4 Flyers, 4 Cabins, 1 Flight: British Airways’ Best Class of Service
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That’s right, it’s finally time to announce the best of BA.
Four members of the TPG UK team recently flew from London Heathrow (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) on the same British Airways flight, one person in each of the four of the legacy carrier’s classes: First, Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy). We didn’t just do it for laughs — we wanted to compare each of our experiences to really understand the key differences between each of the cabins. Is the crew in World Traveller more rushed and less personable than in first class? Is the extra recline and footrest in World Traveller Plus really worth the extra cash? Is British Airways’ food ever good?
Well, we can shed light on all of that and much more. By the end of this guide, you’ll know exactly which BA class is right for you.
First Class: 68,000 Avios + £374
Club World: 50,000 Avios + £374
World Traveller Plus: 26,000 Avios + £321
World Traveller: 13,000 Avios + £192
First Class: 85/100
Club World: 77/100
World Traveller Plus: 81/100
World Traveller: 74/100
Surprised? Yeah, I was too. You’d expect that the more you pay, the better the food, seat, service and overall experience, right? Almost.
First did come out top and World Traveller bottom, but World Traveller Plus scored higher than Club World. How is that even possible? Let’s explore in more detail ….
First Class: 9/10
Club World: 8/10
World Traveller Plus: 6/10
World Traveller: 6/10
Either you hate airports and arrive with just enough time to spare for check-in and security, or you love the magic of the airport and arrive early enough for preflight drinks, planespotting and watching the world go by. As someone in the latter camp and flying Club World, I had access to three of British Airways’ lounges: Galleries North, Galleries South and B gates. UK director of content Nicky Kelvin‘s first-class experience just pipped me to the post, probably thanks to the private cabana, à la carte menu and dedicated dining room in the Concorde Room.
UK general manager Christian Kramer and UK head of video Jean Arnas didn’t have any lounge access with their respective World Traveller Plus and World Traveller tickets, but they both considered their experience to be above average despite the lack of access, hence their scores of 6 out of 10. Paying for a Club World or first-class ticket just to have access to an airport lounge really isn’t worth it on its own, but rather it’s a nice little bonus on top of the inflight benefits that come with the price tag.
Cabin and Seat
First Class: 20/25
Club World: 20/25
World Traveller Plus: 22/25
World Traveller: 20/25
When it comes to aircraft seating, it’s all about expectations: If you’re flying in a premium cabin, you’ll get the luxury of being able to lie flat and get some proper sleep. The opposite is to be expected of economy, you know you’ll be spending several hours sitting upright with not much space — but that doesn’t mean that it has to be a totally unpleasant experience.
Our flight to Abu Dhabi was a prime example of this, as the ratings we gave for the cabin and seat were pretty good whether we were in the nose of the 777 or down back in economy. First, Club World and World Traveller all scored 20 out of a possible 25 points. Across the board, that shows good value for money. Despite the aircraft’s ripe 21 years of age, the cabins felt clean and fresh, but the seating and style could do with a bit of modernisation.
The highest score went to World Traveller Plus. Christian felt that the extra 7 inches of seat pitch and the addition of a functional yet clunky footrest made for a significantly improved experience over World Traveller. This was also a daytime flight, leaving at just after 1pm, so a lie-flat bed wasn’t necessary to be comfortable.
Amenities and Inflight Entertainment
First Class: 12/15
Club World: 10/15
World Traveller Plus: 13/15
World Traveller: 10/15
For some people, inflight entertainment can be an important deciding factor when deciding which airline to fly, especially if you’re flying long-haul. For others, flying means just trying to cram in as much sleep as possible. On this occasion, we were all pretty happy with the IFE, as there was more than enough to choose from for a seven-hour flight. The Wi-Fi also received a big thumbs up, as, despite only a moderately fast connection, we all managed to chat and send emails without any issues.
World Traveller probably ranked the lowest because there was no special amenity kit like in the First, Club World and even World Traveller Plus cabins, and Jean felt that the pillow and blanket that he got in World Traveller were of poor quality. I also scored the Club World cabin 10 out of 15 thanks to the outdated, laggy IFE screen. The touchscreen element was frustrating, and the moving map had no tailcam or modern features. There was also no gate-to-gate entertainment, because the screen had to be stowed for taxiing, takeoff and landing.
For the second time, World Traveller Plus ranked highest overall. Christian really liked the responsiveness of his comparatively modernised screen, the abundance of charging ports and the small but useful amenity kit. A very close second was Nicky’s First experience — what’s not to love about a sleek Liberty of London-branded pouch full of goodies?
Food and Beverage
First Class: 21/25
Club World: 15/25
World Traveller Plus: 20/25
World Traveller: 15/25
In this golden age of flying, airlines are really pulling out all the stops to make the inflight dining in premium cabins as close as possible to dining on the ground in Michelin-starred restaurants. British Airways often come under scrutiny for their subpar onboard meals but have recently made efforts to improve this image, especially in its First, Club World and World Traveller Plus cabins.
What did we think? Well, there were serious points, some good, some bad. Quite surprisingly, once again Club World and World Traveller were ranked last. Why? Well, the meals served up in economy class are rarely anything to get excited about, and Jean’s experience was no exception — his word was “basic.” The food wasn’t terrible, but certainly nothing that would warrant a score any higher than 15 out of 25.
Don’t get me wrong, having three courses was definitely a privilege, but if I’d paid cash for this Club World flight, I would have been highly disappointed. There was one saving grace in the form of the lamb, which was amazing. Other than that, I didn’t finish anything else (apart from the dessert, because it was so tiny) because it was either undercooked or just tasted bad.
The highest-scoring cabin in this category was First, and rightly so, considering the cost of the ticket. Nicky was well and truly wined and dined throughout the whole flight. From the amuse-bouche to wine tasting and cheese plates to afternoon tea, he gave the entire experience a massive thumbs up.
Christian’s World Traveller Plus experience ranked only one point behind Nicky’s feast, thanks to British Airways having made small soft-product enhancements with a pretty big impact. For a start, there was metal cutlery — simple things, right? His tasty meal was served on proper dishes, and the lamb looked not too dissimilar to what I had in Club World.
First Class: 23/25
Club World: 24/25
World Traveller Plus: 20/25
World Traveller: 23/25
Nine out of 10 times, I’ve had excellent service on British Airways, especially on long-haul flights.
This flight was definitely up there with one of the best customer-service experiences I’ve had, and it’s evident from the scores that it was pretty consistent from the front of the plane to the back. This particular flight was mostly empty, which gave the crew more time to dedicate to individual passengers rather than rushing to get everyone’s food out quickly. Even if the flight had been full, the knowledge and experience of this crew together with their warmth and friendliness probably would have still have been enough to provide the same exceptional level of service as we had on our flight to Abu Dhabi.
A common theme throughout is that First and World Traveller Plus scored the best in most categories. What does this mean? Well, if you want the ultimate luxury British Airways experience, then you should definitely consider flying in First rather than Club World. The best thing is, it doesn’t have to break the bank! If paying cash (from £2,300 for a return ticket) is too steep, then 68,000 Avios and £365 would be an excellent alternative to get you the first-class experience that Nicky had on this flight.
If you haven’t quite got enough Avios for a First redemption but still would like to travel in more comfort than in World Traveller, Christian’s World Traveller Plus experience should definitely be considered for a similar daytime midhaul flight. Plus, prices can be as low as £550! Paying with cash gives you the added bonus of earning up to 5,114 Avios (depending on the booking class of your ticket), which is enough for a one-way ticket to Europe.