same as present
  • Better bread selection – white, pumpkin and grain rolls plus croissants at breakfast
  • Mugs for tea or coffee
  • Trays are smaller, because meals will be served as separate courses
  • Printed menu for long flights
  • Tanqueray gin as well as Gordon’s (there is a supply issue with Tanqueray, so it may be a while before it appears)

My Flight review – Malaga to Gatwick Club Europe

Being a ‘long‘ route my overall opinion was that this was a substantial improvement to Club Europe.

Lounge

A quick note about the lounge at Malaga. This was actually a very pleasant lounge for a third-party lounge. My only complaint was about the staff, who bordered on rudeness. The lounge itself was modern, large and had a good drinks selection. Food was a little limited given that it was lunchtime. They had olives, tortilla or pizza and crisps/snacks.

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Boarding

This started very early. We were told to leave the lounge an hour before the flight initially, which we ignored. We left the lounge about 40 minutes before take-off and arrived at the gate to find one massive queue and no apparent priority queue despite the sign. Eventually the poor single gate staff member shouted for people to get into the correct queue. Lo and behold, there were then only a few people in front of us.

I noticed the Cabin crew the minute we got on. They were friendly and welcoming, greeting us with a smile on their faces. They took the time to chat to passengers as they were queuing to get to their seats.

In flight

Shortly after take off we were offered hot towels and the menu. This was followed by a bar round with a packet of mixed nuts and napkins. The Customer Service Manager was excellent throughout and talked me through the choice of wines. There were 2 full size bottles of white and red wines and the usual Castelnau Champagne but in a full size. I was offered the chance to taste the wines before choosing, if I wanted.

The CSM acknowledged that the glasses were very small and told us he would make sure we were topped up, which we certainly were!  Apparently there are plans for larger glasses at a later date.

BA Club Europe new catering review

Full size wines

The whites wines were a Grillo from Sicily and a Spanish Sauvignon blanc Macabeo. I tried the Grillo which was a fresh, light white wine with hints of lemon and apple. Neither wine struck me as in the same league as Club World wines, but they were certainly better than the old plastic bottles. The Grillo was a little on the warm side, but it was the return flight. I also tried the Champagne which was slightly warm as well. For red wine, the choice was between a Italian Syrah or a Spanish Tempranillo. I was very pleased to see Tanqueray gin too.

Here is the drinks list from the menu:BA Club Europe new catering review

 

 

Our meals orders were taken next. After the bar round, we were offered a quick top up, which I suspect will not be the normal service standard. We were then given our trays with the starter, dessert and cheese plates on it. Warm bread was offered and this had definitely improved with some new choices. The starter was pretty small but it was nicely presented and tasted fine. I found the tray quite awkward due to the small size and you had to keep your cutlery for the main course. The other differences were that the napkin wrap was missing the hand wipe and the sugar plus there was no milk on the tray.

 

BA Club Europe new catering review

Full tray

 

There was a choice of main courses with a vegetarian option. I would definitely recommend ordering a special meal if you are vegetarian as a vegetarian main course is not guaranteed. Here is the full menu:BA Club Europe new catering review

The main course wasn’t huge but with all the other courses it made for a satisfying meal. The whole dish was well presented and tasty, if a little underseasoned.

 

BA Club Europe new catering review

Thyme roasted chicken main

My husband had the spicy corn and paneer masala which looked slightly more filling than my main, with a large portion of rice. He thought it was only lightly spiced but tasty. The main course was offered with another offer of a drink top up.

BA Club Europe new catering review

Light and dark chocolate cheesecake

The dessert was a chocolate cheesecake which I really enjoyed. I am not normally a fan of chocolate cheesecakes as they can be very sweet but this was well balanced and beautifully presented. It was a definite improvement on the previous dessert pots. Surprisingly, the cheddar cheese was also good quality, which I wasn’t expecting. However, the biscuits were soft which I suspect is from being left on a chilled trolley for a length of time. I would rather forgo the presentation and have a packet of biscuits. The accompanying quince jelly was also a welcome addition.

After they had cleared the trays we were offered tea and coffee in the new mugs. I liked the distinctive design of the previous cups, but from a practical point of view I preferred the mugs. I was pleased to see that they now offer a wider range of hot drinks including green, peppermint, chamomile and earl grey teas as well as hot chocolate.  It was also an improvement that fresh milk is added by the crew and sugar offered at this time. There was then a final offer of a drink before landing.

Verdict

BA Club Europe new catering review

Spicy corn and paneer masala

For many routes the “enhancement” is actually a cut to the service. I am particularly annoyed about the afternoon tea service as it was pretty small to start off with, so to remove the scones as well is unacceptable. The only upside is that the Ploughman’s salad looks reasonably substantial. The removal of the hot meal from the services that have been downgraded to medium is also unacceptable. The hot sandwiches look substantial and reports are that they taste OK, but this is hardly a premium offering. The ‘salads’ look miniscule and don’t actually have any salad! I do wish BA would stop trying to dress things up as an improvement when it isn’t.

