Review: British Airways Club World A380 London To San Francisco

Introduction
Review: St. Regis San Francisco
Review: British Airways Lounge San Francisco Airport
Review: British Airways Club World 777 San Francisco To London
Review: St. Regis Rome
Review: Hotel Cala Di Volpe Porto Cervo
Review: Dining At Hotel Cala Di Volpe
Review: Hotel Romazzino Porto Cervo
Review: Dining At Hotel Romazzino
Review: Hilton Rome Airport
Review: British Airways Lounge Rome Airport
Review: British Airways Club World A380 London To San Francisco


Our flight from Rome to London was pretty uneventful, as was our long layover in London. It was actually one of my most pleasant Heathrow transit experiences yet. Transit security didn’t take too long, and we even managed to secure spa treatments at the Elemis Spa. The treatment was good, except for the fact that the advertised 15 minute treatment only lasted for eight minutes.

We spent our time in the Galleries First Lounge thanks to my oneworld Emerald status, and at around 1PM we headed to our departure gate, C57, which is the furthest pier from the lounge. It took about 10-15 minutes to get there, and at around 1:20PM fast track boarding was called for our flight to San Francisco.

British Airways 287
London (LHR) – San Francisco (SFO)
Sunday, September 18
Depart: 2:05PM
Arrive: 4:59PM
Duration: 10hr54min
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 58B (Business Class/Club World)

British Airways has business class on both the lower and upper deck of the A380. First class is at the front of the lower deck, and there’s a business class cabin behind it. Then on the upper deck there are two business class cabins. On our last British Airways A380 business class flight we sat in the forward business class cabin on the upper deck, while on this flight we sat in the rear cabin on the upper deck. Therefore we took the jet bridge directly to the upper deck.

Upon boarding we presented our boarding passes and were pointed right towards the rear business class cabin. The rear upper deck business class cabin has four rows, and we were in the second to last row.

While the seats are in a 2-4-2 configuration on the lower deck, on the upper deck they’re in a 2-3-2 configuration, so the cabin doesn’t feel quite as crammed (admittedly the cabin is also narrower on the upper deck, though…).

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British Airways business class three seats in the center section

We chose an aisle and window combination, 58A & 58B.

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British Airways A380 business class seats

Much like on the 777, the business class seats on the A380 are still really narrow.

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British Airways A380 business class seat

The ottoman lowers from the seat in front (though is quite flimsy, and if you apply too much pressure, it’ll “collapse”).

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British Airways A380 business class legroom

The window seats are already the best seats in British Airways’ business class, though what makes them even better on the upper deck of the A380 are the storage lockers. So while the seats don’t usually have much storage, there’s plenty of storage at the window seats here.

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British Airways A380 storage lockers

Waiting at our seats were headphones, pillows, and blankets. Once again, the blankets were scratchy and pillows thin.

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British Airways business class pillow & blanket

A few minutes after settling in one of the flight attendants came by to offer pre-departure beverages off a tray. We both selected champagne. The crew on this flight seemed to be friendly, though not quite as good as on the outbound. Still, they were infinitely better than the flight attendant I had on my previous British Airways A380 flight.

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British Airways business class pre-departure champagne

About 10 minutes later we were offered drawstring bags with amenities, which are pretty basic.

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British Airways business class amenity kit

After that we were offered the menus for the flight.

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British Airways business class menu

Boarding was fairly efficient, though the flight was booked out, so it took a while.

By 2PM boarding was complete, at which point captain Tim came on the PA to welcome us aboard on behalf of his co-captain and the senior first officer. He informed us of our flight time of 10hr35min, which he anticipated would get us into San Francisco on shed-jewel.

The second he finished his announcement, the customer service director, Damon, made his welcome aboard announcement. He did it as if they were doing some sort of a routine, because the captain finished his announcement by saying “I’ll now leave you in the capable hands of Damon and his crew,” and without even a two second pause, Damon said “thanks for that captain,” and continued with his announcements.

At 2:05PM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video began to play.

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British Airways 777 London Heathrow Airport

After pushback we held position for about 10 minutes as the engines started up. Fortunately from there it was just a quick taxi to our departure runway, 27R.

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British Airways 777 London Heathrow Airport

As usual, the views enroute to the runway were interesting, though unfortunately the windows on the A380 are on the small side, and are extremely difficult to photograph out of. As an aviation geek that’s rather frustrating.

