Review: British Airways Business Class A318 New York To London City

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British Airways 2
New York (JFK) – London City (LCY)
Tuesday, November 6
Depart: 6:45PM
Arrive: 6:55AM (+1 day)
Duration: 7hr10min
Aircraft: Airbus A318
Seat: 8A (Business Class)

I had taken this flight almost a decade ago when it first launched, and forgot just how damn special and cool it is. At the door I was greeted by the friendly cabin service manager, who pointed me towards my seat.

British Airways’ A318 has just 32 business class seats, spread across eight rows in a 2-2 configuration.

British Airways’ A318 business class cabin

This jet is so just so sleek and such an awesome experience.


British Airways’ business class cabin A318

I saw that the flight was less than two thirds full, so I assigned myself seat 8A (the window seat on the left in the last row), in hopes of getting an empty seat next to me.

British Airways’ A318 business class seats are different than the seats they have on all of their other planes. They have a “simple” 2-2 configuration with about 72″ of pitch.

British Airways Club World London City seats


British Airways Club World London City seats

While these seats aren’t ideal if you’re sitting next to a stranger, they’re perfect if you’re traveling with someone, or if you luck out with an empty seat next to you. Heck, they’re cool even if you’re seated next to a stranger, since you’re crossing the Atlantic with at most 31 other passengers.


British Airways A318 business class seats


British Airways A318 business class seats

For a bit more privacy, there is a partition that can be extended, which I’d probably keep extended even during the meal service if someone were seated next to me, since the armrest isn’t huge.

British Airways business class seat privacy partition

The seat controls were on the far side of the seats, and were easy to use.


British Airways business class seat controls

The tray table folded out from the center armrest, and could also be folded over in half.


British Airways business class seat tray tables

Also underneath the center armrest was a small exposed storage compartment, as well as a power outlet.


British Airways business class seat power outlet

There were two more power outlets underneath the center armrest at the front.


British Airways business class seat power outlets

As you can see, each seat has an ottoman that becomes part of the bed when the seat is fully reclined. There’s also some storage space underneath the ottoman, though the area isn’t huge.


British Airways business class seat ottoman

One other thing that makes this Club World London City service awesome is that they have individual air nozzles at each seat, which British Airways doesn’t have on most of their widebody aircraft.


British Airways business class individual air nozzles

Waiting at my seat upon boarding was the same bedding from The White Company that British Airways has on their other longhaul flights. There’s a “pouch” that has most of the bedding, and then the pillow just sits on top of it.

British Airways The White Company bedding

The full bedding set includes a pillow, a thick blanket, a light blanket, and a mattress sheet. British Airways has really solid bedding nowadays.


British Airways The White Company bedding

A moment after settling in, one of the three flight attendants came by my seat to introduce himself, and to offer me an amenity kit and bottle of water for the flight.


British Airways The White Company amenity kit

British Airways business class bottled water

A moment later I was asked if I wanted a pre-departure drink, and I ordered a glass of champagne. I finished that glass pretty quickly, and was immediately offered a refill. The level of service on this plane really feels more like first class than business class.


British Airways business class pre-departure champagne

A few moments later I was also presented the menu, breakfast card, and drink list for the flight.


British Airways business class menu & wine list

By 6:25PM, just 10 minutes after boarding started, it was announced that boarding was complete. There were only 18 passengers on this flight (plus the two pilots and three flight attendants), so it sure was a private way to cross the Atlantic!

At 6:30PM it was announced that a passenger onboard had a severe nut allergy, so they asked people not to consume nuts on the flight.

Then a couple of minutes later Captain Barry added his welcome onboard. He informed us that we’d be taking off into the Southwest, and that our flight time would be 6hr45min.

At 6:40PM we began our pushback, at which point a manual safety demonstration was performed. Around this time the crew also came around to take meal orders. Since there were three flight attendants and only 18 passengers, there was one flight attendant for every six passengers.

15 people went straight to sleep, so there was truly a one-to-one service ratio… in business class!

At 6:45PM we began our taxi, and at 6:55PM we were cleared for takeoff. That has to be one of the shortest waits I’ve ever had in the evening at JFK on departure.

While our takeoff roll was really quick, our climb out was gradual and really, really bumpy. Like, really bumpy, and I’m not someone who is usually sensitive to turbulence.


View after takeoff from New York

Despite that, the seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff. Then it got even bumpier, and despite that the crew started their service. The turbulence persisted for about an hour, and it was probably the worst turbulence I’ve had in a couple of years.

Just 15 minutes after takeoff the crew distributed portable entertainment devices. The A318 doesn’t have built-in inflight entertainment, so instead they pass out iPads and headphones.

British Airways portable entertainment system

Funny enough they’ve built “stands” for the portable entertainment, but the iPads actually don’t fit. At least that’s what the flight attendant told me. Very odd.


