Today (March 18, 2015): Flight Review: British Airways Business Class in an Airbus A380 from London to Los Angeles.
On March 14th 2015, I flew Business Class in an Airbus A380 of British Airways (BA) from London Heathrow (LHR) to Los Angeles (LAX). The world’s largest passenger aircraft entered into service for BA last year and is currently flying between London Heathrow, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, Miami (from 25 October 2015), San Francisco (from 29 March 2015), Singapore and Washington. Let’s get it out the way at the start: the Airbus A380 is big. Really, really big. Its 80 m (262 ft) wing span is 20 per cent longer than the Boeing 747, and the 24m (88 ft) high tail is so tall that BA had to extend the roof of their already sizeable Heathrow hangar in order to fit the aircraft inside.
The Business Class product that BA offers on its Airbus A380 fleet is an updated version of the product that you can find on its aging Boeing 747s (read my review here) and 777s. Although BA’s Business Class (dubbed Club World) raised the bar for Business Class worldwide a decade ago with the introduction of the first fully lie-flat seat, it is now outclassed by some of its competitors, especially those in the Middle East: Emirates (read my review here), Etihad Airways (read my review here), and Qatar Airways (read my review here). Nevertheless, the overall experience was very good (with a British touch) and it remains one of the best Business Class products on the Transantlantic routes (although these days, I prefer the Business Class product aboard American Airlines’ new Boeing 777-300ER; read my review here).
- Trip: LHR-LAX
- Airline: British Airways
- Aircraft type: Airbus A380
- Aircraft ID: G-XLEF
- Flight Number: BA269
- On time departure: yes (3.52 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (7.08 pm)
- Miles: 5456
- Flight time: 10:15
- Seat: 56A
- Class: business (D)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & the slideshow):
- British Airways Lounge at London Heathrow Airport
- Business Class Cabin(s)
- Business Class Seat (& what seat to choose)
- Other inflight experiences (crew, bar, lavatory, WiFi, noise)
- My verdict
1. BRITISH AIRWAYS LOUNGE AT LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT
Heathrow Terminal 5 is one of my favorite airport terminals in the world. It is a multi-floor lounge complex that resembles a shopping mall, and it is the heart of BA’ activities at Heathrow. Within the Terminal 5 complex, BA has one Galleries Lounge for Business Class passengers and/or Oneworld Sapphire members, a First lounge for Oneworld Emerald members, and just to confuse things, they also have the Concorde Room, for First Class passengers, with hotel-style rooms featuring beds and en suite bathrooms, plus restaurant-style dining.
BA’s lounges at Heathrow (as anywhere else in the world) are a huge step up from most airline lounges (and they are definitely one of the best Business Class lounges in Europe). Both the Galleries and First lounges are very spacious, embrace the daylight, and have a lot of food on display: a fresh soup bar, hot and cold entrees, lots of snacks, full coffee stations with all sorts of cappuccino and lattes, and a very broad selection of wines, beers and spirits. Having said that, the difference between the Galleries Business and First lounge is only marginal, with a wider selection of food at the First Lounge (including a menu offering salads and burgers).
The various BA lounges at Terminal 5 share an Elemis Travel Spa, which is pretty awesome. While the complimentary treatments are quick, like 15 minutes, they are top shelf, plus it is something else to do to break up the trip. I loved it. And it doesn’t matter which lounge you are in, you have access.
From the lounge, it was a short trip to Terminal 5C where the Airbus A380 was ready for boarding.
2. THE BUSINESS CLASS CABIN(S)
BA’s Airbus A380 has a total of 469 seats spread over two decks with four cabins: 14 seats in First, 97 in Club World (Business Class), 55 in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), and 303 in World Traveller (Economy).