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British Airways 787 London Heathrow Airport

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Taxiing to runway London Heathrow

By 2:25PM we were cleared for takeoff, after waiting for a couple of British Airways narrowbody aircraft to take off.

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Taxiing to runway London Heathrow

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Taking off London Heathrow

Our takeoff roll and initial climb out were smooth and gradual, as is the norm on the A380.

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Taking off London Heathrow

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Taking off London Heathrow

We had some fantastic views of Terminal 5 on our initial climb out, before entering a layer of clouds.

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

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View after takeoff from London Heathrow

About 15 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off.

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British Airways A380 upper deck business class cabin

Service on this flight was really slow to get started, which I don’t mind as much on a daytime flight as a redeye, but still. About 45 minutes after takeoff the customer service director came through the cabin to take meal orders. Unfortunately they were already out of our first choice of starter, which seems to be the disadvantage of sitting this far back in the cabin without British Airways status.

The menu read as follows:

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And the beverage list read as follows:

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As the CSD came through to take meal orders, another crew member came through the cabin with warm towels.

A full hour after takeoff the crew came through the cabin with drinks and packaged mixed nuts. I had the Italian white wine, which was nice.

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British Airways business class lunch — mixed nuts and white wine

A full 80 minutes after takeoff the meal service began, starting with the salad and appetizer being served.

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British Airways business class lunch — appetizer and salad

The salmon starter was decent, better than on the outbound.

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British Airways business class lunch appetizer — Scottish smoked salmon

The salad was good as well.

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British Airways business class lunch — fresh seasonal salad with vinaigrette

I chose some focaccia from the breadbasket to accompany the meal.

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British Airways business class lunch — focaccia bread

It was another 45 minutes after the appetizer before the main course was served, which is simply way too long. On the plus side, it tasted good — we both had the buttered chicken. I feel like that’s a dish that works quite well on planes, for what it’s worth.

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British Airways business class lunch main course — buttered chicken

Finally another 20 minutes later the crew came through the cabin with dessert, which consisted of apple and blackberry vanilla crisp with cream. It was pretty  good, even though I’m generally not a huge fan of sweet, fruity desserts.

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British Airways business class lunch dessert — apple and blackberry vanilla crisp with cream

After lunch bottled water was distributed.

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British Airways business class bottled water

By the time the meal service was done we were over 2hr30m into our flight, well past Iceland and approaching Greenland.

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Airshow enroute to San Francisco

Service throughout the meal was friendly, though I did feel like I was part of an assembly line. That’s to say that the crew didn’t offer refills if they saw an empty glass or clear plates if they saw them empty, but rather only as they were coming through the cabin with their carts and performing the main service.

However, this was one of the better British Airways business class meals I’ve had, as the food was actually pretty good. Still, I wish the meal wouldn’t be so drawn out. They could just as easily serve the starter, salad, and appetizer on one tray, and then separately come around with dessert to speed things up.

After the meal I decided to watch a couple of sitcoms, including two episodes of The Middle that I hadn’t seen before.

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British Airways entertainment selection

One of the good things about the upper deck of the A380 is that it has two huge lavatories at the front, which are certainly better than the tiny ones they have in business class on the 777. However, one of the lavatories was inoperable, meaning there were only a total of two working lavs in business class on the upper deck (there’s also one on the right side in the galley between cabins).

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British Airways A380 business class lavatories

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British Airways A380 business class lavatories

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British Airways A380 business class lavatories

Between meals the crew did have a snack bar available, though the offerings have been watered down significantly over the years.

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British Airways A380 business class snacks

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British Airways A380 business class snacks

One other nice thing about being in the rear upper deck business class cabin is that it feels quite private. There’s very little foot traffic since all the service is done from the galley in front of the cabin, and the lavatories are all in front of the cabin as well.

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British Airways business class cabin

After watching a couple of sitcoms I managed to get some rest. I napped for a few hours, and woke up about three hours from landing in San Francisco. I took the opportunity to get caught up on some work up until 75 minutes out, when the lights were turned up and the pre-arrival meal was served.

The menu read as follows:

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By the time they got around to us they once again didn’t have our preferred starter.

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British Airways business class pre-arrival meal — fresh fruit and appetizer

Maybe it’s just me, but it’s unfortunate when the only appetizer is by far the less agreeable one. The sea trout timbale was borderline inedible.

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British Airways business class pre-arrival meal — sea trout timbale starter

Fruit was served on the same true, even though it was intended as the dessert.

