This was only the second time that I have flown with British Airways since they more or less resumed their pre-Covid catering. Up to the end of October 2022, they were still serving a single tray service. So how is it now? I was travelling with a friend.
As we both hold BA status, we could use the First Wing. I have yet to encounter an agent in the first wing that wasn’t helpful and friendly, and this check-in experience was no different.
As seems to be often the case at the moment, there was only one lane open for security, and the queue stretched back to the entrance security. In normal times, you would expect both lanes to open for the majority of the day except early morning. Heathrow supplies the staff to man the scanners, so BA was not at fault here.
The lounge – Concorde Room
We headed through a rather crowded-looking First lounge and into the Concorde Room. (Note if you are a Rosé wine fan there is currently Whispering Angel available in the Galleries First).
For me the Concorde Room has lost a bit of sparkle recently with lacklustre menus and my favourite barman Charlie, being moved to T3.
Here was our menu:
I was not very impressed by the menu and was struggling to find something I wanted. It was also unfortunate to have two starters that were in effect a type of paté which anyone immune compromised or pregnant can’t eat. We had spotted Caesar salad on the Galleries First menu and asked if it was possible to have that instead as a starter which was no problem. Service was friendly but very haphazard with my friend’s starter arriving before she had even properly taken the order and then a long wait to get the second one.
The Caesar salad was pretty average. For the main course, I had my usual breakfast item, bacon chop, which was tasty but not quite what I’d expect from a first class lounge!
There was nothing remarkable about the boarding. Group 1 was called first and we arrived just around the time that it started so we did not have to wait. Once on board, my 60-second rule radar was twitching. (That’s the rule that says you can normally tell how the flight will be in the first 60 seconds). The crew did not exactly seem friendly.
I had seen a bottle of Castelnau by the pre-departure drinks tray (to my horror!), and so when I was offered a drink, I asked the crew member if the champagne was back to Castelnau. The crew member looked at me like I had asked her a question on quantum physics and said she had no idea what it was. So both of us went for the juice as after drinking Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle in the lounge, I think Castelnau would have been even more disappointing than usual. It is worth noting that there is no longer an option for water as a pre-boarding drink which I think is a shame.
Already at the seat was a bottle of water and an amenity kit. The White Company amenity kit had the usual White Company lip balm, moisturiser and pulse balm, eye shades, socks, earplugs and toothpaste and toothbrush/toothpaste.
A hot towel was also handed out prior to take-off. It’s such a small thing but I always feel a bit grubby by the time I get on the plane so it is nice to be able to clean my hands.
Seat and cabin
I usually go for around row 4 of a large Club cabin to minimise noise level on a night flight but still get served first. For this flight, my friend has chosen row 1, so I sat behind her in 2K.
Here is the cabin seat map:
I have reviewed the A350 Club Suite a few times, so I will be fairly brief in this review. You can find more reviews of BA’s Club and First flights here.
The majority of service is done from the front galley, and during the service the toilet is blocked off. Occasionally crew have blocked the front toilet for the entire length of the flight, but they did release it once the service had finished until the second service. I would definitely not recommend the front couple of rows as you will be likely to hear noise from the galley. On this long overnight flight, the crew were particularly bad, talking and laughing loudly in the middle of the night which disturbed my friend quite a bit.
The Club Suite itself I am a big fan of. I normally find a lot of seats hard but I like the Club Suites. I do see people complaining they are hard, but I think it is down to how you position yourself. If you end up with the wrong part of you over the join in the seat it can feel quite uncomfortable.
There is plenty of storage with a shoulder-height headphone cupboard with a mirror, a deep compartment which also houses the charging and TV controller and a small shallow compartment which is perfect for a phone or small table, glasses etc. These can all be used prior to take-off.
The bedding is also the same they have had for some years from the White Company although it is good to see that it comes without the plastic now.
This is a soft quilt which I really like, and a completely useless mattress topper which is so thin you barely know it is there. It also is quite small compared to the seat, so usually ends up scrunched up underneath you if you move at all.
Food and drink
We were being served by the Inflight Manager, the most senior cabin crew member on board, so I was expecting the service to be good. I can only say that in all my years of flying she was one of the most unfriendly cabin crew I have ever met. How this person got to be in the position they are, I have no idea. I can only hope she was having an off day and is normally better. She was brusque almost to the point of rudeness at times. Every time she asked a question it was barked at you rather than in a polite way. For example, crew may say, have you had a chance to look at the menu, do you know what you may like to have for dinner. The IFM would say “what do you want?”.
