British Airways A320 Club Europe Review
Updated: 3 days ago
I initially published this review a few years ago based on a flight I took from Prague to LHR. Outside of meal service, Covid protocols and Wi-Fi most is still accurate today (well outside of those there isn't much left ;)). I have flown Club Europe (BA's name for Business Class) on the A320 (and A319 & A321) several times since this flight (PRG again, plus DUB - LHR, LHR - AMS, BUD - LHR and IST - LHR) with the most recent flight being last month (April 2022) between Heathrow & Munich. Most of the photo's I will include will not be from the initial flight, but from more recent flights. I will keep the information as it relates to Prague as that is still accurate, plus their service in Club Europe is the same throughout Europe (except Moscow, if that ever returns).
British Airways flights depart out of Terminal 1 (non-Schengen flights) at Prague's Vaclav Havel Airport (formerly known as Prague Ruzyne International Airport). There is a dedicated line for Club Europe and Executive Club elite members at PRG (as well as other airports) which made check-in quick for my mid-day flight. Passport control was equally as speedy which left me plenty of time to relax in the Menzies Aviation Lounge, which BA uses for Business Class passengers and Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members. Despite not having the best selection of food, the lounge was very nice with friendly staff, great views of the runway, ample drink selections (both alcohol and non-alcohol), and a few new computers. Free Wi-Fi was also available. At the Istanbul Airport, BA Business Class passengers and Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald can use the IGA Lounge. This is a very nice lounge and while they had a large food selection, I am sure it was even more substantial prior to the Pandemic (Oct 2021). In Budapest, BA uses the Platinum Lounge. Small, but nice. Similar to Prague's Menzies Lounge. Munich has a very nice new lounge in Terminal 1 that BA uses (along with several other airlines) called Airport Lounge World. Of course, BA has several Lounges in Terminal 5 at LHR. Flying in Club Europe will get you Lounge access at most airports in Europe (either BA Lounge or contracted Lounge). Oneworld Saphire and Emerald passengers also can use the priority lane at check-in. Oddly, on my two most recent flights (MUC & IST) the agent did not put priority tags on our bag. I was told by the agent at IST that they are no longer needed to expedite delivery of your bag. From IST we connected to DFW and our bags were one of the first to arrive at baggage claim. However, from MUC we connected on BA to SAN and there were plenty of priority tagged bags which were first to arrive at baggage. Ours arrived after the tagged bags. Maybe bags are only tagged leaving Heathrow and for "safety reasons" other locations no longer attach tags ;)
I forgot that security at PRG is conducted at each gate prior to entering the gate area. So, the 20/25 minutes I gave myself turned out to be cutting it a little close. It also meant there was no wait at security. I was one of the last passengers to board and luckily the cabin was only half full, so there was plenty of room in the overhead for my rollaboard suitcase. I was seated in 1F (same from MUC to LHR on A319), the bulkhead window seat. Like most European Airlines short and medium-haul (intra-Europe) Business Classes, British Airways can adjust the size of the Club Europe cabin based on load factors. On this flight rows 1 through 5 comprised Club Europe, on the A319 from MUC rows 1 - 4, LHR to MUC on an A321neo rows 1 - 6 and on the flight from IST to LHR 9 rows were designated as Business Class. I sat in 3D on the neo and my wife & I sat in 5 D&F from IST on an A320. Most flights I flew were not full and the A320 has decent size overheads so plenty of room for a carry-on. The A319's overhead is a little less generous (agent in MUC tried to discourage a member of my party from carrying on a small roller-board - it fit no problem) and the new A321's overheads while generous, are not as large as American Airlines neo's new overheads where you can place your bag on its side (and thus fitting way more bags). As a side note, like flights to the US out of Istanbul there is extra security at the gate for UK flights which can take a considerable amount of time. The seats are the same as Euro Traveller (17 inches wide and a pitch of 30 inches) and are in the traditional 3 x 3 configuration. The only difference is that the middle seat is not sold in Club Europe and on some aircraft there is a removable tray table in-between each Club Europe seat.