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British Airways business class pre-arrival meal — fresh fruit

While there was a full bar on offer, flight attendants prompted passengers by asking if they wanted coffee or tea, and sure enough almost everyone selected that. It’s not often you have sea trout and coffee together.

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British Airways business class pre-arrival meal — coffee

For the main course I chose the “Far East salad” with prawns, which was very good.

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British Airways business class pre-arrival meal — salad with prawns

Ford wanted the chicken sandwich, but they were out of it, so he got stuck with the toasties.

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British Airways business class pre-arrival meal — toasties with chorizo and chicken

Around 4:20PM Pacific Time the captain came back on the PA with updated arrival information, informing us of our expected landing time of 4:55PM.

It looked like a gorgeous day in San Francisco, and our eyes were glued out the window for the entire descent.

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View approaching San Francisco

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View approaching San Francisco

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View approaching San Francisco

Sure enough we had a smooth touchdown on runway 28R at 4:55PM.

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Touchdown San Francisco

Our taxi to the gate took about 10 minutes, and we arrived there at 5:05PM, just a few minutes behind schedule.

British Airways A380 Club World bottom line

I’ve learned to manage my expectations with British Airways, so given that, I thought the flight was very good.

I’ll note that the rear upper deck cabin is probably my favorite place to be in business class on the A380 thanks to how little foot traffic there is. That being said, they also seem to run out of meal choices when they get that far back. Next time I fly British Airways business class I’d like to try the 747, as I imagine the upper deck on it is probably the best British Airways business class seats there are.

Is British Airways business class globally competitive? Heck no. Is it worth it on a super-duper-discounted business class fare? Yep!

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Comments

  1. British Airways seem to have gone well under standards by your experience. Pity! They used to be better

  2. I flew the BA A380 from LHR to YVR in July and found business class unremarkable (I was sitting upstairs with the window seat). On the way back, I was on a refurbished BA 747 from SEA to LHR mid August (upstairs again). Pretty much the same seating (narrow). However, the screens have been upgraded which was a positive improvement. Interesting to see you also found the pantry offerings to be underwhelming. I think I need to stop flying Qatar Airways from the Gulf to Europe before taking BA to North America to keep my expectations in check!

  3. BA’s 747 Upper Deck is definitely worth checking out. Only 20 seats, hence a very comfortable passenger-to-crew ratio (as well as passenger-to-restroom ratio).

  4. I flew first class on A BA A380 from IAD to LHR back in February. Very nice experience. First Class dining at IAD was excellent, and tthe 5 course tasting menu on the plane was almost perfect – the only thing missing was a more consistent wine/food pairing. And I do prefer to ride up in the A380. Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be available with BA F.

  5. You should also try the two cozy center seats when you travel as couple. Many couples actually like those very much! And it is a totally new perspective for you on the product.

  6. I flew upper deck 747 the other day. The window seat was private with lots of side locker storage. The service was good as was the food (same menu). For those of us who don’t care that much about wifi on overseas flights, it’s a very solid product.

  7. @Lucky: Looking at the photos, am I right that one would need to step OVER the legs of the passenger sitting (sleeping) in the aisle seat (if that seat is in a fully flat position)? Have you ever had to do that? That would be rather awkward doing a few times during a 10 hr flight.

  8. @Daniel B: yes, that’s how BA’s Club World seat layout works. Boo. There are a couple of seats at the ends of the cabin that sometimes have direct aisle access. They’re a huge step down from the common reverse-herringbone designs that are so popular (AA, CX, QR, etc.)

  9. 747 upper deck is an order of magnitude better as far as service speed and a feeling of intimacy. Also, unlike the 777 and a380, you can find seats with much more leg room for those over 6-feet tall (exit rows / 64 A / 64 K).

    However, the interiors can be much more beat up and the flights are getting more difficult to find as the queens are getting pulled from service. ~3 years ago, I had four-747 flights going SFO to India. Last year, I had 1x a380, 2x 777 and 1x 747 on the same route.

  10. The lack of food choice availability is absolutely obnoxious. If seated in row 113 in Y it MAYBE it’d be somewhat understandable (though not really) but in J? Unacceptable, even if some low-cost budget guy is runnin’ the show.

