A Lovely British Airways Business Class Experience

FROM: LHR
TO: ATH
CABIN: Business
DATE: May 2021
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: Business Class on intra-Europe flights tend to be pretty underwhelming. However, this flight was a bit of a surprise as the service was fantastic and the plane had reasonably priced Wi-Fi and power ports.
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In the previous post I wrote about our frustrating misconnect at London Heathrow, due to a broken jet bridge. In this post I wanted to cover our connecting experience, including the British Airways Club Lounge at the airport, as well as our Club Europe experience from London to Athens, which was better than I was expecting.

I’ll keep this relatively brief, given that I’ve reviewed British Airways’ intra-Europe business class experience many times before.

British Airways’ impressive lounge service

While our original rebooking process at Heathrow was time consuming, the rest of the transit process was easy. Transit security took just a few minutes, and there were no further document checks. Terminal 5 at Heathrow was reasonably quiet — not dead, but also less busy than I’ve otherwise seen before (which is to be expected, since I hadn’t passed through the airport since the start of the pandemic).

London Heathrow Terminal 5

For our layover we had access to the British Airways South Galleries Club Lounge. Usually I’d have access to the British Airways Galleries First Lounge on account of my oneworld Emerald status, but I can only take one guest into that lounge. Since I was traveling with my mom and her partner, we “slummed” it in the business class portion of the lounge. 😉

The lounge had plenty of open seating areas. A lot of the furniture in the lounge had signs to ensure that people were properly spaced out. Rather oddly one portion of the lounge was fairly busy, while there wasn’t a single person in the back of the lounge. I’m not sure if people just didn’t know about this seating area, or…

British Airways Galleries Club Lounge seating
British Airways Galleries Club Lounge seating

While virtually all airlines have cut back service, British Airways has done a fantastic job with its catering concept at the moment. Everything in the lounge — from a bottle of water to a hot meal — is served by a staff member in the lounge. Each seat has a QR code (which really just links to t5s.yourmenu.cloud), and then it lists your table number as well.

British Airways’ QR code table system

Then you just enter your first name, table number, and the code of the day, to get started. Presumably the code of the day is needed so that no pranksters order a thousand things for someone who isn’t actually in the lounge.

British Airways’ lounge ordering system

Then there’s a huge menu of food and drink options, and a really easy system for placing orders.

Once an order is placed your food and drinks are brought to you in a matter of minutes. Upon arrival we had some cappuccinos and lattes to drink — a caffeine boost was needed after our issues with the previous flight.

British Airways Galleries Club Lounge drinks

Meanwhile my mom and her partner had champagne and a bloody mary.

British Airways Galleries Club Lounge drinks

I had yogurt with granola to eat shortly after getting to the lounge.

British Airways Galleries Club Lounge catering

Then later on we ordered an Indian vegetarian dish, along with afternoon tea.

British Airways Galleries Club Lounge catering
British Airways Galleries Club Lounge catering

Huge kudos to British Airways for this catering system. I almost hope it sticks around after coronavirus (though it won’t). It was incredibly seamless and well executed.

Making the best of a British Airways flight

Let me once again emphasize that our initial London to Athens flight was supposed to be operated by a Boeing 787-9, and we had managed to assign ourselves three of the eight first class seats. So below is what the seats were supposed to look like on our three hour flight.

The seats we were supposed to get between London and Athens

While below are what our seats actually looked like.

The seats we actually got between London and Athens

While that was an obvious (massive) downgrade, other than that I have nothing but good things to say about our flight. And that’s despite the fact that the business class cabin was huge, as it went all the way back to row 14 (since intra-Europe business class just consists of blocked middle seats, the cabin size can be changed with each flight).

Huge British Airways A321neo Club Europe cabin

Perhaps the only part of the experience that reminded me there was coronavirus was the strict back-to-front boarding, as well as the antibacterial towels handed out at the door of the aircraft.

British Airways antibacterial wipe

Otherwise it was an excellent A321neo flight. For one, the plane had both power ports and Wi-Fi, which was pretty awesome (as you can tell, I have very low standards for intra-Europe flights).

British Airways A321neos have power ports & Wi-Fi!
British Airways A321neo power ports

Wi-Fi was fast, and the pricing of 11.99GBP with no data caps seemed reasonable to me.

The amenities and food were as usual on this flight — there were pillows and blankets at each seat, and there was a full hot meal.

British Airways business class pillow & blanket

The meal service began with drinks and packaged mixed nuts.

British Airways business class drinks

There was a choice of two hot meal options — either a lamb shepherd’s pie or spinach gnocchi. I selected the latter. As you’d expect nowadays, everything was served wrapped.

British Airways business class lunch

Okay, the gnocchi was ridiculously cheesy, and the salad was comically small, but other than that the meal was quite good.

British Airways business class lunch

Seriously, what are we assuming the budget for this salad is? Bigger or smaller than United’s cabbage salad?

British Airways’ gourmet, bespoke, seasonal, organic salad

I also had a cup of coffee to accompany the dessert.