The Bulkhead provides a little more knee room, but not as much room to fully extend your legs. The flight from Prague and other flights I have sat in the Bulkhead were much more comfortable than the flights I did not. Partially because those flights were not full and were all 2 hours or under, but on a fully booked 3.5 hour flight (like IST) you would hope for a more comfortable seat in Business than an Economy Class seat. The one downside of the bulkhead is the armrest is solid and does not raise because it houses the tray table, thus making the seat slightly narrower. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the seat recline is limited so no worries of the seat coming into your lap if seated in a non-bulkhead seat. If the flight was empty, I would prefer a non-bulkhead seat, but if full, then the bulkhead.
Currently hygiene wipes are offered to all passengers upon boarding. Other than this there was no other interaction with the flight attendants until after take-off as BA does not serve a pre-departure drink. This isn't because of "safety concerns" due to Covid, I have never received a pre-departure drink on any of the intra-Europe flights (except Moscow) I've taken. This doesn't personally bother me that much as I have usually had something to eat and drink in the lounge, But, I can see this upsetting some people. The cabin interior was the same on all aircraft. Smart looking dark grey leather seats with small headrests which made for a modern and fresh look. In Club Europe there were protectors over the headrests and a curtain to separate the cabins. There were no blankets or pillows on most flights but were available upon request. The exception being the flight from IST where there was a sealed blanket at the seat. I was surprised for such a new looking product that there was no power plugs or USB ports at the seat. That is until this past week (good thing I waited to finish this review after this latest trip :)). Both the A321neo and the A319 to and from MUC had power ports (both plug and USB). So my guess is they are slowly installing them on their A319, A320 & A321's. Be aware, they only give a charge after take-off and end a little prior to landing.
At the time of my initial review Wi-Fi was not available and the only entertainment was a small screen that came down over the seats that was primarily used for the safety demonstration (unfortunately because of different safety protocols due to Covid they no longer use their very funny safety video) and a moving map (but only showed that for the final 30 minutes of the flight). There was no audio either, so I guess you could not really use the overhead monitors for anything else. The flight from IST did not have overhead screens pop down, nor did my most recent MUC flights. But all other flights I took did. The one aspect that has changed since my initial review is British Airways now has Wi-Fi. It is provided through .air and was £2.99 for texting or £7.99 for browsing and streaming for the entire flight (over 3 hours from IST and about 2 from BUD). On the Munich flights messaging was £1.99 for full flight while the browsing & streaming option was £4.99/hr or £6.99/flight. The Budapest flight had a Netflix option, but I think that was a different Wi-Fi program (3 years ago). I know I did not access any entertainment so it may have been for people that subscribe to Netflix. On these latest flights there was not an option to access entertainment other than to stream your own. I did purchase Wi-Fi from IST and MUC (£7.99 is very reasonable for 3 hour flight) but not sure how easy or fast it is to stream any entertainment as I did not try. The browsing speed was actually good. You can access BA's High Life magazine from the .air home page as well as the buy on board menu for Economy Class passengers.
Outside of some recent staffing problems that has caused several cancelations (both mine and my family's flights to Munich were canceled - I took next flight but they had to spend the night in London) all flights were on time. Shortly after take-off the flight attendant would hand out a hot towel. However, since Covid, hot towels were not given (no hot towels in Club World either). My guess is like many airlines BA will be slow to return to normal Club Europe service using the pandemic as an excuse to cut costs. So, things like hot towels may not be back for a while. In addition, menus have also disappeared. Prior to 2020 menus were given on most flights. After take-off drinks and a small package of mixed nuts (which were quite good) were served. This was my description of my meal on initial review five years ago "Lunch was served by cart (without beverages). There were two choices; Salad with Prawn Skewers (the flight attendant would remove the prawns onto the salad at your seat) or Chicken Parmesan with Gnocchi. The flight attendant asked for my choice by my name (which I thought was a nice touch) and offered a nice selection of breads. I opted for the Chicken Parmesan and Gnocchi which I enjoyed very much. The meal was not only tasty, but nice and hot. The presentation of the entire meal was simple, but appetizing. The dessert was also very good (light and refreshing). There were three flight attendants serving this flight and a second flight attendant came to offer tea after the meal service had been completed. For a 1 hr 45 min flight, I was very impressed with the meal service". Unfortunately, none of the meals on flights I have taken since then have impressed as much as this meal (and I can not find the