Brititsh Airways A350 Club Suite review to New York – a very special flight aboard BA001

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Today’s review will be slightly different from usual as I was on a very special flight this morning. After over 600 days the US finally reopened to Brits and many other countries. To celebrate BA put on an extra A350 flight to New York, BA001, which used to be Concorde’s callsign and then the all business class service from London City.

The flight took off in parallel with the Virgin Atlantic A350 also headed to New York.

Sean Doyle, BA’s CEO answers questions

Sean Doyle made a speech on board to the press.  I still think of him as the new boy but he has been CEO since October 2020. He viewed today as an important turning point in BA’s recovery. BA used to have the largest range of routes to the US from the UK. They now plan to ramp up more transatlantic routes. Today they are flying to 17 cities in US with 26 departures. The airline is set to extend its services to 23 US airports this winter, with up to 246 flights a week, more than any other transatlantic carrier. Flights to New York will increase from five to eight per day in December. There will also be double-daily services to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, Dallas, Miami and Toronto, as well as daily services to Philadelphia, Phoenix, Seattle, Atlanta, Denver, Houston and Vancouver.

Sustainability was a hot topic with the A350 being 40% more efficient than the B747 due to the larger aircraft having to carry 40% more fuel on a B747. This flight had 35% sustainable fuel (SAF). The flight’s carbon was also offset. You can now even offset the emissions on BA’s entertainment system. 

 

Check-in

I checked in at the First Wing. Being the first day that the US opened and with nan extra flight I thought it would be busy but it was pretty much what I would expect on a normal Monday at 6am. Busy but only a minor wait. To enter the US you must be fully vaccinated and have had a negative PCR or antigen test in the last 3 days. I used Breathe Assured to do a home test supervised by video which I will review later.

I also used the Verifly app though I had a lot of issues with error messages. I did contact them and got a reply in around an hour which I thought was good on a Sunday. It’s interesting the app does not ask to see your vaccine certificate and if you have the green tick on Verifly, nor do check-in. I did not need to produce any paperwork other than my passport and the Verifly app. You need to complete a US declaration but you can do that on the app too. 

Both security channels were open so I only waited around 3 or 4 minutes before I got to go through.

 

Lounge

As I was on a press trip it was not the usual lounge experience, but there were a few things of note in the First and  Concorde Room lounges. Those that know Charlie, the Concorde Room bartender who is a fantastic member of the BA lounge team with his friendly banter and lethal cocktails, he will be back on cocktail making duty shortly after his injury, but he did manage to pour me a glass of LPGS champagne! 

US themed food in Concorde Room

In the First Lounge you can now do order shopping to the lounge which I think is a great idea. It can be quite disruptive going out to the shops, especially if it’s busy. I think it’s only the main pre-order duty-free but wouldn’t it be great if they do all the shops? Time to drink more champagne!

There was still an online menu which you could order to your seat, but now there is a coffee station where the machines are to the left of the entrance as you enter into the lounge from the First Wing. 

I also noted that there are free donuts today in the main lounge entrance area from Project D.

 

Boarding

By the time I got to the gate, they were already calling  off group 4 even though I was there nearly an hour before the flight. It was good to have a special gate for the flight A18 when normally it would depart from the B or C gates. Gate 18 is literally just where you come off the escalator from the lounge. There was no real queue and after a quick check of my passport (I had to remove my mask right below my chin which was fairly strict) then I was on board. Apparently, they boarded early as obviously, they could not miss their take-off slot if they were taking off in tandem with Virgin!

The aircraft had been specially decorated for the occasion with US flags and we all got a free donut from Project D which are the hottest brand in donuts right now.

It was great to see that pre-departure drinks were back in Club (although I understand in World Traveller Plus it’s just water still). Of course, I had to test the champagne to make sure it still tastes the same! It was hard work at 8.30am but someone has to do it!

At the seat was the normal bag of White Company bedding although now it just contains the mattress topper and quilt, there is no longer a day blanket but I rarely ever used it.

