British Airways is rolling out a new service in its Club World (long-haul business class) cabin. This debuted between London Heathrow and New York JFK, and includes changes to the way food and drink are served, along with new bedding and amenities by the White Company.
The intention is for these improvements to be rolled out across North American routes, with both Boston and Washington DC seeing the new bedding by the end of 2017. By the end of 2018, the changes will have taken place on all Heathrow routes. Gatwick routes will be last, but these will start being updated towards the end of 2018.
This flight was on a B747-400 configured with the “super-high-J” cabin – that is, 86 business class seats split across the main deck and the upper deck.
As many airlines are saying goodbye to the B747, the jumbo continues to play a part in British Airways’ fleet, despite the airline buying B787s (both dash 8 and dash 9 versions – see our Dreamliner feature on p28). A380s have also been bought and A350s are on order for delivery in 2019 with a new business class seat on board. Meanwhile, for regulars on the B747, the small changes on board are noticeable.
This was the 1120 departure from London Heathrow to New York, a flight time of 7 hours and 30 minutes. We took off at 1150, slightly late.
I was directed to my seat, which was 20A, towards the rear of the middle (main) cabin of the three Club World cabins on this B747-400. This is a rear-facing window seat with uninterrupted access to the aisle.
I was asked if I wanted champagne, orange juice or water, my jacket was hung and I was given a bottle of water at the same time as the amenity pack. The White Company amenity bag included a toothbrush and toothpaste, a soft eye mask, ear plugs, some lip balm, moisturiser, plus a balm called Pulse Point that is supposed to help you sleep.
The new bedding was waiting at the seat. This comprised a large pillow, a smaller pillow and a large bag containing the mattress topper, duvet and blanket.
The drinks service has changed, so merits special mention. There’s a choice of spirits including gins (Gordon’s or Tanqueray). To avoid mess on the tables, the drinks are pre-poured, so you don’t have the little miniature of gin and can of Fever-Tree tonic water brought to your table. Instead, you are given a single measure (half the miniature) rather than a double-measure. If you want the entire double measure, you need to ask for it. Bear in mind that although the new glasses being used are lovely, they are not very large, so your drink will be very strong. Or normal, depending on how you pour at home.
The new menu is presented differently.
Not only is it on a much larger piece of card (above), but while the flight attendants still ask for your main course choices, you choose starters from a trolley as it comes through the cabins.
The flight attendants were experienced at this, but it’s an inherently slow system. The tray with bread and water was given to me at around 1330, and then we waited for the trolley to work its way towards us from the front cabin, through the galley, and then the main cabin.
Our starters arrived at 1350. There were no drinks with that; wine came through later.
The flight attendants were attentive and enthusiastic, enjoying explaining the new service to passengers.
The choice of starters included a roasted beef carpaccio with horseradish crème fraîche; smoked red pepper soup with cheese straws; or a “tapas selection” comprising tuna and tomato tart, avocado, jamón ibérico and Manchego. I had the carpaccio, which was delicious, and the soup, which I thought was too salty.
Mains were then brought to each seat.
Options included braised beef cheeks and aubergine with tomato salsa and pommes au gratin; poached Loch Fyne salmon fillet with spinach watercress mousseline and pan-fried potatoes; or truffled mascarpone tortelloni with grilled asparagus. I had the heritage breed beef cheeks, which were tender and very tasty.
The choice of desserts included tiramisu, fresh mango with vanilla crème fraîche, or a warm chocolate soufflé. There was also a cheese board with Chevington, Shropshire Blue, Applewood Cheddar, walnuts, grapes and apple pear chutney. I opeted for the cheeses and didn’t regret it – they were all fresh and delicious.
The wine choices included three champagnes. The whites were a Piedmontese Gavi or a South African Sauvignon Blanc; the reds were a California Pinot Noir or a Barossa Valley Shiraz.
After dining I retrieved the White Company products and reclined my seat, laying out the mattress topper and making use of the blanket, duvet and eyemask. I slept for a couple of hours and found it very comfortable. The topper enhances the comfort levels, as there is the sensation of having something between you and the seat cushion.
I woke in time for the afternoon service. I was too full to do this justice, but the selection was much greater than previously, with sandwiches (ham, egg, cheese or smoked salmon) and a dish of prawns, mozzarella and grilled vegetables.
We landed at JFK on time and were at the stand and into immigration without delay.
A huge amount of time and effort has gone into these Club World changes, and they are a definite improvement in terms of quality and choice.
While the trolleys make the meal more of an event, they also slow things down; the service was a lot quicker when you could chose your starter and main at the same time and then they arrived when the tray was put in front of you. Nevertheless, it’s good that the crew are enthused about the new approach to service.
This is a big investment by British Airways both in quality and training, and the White Company products are lovely.
Internet rates for a flexible return Club World ticket from London to New York in February range from £1,840 to £8,294.
7 hours 30 minutes
2-4-2 / 2-2