photo of that meal) other than the English Breakfast option, which I've always liked. Ironically, my initial review was before BA switched to Do&Co for their catering which you would have thought would have been an improvement with on-board meals. It is not that the meals are bad, just not as good as they used to be or maybe just not as good as that initial meal. On a subsequent flight from Prague a year later an English Tea Lunch was served (pictured below), On my most recent flight from Munich (and one a couple years earlier - bottom photo) a hot (more like warm) sandwich was served. The other option from MUC was a Prosciutto Dish. From Budapest there were three options and what felt like a more substantial serving; Baked Risotto (pictured below), Cod or a Tikka Chicken Salad. I've had the Breakfast a number of times and was essentially the same whether it was from DUB to LHR or from IST. The only difference was the croissant was in wrapping from Istanbul (during the pandemic). I never understood how serving bread in a plastic wrap promoted safety. On my most recent flights bread was once again served from a basket. To MUC the only options were a cold meal. A Quinoa Salad or Coronation Chicken. As a person that likes hot meals this was disappointing, but within the last week or so (May 2022) I have seen people post (on social media) a nice Braised Beef dish with Mashed Potatoes to Warsaw and a Fish to a destination I can't remember but was less than 2 hours from Heathrow. Both these meals looked like a significant upgrade from what I have received during Covid. Hopefully this is a sign that BA is moving away from their Covid catering and I am looking forward to trying one of these meals in the future (should be Sept 2022 - I will update this review then)
Despite the initial lack of interaction, the flight attendants were almost always pleasant and helpful. In fact, more so than I've experienced in Club World. Particularly on the flight from Munich last month. What was interesting about that is it was the week that the UK did not mandate masks. So, while we had to wear masks to MUC it was not required back to London. I felt like the crew could relax and let their personalities came out. They even invited my nephew and myself to visit the cockpit after we arrived in Heathrow. All announcements were only made in English, and a few automated messages in Czech, German etc. If you like to enjoy the view, try to sit on right side of the airplane to LHR. If you get lucky and the weather is clear you will be treated with a great view of London approaching Heathrow.
On my initial review we arrived at Terminal 3. I thought due to Covid and the reduction of their schedule BA had consolidated all their operations out of Terminal 5 (both MUC and IST flights operated out of T 5). But upon further review they still use Terminal 3 for several flights. I just checked and the Prague flights still depart and arrives into Terminal 3 as does the Oslo and Naples flights to name a few. As I was checking flights, I also noticed they are still canceling a number of flights which I assume is still due to staffing issues. They do have a Galleries First and Club Lounge in Terminal 3 located in Zone F. While you always need to go through security when making a non domestic connection at Heathrow, having to transfer£2.99 for texting or £7.99 for browsing and streaming for the entire flight (over 3 hours from IST and about 2 from BUD). On the Munich flights messaging was £1.99 for full flight while the browsing & streaming option was £4.99/hr or £6.99/flight. The Budapest flight had a Netflix option, but I think that was a different Wi-Fi program (3 years ago). I know I did not access any entertainment so it may have been for people that subscribe to Netflix. On these latest flights there was not an option to access entertainment other than to stream your own. I did purchase Wi-Fi from IST and MUC (£7.99 is very reasonable for 3 hour flight) but not sure how easy or fast it is to stream any entertainment as I did not try. The browsing speed was actually good. You can access BA's High Life magazine from the .air home page as well as the buy on board menu for Economy Class passengers.
I have finally gotten over my disappointment of flying Business Class on European airlines in seats that are the same as Economy Class seats. It is what it is and only Turkish Airlines, S7 & Aeroflot (that I know of) have the larger 2x2 seats that are similar to US Domestic First Class seats. So, I have learned to focus on the good things flying Club Europe. The blocking of the middle seat does provide some extra room, privacy and storage space. An even greater benefit is the cabins are almost never full (of the 50 or so intra-European flights I have taken in Business Class the last 25 years, only a handful were full) and flying on a plane with a nice interior and a clean lavatory (with The White Company soap and lotion), receiving attentive service, and most importantly to me an enjoyable meal, makes up for the seat width and pitch. The majority of my flights on British Airways in Club Europe have been enjoyable. The only thing I would take issue with is the lack of entertainment options.
*** A quick update. My wife and I flew from LHR to FCO this past October (2022) and everything I reviewed is still the same (flight cancelations have waned) except BA has slightly upgraded their Club Europe meals (menu has returned as well). Below is a photo of their Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Pie from that flight.