The 97 Business Class seats on the A380 are located in 3 cabins: one on the lower deck (between First and Economy Class) and two on the upper deck in the front of the plane (with a galley in between them). The lower cabin contains 44 seats, while the two, more intimate upper deck cabins contain 25 and 28 seats respectively. All 3 Business Class cabins offer a sophisticated and contemporary atmosphere, giving a reassuring sense of wellbeing and comfort. Unfortunately, none of the Business Class cabins comes close to the intimate and private ambience of the Business Class cabin on the BA Boeing 747 upper deck (read my review here).
The innovative “Ying/Yang” seat plan is unique to British Airways: window and middle seats face backwards, while aisle seats face forwards. Because of this unique concept, you may have to jump over other passenger’s feet to reach the aisle when seated in a backward facing seat. On the lower deck of the Airbus, the seats have a classic 2-4-2 layout (similar to what is found on BA’s 747 and 777 fleet: A,B – D,E,F,G – J,K). On the upper deck, the seats have a 2-3-2 layout (A,B – D,E,F – J,K), so there is more space for fewer passengers.
For a seating plan of BA’s A380, click here.
3. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
All Club World seats on the Airbus A380 seats offer the same degree of comfort, with a seat pitch of 72 inches (182 cm) and a seat cushion width of 20 inches (50 cm). The angle of maximum seat recline is 180 degrees, and the overall length of seat when fully reclined (and when tilting the separate foot rest) is a 6ft (183cm) flat-bed. It also has a reclined Z-position for relaxing and watching films in a near-recumbent position. Next to the seat, you can find the seat controls, the entertainment controls, a reading light and a power port.
How to choose your Business Class A380 Business Class seat? Use this seating plan to help understand the information outlined below.
- The two upper deck cabins feel more intimate as compared to the larger cabin on lower deck (because they contain less seats), so choose an upper deck seat. In addition, the upper deck is higher above the massive Rolls Royce engines and thus quieter.
- For solo travelers: the rear facing, window seats are more private and the ones you want to be seated in. In addition, the seats on the upper deck have a couple of side locker which is very useful for storing personal items.
- For solo travelers: if you cannot secure a window seat, your next best choice is the middle seat in the 2-3-2 upper deck configuration as it has an extra storage compartment, though note you will have to step over the feet of the passengers either side unless you are in the rearmost row (in each cabin).
- The “honeymoon” center seats on the lower deck, where you’re basically seated as close to the person next to you as you would be in economy, are great if you’re traveling with someone you want to be that close to, though it would be downright awkward when you end up next to a stranger in that configuration.
What are the best Business Class seats on BA’s A380?
- Row 53 (upper deck, front cabin): the window seats A & K are the single best seats on the plane since they offer direct aisle access without having to jump over the feet of other passengers. While the window seats on row 15 (lower deck) and row 59 (upper deck) also offer a clear exit route, they are less than desirable (see below).
- The middle seat in the 2-3-2 upper deck configuration on rows 53 and 59 not only has an extra storage compartment, but also offers direct aisle access.
What are the worst Business Class seats on BA’s A380?
- Row 50 (upper deck, front cabin): the windows seats A & K are missing a window.
- Row 50 (upper deck, front cabin): aisle seats B & J are to be avoided at all costs since other flyers tend to bump into these seats when they return from the lavatory.
- Row 59 (upper deck, second cabin): the Club World seats A, B, J & K are aligned with the middle seats of the first row in World Traveller Plus, which means that you are an aisle width and just a cloth curtain away from the baby bassinets against the cabin divider on the other side.
- Row 56 (upper deck, second cabin: the Club World seats F, J & K are located close to the lavatory, which may be bothersome to some flyers.
- Row 15 (lower deck): the Club World seats A, B, J & K are located close to the lavatory, which may be bothersome to some flyers.
Each seat comes with a thin blanket, a small (and not-so-comfortable) pillow, and an upgraded amenity kit. The latter is a drawstring bag (one for men and one for women) that is designed to double up as a shoe or lingerie and underwear bag and includes Elemis products to refresh, revive and rehydrate, created in travel sizes exclusively for British Airways customers. Both the men and women’s versions include moisturizer and lip balm, as well as an eyeshade, earplugs, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste and a pen for filling out arrivals forms.