British Airways business class coffee

The truth is that what really made this flight great was the crew. I find British Airways crews to be extremely inconsistent — you have some crews that take themselves way too seriously, and you have other crews that are fun, friendly, and attentive, and this crew fit into the latter category.

I’ve never seen so much service provided on an intra-Europe flight. There were four flight attendants working Club Europe, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that they must have asked each passenger every 10 minutes if they wanted something else to drink. They almost didn’t take no for an answer. And even though they were presumably turning around in Greece and weren’t going on holiday there, they sure did a great job getting other people into vacation mode.

The flight attendant primarily taking care of my section was kind of hilarious. It was almost like performance art, and the best parallel I can drop is to Pam An, and it was kind of hilarious. It was definitely one of those situations where you “had to be there,” because it wouldn’t translate here. In addition to just generally engaging with passengers in an adorable way, he kept talking about how glamorous his job was — when he was picking up trash, putting on the life vest, etc.

But truly across the board all the flight attendants couldn’t have been lovelier. In general during coronavirus I’ve found that airline employees seem to have a new appreciation for passengers, and that very much came across in the service.

The highlight of the flight was finally approaching Greece, given our previous misconnect. We were thrilled to land in one of my favorite countries in the world the same day as originally scheduled, despite the irregular operations we dealt with.

View approaching Athens
View on final approach to Athens
Landing in Athens
A rather empty terminal in Athens

Our arrivals experience in Athens was super easy, and we were through in a matter of minutes.

Bottom line

While a far cry from the 787-9 first class seats we were originally supposed to enjoy, we had an excellent intra-Europe business class experience with British Airways.

British Airways’ current a la carte lounge ordering system is brilliant, perhaps the best modified lounge service we’ve seen in light of coronavirus.

And while intra-Europe business class is objectively kind of sucky, this was as good as it gets — the plane had Wi-Fi that was reasonably priced, power ports, decent food and amenities, and an exceptionally friendly crew that really wanted every passenger to have a great time. Where are the people who call me British Airways haters now? 😉

If you’ve flown British Airways recently and/or visited a British Airways lounge, what was your experience like?

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  1. GroeneMichel

    Nice review. Seems like there is some kind of bug with the new website, the letter i looks like it is capitalized even when it's not. Weird font maybe?

    1. VT-CIE

      The font is to blame. It’s a very low-contrast font that’s a pain to read on anything except a Retina or AMOLED display or the like. Maybe that’s why the capital letter I has serifs (lines) on the top and bottom to help you distinguish. But otherwise the font is nice, modern and attractive since I’m lucky enough to have a hi-res display.

    2. GroeneMichel

      Yeah I only noticed now reading it on my second screen at the office. I don't have the issue on my phone. Hopefully Lucky will take care of these kind of bugs in the upcoming weeks and months.

    3. TLS

      Reads perfectly fine on my LCD screen on my two year old Asus phone.

    4. TLS

      Not seeing that, maybe it's your device font?

    5. griffinpaul

      Yes I do not like the new font either. The small 'i's look like 'l's to me.

  2. Peer

    Great review. Can't wait to be in the air again in a few months.

    How was the legroom? Looks quite cramped (what wouldn't be too surprising, given that it's probably an Economy seat on most flights)

  3. John T

    4 crew for Club Europe?!? That's insane. There's usually only 1 or 2. They were probably in such a great mood because they were so well staffed.

    1. Ben

      @ John T -- There were probably technically only two or three, but given the limited service in economy, most of the crew was up in Club Europe within 45 minutes of takeoff. I've never seen an intra-Europe cabin so well staffed.

  4. Julia

    When holding Emerald status, Can you guest someone in the First lounge and then guest 2 other different people in the Business lounge?

    1. Ben

      @ Julia -- Nope, you can only get lounge access for one guest. However, since we were all in business class, we all had access to the Galleries Club Lounge.

  5. Creditcrunch

    Thanks for the review Ben, I miss the table that used to clip onto the middle seat, I hope they will reintroduce them at some point.

    1. DLPTATL

      @Creditcrunch, it's my understanding that most European carriers removed the middle-seat tray/drinks holder several years ago in order to reduce weight and fuel burn, not because of COVID. For this reason I doubt we'll see them make a come-back. Like you, I miss them, especially the ones KLM used to have with deep indentations (not quite cup holders) for beverages.

  6. Morethanabed

    A great service from the team goes a long way!

    I just flew LHR to SFO on Club World. My lounge experience was quite different as there were no seats available for the first 15mins of my visit and was jam packed the whole stay. Did appreciate the QR code food system.

    The best improvement on BA from my point of view is the DO&Co. Had great meals on board and a lovely flight attendant. No excuses for the old club world seat they’re still flying with though!!

  7. D3kingg

    I wonder if that 787 flight originally scheduled went out with an empty first class.

  8. JD

    I was so excited to fly BA's new Club Suite CPT-LHR in 2 weeks but they cancelled the flight! Huge bummer, so I pivoted and will be flying Qatar Qsuites now

  9. Bart

    For future reference: when flying into ATH if you are sitting port side you can see the old airport runway smack center of the evry densely populated southern suburbs. Probably won't last long since they are redeveloping that area.

