British Airways Improving Club Europe Catering

Filed Under: British Airways

As far as I’m concerned, there’s very little that’s redeeming about business class within Europe. For most airlines, business class within Europe is just economy with a blocked middle seat and better food and drinks (there are some exceptions, like Aeroflot, which actually offer a differentiated regional business class product).

For most airlines, intra-Europe business class keeps getting more uncomfortable, as airlines reduce seat pitch on short-haul aircraft, meaning that in some cases you’re in a business class seat with just 30″ of pitch.

In theory one advantage of flying in business class is that you get something to eat, though over time I’ve found that the quality of the food has decreased greatly. At least I’ve consistently found that to be the case on both British Airways and Lufthansa, which are the two airlines I fly most intra-Europe.

I have to commend Lufthansa for their unique ability to consistently serve snacks that I can’t identify. They don’t have menus, and I’m convinced they make a game out of serving mystery food. Meanwhile on British Airways it’s easy to identify their food, it just usually isn’t any good.

British Airways is investing in their premium cabin experience, somewhere to the tune of £4.5bn (at least that’s what they claim). At some point this will include new longhaul business class seats, though we’ve yet to see what they’ll look like. The airline has, however, introduced new catering in longhaul business class.

The airline has now announced the next phase of their catering improvements.

As of September 12, 2018, British Airways will be introducing new meals in Club Europe (the name of their intra-Europe business class). This will be available on flights to/from both London Heathrow and Gatwick as of that date.

The airline says that menus will now also change twice monthly for flights to/from Heathrow, rather than monthly, and that on longer flights within Europe there will be the choice of two hot options and one cold option.

Per the press release:

Carolina Martinoli, British Airways’ Director of Brand and Customer Experience, said: “We’ve been investing in our meals for customers – our new long-haul Club World menus are proving incredibly popular and we want to be able to replicate that quality and choice in our short haul Club Europe cabin too.

“Many of our fliers travel regularly so we think they’ll appreciate more variety and great quality ingredients. Our focus on provenance will also deliver seasonal dishes from around the British Isles.”

As well as enhanced food, the airline will also be refining the beverages on offer, with new wines served in quarter bottles and coffee provided by British speciality roaster, Union Hand-Roasted coffee.

I’ve gotta say, the pictures of the new food look excellent:

Of course that’s easy enough to do when you’re promoting the new food with a professional photographer. The real test will come when the new food is actually introduced next week, and we start to see firsthand how it is presented and tastes.

Bottom line

While the new catering looks great, I’ll withhold judgment until next week, when it’s actually available onboard, and we see real pictures and reports of what the food looks and tastes like.

While intra-Europe business class is nothing special, I do find that redeeming Avios for intra-Europe business class is a great value. A lot of people think it’s a waste, especially since I’m a oneworld Emerald, so I get lounge access, priority boarding, etc., anyway.

However, there’s almost always business class award availability, and business class doesn’t cost that much more, often just 3,750 additional Avios on short-haul off-peak flights out of London (which I value at ~50USD). I consider that to be well worth it for the extra shoulder space, as well as free snacks and drinks, especially when you consider that even on the shortest flights within Europe you’re typically seated for at least 90 minutes (usually significantly longer).

Do you think British Airways’ new Club Europe catering will be a significant improvement, or is this just marketing hype?

Comments
  1. No matter how much they “tart up” the food, no one could convince me that flying business class within Europe is not borderline insane. I can ( vaguely) understand points redemptions for J, but to pay…often 4 or 5 times the Y fare, in return for virtually nothing..is lunacy.
    So long as there’s priority boarding in economy, and somewhere to get a snack prior or to eat onboard, I’m happy to be down the back with the great unwashed.

  2. Ben – I think your numbers are off here. Club Europe is 2x Avios of Euro Traveller (ie 100% more, not 50% more), plus about 50% extra taxes/fees (assuming a Reward Flight Saver booking). So the difference is bigger than you suggest. Still worth it (to me at least, and I’m a BA Gold/OWE) but the difference is not negligible, especially when a short flight in Euro Traveller is so cheap on Avios (4,500, versus 9,000 in Club).

  3. @ Paolo — If paying I totally agree with you. However, I would note that in many cases the cost of intra-Europe business class is getting more reasonable. For example, the first route I pulled up was LHR-CDG for sometime in October, and for the same dates I saw 150USD roundtrip fares in economy, and 250USD roundtrip fares in business class. There it seems like it could be worth it.

  4. To be fair, sometimes business seems worth it, sometimes it doesnt. SAS intra eu (to be fair, no free middle seat is about 1.5x more. Booked a flights CPH-OSL-LHR where the diffrence was 80 vs 120. 40 euro to get 2x lounge acces seems worth it to me.

    And 200% milles.

  5. When flying shorthaul flights within Europe, the difference in cost for Club Europe vs economy for award tickets is only 4500 avios. Club Europe gives you priority checkin, access to the fasttrack security area, and access to all oneworld lounges (including Cathay Pacific and Qantas, both of which I have found to have very good food). If the difference is only 4500 avios I consider paying for Club Europe to be a no brainer.

  6. If it’s the same Do&Co catering as their current Club World, it’ll be pretty decent. I’ve only taken 3 BA flights in J since they changed the catering over, and it’s a huge improvement over what they’ve had in the past.

    Just don’t order the steak, since it’s still cooked until it’s leather.