British Airways portable entertainment system holder (in theory)

The entertainment selection was reasonably limited. There were about 15 movies and about 60 TV shows, so I’d recommend bringing your own entertainment if taking this flight.

British Airways entertainment selection


British Airways entertainment selection

Unfortunately British Airways doesn’t have wifi on the Club World London City service. That’s not an issue for the redeye, but for the daytime return that’s more of an issue, especially as British Airways now has wifi on many of their other aircraft.

Right after that the meal service began. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

20 minutes after takeoff drinks were served on a tray. Usually they’d serve nuts with it, but due to the allergy of a passenger, they didn’t. I had a glass of the New Zealand sauvignon blanc to drink, and some still water.

British Airways business class dinner — drinks

Just 25 minutes after takeoff the first course was served. This consisted of a tasty cream of mushroom soup with croutons, as well as a small salad and piece of bread.


British Airways business class dinner — soup and salad

Next up I ordered the antipasti plate, consisting of buffalo mozzarella, teardrop tomato salad, basil, roast beef, creamy mustard sauce, and grilled vegetables. It was also quite good.


British Airways business class dinner — appetizer

For the main course I ordered the grilled salmon with creamy spinach and sautéed root vegetables, which was also very good.


British Airways business class dinner — main course

Lastly for dessert I had the blackcurrant and lime dome.


British Airways business class dinner — dessert

The food quality was excellent, and the service was flawless and customized. Like I said, only three people were eating, so with a 1:1 service ratio, service was even better than I’ve ever had in British Airways first class. I was addressed by name with all interactions, and basically had one flight attendant taking care of just me.

I also appreciated how quickly the meal was served. My meal was cleared an hour after takeoff, and that’s in spite of the flight being really bumpy.

After the meal I checked out one of the lavatories. The A318 has two lavatories — one at the front and one at the back.

British Airways business class lavatory

The lavatories had basic amenities from The White Company.


British Airways business class lavatory amenities

I reclined my seat and slept really well. I love these types of seats when you have an empty seat next to you, because unlike some other seats, there’s no small footwell you have to squeeze your feet into.

British Airways Club World London City bed

I slept extremely well for about 4hr30min, and then woke up naturally about 80 minutes before landing.

Just as the dinner service was customized, so was the breakfast service, as most people slept right through it. Within a few minutes of waking up I was offered a drink. I ordered a cup of coffee and some water.

British Airways business class coffee

Here’s the breakfast card that I had filled out before going to sleep:

For breakfast I had a smoothie, greek yogurt with lime marinated banana, and the toasted panini with scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, and grilled bacon. I don’t eat bacon, so I just picked around it.


British Airways business class breakfast

One of the cool options that they have on this route is that you can basically get a “to go” breakfast, if you prefer to sleep in.

The cabin lights were turned on about 40 minutes before landing, at which point most people woke up. Around this time the captain also made an announcement informing us that we were to the northwest of Cardiff and that we’d be landing into the east at 6:35AM.

British Airways A318 cabin in the morning

About 10 minutes later we began our descent, and boy was it a bumpy one, just like our climb out. Despite that, the captain kept the seatbelt sign off until about 20 minutes before landing.

While the descent in general was rough, the last 10 minutes of the flight was even bumpier, as we were being thrown around like crazy — you could tell it was pretty windy.

View approaching London City


View approaching London City

The pilots really wrestled the plane down, and we had a very rough landing at 6:35AM. In fairness, City Airport has a short runway, so the rough landings aren’t too uncommon, since they have to get the plane down.

We then back taxied on the runway a bit, and five minutes later were at our arrival stand.

Taxiing London City

Arriving at stand London City

From there we deplaned via stairs, and were put on a short bus ride to the terminal. Since there were fewer than 20 passengers, immigration was a breeze.

British Airways A318 upon arrival in London City

While I didn’t use it, British Airways offers an arrivals service at the Radisson Blu Edwardian, which includes breakfast, a shower, access to the gym, shirt and suit pressing, wifi, and more.

Club World London City bottom line

I can’t believe I hadn’t taken this flight for almost a decade, because it’s such a treat. This flight is cool on so many levels — for the novelty, for the ease of boarding and deplaning, for the fact that it flies to London City (if that’s valuable to you), and for just how attentive the service is.

This is such a cute little plane, and crossing the Atlantic with so few passengers is almost surreal. These flights also have just about the best service you’ll find on any British Airways flight, given the great flight attendant to passenger ratio to begin with, and on top of that most people sleep.

I loved this flight, and can’t wait to take it again!

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Comments

  1. I love this flight…and also had the same salmon entree in Aug on a LHR flight and thought it was so delicious!

  2. @william
    UK customs doesn’t have many restrictions on what you can bring in from the US when it comes to food.

    You can take eggs, almost any fruit or vegetable (somewhat randomly, no potatoes, but other root vegetables, np!).