At one point when she took my breakfast order I was trying to say I didn’t want the fruit but would have the other option shown under starters. Now despite being a regular flyer I wasn’t to know it was on the tray already. Instead of trying to understand what I was saying she just looked exasperated and said “do you want the fruit or not?”
The only positive thing I can say is she was at least fairly efficient and the food was served in a reasonable timely way and we were offered more wine at various intervals.
Here is the menu:
Apart from the fact it was beef cheeks which seem to be something of a BA favourite at the moment, I actually was pretty pleased with the menu. For a change, I thought I would try the soup and then, not having had beef cheeks for a while, I went for those.
Here is the drinks list:
The wine list looked pretty decent, perhaps the influence of BA’s new wine master showing.
The champagne was Castel-no so I gave that a wide berth and went for the rose champagne. While it may not be anything special, I find it perfectly pleasant as the pre-dinner drink though I wish they would bring back the Kir Royale cocktail. This was served with the usual nut mix which is well overdue a change.
The starter was actually extremely tasty with a lovely smooth creamy soup that was packed with flavour and nicely balanced between the more delicate artichoke and punchy parmesan. However, it was served lukewarm at best sadly.
The starter was served with the trip of bread rolls which I really like and a tasty little bulgar and carrot salad which was on the tray. I sampled the Chenin Blanc with the starter, which I thought was decent if lacking in complexity. (It costs around £11 to buy).
Next came the beef cheeks. These were lovely and tender, but the beef jus was very watery and had no flavour making it rather dull. I wish they would offer little pots of sauce like ketchup or mustard (they used to do this years ago on BA with sachets of mustard) like Qatar does as some mustard would have improved the dish dramatically. I enjoyed the potato gratin but overall I found the dish rather bland. With this dish, I sampled the Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon which I thought was very good and once of the best Club wines I have had recently. It is good to see more South African wine on the menu which tends to be better value than some old world wine.
For dessert, I went for the apple crumble and was surprised to be served a cold Club Europe-looking dessert pot. It had a layer of cooked apple on the bottom with a custard layer and a sort of crumble top that was more biscuity than a normal crumble.
There was nothing wrong with the dessert, the apples tasted fresh and with a hint of cinnamon throughout the dish, but I think if it is not a proper apple crumble, it should not be called that on the menu.
It is worth noting there is still no sign of Cognac (allegedly a supply chain issue – for this long?) on the BA Club menu. Yet having flown Air France and KLM in the last couple of weeks and Qatar in November, they seem to manage to get cognac just fine.
Here is the breakfast menu:
I was not particularly hungry so I went for the waffles as sometimes the sweet option can be the best choice. Sadly not this time. The blueberry chia seed was nice if a little thick but you could not taste the banana.
The fruit compote itself was pretty tasty as it was not too sweet with a little hint of tartness and not too gloopy either.
Entertainment and wi-fi
The A350 has a different pricing structure from other long-haul aircraft as it uses a different system. It is a bit more expensive than the others.
However, when I connected immediately after take off for 4 hours it showed this:
The wi-fi was also very flaky for the first couple of hours, so it was a waste of money as towards the end of the 4 hours I just wanted to go to sleep. Hopefully, BA will refund the charge, I’ll update you when I hear back. They are normally pretty good at refunding wi-fi when it’s not been working properly,
The TV screens on the A350 are excellent with a large screen and clear definition. I also like the way the whole system is laid out. As usual, there was plenty to choose from with new releases and TV programs. With the addition of Paramount+ programs, there is almost too much to choose from and it now takes me a while to decide. I went for Good Luck to You Leo Grande with Emma Thompson. Although slow-paced, I found it both funny and moving.
My friend watched The Menu which I liked the look of but was worried that it would give me nightmares!
The TV can be controlled via a touchscreen or with a handheld remote. In the same compartment, there is a multicountry charger which on some of the Club Suites is positioned too close to the bottom of the storage bin so you can’t use the larger style multi USB chargers. I usually find using a travel adaptor as well solves the problem. There is also a USB socket.
This was not BA’s finest hour. I’d expect senior cabin crew to be able to summon up some semblance of being friendly. The wi-fi was a rip off, given it is more expensive on the A350 anyway, to then short-change people is bad. Hopefully, it will be refunded.
