The ‘Marmite’ Effect of BA Club World

It’s time for another guest post from my dad! Check out his thoughts and review of BA’s Club World Business Class.

If you are an Anglophile you may have tried Marmite, a savory spread for toast that people tend to either love or hate. There isn’t much in between. After a recent trip in Club World with British Airways between Los Angeles and London, I decided that this business class product is definitely comparable with Marmite because of its similar love-or-hate qualities. Elbie reminded me the other day that the Club World seat was the first truly flat bed in business, and so BA were certainly trail-blazers at the time. However, most other airlines have now overtaken BA with their business class products, so it’s good news that a next generation Club World seat will (eventually) arrive.

Based on my trip last month, I still maintain that BA Club World is well worth flying, especially with a companion. But at the same time, I can’t wait for some of the flaws to be fixed. Below are my thoughts on the good and the bad, and do try Marmite if you get the chance!

What I like:

I’ve used the Chase BA Visa Card for some years now to earn Avios for travel in premium BA cabins, primarily because of the ability to earn Companion vouchers, which effectively double the value of my Avios (although fees and taxes, which are quite steep with BA award tickets, still have to be paid for both passengers).

Occasionally, BA has very competitive deals for paid Club World seats with a good opportunity to earn triple Avios on this spend through Chase, and of course more Avios and status with the flight itself. Chase gives a 10% discount also and the famous AARP discount (currently $200 in business) can be added as well. A good time to look for bargains is around Thanksgiving when BA sometimes has a Black Friday sale.

Traveling with a companion in the Club World cabin for me is always preferable to a solo trip. This avoids the dreaded “staring at a stranger” through the partition between the seats, which apparently unnerves many passengers. I usually aim for a pair of window/aisle seats – upstairs on the A380, the window seat has handy storage bins and two or three windows to look out of.

It’s true that the Club World seat is a bit narrow, a bit short and a bit hard but, at the end of the day, it’s still a flat bed, doesn’t have a foot well beneath the next passenger’s seat, and the window seats are very private. I’d argue that there’s decent space compared to Delta, Lufthansa and similar carriers with a cramped cubby for your feet. However, I’d generally avoid the seats in the middle of the cabin if at all possible, unless you are very sociable or in a big group, or if the cabin is empty.

In general I’ve had good in-flight experiences with BA staff, who are typically cheerful, hospitable and provide good customer service with a British flavor (which I like). I also think Club World food and drink is decent, although see below for a couple of negative observations.

What I dislike:

Climbing over a fellow passenger from a window or middle seat is definitely awkward, and so I hope the new seat design provides everyone with aisle access. That said, not all competitors offer this yet, for example United’s “four in a row” middle seats or Lufthansa window seats in business are both a bit tricky to navigate as well. The bed is quite short, only 72 inches on most aircraft, which is not great if you happen to be tall, although there’s more space for feet than some other seat configurations. You can avoid climbing out, or being climbed over, by picking certain seats at the ends of the cabin, but beware of proximity to the galley or lavs.

Probably the worst part of the Club World sleeping experience is the pillow, which is more or less flat even before you rest your head on it. Closely followed by the hard surface of the bed, which really needs a nice soft pad to make it properly comfortable. The duvet, though, is cozy.

I’m also not a fan of the new BA light meal served at the end of longer daytime flights to the US, which has replaced the sandwiches previously offered. Our flight back to LA featured a very strange pea mousse appetizer with various pickled salad items, and rather underwhelming pasta and salad mains. Bring back afternoon tea and a nice scone with jam and clotted cream, I say.

Perhaps because there are nearly 100 seats in business on a BA A380, meal service doesn’t always feel very premium quality, with trays of food handed out from a trolley in the aisle with hot main dishes brought along later. It’s somewhat of an economy class experience, to be honest. And some travelers get grumpy when the seat partitions are lowered for food service, but not raised again (first world problem # 94).

Finally, BA charges passengers for seat selection in Club World, unless you have Silver status or higher, which is mean and quite expensive.

Bottom line:

Overall, I think Club World gets too much criticism, and I would willingly fly with BA in this cabin especially with someone, to take advantage of the Companion voucher or a good deal for paid seats. Other than herringbone seat layouts, I think the Club World cabin actually delivers a decent amount of space and relative privacy. That said, the next generation Club World product is way overdue, and I hope this upgrade will deliver aisle access from every seat, a longer and softer bed, and plump pillows!