BA, Club World v First (and is First really needed?)

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This topic contains 28 replies, has 19 voices, and was last updated by  EruditeSheep 2 Jun 2017
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Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 29 total)

  • MartynSinclair
    Participant

    My recent trip to HKG was out on F and back in C and this is a review of both services.

    Background to F – this was classed as a service recovery space available (SRUSA) upgrade. A few weeks before departure I met a very nice BA Manager in the F lounge and was discussing the totally useless and “unsuable” (these were BA’s description) 3 upgrade vouchers attached to my BAEC. The reason they are unusable is due to the majority of my tickets having BA and either CX or AA as an additional internal sector. So the very routes where I earnt the vouchers, BA confirm I will never be able to use them – BIZARRE.

    Outbound – on the day of departure, I checked in and asked about the SRUSA. The check in lady said it was in the system, but I would only know at the gate – although, it was highly likely to happen. So no Concorde lounge for me..

    At the gate, as expected the ping was heard, boarding card changed and I was escorted down to the airbridge, nice touch. Before entering the airbrige the agent shouted down the airbridge to cabin crew, “are you still taking Firsts down this one”. A real class act.

    On board, I was shown to my seat and very attentive cabin crew started with the bubbles, (yes it was chilled), amenity kit and showing me around the seat. It was my first A380 F experience.

    My first impression of the seat/cabin/environment was the seat was similar to the other F seats, plush, comfy, wide. The cabin doesn’t have an airy feel, due to the high sides of the seats.

    2 other points I noticed.

    1. Even though I had a window seat, I only had line of sight upwards, due to the distance of the seat from the window and also due to the size of the window. To look out on the same level you have to lean forwards, to look down, you have to virtually press your head against the window.

    2. I went to change into PJ’s and the second shock was the size of the F bathroom. I immediately chose to use the upstairs bathroom (CW) which is probably 4 or 5 times the size – whilst the crew allowed me to cross the roped off barrier, I could see they were not that comfortable with a passenger using the hallowed stair case.

    Push back for the 13 hour flight was more or less on time. The menu’s were handed out and again a slight problem with the food offering (yes I am fussy). But nothing really stood out. I think serving a pasta with tomato sauce in F and on a night flight is a little cheap and unnecessary.

    The IFE was certainly a far better standard than in CW, a nice big screen, good headsets and presumably the same choice as the rest of the aircraft & it all looked and sounded better. After dinner, which consisted of a smoked salmon starter and a cheese plate to finish – the pasta way too overcooked, finished the film and the bed went down for around 5 – 6 hours’ sleep. The crew were attentive throughout, the seat and ‘real estate’ was comfortable, but overall, I am sad to say, very underwhelming and sadly, I did not feel that special, when comparing to other F products such as LH and CX, both of which I have enjoyed in the past year.

    Not wishing to sound ungrateful for the SRUSA, but this came about because I was not able to use the earned upgrade vouchers. BA made me feel they had provided a BIG favour with this upgrade. Over the past 3 years, I have had 4 of these vouchers, which in theory would have allowed a partner and me a return upgrade, so 16 flight sectors (combined) with full F experience, results in 1 upgrade on a SRUSA.

    I did thank the BA manager by email for the successful upgrade, but heard nothing back.

    Return – I guess I was hoping for the ping at HKG, but it did not happen and instead went to the airbridge with the slight incline into the upper deck of the A380. I was sat in the first of the 2 C cabins, window seat. Blinds were down & up they all went. The centre blind was down & I soon met my travelling partner, who insisted on picking his nose whilst reading the newspaper. I tried raising the centre blind, but it didn’t work. I think the fact I tried, made the passenger realise he was being a little too obvious with his nose obsession.

    There was going to be a lengthy delay as the Chinese were slowing down departures due to the weather. Delay started at 3 hours, but ultimately reduced to around 90 minutes. During this time, the cabin crew were intent on ‘galley chatting’ and when some of us rang the call bells for a drink, they were totally ignored, until they cabin crew had no choice to come through the cabin and ask passengers not to press the call buttons as they were busy preparing the aircraft!

    We were eventually served from the full bar (doors were closed) but it seemed an effort for the crew. I never do understand, why during these long delays, why the meal orders can’t be taken and all cabin announcements made. The safety briefing could have been done before push back and certainly the welcome announcements in 3 languages ( I think) could have all been made before take-off. Straight after t/o the constant flow of welcome messages and flight details started, in 2 or 3 languages.. Why could this all not be done pre take off?

    The one thing I always manage in the CW seat is to sleep. I had taken advantage of the FABULOUS cocktails, food and wine offering in The Pier (CX F lounge) prior to take off, so was not really in need of another meal. I had a couple of drinks watched a movie and then the seat went down and I woke up 8 – 9 hours later. I don’t sleep that long in my own bed. Yes I do criticize the product, but bottom line, if you are horizontal, asleep and warm, the product is doing its job and the CW seat certainly does that.. It may look flimsy, it may be in 2 parts – but I am 5’7’’ and as long as I can get 2 pillows, I can sleep like a baby.

