BACKGROUND Following the integration of Bmi into British Airways last year, BA gained seven additional A321s, which it has retrofitted with 23 new Thompson Aero fully-flat beds in business. These are different from what you would usually find in Club World as the seats were ordered by Bmi. BA uses them on its routes from Heathrow to Baku, Beirut, Tel Aviv, Amman and, starting this month, Cairo.
CHECK-IN I arrived at Terminal 1 at 0815 for my flight (BA145) to Baku at 1015, and headed for BA check-in at Zone B. There was no queue at the two open business desks, and I used the adjacent fast-track security channel.
THE LOUNGE Near Gate 5, the lounge was Bmi’s before BA took over and revamped it. It is smart and spacious, with plenty of seats, runway views, a sleep area and a business centre. An appetising breakfast buffet was laid out, and an English pub-style area had beer on tap. Flights are not called.
BOARDING I left for Gate 39 at 0925. It was roughly a ten-minute walk. Boarding was in process and I went straight on to the plane via an airbridge. I was offered Taittinger champagne and my jacket was taken. The in-flight entertainment (IFE) system was turned on immediately so passengers could watch films but only BA’s noise-cancelling headphones can be used during take-off and landing.
THE SEAT Club World comprised eight rows in an alternating 1-2, then 2-1 (A, D-F/A-C, F) pattern. As opposed to BA’s usual yin-yang Club World, all seats face forwards. I was in 2F. The product was spacious, especially the solo seats, which have a huge amount of room either side in the form of table tops. It also reclines 180 degrees into a coffin-like opening in between, or either side, of the fixed shell seats in front. The seatback 15.4-inch Thales 15000 in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitors are touchscreen, and the fixed shell and upholstery is chocolate brown with polished wood and silver detailing. There was a control panel to adjust the legrest, lumbar support and angle, a universal plug socket, USB, headphone and round charging ports, easily accessible in the panel above the table. A sliding tray came out too so you could eat or work comfortably.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? If you are alone, go for one of the solo seats as they are more private, roomy and have direct aisle access. Twin aisle seats have only an armrest separating you from the gangway, whereas single pairs have counter tops either side (7F has a fold-down crew seat to the left). Row seven is the exit row. It may be best to avoid the back row (eight) if you are concerned about disturbance from babies in economy, and row one as there can be some noise from the galley.
THE FLIGHT A drinks service began shortly after we were airborne. There was no wine list or menu but I noticed there were two reds (Château Blaignan 2010 Cru Bourgeois Médoc and Hahn Winery Pinot Noir 2010 Monterey) and two whites (Le G de Château Guiraud 2011 Bordeaux Blanc Sec and Esser Chardonnay 2011 Monterey). I had difficulty accessing some films so a member of crew arranged for me to move seats and also reset the system. It didn’t help. I noticed other passengers also having problems, but did manage to find a couple of films that played successfully. Food was brought around at 1100 – my vegetarian order had not gone through but luckily there was a veggie choice on board. Starters were smoked salmon or stuffed vine leaves (delicious). Mains were steak with mushroom sauce, chicken with tomato ragout, and a generous portion of vegetable curry. I appreciated being able to have my meal tray on the counter by my left while working on my laptop, with my magazines on the right – it felt like a private, spacious office area.
ARRIVAL We landed a little early at 1515 (1915 locally). There was a seven-minute wait at immigration, and my priority-tagged case arrived after a further ten minutes.
VERDICT I was very impressed with this product, especially with the amount of space in the solo seats and the large entertainment screens. The food was tasty and the Taittinger champagne a welcome treat. My only criticisms would be the issues with the IFE and that the crew weren’t overly friendly.