  7. I think it is quite misleading to say CE on BA is so cheap. It is double the Avios with taxes capped at £50. İf you have status with one world, it really isn’t worth it at all for some mediocre food. If you are paying cash it is even worse, it is as rarely as cheap as people promote it as. You have to consider it in context to the cost of flying on competitors, including comparable economy products on low cost carriers such as easyJet which are very good, cost considerably less, offering direct flights and arguably have a better economy product than BA’s own now they have removed complimentary food there. It’s a false economy to compare the price to BA’s economy prices.

    My frustration with points bloggers is this is your job, so you are likely to be Avios rich or wanting to pick up TP’s etc as part of your role. But for most people with regular jobs, something like CE is very poor use the Avios you have earned.

  8. I always pay extra to fly business class within Europe, usually on Finnair but will use BA when I have no choice. I’ve always had a good experience with both of them, especially Finnair which is my favorite European carrier. I go out of my way to avoid Lufthansa, Air France, Swiss, Alitalia, and SAS. I agree with Lucky in that often times C-class within Europe isn’t all that expensive. To me, it’s worth it.

  9. I agree with Gregg. It’s worth it being in business class, having an empty seat next to one, getting a real breakfast early in the morning etc. To each his/her own.

    Glad to see the meals improving.

  10. I know BA gets a rough deal on this site, but for a business traveler, BA is just perfect. For long haul, their window seats (followed by aisle seats) are perfect for sleeping and the bed is better than many narrow reverse herringbone seats. The new White Company bedding is fantastic – the pillows are better than even QR. For Intra Europe – they offer decent meals and drink if you want. The LHR First lounge is perfect for a business passenger. The new catering across the board is far better than AA and in the end you have to appreciate that they serve their target market – the business traveler – well. I get off CX, AA and BA long haul flights more rested than just about any other (and that includes my favorite QR) – ready for work,

  11. @Paolo I end up in business class intra-europe just due to connecting on a longer itinerary. For example if I book IAD-LHR-CDG in C, then all legs will end up in C.

  12. I’ve had 2 Club Europe flights in the past week (LHR>PRG & CPH>LHR). Both had tasty in-flight meals with dessert. First was chicken salad and the second was tomoto caprese salad. The portions weren’t huge but it tasted fresh and hit the spot. Better than the damn snack basket American throws out on a 2 hr flight.

  13. I wouldn’t put CX or QR in the same breath as BA! For a business traveller where the ticket is paid for by their employer I am sure it is fine – but also lazy. It isn’t unfair the criticism BA get precisely because they charge a lot for sub-par product so represents poor value for money. Now I am not oppose to BA charging a premium for a premium product – you will see that is possible as Singapore Airlines has done, they are seldom anywhere nearest the cheapest airline to fly even in economy (in some cases when a QR sale is on you can fly for QR business for the price of SQ economy!) – but people pick their product because it is genuinely worth the value given the high standards. This can’t be said about BA – but BA has a big monopoly on transatlantic flights and a lot of incumbent legacy corporate deals that have kept it going without having to innovate, a market where they have even worse competition in the US carriers. Where they actually have to compete, which is generally long-haul eastwards from the UK, BA ends up coming across as a very poor product given what they charge…

  14. (I would also add we have to remember BA was once “the worlds favourite airline” as they famously put it – this isn’t the case at all anymore, especially with slashing of routes cut a few years ago, they don’t even have a comprehensive network outs of their North American destinations. This is absolutely because of the poor value proposition flying BA on a particular route meant.)

  15. I always pay the premium (in Avios) for a seat in Club Europe on my quarterly trip home to NCE. I find the food on BA Club Europe decent and I liek they still serve you champagne. Makes those two hours go by so much faster!

  16. Air France does this marketing trick where every six months or so they “test” the short or medium haul menu in a back corner of one of their 2F lounges. They (or rather, their “catering partners”) sit you down, bring you the regular (Schengen) lounge wine, which is pretty decent, while they pull the food from the cart, heat up what needs to be heated, and serve you. Supposedly, they were looking to eliminate three meals out of nine. But somehow I suspect the whole exercise was to push their design language for their food: afterwards, the questionnaire asked us to qualify the various parts according to the spectrum of classic-contemporary -comfort-exotic, and sure enough, all nine meals were conscious compositions of them.

    But yeah, damn tasty. So maybe their marketing worked. Just trying to figure out which flights might feature such a meal.

    Also did a European KL business breakfast after coming in on the KSEA-EHAM DL flight a few weeks ago. The Dutch breakfast beat the American one (10 hours in the galley probably didn’t help).

    Now, if they could just do decent seats.

  17. I am flying BA Club Europe ZRH – LCY. I wonder if the new menus will be available on flights into London City on the Embraers?

  18. Looks better then the first meals I had on BA this summer. Their club Europe meals have been horrible especially on longer roots such as heathrow to Athens or Istanbul.

  19. When you’re a BA Gold or something similar and do have access to the exit row for free it’s much better to book the cheaper Eco ticket and have more space than in Business Class.

  20. The reason BA and other airlines get away with this sub par Intra -Europe business class b.s. is that most of the passengers utilising the service are not paying ,they are actually on business and their companies are picking up the bill.The cost differential is not so prohibitive between J and Y as to prevent decent companies forking out, even if it is for a modicum of improvement in comfort/service.

  21. From a different perspective as a Canadian I always use Club Europe flying into LHR from Europe as it allows me to use fast track. The only other European carrier to do this is Aeroflot. Try using AF or KL into terminal 4 after 3 A380’s of Emirates, Ethiad and Qatar have arrived if you don’t have a passport from a European country. Cool your heels for a couple of hours

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