I was also given the usual White Company wash bag (watch out for our next giveaway when I will be giving away one plus many others).

British Airways new Club World service food and bedding review

The White Company amenity kit in Club World

 

The seat

This is the first long haul flight I have done on BA’s A350. The A350 is my favourite long haul aircraft to fly on as you get the better humidity and cabin pressure but I prefer the blinds rather than the window dimming on the B787.

The A350-1000 is laid out in 1-2-1 configurations over two cabins. The front one is much larger. There are no bad seats but in row 1 you do get two windows instead of one. The second mini cabin is best for a more intimate atmosphere and quieter.

A350 Club Suites seat map

I was in 3K which is a decent choice as you are close to the front for being served first. If you are travelling with someone you may prefer the middle seats that have a divider you can keep down so you can chat to your companion.

Seat 3K

The seat looks quite small from the outside but once in it, I felt I had lots of space. The gap to get into the suite is a little narrow so it was a bit of a squeeze to get my cabin bag through to unpack it on the seat.

I love that it has so many different storage spaces, most of which are in easy reach even with the table out. This was one big flaw with the old yin-yang seats. There’s a headset storage cupboard that fitted my own Bose headphones perfectly and also has a handy mirror to check you don’t scare the cabin crew when you first wake up!

Headset cupboard with mirror

Then there’s a small shallow compartment which I used for my electricals such as leads, plugs, and phone.

The large compartment next to it is great for wash bags or bulkier items. This contains your remote for the entertainment and the charging options. There are 2 USB points and then a multi-country socket which has a major flaw. Many larger plugs will not fit here. My own trusty Inatek one did not fit so I had to fudge it by using a US adaptor and then sticking my own plug into that where it just about fitted. Much as it looks neater in the compartment, I can’t believe they didn’t test it with a range of plugs. Next time I will have to bring my bulky original lead if I want to use my laptop.

Not going to fit!

Finally, there is an open shelf area under the others at ankle level which is reasonably big. Unlike the old Club seats you can also store items underneath the footstool which is really handy. For once I could have everything I needed within reach instead of needing to keep going to my bag.

In terms of comfort, at 5ft 6″ I found that I can’t reach the footstool when in a semi-reclined position which was slightly irritating but it was great that there was a leg rest I could control individually. The seat is controlled with a simple to use touchscreen where you can change the leg rest and back separately. The seat felt very padded and supportive and I easily found positions to work, relax and eat comfortably. I won’t really be sleeping in this one but I am flying back on the A350 so I will bring a report on what they are like for sleeping then.

Seat controls

The tray table was large and steady, so perfect for working as well as eating. You could have it in several positions so it was easy to slide out of the seat while working or having your meal.

I had the door shut for a while and I know some people think it may be claustrophobic but it didn’t real at all like that to me. 

 

Food and drink

This was an 8.30 departure so the first meal was breakfast. Menu cards were handed out and then orders taken. A bottle of eater was also handed out. Unlike some flights, there was a choice of starter, but being breakfast there was no dessert choice. Prior to the meal drinks were served. I had a tea and a bucks fizz – well it was a special occasion (so if none of this makes sense you know why!).

Here is the menu:

It’s worth noting that I think both the whites are decent choices with wines I know and enjoy. I actually thought this was a good menu and I was torn between the options. Since we had been given a free donut from Project D anyway, I thought that I would try the beef rather than going for the bog-standard BA breakfast. Service is back to pretty much normal now with a choice of starters and courses served individually rather than on one tray as it was until very recently. In fact, the only difference I found onboard was the lack of day blanket and having to wear a mask!