However, the food was a big improvement over the one-tray era, and with a few minor tweaks, it could be great. The biggest improvement for me was the wine list with some more interesting wines than the usual BA fare.
You will be pleased to know that BA is as inconsistent as ever and the way home was a completely different kettle of fish but more about that later.
Your review pretty much matches my last two transatlantic club journeys in the A350.
Having crossed the Atlantic with Delta, American, Virgin & Air Canada in J over the past few months, I’d put their service & most of their hard product last. Just too arrogant for their own good.
We shouldn’t have to put up with this stuff, especially with fare levels being so high. I wrote to Doyle back in November about several issues. It was sent Recorded Deliver- not even an acknowledgment…
I’ve 3 outstanding with Mr Doyle, all ignored
No cognac in First either. Apparently it’s not going to be on flights because customers don’t ask for it anymore.
Regarding the lack of mustard, I remember, years ago, when I used to fly extensively on BA to the Caribbean, that two kinds of mustard (English and French) were offered to Club World passengers in individual, miniature jars. Those days are gone, never to return!
Baron Otard cognac was one of my old reliables. Just having a few mini-bottles available would be sufficient if only a few people want it…
We also flew the A350 to Cape Town in early Nov 22 and also suffered a really noisy crew all night in the front galley – ear plugs and even headphones over that didn’t cut out all the noise. I’d made the mistake of taking the 2 middle seats in row 1. Never again – am doing a similar trip this Nov and have chosen row 5 or 6 I think. One tip if you’re on the flight arriving early morning – we booked a Protea hotel on a ‘work and stay pass’ rate for 1 night which lets you check in from 6am and and check out as late as 6pm the next day. This helped bridge the gap to the start of our Franschhoek Airbnb check in booked the following day. Of course the hotel staff had never heard of this rate and our room wasn’t ready when we arrived at 10am, but th manager found us an unused suite fairly quickly and all was forgiven!
That crew member lady didn’t want to do that job on that day. What a shame that she’s making herself and others miserable instead of enjoying her job. Hope she looks to making herself happy soon.
Yes by possibly resigning if she doesn’t wish to be there
Although no water is on the tray pre take off, last week I requested it and it was with me within a minute. We had a superb crew on our EZE- LHR flight although if you are booking this route beware – alternate days have a direct flight to London on a B787-9 (old club) whereas the other days are via São Paulo on an A350. Our flight was changed to the B787.
Thanks Amanda. I’m sure quite a few people must ask for it so I don’t know why they just don’t pour some.
You have a bottle of water at your seat. If you want mustard….ask for it, it’s there!
Recently flew to JFK with an excellent crew and water was on the pre-departure drink tray.
Returned from Toronto with a mediocre crew and was surprised it wasn’t. I thought it was just that crew cutting corners, so disappointing if this is the new service standard. On that flight I asked for some and was abruptly told “you have a bottle” (yes, but staying hydrated on flights can be challenging and I like to maximise water consumption!)
Great review as always, thanks Michele. I particularly enjoyed reading your take on the food and service. Such a pity BA just can’t seem to compete these days. And the CCR is SO disappointing when compared to the likes of, for example, Lufthansa’s First Class Terminal. BA trailing light years behind.
I have a couple of US trips in the next few months and this has helped me confirm my thinking NOT to fly BA. Will be doing AA or Delta.
I did AA to Charlotte a couple of weeks after flying BA to Miami – both in Business/Club. AA was terrible in all respects – no comparison to BA even on a ‘bad day’
I totally agree from my experience within the past few months.
Short trip to London last week. Enjoyed a cognac in the BA Galleries lounge in Aberdeen on the way to LHR. But no cognac or brandy available in LHR BA First lounge Terminal 5 on my return trip. I have a solution, lounge staff could pop downstairs and purchase cognac from the World Duty Free shop each morning.
My partner and I have stopped chasing BA Gold now. We decided to book Club/First with whoever has a good deal. We saved so much money (at the time around £2k each) by going Club LHR-CPT with Ethiopian. 2 x 7-hr flights (approx) with hour and a half in Addis Abbaba, luggage checked straight through. Service excellent, friendly, food great. Club suite very comfortable. Business Lounges all the way. Would use them again.
Great review thanks Michelle. We flew the A350 Heathrow to Cape Town early January and encountered a similar problem with the crew. Very brusque. On our return they were a different crew and much friendlier but inexperienced. I don’t think you’re getting what your paying for with BA, we only fly with them on Avios now.
