British Airways A350 Club Suite has been flying on crew training flights for couple of weeks now. After the initial hiccup with my plans to fly the new BA A350 on the first week of launch, I finally got to test out.
This is not a normal review, as I won’t focus on the service. I took the test flights from LHR-MAD-LHR. So in all had roughly 5 hours in total to test out the new Suites. There was a frenzy of excitement all around. From crew and passengers alike.
British Airways A350 Club Suite
First up lets start with some pics before we dive into the key points of note.
There is no denying the Club Suites is a huge step up from the previous iteration for space and storage. The seats feel more open from shoulder level down to everywhere else. The number and utility of the storage spaces for personal belongings is welcome. Product felt roomy in whichever position I was in.
While there was nothing particularly disagreeable about the aesthetics of current Club World seats, the Club Suites feels like an appropriate refresh. In a contained, understated way. Overall, there is a sense of style befitting of Britain’s flag carrier.
Evidently considerable thought has gone into the design and make of the seats. There are many details that add to this, from the choice of fabrics, stitching on the seat possibly resembling a comfy sofa at home to the finishing and sliding tray table which feels robust yet effortlessly disappears under the IFE when not needed.
The IFE itself was responsive, intuitive and looked smart.
Well gone are the seats were you have are almost uncomfortably close and face to face with a stranger. We finally have the level of privacy you would expect for a premium business carrier. With the standard 1-2-1 seating. Unless travelling with a companion, you will most likely want a window seat. But if not, the middle seats have a good partition too.
This goes hand in hand with the space issue, but the quality of the fittings and fabrics and finishes matter. The seats feel very well padded/cushioned, both in seating mode, lounge and bed mode. This is even more noticeable in the fully upright mode for take-off/landings, where there was still an ever so slight angle to be comfortable.
You have effective seating and lighting controls. Being able to adjust your own lights in a vital element to comfort too. Furthermore, though the A350’s are relatively quite, the use of felt to dampen any noise from within the cabin would be much appreciated.
Seat/Tray table alignment
During the meals service, there comes a point where the tray table is fully extended and the seat cannot move further forward, creating a gap where I felt I had to sit more towards the edge of the seat to be in the right alignment to the food. Not sure if this is just me being a shorty or this could affect more people.
Fixed foot-stall positioning
Similarly, when lounging, due to greater space and being a 5ft”7 frame, I could not really put my feet up in the footstall in the front unless I reclined the seat substantially were it comes forward. Its a shame the foot-stall cannot be moved forward to aid this for those who need it.
Half baked Door
The addition of a door has added to much of the buzz around this product. The execution of this of however leaves you to wander if it makes much difference at all. For one, the product feels quite private anyway. When you are seated upright and have the doors shut, you can still see out, and thus anyone seated across from you can look in, if they happen to be looking that way. Off course Qatar also has doors in QSuite where this is not the case and the crew can still keep watch for serving you.
I feel like the door was more of an design afterthought, where it does not really add much other than when you are sleeping perhaps. Yet on some suites testing them seemed like they were not the most sturdy or of solid build. This could create service issues and delays for take-off.
Lack of live camara feeds
One of the great things about aircraft like A350 and A380 is they come equipped with onboard cameras. Airlines such have Qatar Airways have utilised this future for benefit of customers by feeding it into their entertainment systems. BA decided to opt out of that is a shame.
BA First Class
The launch of the Club Suites has naturally drawn comparisons and the status of BA’s First Class. Rumour has it BA is looking to update the First Class product, along the lines of the 787 First Seats (launched only in 2015).
As things are, I would say (even if service being equal, which will not be) I still would prefer the the 787 First hard product. It’s more spacious still, the IFE is much bigger and storage more substantial. In bed mode, your legs and shoulders feel unrestricted.
If the First update includes a door (which it should) I would like BA to do that with somewhat more conviction than what they’ve achieved with the Club Suite.
Overall, obviously the hits weigh far more significantly that the misses. Personally I would say British Airways A350 Club Suite is superior to Finnair’s or even Cathay Pacific A350 business product or Emirates A380 (minus the bar, that is just too good!). At last, BA may be in with a chance to reclaim the bygones of the “World’s Favourite Airline” era. Now, it would almost all be down to actual service and soft product going forward. That will determine where BA ranks in terms of overall business product.
I found an interesting take on this suite from Noel at InflightVideo, who found the seat quite narrow on sleep mode (he has a bigger frame to squeeze in! ). I can’t say I thought there was anything Ikea like about the product though, besides the somewhat flimsy light door 🙂
I will await further long-haul route announcement before I book this product again to really put it through its paces and test sleep quality and any space issues when trying to sleep.
So what are your thoughts? Did I miss anything out?
Disclaimer: Copious amounts of champers may have been consumed before and during these flights!