    Summary – Off course I will take a gate ping every day of the week, but is there a lot of difference between BA First and Club World?

    The First seats are bigger and yes you have more real estate – Cabin Crew are naturally more attentive in F. The food is presented course by course, but sadly (for me) did not have any wow factor (on this flight). IMHO, the difference is not that vast, the F experience did not leave me feeling that was really special.

    BAEC need to address the upgrade vouchers – it is ridiculous for BA not to allow passengers to redeem the vouchers on the very same routes they were earnt.

    I know BA is reviewing both Club World and First offerings. However, I really do not understand why there is a need for a First product. I doubt many passengers (I know there will always be some) pay for the privilege. But I do accept BA need to retain a Class distinction in their travel classes. Are 4 classes really necessary?

    BA still retains a Concorde brand (even if in a lounge offering). I have always wondered whether a Concorde Class could combine Business and First into a new, innovative and fresh class, just like the Orient Express ‘class’ retains a unique class of travel on the railways.

    CW and F class lag behind the competitors. I hope in the next few years, the BA brand and products will again be a market leader, especially in terms of Customer Satisfaction.

    Thanks BA for the SRUSA

    ..


    summerfly
    Participant

    Thank you for the detailed review and comparison. I fly with BA regularly and find F comfortable but J not so much. Especially in the older aircraft the club world seat is flimsy with poor IFE. The service is hit and miss in both cabins (much dependent on the mood of the crew). Upper deck window seat on A380 is ok as there is extra storage & space to the side (similar to 747 upper deck). The divider is disabled for take off & landing which is awkward if you’re sat next to a stranger.

    I agree that BA should merge the two cabins but this will only be a success if it is closer to the standard (soft & hard product) to their current F class. It will be interesting to see how BA develop their premium products but for now I’m often using their star alliance competitors unless I can get a cheap F ticket.


    capetonianm
    Participant

    It is a while since I flew BA ‘F’ but I do remember that it didn’t compare favourably with LH and SR (as it was then), but it certainly had more ‘polish’ than the US carriers on which I’d flown longhaul. With the generally inconsistent service delivery which seems to prevail these days with BA, I question why anyone would travel ‘F’ unless it’s on some sort of upgrade or redemption, as they have blurred the boundaries between a mediocre F and a very ordinary J. Premium economy is far better value for money than J, and I will only pay for J if I can get a cheap fare.

    I can see ‘F’ disappearing, another example of how BA have shot themselves in the foot.


    Henryp1
    Participant

    I believe First is needed on some routes and am pleased that I have the choice. While it may not compare to other carriers, I like the product and small cabin, fortunately it suits my travels and gives good value for money. While the catering is average, it’s adequate. The biggest challenge I find is that the land based First facilities are overcrowded by BAEC members flying in other cabins and this restricts the use for passengers flying in First. Although the introduction of the Concorde bars at some destinations has eased the situation.


    Flightlevel
    Participant

    BA will always have F on routes that are suitable because it maintains yield and profits and the airline makes a lot of money from the various cards/avios/airmile programmes and if they use F its a quick recovery of their points.
    F also gives those who wish to use the discount fares more opportunities since it raises yield against low fares. BA’s many corporate clients use it too.


    UKFly79
    Participant

    Thanks for the review.

    Firstly, Pasta is never that good on a plane! Hit and miss, like ordering the steak.

    The “real estate” is better on BAA380 first, a lot better. Seeing out the window is hard work when the fuselage is so large; like QF I like how BA place F on the lower deck. I’ve never had any issue, or raised eyebrows, breaking the rope and using the club washrooms upstairs (Pull on the rope it actually breaks at the sides as its magnetically held). I hope BA do not abandon F as it’s streets ahead of J…. but maybe not so far ahead of new J after my GGL evening last week.

    I’m sampling Qatar A380 first next week for the first time and will try and do a little review as well…..


    esselle
    Participant

    I think BA’s F product is being degraded by both the focus on cost, seen in lower quality food, wine, and twiddly bits, and reduction in training given to crew working in the F cabin, which means the service level is more Little Chef than premium.

    When I was doing the big travel stuff as part of my career in the 90’s and 00’s, my regular travel in BA F was always something to look forward to. Now, and thankfully I only use the service if it is free, it is a lottery and the experience is on average underwhelming and vaguely embarrassing.

    Best example I can give is, when asking for an espresso, I was told that I would “have to wait a moment as the girl who knows how to work the machine is in the toilet”

    Pure class.


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    Martyn

    Pleased you got an upgrade, but not surprised at your other comments.

