What it’s like flying in British Airways Club Europe right now
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The so-called “Freedom Day,” on 19 July 2021 saw the removal of most social distancing restrictions in England. This was a big change to many parts of daily life.
For travel, Freedom Day saw fewer tangible changes. Masks are still required for the foreseeable future and social distancing is still encouraged. Those travellers fully vaccinated in the United Kingdom can now skip self-isolation returning from amber countries, essentially turning them green. (As of 2 August, the same will hold true for those who were fully vaccinated in the U.S. or EU.)
This opened up a lot more travel opportunities for the usually busy summer travel season.
I recently flew British Airways Euro Traveller economy class to Greece and found it to be an experience quite different to pre-pandemic flying, especially with regards to document uploading and onboard sanitisation.
TPG’s Daniel Ross flew British Airways Club Europe this time last year and found the experiencing disappointing and not worth the extra cost over economy — whether that was cash or Avios.
What is the experience like in Club Europe on British Airways right now?
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Booking and check-in
I booked a Club Europe seat with British Airways from London (LHR) to Glasgow (GLA) using Avios. While business class isn’t really necessary on such a short flight, it remains a great deal using the Reward Flight Saver option.
During the online booking process, I was advised to check the entry requirements of the destination I was travelling to and warned of the rules of returning from a green, amber or red list country.
As this was a domestic flight, these rules did not apply. There were also no documents or test results to upload in advance for this same reason.
I was able to check-in online and produce my boarding pass through the British Airways app.
London’s Heathrow Terminal 5 was reasonably busy for a Sunday morning in July. British Airways has such a huge space in this terminal that crowds were spread out, and no check-in, bag drops or security queues were long.
I was able to use the priority security lane with my Club Europe boarding pass.
I hadn’t visited a British Airways Galleries since before the pandemic began, so I was keen to see how different the experience might be with some rules and regulations still in place. The Terminal 5 Galleries South lounge was extremely busy, but large enough to find a seat fairly easy in a quieter corner.
One of the first big changes you’ll notice is the removal of self-serve food and drinks.
Bottled water was the only item passengers could grab themselves.
Instead, each table had a QR code and table number from which you could order a range of items to be delivered to your seat.
There’s also a regularly changing “code word of the day” to enter when placing your order, presumably to stop pranksters from ordering random food from home to unsuspecting passengers.
The online menu had a good range of breakfast items from pastries and fruit salad to bacon rolls. There were tea and coffee options as well as juice and you could even order Champagne to be delivered to your seat if you wished.
My partner and I ordered a few breakfast items online to be delivered to our table. They arrived in reasonably good time — about 10 minutes — but the delivery process was a mess. Despite dedicated table numbers, the staff member would simply wander around our area with a tray, calling out table numbers rather than looking for the table number clearly listed on each table.
This process would work much better if the staff actually looked at table numbers as they delivered food.
Our orders, as with most orders for the table around us, were incorrect with missing items.
I think this is because the fairly small serving trays mean for larger orders, the server has to make more than one trip. With the volume of orders flooding in, they forget to go back to collect the remaining items and also don’t confirm lounge guests have received everything they ordered.
While nothing gourmet, the food and drinks were a decent standard. The bread used for the bacon roll was especially fresh and tasty, and I would happily order this again.
My flight up to Glasgow departed from the A gates in Terminal 5. Masks were worn by all staff and passengers in the terminal (and the lounge), and some seats were still blocked for social distancing purposes.
Though British Airways has since reverted to traditional boarding by priority groups as it did pre-pandemic, for my flight, it still boarded strictly back to front, calling passengers in small groups by row numbers.
As I was flying Club Europe, this meant I was one of the last to board. This was a domestic flight, so I was not required to show my passport.
I quite like the back-to-front boarding process. It’s very civilised and means you spend as little time on the plane as possible, which is welcome if you are masked up the entire journey.
As I boarded, I was handed a small, lone disinfectant wipe. This was barely enough to clean my seat belt and, in my opinion, I don’t know why BA bothers with this token gesture.
British Airways’ Club Europe seat is simply an economy seat at the front of the plane with the middle seat blocked. There was no longer an additional tray table over the middle seat for extra storage.
The legroom was fine. Neither good nor bad.
I would avoid row 1, as the bulkhead means there’s even less legroom.
Inflight magazines are still absent from British Airways flights, so the seatback pocket only contained a safety card and sick bag.
The short hop up to Scotland departed and arrived on time and was a smooth flight.
Food and beverage
The food and beverage situation in Euro Traveller economy on British Airways flights is fairly complicated right now, but I was hoping for a normal hot meal in Club Europe on this flight.
The only options were a ham and cheese croissant or a tomato and cheese croissant served with fruit, yoghurt, juice and tea and coffee. Crew worked very efficiently to serve a meal like this on such a short flight.
Despite the small portion size, the ham and cheese croissant was outstanding — absolutely packed with good-quality ham and melted cheese and served piping hot.
Were it a healthy option, I would happily eat this for breakfast every morning.
All passengers were asked to remain seated when we arrived at the gate in Glasgow and to only collect their cabin bags and disembark when their row number was called. Several times, crew politely but firmly reminded passengers who did not comply with this.
The plane disembarked front to back a few rows at a time, meaning Club Europe passengers were some of the first off the plane.
As this was a domestic flight, there was no passport control and it was a short walk to baggage collection and out of the terminal.
It was great to experience a British Airways Club Europe flight that was fairly similar to travelling before the pandemic. Lounges are open and the food and beverage offerings served in Galleries lounge were of good quality, though I wish the staff would pay closer attention to table numbers and ensuring all items are delivered.
The hot meal served onboard was what you would expect — and hope for — on a short flight between London and Scotland and is a noticeable step up from what the economy cabin received on the same flight.
Club Europe is a bit of a splurge on a flight as short as this, though unlike some passengers experienced in 2020, I wouldn’t hesitate to fly British Airways Club Europe again.
Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy
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