I chose the salmon starter which came on the same tray with the yogurt and a Cruffin. It was supposed to be a toasted crumpet for the starter but it just tasted like a normal one. I found it a bit heavy for the delicate salmon and I think something like rye bread would have been better. Overfall this was a very generous portion. The cream cheese mixture with chives and dill and a smattering of pink peppercorns was delicious. The salmon was also great quality and not too smoky. Pastries were served including something called a “Cruffin” which I would guess is a cross between a croissant and a muffin! All I can say is that the person that created a Cruffin needs trying for crimes against baking. It’s basically a light flaky croissant made all stodgy!

Beef on a plane is a dangerous option – will it be shoe leather or will it be edible? I’d say it was somewhere half between. It was definitely a bit overcooked but it wasn’t chewy and the chimichurri gave it a nice spicy kick. The hashbrowns were a little limp but it’s virtually impossible to get them crisp when you are baking under foil in an oven. The eggs were good – not at all clumpy or dry. 

There was a yogurt as well which was super healthy with goji berries fruit and chia seeds. It was rich and creamy which was nicely offset by the tart fruit. 

Overall this was a good meal. Plenty of food and generally full of flavour. A special mention to the cabin crew. They definitely had their hands full with a bunch of journalists filming and generally getting in the way plus the pressure of having your CEO on board. These crew were the perfect BA cabin crew, friendly, efficient and with loads of banter – just how we love them!

To drink I tried one of the cocktails which was a Flying Manhattan, obviously very appropriate! It was rather strong but quite delicious. Hic! It was only after drinking this I found that the mixologist, Mr Lyan, was actually on board! I wondered who the person I squeezed past in the galley was, fiddling about with the glace cherries!

Flying Manhattan cocktail

The second meal was afternoon tea which consisted of sandwiches, cakes, and of course BA’s lovely warm fluffy scones. I was impressed with most of these and the cheesecake was particularly good. Sadly the clotted cream was long life from a jar which just seemed wrong. Once you had the jam with it you couldn’t really tell, but my head was telling me no!

If you got peckish, there is still the Club Kitchen with a selection of snacks and drinks.

Entertainment and Wi-Fi

The Wifi has changed from the original issues with the A350 wi-fi where it was much more expensive and more limited. The wi-fi was the same as the rest of the long haul fleet with two options – one for messaging and one for streaming. I thought prices were reasonable and comparable with other airlines.

There were quite a few issues getting onto to the Wi-Fi but this was most likely because you had most of a cabin of journalists all trying to log on at the same time and it did work after a short while. I found it pretty quick and reliable.

The TV screen is huge compared to the old ones and of course, has great definition. There was a good choice of fairly new films but I had work to do and there wasn’t much that took my fancy. However, I did see they had a box set of the Prodigal son starring Martin Sheen and Lou Diamond Phillips so I started on that. I really enjoyed the first episode as long as you enjoy programs about serial killers!

You can control the screen by touch or by using the touch remote. The remote had a large screen so you can use it to watch the map while you look at something different on the big screen. This is was easy to use although it did lag a little when scrolling through titles but was fine when controlling a program.

If you love the moving map you can change the angle of it in lots of ways including zooming out to look at the entire world. 

 

Arrival

I was at the front of Club so I was off quickly although it would have made more sense deplaning from the back of Club forwards since we were using door 2. I have Global Entry so I went to a kiosk and was processed biometrically in around 15 seconds. The officer asked if I had anything to declare and why I was in New York and that was it. No need to show tests or vaccine certificates. Others were also similarly quick even without Global Entry.

We received an amazing welcome with a large amount of BA staff all cheering and waving flags. We all felt pretty emotional especially when we saw all the family reunions with all the local TV stations interviewing them. It makes you realise how much travel brings people together. 

Baggage was a bit slow but I received a very warm welcome from the Concorde Team as it was my first visit to the US as a Gold Guest List member. When they paged me I thought they were going to tell me they had lost my bag!!

 

Conclusion

This was a historic flight in several ways and the whole experience was great fun. This was the first time I had flown the Club Suites long haul and I have to say I am a fan. The difference between these and the old seats is huge. The suites are private, comfortable and well equipped for every modern-day need with plenty of storage. The only design flaw was putting the charging into the compartment which doesn’t fit some plugs. The food was decent and the crew were fantastic – you can’t really ask for more.