    Airbus intended F to be upstairs, at the front, thus the washroom space is huge – that’t where EK have the showers on their aircraft with F. BA’s insistence on putting F downstairs (I believe as the seats wouldn’t fit easily upstairs) means F pax are denied this – also BA’s insistence on mixing Y on the two decks is strange.

    Having flown on the A380 with EK and QR, their layouts are much better, IMHO. QF’s is also a bit odd, though their premium eco product is excellent.

    Apart from that, F is becoming redundant with many airlines, because of the development of top end business class products, BA’s geriatric cabins are in a time warp and there is still a big step up (though F is nearer to the better J cabins than CW).

    Having flown out to AUH on a 789 yesterday (the 4th time in the last couple of months), I agree with Capetonianm’s comments that W is good value and F/J are not. I found myself looking through the bulkhead during taxi and take off, thinking I would not like to be in CW – it looked so cramped, compared to WT+, both 7 across, but the conventional seats in premium are somehow so much more comfortable on a day flight.

    And the cream on the cake was that mixed fleet cocked up the cooking of my steak and produced it medium/rare, rather pink in the middle, that suits me just fine – unfortunately, they didn’t get around to offering me bread or wine to accompany it, until 20 mins after I’d finished it, but heyho, what do you expect with a bunch of raw kids.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    Average, adequate, overcrowded….not the terms I’d normally associate with first class.


    Panda01
    Participant

    I think BA really needs to spend lots of ££££ to come up with something that is truly first class. For me, the seat should be right beside to window rather than pointing towards it.


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    From the responses:

    1. Do any airlines showcase the benefits of the grand staircase in the forward section of the 380 or is it purely as an emergency route & crew convenience.

    2. It appears BA CW passengers upstairs on the 380, do have an additional benefit of being in the cabin which was originally designed for F passengers. Without question the window seats (upstairs) benefit from additional real estate not found downstairs (similar to the upper deck of the 747-400

    3. I don’t agree that the windows on a large bodied aircraft preclude easy sight of the outside world. I think the double (smaller) window design of the BA F cabin is a unique feature to the BA aircraft, which may be the reason why the F cabin looks so dark and lacks the feel of space… Club World cabin upstairs, benefits from larger windows a brighter feel as the window area (space) per seat must be at least 4 times more (barring the first row seats where they only benefit from 1 window).

    Interested to hear other comparisons between F and C and whether standards are closer to each other or whether F really does stand out from C.


    seasonedtraveller
    Participant

    I recently used one of my vouchers on both sectors (yep, both sectors)LHR to KUL and as I reported elsewhere, the service is extremely underwhelming.
    I have a CCR card anyway (which will be expiring this year because I am not going to get to 5,000 TP’s this year just to get entrance into a lounge which is only marginally above average and is only available in 2 airports in the world) so that wasn’t taken into account.
    The flight itself was the new 787(9) series which is nice and quiet but even in First, the food was awful in both directions and the small things like the toilets have zero amenities (compare for example, LH or SAS in Business, not First, both have mouthwash, wet-wipes, razors etc and of course, a nice flower) with BA, there is a pot to P-ss in and nothing else.

    I made a point recently, that my last flight to PVG with SAS in Business, was preferred overall to KUL in First with BA.

    Like Martyn I am grateful to travel in First but, when compared to LH First, BA have got a long, long way to go.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Oh seasonedtraveller the flower is back in the First Class loos now. BA is listening! Lol.

    Seriously though, First Class is one of the least yielding cabins on the aircraft when the space it takes up and crew complement are taken into consideration. I think BA will follow most other airlines and start reducing the cabin more and more.

    My guess is that newer aircraft enter service (A350, future 787’s) they will likely come without F and the 747’s with F will be departing to the desert. I also reckon the 777’s that are going in to the hanger to be reconfigured ten abreast in Y will likely also lose F.

    BA said in their capital markets day that the size of the cabin on the 787-9 (8 seats) works so I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some reconfigured to accommodate more J seats and less F seat even on aircraft where it’s retained.

    F is an important product in a few markets BA fly. It can also be a good carrot in negotiating corporate contract deals. But the highest yielding cabin is Club and that’s where the focus will be on for the next few years.


    SimonS1
    Participant

    From the responses:

    1. Do any airlines showcase the benefits of the grand staircase in the forward section of the 380 or is it purely as an emergency route & crew convenience.

    Make the most of the grand staircase Martyn. Airbus has recently put forward plans to add an extra 43 seats by removing it and using something a bit more utilitarian.

    I suppose then it becomes a question of aesthetics v financials, and I can guess the BA take on that.

    Airbus Details Plans to Add 80 More Seats to the A380


    seasonedtraveller
    Participant

    Oh seasonedtraveller the flower is back in the First Class loos now. BA is listening! Lol.

    Hahah – thanks for that RF – nice of them to notice 🙂

    I’m just using the flower as a stick to beat them with……we all know the real issues are not about a flower in the lav 😉

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