More than a year ago British Airways (BA) announced the introduction of a new concept of on-board service in Club World. This is being gradually implemented on all routes and finally, on October 1st, the not so new service has debuted on the São Paulo – London route. As I am Brazilian and travel frequently to Sao Paolo to see my family I was looking forward to trying the new service on my flight. I travelled to London on October 2 when I had the opportunity to experience the service and in this review I will share my impressions not only of the new service, but also of the flight as a whole … and things did not go exactly as I expected.
As I always arrive at the airport very early, I went directly to the BA check in desk and in less than 5 minutes I had my boarding pass in my hands. The friendly BA agent gave me my boarding pass and made sure that I knew which lounge room to use, which in this case was LATAM.
In the first half of this year, BA introduced a group boarding system, ranging from group 1 to 5, according to the class of travel and passenger status in its loyalty program, the Executive Club. Although this has been causing confusion in several airports, in São Paulo it is working very well. Every time I have boarded the groups were respected and I think this is due to the fact that there is always a BA employee checking boarding passes to ensure passengers are in the correct queue. Definitely a positive point that should be followed by BA staff at all their airports!
Boarding started about 40 minutes before departure with priority boarding. In sequence, each of the groups was called. As soon as I arrived at my seat a cabin crew member offered me a bottle of water and a few minutes later another one came with the amenity kit, produced exclusively for BA by The White Company. The amenity kit comes with the usual products, toothbrush and toothpaste, pen, socks, eye mask and creams.
Finally, another cabin crew member brought the welcome drink, in this case, water or champagne. Even before departure, the Customer Service Manager came up to my seat to introduce herself, which is a standard procedure for Gold (and above) Executive Club passengers. Unfortunately, this is quite inconsistent, so it is always a pleasant surprise when it happens.
Club World seats
BA’s business class seats, which once were airline industry leading because they were the first to have a flat bed, are now far behind the competition. They are narrow and there is only one drawer for you to keep personal belongings. There is nowhere to put things such as a bottle of water within easy reach when sleeping for example. There is a fold-down table but it is quite large and you would bang your knee on it if you turned over!
While the competition mainly offers four seats per row where each passenger has direct access to the aisle, BA has 8 seats. Passengers in the window and middle seats have to “jump” over the legs of other passengers if they want to go to the toilet or get up to stretch their legs during flight. BA is promising new seats for 2019 with the arrival of the new Airbus A350 which they have guaranteed will have direct aisle access and more storage space.
Food and drink
Here is the part I was looking forward to trying – the new on-board service I mentioned in the intro! This service apart from the new food is also different in that the crew does not pass through the cabin with the drinks trolleys. Everything is taken to the passenger on trays, which theoretically makes the service more sophisticated and like a restaurant experience.
With the doors closed and before the takeoff the crew distributed the menus. I particularly liked the new look of them, I think it is one of the most beautiful I have ever seen in business class. After we took off and the seat belt signs were turned off, we were served a selection of nuts and another drink. I continued with the same champagne, a Canard-Duchêne “Cuvée Léonie” Brut NV which was very good. There were also several beer and spirits options like gin and whiskey.
Unfortunately here things started to veer from the standard service, as the cabin crew member when he came to take my order for the main course, also asked what I would like as a starter. However, according to the new standard, the starters should be brought on a display stand and the passenger would choose at the time what he wanted to eat. This is now changing as cabin crew were applying it inconsistently and it was slowing the service down too much.
For the starter, I chose the grilled prawns and as the main course the steak with bacon sauce, potato au gratin and shitake mushrooms. I travel constantly between São Paulo and London and the food is always very good, but I do not know what happened this time, because the starter was tasteless and the presentation of the main dish left something to be desired, although it was tasty.
To accompany the dinner I chose white wine – I know, it should have been red with beef! Although I know the protocol, I don’t change from white wine for anything! There were two options, one Catalan (La Picossa Garnacha) and one South African Chardonnay (Glen Carlou). I opted for the second and it was great!
Next came the dessert, this time on the display but it was difficult to choose one because they all looked fantastic! I ended up opting for the chocolate cake served hot and I would have been happy to have another one!
Entertainment and Bedding
Unfortunately, I’m going to have to owe you an evaluation of the entertainment system, since my seat was not working and as the flight was full, I could not move. seats. In any case, I got into my magazines and then fell asleep quickly. To try to make up for being a bit behind the competition with their seats, BA has introduced new products also produced by The White Company to improve passenger comfort while sleeping.
A mattress topper was provided to put on the seat when in the bed position, a lightweight blanket, a pillow and a quilt much larger and softer than the ones used before. The final result was very good, because the “bed” was much more comfortable. See the final result in the photo above.
The breakfast, which I always find annoying on planes given the time that it has to start and the fact that I am still in the time zone of the place of departure, was served 1.5 hours before landing, that is at 5:30 am (1:30 am in Brazil). First we were served fruit, tea or coffee, bread and pastries and cereal. Everything was very good and to be honest, I think that would be enough! But I still had the main course and I decided to try it. It did not look very nice so I gave up with it. Again, it was a surprise, as I already tried the breakfast main courses on other flights coming from Sao Paulo and they have been good.
Overall the flight was average, which is a shame as I had previously had excellent flights with British Airways on this route. The main course of dinner and breakfast left a lot to be desired. Despite this, I liked the new on-board service, it seemed more sophisticated than the previous one. The lack of entertainment for my seat was annoying but I understand that situations like this can happen at any moment and there is nothing that can be done if the flight is full. And speaking of crew, everyone was friendly and attentive which is, in my opinion, something that puts British Airways ahead of many competitors.