I will be staying at the Conrad MidTown which I think is the best Hilton property in New York. I will update my previous review later as last time it had only just opened and there were a few teething issues but I still loved it.

Conrad New York Midtown

If you fancy visiting yourself, British Airways Holidays offers three nights at the 5* Conrad New York Midtown from £969pp, travelling on selected dates between 1 February – 14 February 2022 inclusive (subject to availability). Includes economy (World Traveller) return flights from London Heathrow Airport, 23kg luggage allowance and accommodation. Book by 30 November 2021. For reservations visit
www.britishairways.com/new-york.

 

30 Comments on "Brititsh Airways A350 Club Suite review to New York – a very special flight aboard BA001"

  1. I believe entry requirements to the US are a test no longer than 72 hours before travel, not 24 hours as is in the article.

  2. Wow. Incredibly condescending review for a journalist who travelled for free.

    Also a Club Suite review 2 years late. Sad.

    A disappointing read that was late out of the gate.

    Smarten up.

    • An incredibly condescending comment for someone reading an article online for free. If you read the blog or used the search function you will know we have many reviews of the Club Suite including the inaugural flight – can’t get much quicker than that.

    • I didn’t find it ‘condescending in the slightest, just because it was free should she have glorified everything or lied?!!!!

  3. I leave for Orlando via Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon, so can I use my day 2 antigen test done at my local pharmacy with the appropriate paperwork, QR code etc., [after my recent arrival from Spain], yesterday afternoon within the 72 hours of entry?
    You have stated that a test is required within 24 hours of entry to the US. I’m now confused as it states clearly on BA pre-flight forms – 72 hrs. Please advise soonest!!!! Thanks

    • I’m flying to the States end of November, which has been an absolute nightmare Test wise as I have a complex routing. The day 2 test will not get you into the States you must do the special video recorded Test, and it’s within 72 hours of arrival not 24. Hope this helps.

    • Apologies. No idea why it said 24 hours. Corrected. It’s actually 3 days not 72 hours which gives you a bit longer.

  4. Good to see you had a good trip, its wonderful that perhaps normality is looming.
    I have a complex routing on a trip to States end of November and wonder if you can help as I can’t find the answer anywhere. My routing home is MIA/CDG/MXP, do I need Tests for the MIA-CDG sector and then the CDG-MXP sector as they are officially Transit flights. Would be grateful for your thoughts.

  5. Howard Pitfield | 9 November 2021 at 10:17 am | Reply

    Michelle, glad to read your review. After the various US trips I have done since March 2019 (and where you kindly published my reports) it will be refreshing to be back to normal on my next on 29 Nov (though with Lufthansa).
    Next week a day return to Nairobi – with an hour there before the return flight.

    Howard

  6. Excellent work. Global Entry is new to me and 100% looks worth it if going to NYC from the UK more than twice a year. It looks like those days are behind me now. It’s not clear if the all-business class A350 BA001 is going to replace the retired A318 all business class flight from LCY. Obviously the A350 will not be going from LCY. Nor stopping in Shannon and putting you through US immigration there. Although with Global Entry you wouldn’t need to, wlthough walking off a flight from the UK at JFk as if it were a domestic flight – that must have never got old!

  7. Looks like you had an enjoyable trip. 🥂

    I’m seeing an increasing number of questions being asked on social media about entry requirements for various countries around the world, with answers being provided that appear to make an awful lot of assumptions about nationality, vaccination status etc.

    While it’s great for TLFL to give us tips on ideas about travel, I think it’s unreasonable fo expect Michele, or any other blogger, to provide such vitally important information that may or may not be pertinent to that individual, or be accurate for another reader.