When it comes to the long routes, it is a completely different story. This was a huge improvement on the previous service and I am glad to see the back of ‘brunch’ on these routes. The flight I was on was probably not typical in terms of service, judging by my other 2 Club Europe flights in February and March. In fact, the service was so good I sent a golden ticket to BA for the CSM. It will be interesting to see how the cabin crew cope with having to deliver everything individually. On my flight we had 20 in Club which meant that the CSM was working single-handed. Once there are 21 Club passengers, they have 2 crew on the Club service. Given that on the previous 4 flights the crew did the bare minimum, it doesn’t bode well!

What do you think of the changes? Have you experienced the new service yet? Let me know via the comments below or on any of my social media channels.

 

 

 

 

 

7 Comments on "BA Club Europe new catering review – a genuine enhancement or more cutbacks?"

  1. I experienced the new Club offering yesterday on the flight back from Tenerife. Compared to the outbound flight, this is certainly a big improvement. The crew did not stop serving passengers throughout the return flight and it definitely seemed that passengers were being given the service the ticket price requires.

    I’d still like to be given a back support cussion for the Club cabin.

    Ground services at non U.K. Airports are still hit and miss. Tenerife was terriable.

    But yes, I do like the improvements- it brings back something that should never have been degraded.

    • I’m glad to hear that my experience wasn’t a one-off. The longer routes are definitely much more in keeping with the Club World service. Shame about the shorter routes though.

  2. Deepak Kapur | 25 June 2017 at 2:06 am | Reply

    I flew Club between LHR and Larnaca in early June. While the food offering certainly has improved I feel the quantity remains an issue. Further the pouring of Champagne is a big non – started, the earlier small individual bottles concept was much better. The big bottles are not chilled, get warm very fast lying on the trolley and getting the top ups is a pain especaiily when they start the food service. The CSD told me that they have no chillers on Club Europe flights and have to make do to chill it with ice. I dont think they care for it to remain chilled as it is just lying on the trolley after the inital opening. By the time you get a second, third top up its almost like warm water! Very disappointing, also perhaps a smart tactic from BA to reduce consumption of Champagne! I wish they return back to inividual small bottles which were easier to chill and more managable than waiting for warm top ups!

    • I totally agree Deepak. The small bottles of champagne were much better, less work for the crew and colder too. BA have said they will look at introducing new glasses. My guess is that they may use the same ones due to be introduced into Club World in the autumn. These are stemless and quite large so could be perfect. In the meantime I am considering taking my own stemless champagne glass!

  3. Hi Michelle,
    Ive flown the gatwick/malaga route 60+ times over the last 2 1/2 years and the new club offering is much better than previous offerings- the brunch and afternoon tea were both pathetic!
    I do think 9.30 is a bit early to stop breakfasts though.
    You didn’t mention going through security at Malaga though. I DETEST it!!
    After queuing to scan your boarding pass it’s then a free-for-all with no queuing system, people pushing in, and if someone has their bag searched the operator leaves his/her position and the queue doesn’t start moving again until that person retuns to their screen! Worst airport ever for security- I dread it every time!
    Why don’t BA have a fast track here when even the locos do?
    You’re right about the lounge- it is pleasant, but the food offering is abysmal! Most of my returns are afternoon/evenings when they do tortilla/pizza respectively.
    HOWEVER, there may be 100+ people in there, and they’ll bring out 1 medium pizza cut into small squares which will have gone in seconds and that will be it. You can be there for another hour and not see the hot snack replenished. Same goes for sandwiches/rolls/salads, more often than not there aren’t any!
    Finally, the pinnacle seats on BA shorthaul are horrible due to the way the headrests push your head forward- I’m always pleased when it’s an ex British Midland plane I’m flying on becase the seat’s more comfortable and 1a/c have the wall in front.

    • Thanks Jon. It’s useful to hear a frequent fliers perspective on the route. I agree the food in the lounge wasn’t great but as we were eating on the plane we didn’t mind. The Spanish airports seem to be upping their game with lounges. I agree on the security too but I am sure I heard very recently that BA have started paying for premium security now. I have done a lot of BA Club Europe and for me I don’t mind the seats (new or even the few remaining old ones) but all my flights have been around 2 hours or less.

  4. We’re flying CE on our honeymoon in June from LHR to BCN departing 10.50 so I’m guessing we’ll just miss “lunch” in favour of the brunch option which is a pity (especially as it’s bound to depart late) We’re flying back from Rome to LHR (doing a cruise in the middle) so at least that qualifies for a “long” flight and better meal

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