  11. I’m with @Hilde, I love the upper deck Business Class on their 747s. Feels like you’re flying on their A318 London City service but with a much smoother and quieter ride 🙂

  12. Loved the review – thanks Lucky!

    Have to say i’ve been really disappointed by service in Club World recently. Used to feel pretty special by the crew and generally very attentive but the last few flights this year (in particular) it feels like they are cramming too many seats into Club, having younger/more inexperienced crew and it is becoming more like premium economy in service terms. My most recent flight (ORD – LHR on a 747, lower deck Club) when I asked for another glass of wine after my meal before bed I was looked at like I was asking for first class champagne…! In fact the FA was whisking my glass away and had to almost physically grab them. That’s been fairly typical on most BA Club World flights these days… real shame…

  13. Agreed with a number of comments, the BA business class offer doesn’t seem to be able to compete with other carriers.
    Went 747 business from Miami to Heathrow, was left very underwhelmed with a dirty cabin and lack of food choices.
    Earlier in the year opted for Etihad to Australia and the service was top notch despite high volume. Come on BA you can do better.

  14. @Daniel B.
    Yes, I did have to step over some poor guy sleeping on our flight back. We caught the flight just before Ben.

    @Steve
    Both inbound and outbound, a number of the course food choices were unavailable, for us. Pathetic.

    As I said in the last review, I think British Airways has the best sub-$1200 business class product, but British Airways is dismally insufficient otherwise.

  15. You need to fly in the Upper Deck of the 744 and then decide if you think Club World isn’t spacious. Otherwise, I would just not fly on BA as I really don’t think it’s your thing. On another note, we all say “Shed-jewel” in the UK and we don’t make jokes of the numerous ways Americans use the “ENGLISH” language.

  16. @Paul
    Oh Paul, it’s fine if you guys want to make fun of our use of “ENGLISH”.
    Think of it as your 240 year old consolation prize.

  17. The ‘shed-jewel’ joke is getting pretty old. I don’t live in England but just say English people pronounce words different to Americans. There is no right or wrong (in the minds of intelligent people).

  18. What do you mean, “‘it’ll “collapse”'” ?? I don’t understand who or what you are quoting.

  19. @Stephan
    I can relate to the drink glass being pulled. Your empty glass sits there for 40 minutes and no one asks you if you would like a refill. Then, whoosh, it is wicked away unless you can grab it in time! In asking for a refill the stare that came back was: “why”? Yes, you would have thought you were asking for something you shouldn’t have. And finally, just like Lucky in a previous post, I was confronted by the question “drink”? Excuse me? “Drink, do you want a drink or not; I have other people to get to”. UNBELIEVABLE demeaning attitude. The airline deserves to die.

  20. I flew the upper deck of the 747 JFK-LHR earlier this year. It is spacious, with an oddly wide (double width?) aisle…which makes the fact they have the same standard, narrow “ying-yang” business class seats in a 2-2 formation all the more frustrating!

    Of similar tier business class products, I personally find KLM’s 2-2-2 long haul “new” business class more comfortable and the service generally better (plus I like the little collectible dutch china houses they give you as a gift).

  21. Plus KLM have a couple of single seats in J on some planes, the best have aisle access and a window. You just have to grab them before others do 🙂

  22. Curious to know how salmon which is described as “Severn and Wye” (both rivers in Wales) can be described as “Scottish”!

  23. The British airways service standards are for the main meal service to be completed in 2.5/3hrs after take off, every review that you have done for BA you have mentioned that the meal service has taken that long. So, BA is doing nothing wrong in that regards, plus why do you want a meal service to be rushed? Seems a tad impatient to me, you don’t know what other jobs the crew are doing before the service. Nor, why would you have everything on a tray at once, it’s hardly premium, nor would you get that in a restaurant.

    And while you clearly don’t like the seat (it certainly does have its draw backs) it’s not as narrow ststaistcally compared to other seats, plus you don’t have your feat crammed in a small cubby like many other airlines. You’re also not going to have much of a difference in the seat in any aircraft that you get on with BA apart from IFE which some airlines can’t say as they have varying seats on different aircraft etc. They have announced that a new club seat is in development, but why change it when business is usually always full, and they are making a ton of money from that cabin. It be interesting to see if other airlines will copy when the patent runs out off the ying yang seat. It’s a shame that your food choice was unavailable but that happens with many airlines too. Luckily BA have announced £400 million in improvements to Club, I did a flight where they were trialing everything hand run, no trolleys in the cabin and they provided First Duvets and pillows in Club to maximise sleep on the upper deck 747 cabin back to Heathrow.

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