    We all have a personal responsibility – especially if we have a complicated itinerary – to look at government & airline websites to ensure we are following the correct protocols based on our individual circumstances. So, I’m all for people like Geoff who will just direct people to the correct place for accurate and up to date information. Let’s face it, check-in agents will not be accepting someone for travel with documentation based on what the guy who works down the chip shop and swears he’s Elvis has said on social media! 🙄

    • I have searched every possible website available to find the info I need, even calling several Testing Clinics and visiting a Travel Agent to no avail. So, any suggestions yourself who/where I can try next?!!!

      • My tip would be to set up a timeline/spreadsheet and work your way through the itinerary day by day, and, in conjunction with both the departing and arriving country’s government websites, work out what you need at each point. There may be points where PCR/lateral flow test requirements overlap, so, on a tight itinerary, if you choose the time to be tested carefully, one test might be able to be used for a couple of destinations.

        I would then be getting a friend/family to check that my understanding of the requirements is the same as theirs.

        • I would also be cautious about not having the correct documentation for any transit stops that are not on the same booking reference, especially if bags have to be picked up and transferred landside.

          Even though the protocols might permit an airside transit, I’d be worried that an airline’s system wouldn’t let me travel unless I was able to ‘land’ at the destination I was booked to travel to with them.

  8. Thanks for your prompt response and now this has been clarified & is what I had hoped to be the case; so hopefully everybody else will be suitably guided accordingly.
    However, if it transpires that my day 2 test at the pharmacy & suitably certified, [and it was photographed with passports for proof] will not be accepted by BA then I will have to do a test at the airport prior to departure so will leave in plenty of time, unless anybody else has any suggestions????? Thank you.

  9. I Generated the below for my daughter for our trip to the USA in December.

    For what it is worth, your subscribers might find it useful

    BEFORE YOU GO

    Pre departure Test

    You will need a test prior to departure (not more than 72 hours before we fly), they are VERY strict about the 72 hours.

    https://www.expresstest.co.uk/book-a-test/?activeFilter=1

    Select the Antigen Lateral Flow Fit to Fly test

    They have centres all over the UK but they have to be booked

    VERIFLY App
    If you download and populate the VERIFLY App, it will make life easier for you all round.

    COVID PASS
    You will also need to get your Covid Pass for restaurants, bars etc no sooner than 30 Days before your return date.

    https://covid-status.service.nhsx.nhs.uk (you will need to register for an NHS Login to get online for this)

    TEST FOR WHEN WE RETURN

    book a 2 day test for when we get home, you will not be able to fly home if you have not booked the test, the passenger locator form requires the booking number and without the passenger locator form, you will be denied boarding, we can only complete that form no sooner than 48 hours before we return.

    Book the test early next month and be sure to use the address you will be returning to.

    Use the same link as above

    https://www.expresstest.co.uk/book-a-test/?activeFilter=1

    WHILE WE ARE IN THE USA

    No sooner than 48 hours before our flight departs, we need to complete individual passenger locator forms

    https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk

    WHEN WE GET BACK

    The 2 day test mentioned above will need to be undertaken (at home) and sent off for testing within 2 days of our return.

    feel free to delete this if it is seen as “the obvious”!

  10. Brilliant report Michelle, it’s just a pity that NYC isn’t one of my business destinations!

  11. Great to read your review and get an insight to the event. May I ask how the compliance for proper mask wearing was throughout the journey and how long you think the rules will stay in place for them?

    • Given the type of flight I didn’t observe anyone being asked to put it on. But then the only time I have really seen it was before take off previously. The drinks were free flowing so most people legitimately didn’t need to wear it for much of the flight.

      • Thanks. I’m so pleased the US-UK route is opening, though wonder how quickly ‘normal’ will return, especially as I don’t see many families with children managing masks for long haul. Maybe I’m wrong.

        But at least the drinks kept flowing and I imagine it was quite an emotional and party atmosphere.

  12. Do you know if BA plan to bring back choice of starter and dessert for club world?

    Great review, I enjoyed reading it.

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