Is Business Worth My Business? British Airways’ A321 in Club Europe From Paris to London
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As the TPG UK team was planning content with which to launch our brand-new site, one of the projects we decided to work on was a race from London to Paris between myself and UK Head of Video Jean Arnas. Stay tuned for plenty on that fun little adventure we had, but today I’m focussing on how I got back home from Paris. It’s quite a short journey, and with so many options for hopping across the English Channel between the two capitals, I figured it was a great chance to put British Airways’ Club Europe product to the test — here’s how it fared.
When I began searching for flights, there were no Euro Traveller (BA’s short-haul economy product) seats available, so I took advantage of a British Airways Reward Flight Saver and paid 7,750 Avios, along with £25 in tax for the short biz-class hop. Economy would have cost 4,000 Avios and £17.50 tax, so it really wasn’t much of a difference, but I was interested to see if it was worth anything extra at all on this very short flight. Although it was a minimal purchase, I used the British Airways Premium Plus Amex credit card to earn 3 Avios per pound on the tax — in this case just 75 Avios, but every little helps.
This flight was almost a disaster from the first moment. On arrival by train to Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport (CDG), the escalators were shut off, and we were informed by a machine-gun-wielding security guard that unattended luggage had been found and the entire terminal was on lockdown. Twenty minutes of confusion passed by before the terminal reopened, beginning a flood of people making their way back into the airport, half of them sprinting up the down escalator without making much ground.
Check-in itself was empty, and the agent had his head in his hands, devastated that this evening’s flight delay would cut into his Friday night plans.
I retrieved my boarding passes and was on my way within a couple of minutes, swinging by surely the weirdest spot in the airport: a “seated area” reserved for Club Europe and status passengers with no seats and just a broken cabin bag measuring gauge.
Security was efficient but incredibly stressful. I was flatly rejected from the fast-track lane, but when I offered to show my boarding pass, the guardian of the line barked, “Accept!” and quickly ushered me ahead of the throngs. The loud and aggressive process, which included a scan of my feet, was over quickly, and I cleared security within five minutes.
As a Oneworld business-class passenger, I could access both the American Airlines Admirals Club (although this closed at 12:30pm) and the Cathay Pacific lounge. I also had access to these lounges as a BA Gold cardholder, even if flying economy.
The Cathay lounge was not in the new swanky style but had plenty of places to sit, a business centre and showers.
Most importantly, there were seats with fabulous views of the apron and runway, plus dan dan noodles on tap. I cannot pass by a Cathay Pacific establishment without a fix of these delicious, peanutty, creamy noodles.
Other than the noodle bar, there was a standard buffet and midtier drinks, all self-serve. The food looked a little sad by the time I arrived midevening.
Boarding was through Gate A45 (although the picture below depicts Gate 44, 45 was right next door), and commenced a little late because the inbound plane was delayed.
My group, No. 1, boarded first and was led through a bizarre, revolving glass door before being held in a tunnel for 10 minutes, and then finally led to the aircraft, a beautiful Airbus A321 set up in the European configuration (although I was thrown by the G-MED registration and furiously researched whether this was going to be one of the long-haul-configured A321s that ply the Middle East and other routes for BA).
Cabin and Seat
The crew gave me a warm welcome, and I found my way to Seat 3F.
The Club Europe cabin was separated from the Euro Traveller cabin by a curtain, which was placed depending on the size of the business cabin. This flight had seven rows of Club Europe.
As is increasingly the norm on intra-European flights, the Club Europe seats were exactly the same as the Euro Traveller ones further back, save that the middle seats were blocked out and a smart table was placed over that middle seat (although this table is now being withdrawn on some aircraft and routes). In the Club Europe cabin, the seat also featured a white, BA-branded headrest cover.
It really was the huge downfall of this product, you sort of got something better. But not really. Some short-haul business-class products on other airlines really put this product to shame, but BA was by no means an outlier in the European market.
The legroom was the same as in economy, and the blocked middle seat really was a huge advantage in terms of space. Elbows were free to roam, and there was that added storage.
It meant having a laptop and camera was much easier, as they could be tucked underneath the table when not in use.
There was one toilet at the front of the cabin for use of the Club Europe cabin only. It was a tight squeeze in there, but not offensively so. It was clean and stocked with lovely-smelling White Company soap and lotion.
Amenities and IFE
There’s not much to speak of in the way of amenities on this flight, though I didn’t expect that there would be. The moving map was shown on dropdown screens overhead, but Wi-Fi wasn’t offered.
Food and Beverage
Cabin service started shortly after boarding with the friendly crew handing out hot towels to passengers.
Just minutes after takeoff, the purser was pushing his food trolley down the aisle. Forgoing the vegetarian bulgur wheat option, I chose the chicken salad. It was well-presented, fresh and delicious.
The accompanying salad was also tasty and refreshing, and the chocolate mousse dessert was also wonderful.
The Do & Co catering really was marvelous compared to other previous caterers that I’ve experienced on similar European short-haul carriers.
Champagne and water quickly followed the food, and I rounded off the meal with a peppermint tea.
I really love the classy BA cups — they’re much better than their old small and squat mugs in Club Europe.
Due to the short flight time, trays were taken as the last mouthful was being eaten. Drinks were downed, and tables were folded back up.
The two cabin crew members that cared for the Club Europe were passionate about their jobs and really wanted to provide good service to all passengers.
On such a short flight, a crew would really have to have some sparkle to stand out, but the two cabin crew members who looked after us had exactly that. They were clearly incredibly experienced, loved their jobs and were a real laugh.
Although the Club Europe onboard experience these days effectively gives you a little more space and a free meal, it also affords the opportunity to engage with the crew, who on this flight were able to give a more personal touch without the need to be pulling out the credit card machine.
I had a real laugh with the crew on this flight, and it made all the difference. One of them was winding the other up, and the retort was that she might have to give him a Liverpool kiss and shouldn’t mess with a scouser bird. It was just a wonderful testament to what BA crew can be like and what I love most about them.
For someone with status, where lounge access, seat selection, and priority boarding is already a given, is Club Europe ever really worth it?
Well on this flight, for 7,750 Avios and £25 (versus 4,000 Avios and £17.50), I had a lovely meal, a premium-feeling experience and real laugh.
Did I need it for 45 minutes in the air? Not really. But did it make a Friday night fun and special? Absolutely! Presented with the choice of either, especially where both were available on the same flight with Avios, I would likely go for the cheaper option. But should Club Europe be the only miles option available (as it often is, for example, on the Leeds-Bradford route that I regularly take), I still find they offer good value and wouldn’t hesitate to book again.
All photos by the author.
Featured photo of Paris by Harald Nachtman / Getty Images.
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