Tried & Tested

British Airways A320 Club Europe

28 Aug 2014 by Tom Otley
British Airways short haul
BACKGROUND British Airways is in the process of fitting new seats to most of its short-haul A320 planes. The main difference is the reconfiguration of the seating so that both Euro Traveller (economy) and Club Europe (business class) have the same pitch of about 30 inches (76.2cm). This is a review of the inaugural flight on board the first A320 to be fitted with the product. CHECK-IN I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 at 0530 for my 0650 departure on BA840 to Kiev. I had checked in online and there was no queue at fast-track security. THE LOUNGE The screens showed the flight as departing from Satellite C. As there is no lounge there, I went to the one in Satellite B, where I had some breakfast. BOARDING About 60 minutes before departure I noticed that the flight was showing as boarding. I was told this was a known fault in the system and to ignore it, so I left at about 0610. Boarding via an airbridge started at 0620. THE SEAT The A320 has 28 rows configured 2-2 in Club Europe and 3-3 in Euro Traveller. The seating is A-B-C, D-E-F throughout, but in Club Europe the middle seat is blocked out by a central tray table, so seats B and E are not sold. Depending on how many people have been booked in Club Europe, a curtain is moved up or down the cabin, and the middle seats are converted for economy passengers. On this flight, the curtain was between rows six and seven. I started out in seat 4F but as row six was empty, I moved to 6C after take-off. The comfortable product has a lovely leather finish and the adjustable headrests have winglets to rest your head on, although few people I saw sleeping had made use of these. The seatback has netting for personal items (although your knees may crush into them), and a slot at the top for magazines. BA claims you can hang a tablet from this slot to watch your own entertainment, but that only works if you have an appropriate case – mine was a sleeve so I couldn’t use it. There is no built-in IFE, nor in-seat power, but mood lighting has been introduced. WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? In Club Europe, the front row is the one you need if you want to work on a laptop. There just isn’t enough room in the seats behind, especially if the passenger in front reclines – Club Europe has three inches (7.6cm) of recline, while Euro Traveller has two inches (5cm). My initial seat, 4F, felt very cramped, and when the person in 3F reclined to sleep, all I would have been able to do was read a book. Strangely, some seats in Club Europe (and possibly Euro Traveller) seem to have less room than others, particularly the window seats. Could this be because the aircraft is slightly thinner towards the front of the cabin and the seats have to nestle against the side of the aircraft? I don’t know, but I’d noticed it in 4F, and also noted that the seat cushion of 2F was slightly ahead of the ones in 2D and 2E. Consequently, I would choose an aisle seat in Club Europe. In Euro Traveller, the exit rows are best – the over-wing rows 11 and 12 have more room, but only by a few inches, and it’s not as much as in the old configuration. THE FLIGHT We took off at about 0720. Hot towels were handed around and breakfast served in two courses, cold and then hot. Wine and champagne (Monopole) was offered. The service in both cabins was outstanding. ARRIVAL The flight passed without incident and we landed on time in Kiev. VERDICT The new Club Europe seats are comfortable with some nice touches, such as the magazine pocket doubling as an iPad holder. The reduction in seat pitch from 34 to 30 inches (86.4cm to 76.2cm) for Club Europe is regrettable, but it’s hard to point to a competitor that is taking a different path. BA points out that passengers buy Club Europe for many reasons, whether transferring on to or from a long-haul flight, or because they want more personal space or to work. The last is now more difficult, unless you secure the front row. Instead, you have to consider the whole package – the extra room courtesy of the middle table, the more extravagant food and drink selection (including champagne), the lounges, priority boarding and disembarkation, increased Avios earning, and so on. Club Europe will be around for a few years yet, it seems. FACT FILE
  • FLIGHT TIME 5hrs 15mins
  • SEAT WIDTH 18in/45.7cm
  • SEAT PITCH 30in/76.2cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 3in/7.6cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Kiev in October ranged between £474 and £1,335 depending on flexibility.
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