Found at the pointy end of short flights within Europe, British Airways’ Airbus A320 ‘Club Europe’ business class service provides a better-than-economy option for passengers seeking a little luxury on their European holidays or business trips.
Australian Business Traveller reviews a recent BA Club Europe journey from London’s Gatwick Airport to Venice, but as you’ll find, many aspects of the experience are closer to economy than true business class.
- Frequent flyer program: British Airways Executive Club, Oneworld. Australian travellers also have the option of earning Qantas Frequent Flyer points and status credits aboard BA flights.
- Priority check-in, security clearance, boarding: Yes to all (look for the 'Premium Gatwick' channel at security), plus priority baggage tagging and delivery.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg bags (64kg), plus a further 32kg bag for Executive Club Gold and other Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers, including Qantas Platinum members.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x126cm bag plus 1x85cm laptop bag, each weighing up to 23kg (46kg).
All up, that provides a whopping total allowance of 110kg for 'regular' business class travellers or an even-higher 142kg for Oneworld Emerald cardholders.
Business class passengers can make use of an all-new British Airways Galleries Club lounge at London’s Gatwick Airport before their flight, offering continental breakfast and machine-made espresso coffee before our morning departure.
As with many of BA’s other lounges, Champagne is also available by request if you know to ask for it, but isn’t displayed at the self-serve bar.
Executive Club Gold members and other Oneworld Emerald travellers – including Qantas Platinum, Platinum One and Chairman’s Lounge cardholders – can instead visit the also-new BA Galleries First lounge next door.
If you were hoping for an actual domestic-style business class seat as you’d find aboard Qantas or Virgin Australia back home, prepare to be disappointed – as is common across Europe, business class simply means an economy class seat with business class amenities and a vacant seat next to you.
In other words, while the aircraft seats come in a 3-3 layout, only two seats in each set of three are sold in the business class zone: giving every passenger either an aisle or window seat – not a middle – with a guaranteed ‘shadow’ next door.
In that space features a handy and leather-clad cocktail table, shared by the passengers on either side…
… but in front, there’s no forgetting that you’ve been sat in what’s otherwise an economy class seat, with some – but not much – legroom…
… and when the passenger in front of you reclines, any knee space which previously existed disappears, as does your ability to work on an open laptop: something we’d expect to be able to do at any time in business class, regardless of how other passengers are enjoying their own flight.
You can slightly increase the space available by moving everything from the lower seat pocket to the one above, positioned well away from your knees…
… while your coat or jacket can be hung from the hooks in the centre to avoid creases.
(In times gone by, the crew would hang your jacket in the closet – but this has now been removed from the aircraft in favour of extra seats at the front of the business class cabin.)
Also gone: the artwork displayed on the cabin bulkhead walls which previously brought a more premium feel to the service…
… while USB and AC power charging ports aren’t to be found here, either.
On today’s flight came an offer of muesli and yoghurt or a hot breakfast (chosen), delivered in an economy-style foil container with eggs, sausages, mushrooms, bacon and a tomato, plus bread from the bread basket and a “fruit salad”.
We use that term lightly, because five bites – and yes, there’s with only one individual grape – doth not a “salad” make.
However, in true British style you won’t be starved of hot tea, served in Royal Doulton chinaware.
There’s proper Champagne too with Castelnau Reserve Brut offered in individual glass-and-a-bit-sized bottles.
Entertainment & Service
Any inflight entertainment enjoyed on these jets is that which you bring yourself, as BA offers none at all, unless we’re now counting the inflight mag as entertainment.
Fortunately, the design of the seat allows you to mount your tablet at eye-level instead without needing to use the tray table. Just slide its cover or kickstand down into the literature pocket and you’re in business, if you’ll pardon the pun:
But despite BA’s shortcomings – and indeed, the limitations of the ‘Euro business’ concept in general – the actual service received on today’s journey was excellent, beginning with chirpy check-in staff at Gatwick Airport and continuing with friendly cabin crew once on board.
The inflight crew also took time to stop by for a chat, and on discovering that I and my travel companion were celebrating a special occasion, ensured there was no shortage of Champagne to be had:
Overall, by Australian standards BA’s Club Europe business class service is nothing to write home about, although when compared to the short-haul business class offerings of other European airlines – many of which don’t even provide a cocktail table in between the seats – BA certainly doesn’t place last among the ranks.
Chris Chamberlin travelled at his own expense using frequent flyer points.