    Can’t take meat… but you can take… wait for it… up to a 50lb fresh fish!

  3. Menu does look exceedingly bland, however. Then again most of the passengers seemed to be as well.

    I wonder if they used to announce nut allergies on Concorde service or was that before nut allergies existed?

  4. Is there any way one can book LHR-JFK-LCY in one itinerary originating in London? The inbound flight seems so convinient, while the outbound not so much, especially given the stop in Shannon.

  5. @ Ben Holz — You sure can, just enter “LON” as the city code when booking, and all three London-area airports should show up.

  6. I’m thinking of recommending this flight to friends, wondering if you think a narrowbody on TATL even without the heavy chop you described is in general less smooth than a widebody? Of course the smaller plane has its advantages too in intimate feel and service…

    Thanks

  7. Are you, as they like to say on the VS forums, ‘ turning to the dark side’? ☺

    That’s a couple of BA reviews that weren’t horrible.

  8. Hey Ben – this is an interesting contrast to your post earlier today about wanting less service on short transatlantic hops in C. When push comes to shove, would you say you prefer the more attentive service, as long as it’s customized to your sleep preferences?

  9. It would be super cool if BA could offer this on a DCA routing – something of a super-perimiter exception.

    I know DC is not the NYC market and all, but 32 more C seats per day would not blow the yields out of whack. And folks on the westbound would happily tolerate the stop at SNN, clearing customs there, over the misery one must tolerate with any landing at IAD, bussing to customs, etc., etc.

  10. The A318 / A319 have a very stiff wing — and handle turbulence worse than the A320 and much worse than Boeings of similar size.

  11. As I fly to the UK on business from NY regularly, this is the flight I almost always take. It’s esp helpful when I am connecting to Glasgow, due to the insanely short passport control line. As anyone that has flown though Heathrow can tell you, the lines as passport control can be insane, even with the business/first class line.

    The menu does need a refresh though. The meal you had is the same one thats been there since the beginning of the year. I do usually skip the meal now, as I eat in the BA lounge before boarding.

    I do wish WIFI was available for this flight, as most folks taking it are business people. Otherwise, this is hands down the best BA experience.

  12. Flew the service in the other direction last year and loved it. Hope to do it again one day.

    The original tablet for the IFE on this service did fit in the arm. Then they changed to iPads…

  13. I love this flight. No more exclusive way to cross the Atlantic when flying commercial. The outbound stop in Shannon isn’t bad really, and is useful as you can pre clear immigration which is a real help at the other end unless you have a US passport/ global entry etc.

    I never had too much turblulence tbh. But as someone else noted the smaller busses are prone to it.

  14. Great review, always fascinated by the service.

    Was the soup not spilling everywhere with the turbulence? Surprised they served it.

  15. @Jfhscott I don’t think 318s have the legs to do SNN-DCA. It’s a about hundred mile further from Europe and SNN-JFK is already quite stretching it.

  16. I don’t see the value of LCY over LHR.

    They should do an all First class service to/from LHR.

    West London has always been West London, and you will reach Knightsbridge faster from LHR than LCY.

    LCY is advantageous for Canary Warf but that’s where the office juniors and clerks are posted. The real money is with the entrepreneurs/ceos in Mayfair/Knightsbridge/Kensington.

  17. The reason why the seats are different from any other BA J seats is that these seats are the ones that came with the plane and BA didn’t change them because they would have needed to certificate the usual CW seat for use on the A318 at some cost plus also the additional weight would have been an issue.

    I do like the CWLCY service but the BA02 is just too early a flight back for me as a leisure traveller and so I much preferred the later BA4 service but obviously that’s not an option now.

    BA aren’t going to operate this from LGA not when they have a full base at JFK with ground staff and lounges etc. Ditto with DCA when IAD is nearby.

    And I wish people would stop being so sniffy about it. LCY suits some people but not others. Personally I’d rather fly the CWLCY service than make the longer trek (for me) to LHR even though I’d get lounge access etc etc

  18. Ben, you should have got a seat on the right side to enjoy a better view of London during the approach 🙂

  19. I was on this flight with you (2A) … was a bit surprised that you thought that was worst turbulence you’d experienced in two years. Sure, it was difficult to sleep, but pretty normal bumps for a transatlantic crossing in the 318 when you fly across the jet stream as we did that night (and there were storms around southern Canada),

    For anyone worried about Ben turning into a BA fan, he has just taken the 747 upper deck and JFK-LCY, which are the only half decent BA business products. Avoid anything else.

  20. Are these more expensive business class fares over the traditional ones being that it’s almost like a private plane experience and flying directly into London City?

    I was hoping you’d cover how to book these seats using various miles/award tricks.

  21. Last time I flew business class with BA was back in 2012 – great to see how much they’ve upgraded the cabin and the seating arrangements. Looking forward to trying them again as soon as I’ve got enough Avios!

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