  10. upstater

    The seating in Club Europe and economy looks like AA Oasis seating. At least it was 2-2. Having said that every club Europe flight I've had with BA, seating was 3-3 with the middle seat blocked. Such a shame you misconnected with the 787-9

  11. Harry_Hi

    You can't be sure that you'll be on a 787 on a trans Europe flight, especially when narrowbodies will also be on the route.

  12. lai chun him

    the gnocchi Looks like worms

  13. JW

    Proper glassware, when would our carriers learn. Germs spread whether on glass or plastic.

  14. GBOAC

    Ben, +1 for the reference to Pam Ann (she does spell it that way). Have you ever seen her live. A total hoot

  15. Si

    Ben - did you also receive ec 261 compensation assuming you arrived 3 hours later than planned?

    1. Peer

      CLT-LHR was operated by AA, so he probably isn't eligible for EU261 comp.

  16. Airfarer

    The Galleries lounge is usually a mess (no pun) and the offering eminently subpar. Nice to see what could be done.

  17. chrislz

    When I flew LHR to Athens in 2016, there was not even an inch of extra legroom. LH also had recently downgrade. Whereas Agean had more space.

    Anyone with an economics degree, if all the major US carriers offer more legroom, even in coach, why is it so hard for BA and LH to do same?

  18. Bagoly

    For getting hold of champagne in the lounge that's better than pre-Covid (when one had to flag down a member of staff in person)!

  19. Jesper

    That main course looks absolutely atrocious. Though probably pretty par for the course on BA.

  20. Per Helsinghoff

    Hey. HaHa. And there you are, thinking no-one listens to you, but YOU did, Ben - I'm the crew member who talked about picking up trash and it being glamourous. I remember the flight well. Thanks.

  21. Olivier Delestre-Levai

    I would love to comment on BA but... They have consistently cancelled my 7 reservations since the beginning of the year without offering any alternative on other airlines :-)

  22. Andyandy

    The absurd amount of waste created by the Covid "super safe wrap everything and then wrap it again" response has to be causing some serious cognitive dissonance on the left. Case in point. A single disinfecting wipe wrapped in a wrapper, then wrapped in a plastic bag many times its size. "TrUsT tHe ScIeNcE!!!" but also "DoN't yOu CArE aBoUt GaIa???"

  23. Andrew

    No way BA were ever going to operate a four class plane for Athens to London. Classic BA bait and switch.

    1. Adam

      Due to cargo loads, BA routinely (e.g., 1x day, or several times weekly) run widebodies on certain short haul routes from LHR.

  24. Clayton

    @adam it's also the best / cheapest way to keep both pilots and crews up to date on landing and flight hour requirements. They simply bung the thing on the busiest route. MAD has regularly seen a daily wide body during the summer over the years and then they just move them around based on load factor. Before MAD it was ( suddenly can't remember) and going back decades somewhere else.

    Totally agree @Ben...

    @adam it's also the best / cheapest way to keep both pilots and crews up to date on landing and flight hour requirements. They simply bung the thing on the busiest route. MAD has regularly seen a daily wide body during the summer over the years and then they just move them around based on load factor. Before MAD it was ( suddenly can't remember) and going back decades somewhere else.

    Totally agree @Ben that BAs crews are what keep me flying with them. I've been pretty lucky on good/ bad crew ratios and had some hilarious SH and LH flights even making actual friends ( as in see/ communicate with them outside of their job/ me flying) with several crew to this day. BA F is probably the most hit n miss. BA expect them to be a bit more stand off ish in F but if you can break those barriers down it's all the better.

    Would agree with that talking to CC who 'made the cut' it has generally given them a new / reinvigorated passion for the job. Well at least from my admittedly small sample size.

    Lastly on the whole QR/ Wait service thing. While I generally prefer to makey own drink to my own spec the general consensus amongst BA FF is that they think again of they think they're getting rid of it. Service has never been so good. I have to concede that BA will want to stop it but we'll at least raise bloody hell when they do even of it falls on deaf ears.

  25. Ofer desade

    Never fly BA again. Got me to miami 8 hrs late. Refused to take responsibility. Mess at heathrow unfathomable and endemic. Totally unapologetic. Took cover behind obscure legalities.

  26. William Niven

    Each to their own but the 321 NEO at the pointy end is as you say just seats with middle blocked. It's tight seating...and nothing compared to Aegian who served the route...that is proper Business class in a single aisle aircraft.

  27. Beth Greene

    The new appearance is quite annoying...

Featured Comments Load all 40 comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Kevin

Love the blog, but NOT the new appearance.

GroeneMichel

Nice review. Seems like there is some kind of bug with the new website, the letter i looks like it is capitalized even when it's not. Weird font maybe?

Adam

Due to cargo loads, BA routinely (e.g., 1x day, or several times weekly) run widebodies on certain short haul routes from LHR.

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