British Airways is in the process of fitting new seating across the majority of its short-haul A320 fleet.
The main difference is the reconfiguration of the seating so that both Euro Traveller (economy) and Club Europe (business class) have the same seat pitch of around 30 inches.
This is a review of the first flight by the A320 aircraft to be first refitted with this standard seating on a 3.5-hour journey from London Heathrow to Kiev, Ukraine.
To read a review of the return flight, with lots more pictures and musings on the exit rows in Euro Traveller, click here.
I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 5 at 0530 for my 0650 departure on BA840 to Kiev.
I had already checked-in online, so walked straight through to fast-track security, where there was no queue, and was quickly airside.
By checking the screens, I knew that the flight was departing from Satellite C, which is accessed via the transit train. There is no lounge over at C, but there is at B, so I took the lift down to the transit train, and headed over to B, where I disembarked and went up to the lounge.
As you’d expect, the lounge was almost empty at this time of the morning. I had some cereal and a bacon sandwich along with a coffee, then noticed that the flight was showing as boarding, despite the time only being 0550, some 60 minutes before departure.
I enquired why this was so and was told it was a known fault in the system and I should ignore it since I still had plenty of time. I did so, and then went back down to the transit train at about 0610.
There was a five-minute wait for the next train back to Satellite C (I had just missed one). Once there, I took the lift up to the departures level, and was second in the priority queue for boarding.
This commenced 30 minutes before departure at 0620 and was via an air bridge onto the aircraft. I found my seat (4F — a window seat) and sat down.
This is British Airways’ new short-haul seating, which is being retrofitted across its A320 fleet (see news, June 16).
We will have a seat map drawn up shortly, but the configuration is 2-2 in Club Europe (business short haul) and 3-3 in Euro Traveller (economy).
The seating is ABC-DEF throughout the aircraft, but in Club Europe the middle seat is blocked out with a tray table, so seats B and E are not sold.
Depending on how many seats have been booked in Club Europe, a curtain is moved up and down the cabin. On this flight the curtain was just after row 6, although the back row was empty, so I moved there shortly after take-off.
The seating configuration is from rows 1-28, with no rows missing (there is a row 13, for instance).
In Club Europe, the middle seat is blocked with a central tray table with a half-leather, half-wood effect surface, where you can place work items and drinks. On the return flight I asked for that to be demonstrated to me, and I describe it here.
The back of the seat has netting for placing personal items, although these will bang against your knees, and also a slot at the top where magazines can be placed.
BA claims you can hang your tablet from this slot to watch your own IFE. But, of course, that only works if you have an appropriate tablet case. Mine is just a simple sleeve, so I wasn’t able to use this feature.
Note that there is no in-seat power for any of the seats, so for flights of a longer duration (over three hours) such as this one, if you are working there is the issue that your devices will have powered down by the time you arrive.
The new seats look lovely, and are pleasant and comfortable for sitting. Since this was newly-fitted, the cabin smelt fresh, with the leather adding to the effect.
The seats have adjustable head rests, which as well as going up and down, depending on your height, also have winglets allowing you to rest your head to one side or another, although few of the people I saw sleeping had made use of this feature. Perhaps then, it’s worth the cabin crew pointing it out as it certainly helps prevent your head lolling around when you are asleep or trying to sleep.
One point — since this is a retrofit of the seating, although new mood lighting has been introduced, there is no change to the inflight entertainment (there isn’t any), and the overhead screens simply show the safety video and then revert to the flight map for the duration of the flight.
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 this, especially if the passenger in front reclines their seat.
In Euro Traveller, the exit rows are best — the over-wing rows 11 and 12 have more room, but only by a few inches. See here for pictures of that.
I started out in window seat 4F, and this felt very tight for room. When the teenage girl in front of me reclined her seat to sleep (and who could blame her, since this was a very early start for most of us), all I would have been able to do is read a book.
So I moved back to row 6, which on this flight was the last row of Club Europe, and worked there for the remainder of the flight.
My new seat was 6C and it seemed there was more room than in 4F, but an accurate estimate of which rows offer more room will have to wait for the second review, after I’ve had a chance to walk around the empty aircraft in Kiev.
We had a long taxi and took off around 0720. Hot towels were offered after take-off and then the breakfast service started. This was in two courses, first cold and then hot.
Wines and Champagne (Monopole) were offered with the meal, although many people in Club Europe didn’t eat, but just had coffee.
The rest of the flight passed off without incident and we landed on time in Kiev. I remained on the aircraft to fly back. The return review is here.
These are comfortable seats, with a lovely leather finish, some nice touches — such as the magazine pocket doubling as an iPad holder, provided you have an appropriate case — and new mood lighting in the aircraft. For Euro Traveller, this is an improved offering. Ths service in both cabins was outstanding.
The reduction in leg room for Club Europe, while understandable, is regrettable, but it’s hard to point to a competitor that is taking a different path, with Lufthansa-aligned airlines making similar moves on its short-haul network.
BA points out that passengers buy Club Europe for many reasons, whether transferring onto or from a long-haul flight, or because they want more personal space, or they simply want to work. The reduction in seat pitch from 34 to 30 inches makes that last part difficult however, unless you secure the front row.
Instead, you now have to consider the whole package — the extra room courtesy of the middle table, the enhanced food and drink (including Champagne), the lounges, the priority boarding, first off the aircraft at the other end, increased avios earning and so on. Club Europe will be around for a few years yet, it seems.
Plane Type: A320
Configuration 2-2 Club Europe (business), 3-3 Euro Traveller (economy)
Seat width: 18 inches
Seat pitch: 30 inches
Seat recline: Club Europe recline is 3“ and Euro Traveller is 2“.