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July 24, 2015 / oneworld82

Europe for business. British Airways Club World DFW-LHR on a B77W

Traveling for work can either be tedious or fun. It depends on a lot of factors, including (but not limited to) destination, hotels, airlines, and attitude. I personally love traveling for work, even now that I am on a forced consulting-like schedule that brings me to New York every week and to Europe rather often.

As you can imagine, being in Midtown for the week with all meals expensed isn’t that bad. Drop in a few business class flights on different carriers to Europe here and there, and we have a winner.

So, the madness started a few weeks ago, with a two-days work trip to London, right after Memorial Day. My outbound flight was booked on British Airways, on its nonstop DFW-LHR flight, in Club World, which I had flown before around three years ago. My experience had been pretty positive then, and I was looking forward to fly this product again.

After my quick two days near the airport and a quick jaunt to Covent Garden, I flew back to Dallas on American Airlines 77W Business Class – a flight that reinforced my idea that AA has lined up a very strong product in this segment.

Then, only a few weeks after, I would have to fly to Madrid for some more meetings. This time I would leave from JFK, since I was in New York for work. I would fly Iberia Business Class on its A340-600, spend a couple of days in this hellishly-hot city, and then flew back home. Only that I would not fly back home directly, but I would fly to Paris on IB business class before burning some miles on Qatar Airways to try its new First Class product on the A380; from there, a short two hour connection and back we’d go to PHL on Qatar Airways Business Class.

Some people think I am crazy for flying so much, so often. And perhaps they are right. But to me, flying long-haul business and first class is actually rather relaxing. Of course, in late July I and my wife will be relaxing on a (honeymoon) cruise in the Southern Caribbean. But that’s entirely another story.

Flight BA 192, DFW-LHR

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Business Class, Seat 13G

18:00 – 09:15a+1

After a relaxing and uneventful Memorial Day weekend (mostly due to heavy rain in Dallas), I was ready to go to London for a few business meetings. As I mentioned earlier, I was rather excited to fly Club World again and to compare it with American Airlines’ new Business Class. My flight was delayed about 1h30m today, mostly due to bad weather. I spent most of the waiting time on the phone in the British Airways lounge at LHR – the same lounge that Emirates and Qantas use before their flights. The lounge was fairly packed, but finding a seat was not an issue. On offering today were a selection of sandwiches, sweets, and soups. Nothing fancy, but definitely nothing too bad while waiting for an hour or two for a flight. Also, (rather cheap) wines, beers, spirits, soft drinks, and hot beverages were offered.

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As the lounge staff was already switching to Qantas’ for the later QF departure to Sydney, boarding was called for our flight and so I proceeded to the gate (D16).

Upon boarding the aircraft the polite and neatly-dressed BA crew welcomed me onboard and directed me to my seat. While many people don’t like British Airways’ Club World configuration of front- and back-facing seats, I must say that I like it, even though at eight seats abreast it means that seat width is somewhat more limited than on other carriers (it did not bother me, though).

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Club World seats are fairly private and comfortable. I like the small drawer built into the pod by the feet, as it’s always useful to have somewhere where to store small items; and I like the lighting (and light details) of the seat. Also, the TV screen rotates vertically, improving video quality if you are trying to watch TV in bed mode.

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After settling down (and after most of the customers had boarded the plane), the FA came around offering pre-boarding drinks. I couldn’t, of course, refuse a glass of Taittinger.

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We took off about 1h35m late, but the captain said we’d make up most of the lost time and that we’d land in London about on time. Ascent to cruising altitude was a bit choppy, which slowed down dinner service a bit. Once turbulence disappeared, hot towels were brought to customers and a first round of drinks was offered (more Taittinger for me) with some packaged Kenya nuts. I do not know why BA doesn’t offer mixed nuts warm and in a nice ramekin like AA does – presentation is just better that way. About 15 minutes afterwards, dinner started.

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Appetizer was chilled smoked salmon – good but not great. The main problem I have with cold appetizers is that, too often, they are served too cold, which detracts from the overall flavor of the dish. This dish was no exception, as it should have been taken out of the fridge a good 15 minutes earlier than it had. In any case, it wasn’t bad – the salmon was very fresh. A choice of bread was also offered with the appetizer, and the tray came with a side salad and butter.

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As main course I had decided to try the fillet. Now, I know this was stretching it, especially because beef is usually not great in first class – let alone in business class. As it could have easily been expected, this dish was a mild disaster, as the sauce/juice was too runny/hot and the meat was overcooked.  The accompanying mashed potatoes and broccolis were better, but not enough to (alone) save the dish. One good thing: BA offers mustard to go with the steak – a nice thing indeed. I wish I had opted for the vegetarian option though…  I accompanied this dish with a glass of Rioja red, which was neither bad nor good.

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The dessert was a partial redeemer, as I had a cheese platter featuring some good cheddar and stilton, served with oatcrackers and date “jelly”. Of course, you as you might already know by now, I love cheese – so any dish like this one is a winner in my eyes!

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During dinner I tried watching a movie, but the IFE selection wasn’t great so I switched to a few Season 8th episodes of the Big Bang Theory. After dinner though I just put my seat in bed position and I dozed off for about 4 hours. In fact, I woke up right when the crew was turning the lights on for breakfast. I had a decent rest, but not spectacular. I know I will sound spoiled to many here, but business class isn’t first class for a reason! J

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About one hour before landing breakfast was served. It consisted of some strawberry preserve, a choice of bread, and then a bacon roll (one of my favorite breakfast airlines food ever). I had some coffee and some orange juice with it, and overall it was an alright breakfast – I certainly like American Airlines’ omelettes better!

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We landed ~15 minutes beyond schedule, and I was soon on my way to the office.

So, how was my second experience on British Airways Club World? It was good. Was it as good as I remembered it? Well, no. Since then I have flown many first class products and some top notch business class products, so perhaps that helped me put everything into perspective. But this remains a solid business class product. The seat is private and comfortable, the service is great, and the drinks selection is above par. But food could be better and the lack of all aisle-access is somewhat a drawback.

Overall, I would not hesitate to fly Club World again, but if I had to chose between CW and AA’s new business class I’d probably go for AA. When it comes to First Class, though, BA has still the edge.

My two days in London went by quickly. I stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Heathrow – not a bad property if you have meetings near the airport, with a good buffet breakfast and a good size room.

I did make it to Covent Garden my second night there – it’s always nice visiting that part of the city. We had a work dinner at Brasserie Blanc that – despite a great rooftop location – offered a poor, overpriced meal.

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