I flew in British Airway's brand new long-haul business class suites followed by the short-haul equivalent the day after, and I have no idea why anyone pays for the latter
Nick Morrish/Rachel Hosie/Business Insider
- British Airways' business class offering was described in a recent study as being like "Ryanair but with free food," but is this really true?
- It's safe to say the experience differs wildly depending on whether you're flying long or short-haul.
- I realized this when I experienced the new long-haul business class service followed by the short-haul the next day on a British Airways press trip.
- Is it really worth paying to fly business class on a two-hour flight? Here's how the long- and short-haul services differ.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
Things haven't been plain sailing for British Airways of late.
Despite the airline celebrating its centenary this year (complete with a visit from Her Majesty), becoming the third carrier to use ginormous A350 planes, and unveiling swanky new business class Club Suites, it's had to weather some storms.
Read more: I flew business class for the first time on British Airways' new A350, and the cocoon-like privacy impressed me far more than the food or the lounge
If pilot strikes and cabins filling with smoke weren't enough, BA's business class offering has just been slated in a study by consumer group Which?.
Which? described the airline's business class service as akin to "Ryanair but with free food," although it's unclear whether the long-haul or short-haul service was reviewed. Ryanair is a famously low-cost UK airline where customers have to pay for a number of add-ons - food included.
Read more: I flew American Airlines international business class for the first time. Here are the things that surprised me.
The airline's business class or "Club" offering varies wildly depending on whether you're traveling short-haul within Europe (Club Europe) or long-haul (Club World).
This was hammered home to me particularly clearly when I had the privilege of flying on a British Airways press trip to Madrid as a taster flight to launch BA's new Club World seat, and then a flight back in a standard Club Europe seat.
Here's how the two compare.
I hadn't realized that flying business class on a short-haul flight actually doesn't mean different seats from economy ...
... it just means there'll be no one sitting in the middle seat, but a little table instead.
It was nice not to have anyone next to me ...
... but it wasn't a patch on the incredible new Club World suites that I'd just experienced.
The Club Europe seats certainly weren't shabby — they were cushioned, made from leather, and with an adjustable headrest — but were narrower than the Club World seats.
I didn't necessarily need the extra width of the Club World seats, but it was certainly welcome, and made the suite feel nice and spacious. Also, being given a pillow and cushion is certainly a luxury I could get used to.
I also absolutely loved the leg-room of the Club World suites, and it was a joy to be able to stretch out.
Unfortunately the same could not be said for the Club Europe seats.
In Club World (below), I was immediately offered a glass of Champagne upon arrival, but this luxury took a little longer to arrive in Club Europe.
Still, I was at least given a warm towel and the menu before we took off — unlike British Airways economy, you get a free meal in Club Europe, and the company is currently making a huge investment in an upgraded menu set to launch on September 12.
There was no luxurious leather toiletry pouch, but to be fair, you can probably live without an eye mask or earplugs on a short-haul flight.
There was a choice of three mains: Braised Welsh lamb shank with grilled vegetables and celeriac mousseline; homemade spinach gnocchi with sun-dried cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, and panna sauce; and Loch Fyne smoked salmon with avocado, creamy celeriac, and grilled prawns.
The drinks menu was pretty extensive too, featuring champagne, two white wines, two reds, a selection of spirits, and beers. I noticed that the drinks on offer were different from the ones available for purchase further back in the plane.
The menu looked pretty similar to what was served in Club World, including not only one of the same main course options but an extra one too.
Back in Club Europe, cabin crew started serving refreshments as soon as the seatbelt sign turned off. I opted for a Diet Coke, which was served in a real glass. Handed out in packets, the nuts didn't feel as fancy as the ones I'd had in Club World, but they were still tasty.
While I waited for the seatbelt sign to be turned off, I noticed it was of the basic variety I've always seen ...
... unlike the upgraded versions on the A350. It was small things like this that made the plane feel more modern and luxurious, and subsequently made the smaller plane feel basic in comparison.
In Club Europe, it was useful to have both a magazine rack at the top of the chairs and a pocket lower down where you could put a water bottle — considering more and more budget airlines now have zero storage at all on the backs of the chairs, I appreciated this.
Of course, it wasn't a patch on the storage options in the Club World suite though, which seemed to have endless compartments to keep your necessities organised.
While the seats turned into fully flat beds in Club World (below), they only slightly reclined in Club Europe.
As delicious smells wafted through the Club Europe cabin, I realised it was food time. I was keen for the gnocchi, but being towards the back of the cabin I was concerned they might run out as orders hadn't been taken in advance. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for the guy behind me, I got the last one.
It was essentially a four-course meal served at once: Greek yoghurt with roasted tomatoes to start, the gnocchi, a "celebration of British cheese," and Tiramisu, and I was offered a choice of two bread rolls too (brown or white herbed). I enjoyed having a proper napkin, cutlery, and crockery, but felt like I could've done with a side plate for the bread roll.
The gnocchi was flavorsome and comforting, although it wasn't super hot and there were some lumps of cheese that I think should've been melted better (the cabin crew had just whipped off the foil when they got to me). It was super oily, but the sauce was delectable when soaked up with the bread.
I felt the whole meal was lacking in vegetables (and felt the same in Club World), especially if you're not a tomato fan. It was also an incredibly dairy-heavy meal, but I'm not complaining about that. The yogurt starter was a bit odd to me — it tasted overwhelmingly like lemon, mint, and chili and I didn't really rate it.
It seemed to take ages for the cabin crew to come round again offering drinks, and I was gasping by the time I finally got some water. It was also handy to be able to put my finished tray to the side instead of having to leave it sitting in front of me.
I finished my dairy-based feast with the Tiramisu, which was in a cup made from plastic.
The food seemed a pretty similar standard to what I'd been given in Club World, but I did enjoy the latter more (below). I don't know whether it was the fact that it was served laid out on a table cloth, that I was so excited to be in the suite, or simply that I preferred the dishes, but it all seemed more delicious to me.
VERDICT: The food was nice, but I couldn't really see why anyone would bother flying business class for a two-hour flight.
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