Regarding the rudeness of the senior cabin crew memeber, I would have been inclined to challenge her on the way she was speaking. Did you say anything to her?
We’ve flown BA a few times in the last few years and have found their cabin crew in Club to be most unfriendly on all occasions. They barely crack a smile. We flew to LA and back with them last month and were very surprised to find the crew both welcoming and chatty, which made all the difference. We took an Air Canada flight last year where the crew were even worse, just outright rude, so I can’t say it’s just BA staff. It’s hard to imagine that they are all having an ‘off day’, so I wonder why they do the job.
Flew same flight to CPT last week.
Front loo blocked off for hours in the morning meant 7+ pax queues for the other 2 loos .
I waited for over 20 mins, standing.
Surely not acceptable in club?
Great review Michele! Don’t forget to check out the lounge menu in the CCR – as well as Caesar Salad, the BA Burgers are hidden away on there too! And fear not, the Kir Royale has not disappeared from Club – I always have a few in flight including last Friday to Washington. It’s not been on the menu for a long time but the bars are still stocked with small bottles of cassis for the discerning traveller 🙂
Useful to know they still have some hidden away. Never thought to ask. I will try this on my next trip!
Luckily my last flight in Club World had a good selection of pre-departure drinks, including water. It wasn’t the Castelnau, but the Heidsieck Monopole Silver Top, which is a pleasant champagne for regular drinking.
Food was mixed in that the starter and dessert were great but the main course was awful.
Fortunately, service was fine. One of the cabin crew team members serving the section I was seated in, was very cheerful and efficient. She topped up the drinks without being asked to do so and remembered exactly when I wanted to change the drink. Can’t complain on that front.
Something tells me that my return trip next week might bring a shock to the system!
You pay peanuts…..
I flew BA First from SJC to LHR recently and had a similar level of service. The crew ignored me, then plonked down the wrong size pyjamas when I asked for some (and an amenity kit – I’d been left out of both). When asked for a different size the crew said they didn’t have any more women’s pyjamas so without consulting me on size (again) plonked down the wrong equivalent men’s size. They brought me someone else’s wine, someone else’s main course, claimed to know nothing about the cheeses when it was clear what they’d bought me wasn’t what was on the menu, didn’t announce there was no WiFi (there was none in First on either leg but it was at least acknowledged and apologised for on the outgoing flight to LAX), didn’t appear to report officially that I had no IFE (aren’t they supposed to report it to BA on your behalf so you don’t have to?) and in general seemed to be phoning it in. There was absolutely no offer to dine on demand or even synchronise with your travel partner; I’d initially requested to eat and drink at the same time as my husband (there were only 8 passengers in the cabin, 1 of which was bumped up after take-off) but that was ignored and my other half was halfway through his food before my order was taken every time. Everyone was served their main course in one session, and their breakfast in another session, school dinners style.
Men seemed to fawned over on each leg. Women seemed to be ignored or mixed up (“I’m sorry, that wine was for the other woman”) although I did hear my husband being told, unsolicited, by a crew member that an elderly indian woman in the seat behind him was “really sweet”. I guess if we’re not “really sweet” we don’t count for much.
I wasn’t impressed with the food in First. Some of it was OK but none of it was special and some of it really poor. The katsu burger and its bun were both so dry on LHR-LAX that they were inedible so I had to leave them. Maybe I was unlucky because some reviews have raved over things that were either average or really really poor. I don’t know what they’d done to the burger bun but it was either very stale or had been overbaked in the oven.
I’d heard chocolates might be offered …. ha ha. There was nothing offered over and above the absolute minimum on both legs, and even the minimum was lacking.
The toilets on the SJC-LHR flight were so small it was impossible to change in, so I changed in my seat with a blanket over me like I used to on the beach when I was a child.
I’ve had the pleasure of flying Qatar Business Class. If BA can’t even come close to it in their First Class cabins, what hope is there for their Business Class cabin?
Like you, I’m waiting to hear back from BA. Based on my latest experience I don’t hold out much hope from an airline that has lost the art of customer service – especially to female travellers. I’m expecting the same eye-rolling disdain, quite honestly.