Upon boarding, I was offered the choice between a glass of water, orange juice or Champagne. Shortly after take-off, I received a refreshing hot towel. I was also served a sprite (with ice and lemon) and a small bag containing an assortment of cold nuts.
Soon thereafter, lunch was offered, all served on a single tray. BA Business Class food can be a hit and a miss IMHO, and this time the food was really good (probably the best of all flights I took with BA in the past). As a starter, I choose the tomato and mozzarella salad with black olives and creamy pesto dressing. Quite delicious! The starter was accompanied by a fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette. As a main course I had the seared fillet of British beef with smoked potato fondant, broccoli, carrots and a Tellicherry black pepper sauce. It tasted really good. My dessert was an excellent chocolate brownie with burnt honeycomb mascarpone.
90 minutes prior to landing, I was served afternoon tea, snacks (a selection of sandwiches featuring Scottish smoked salmon with cream cheese, herb-marinated chicken with a roasted tomato dressing, and free-range egg mayonnaise) and sweets (buttermilk or fruit scones with clotted cream, pistachio cupcake, chocolate brownie and apricot sponge). I am not a big fan of BA’s afternoon tea and snacks concept (especially not of the sandwiches served in a plastic container), and it was not different this time. Alternatively, instead of the sandwiches, one could also choose a Za’atar style salad with marinated feta cheese and sumac dressing.
On the entertainment front you get a private screen, noise-cancelling headphones (the noise cancelling bit is in the console not the headphone, interestingly), two USB sockets, power, and a video RCA connection for your camcorder, DVD player or camera. The private screen (12 inches or 20 cm) is larger as compared to that of BA’s older planes. It swings out from the side of the private cabin suite. It also tilts up and down, so watching the screen from the near or fully flat-bed position is perfectly possible.
The new Thales in-flight entertainment (available in all classes) is light years ahead of what BA currently offers on other planes, and screen quality has significantly improved. There are tons of movies and box sets to explore, alongside a range of other content, including a much-enhanced flight map and chat sessions with other passengers (so if you fancy striking up a conversation with someone six rows or even a cabin away, now is your chance).
7. OTHER INFLIGHT & GROUND EXPERIENCES
#CREW: I love the BA cabin crew, and during all my BA flights, I never encountered any problem with them or with the onboard service. It was not different on this flight.
# BAR: Contrary to other airliners, BA did not install a fancy bar on their Airbus A380 planes for premium flyers. Why would they when they can pack the plane with paying passengers? Nevertheless, the plane has a walk-up “Club Kitchen” onboard, where Business and First Class fliers can graze between meals. You have the option of sandwiches, fine artisan pastries, yoghurt, ice cream, fresh fruit, and/or a chocolate selection. Throughout the flight, the Club World kitchen was kept fully stocked, and when I was there, flight attendants were quick to offer ice for drinks, cutlery for food and ask if there was anything else I required.
#LAVATORY: the two upper deck Business Class cabins have 3 lavatories in total: one between the 2 cabins, and two in the nose of the plane. The latter are pretty large. All lavatories were kept very clean during the flight.
#INTERNET: unfortunately, WiFi is not offered by BA at the moment. Currently, they are testing it on one of their planes.
#NOISE: The Airbus’ A380 is the quietest widebody jetliner flying today, generating 50 per cent less noise energy on departure than its nearest competitor, as well as three-to-four times less when landing – all while carrying 40 per cent more passengers. Although four huge Rolls Royce engines at full throttle are used to lift the 571,000 kilogram aircraft off the ground, the interior of the plane is eerily quiet. And the full effect of the lack of noise doesn’t really take hold until you are at cruising altitude. Instead of talking loudly to the flight attendant, passengers can whisper. It also makes it much easier to fall asleep.
8. MY VERDICT
- Seat : 8/10
- Food: 7/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- Amenity kit: 8/10
- Service: 8/10
- Cabin atmosphere (upper deck): 9/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10