I REALLY like reviews written by women because I genuinely believe men get treated differently by many! Michele’s experiences have often more closely matched my own. Marian Keyes even put it into one of her books, where the sister of the main character wanted to be a flight attendant and planned to flirt with all the men and let the women do everything themselves. Haven’t flown BA much but certainly describes a lot of my Aer Lingus experiences. Virgin have mostly been excellent. Flew to NYC and back in J the other week and they were absolutely lovely. Didn’t actually want to leave when we landed in LHR, because Shane who was on my row had been so nice to me. I would be so disappointed (OK angry) if I received treatment like that in First. It’s not even acceptable in economy!
I stopped flying BA basically – despite being Gold for years. I fly with them very rarely – short haul only. Enough is enough, I guess. I can’t be bothered any longer, not happy to give them a chance forever.
I’m afraid that BA are so far behind virgin that it’s embarrassing. I’m down to 450,000 miles from the 2m I had when I retired (golf for 10 years+). I fly ba if I can get a iOS flights but if I have to pay it’s virgin for me
Sounds like my policy of avoid BA when there is an alternative should still apply. Removing water as a PDB? Madness.
It’s not been removed…you have a bottle at your seat….if you want a glass just ask!
We must have had the same crew manager, Michelle! The front loo was blocked off for the entire flight and when I went to use it in the early hours of the morning, said manager told me off and firmly escorted me back. By morning one of the available loos had run out of water. We complained to BA (given 20,000 avois) and assumed from their reply that this would be sorted out – clearly not. Our flight was last October. We’ve just flown back from JNB, an altogether better experience although cabin does not have the club suite.
I don’t like BA – I was GGL but now avoid them altogether – so not much came as a surprise in this report. I had the unfortunate experience of running into the same in flight manager, a dreadful woman from Sicily on two trips to the US in the same month and that ended any willingness for me to go back onto one of their flights. But, I do think you rather enjoy BA Bashing. I say that only because some time ago you mentioned that you were going to have a meeting with “senior management” but you didn’t respond to some of the follow up remarks or say whether or not you pushed to meet with those who did not attend/wouldn’t see you.
Complaining about more or less the same things each time serves no one.
You have influence, but you don’t seem to want to use it. I have met enough BA cabin crew over the past years including over the pandemic to know what all Gold card holders know: BA don’t listen to them.
Why not push for high level resolutions that can go further than what has become a general whinge every time someone steps into the premium zones of the aircraft?
I’m afraid I disagree that I enjoy BA bashing. If you look at a number of my reviews of BA they are very positive. In fact the return flight was mainly positive but I haven’t written that yet.
There is zero point me lying and writing a review that says everything is wonderful when it wasn’t. It’s deceptive to my readers. I try to be as balanced as I can and I’m sorry you view that as BA Bashing as it is intended to report the good and the bad as I did in this review.
I did spend some considerable time discussing the issues I have seen with one of the most influential managers in this area fairly recently so it’s not like I haven’t passed on my concerns.
I’m glad that you think that I have influence with BA but the truth is that neither myself or most journalists or most GGLs have much influence over anything at BA. I feedback whenever I can but I can’t wave a magic wand. At the end of the day my job is a as a writer, not a BA consumer champion.
At least by honestly writing my reviews it is seen by some at BA if nothing else.
Find your reviews some of the most honest and realistic! It’s not bashing to accurately report your experience. And yes, it is likely going to be different to those dudes from TPG who take selfies all over the place and must surely be getting money from them. That’s one of the reasons your reviews are properly useful!
Thanks so much Grainne! When I travel they rarely have any idea who I am apart from being a GGL which obviously is not the case with the TPG filming!
I absolutely believe it and know your reviews give me the truest indication of what to expect! I remember reading an Aer Lingus one and thinking that I could well imagine that attitude, having received similar disdain myself. I like knowing what a randomer can expect, and especially a female one. To not even get treated a bit better as GGL is even more damning for BA.
Don’t know why there are so many surprised comments on here about BA Russian roulette. It’s a known fact. For many years now in premium cabins you have no idea what level of service you are going to get. From the rude to the incompetent to the plain inexperienced or any combination of the three. What you won’t get is BA of ten years plus ago. If you just roster people to premium cabins rather than have seniority experience and training you can’t expect anything else. Its a case of the blind leading the blind. Anyone being spoken to like you were should be taking the persons name and letting them know they will be reported regardless of staff seniority. The old adage is never more true “you pay peanuts”. You either accept that on BA or fly with a more premium airline. BA don’t care and are only heading in one direction.