British Airways, part of International Airlines Group (also parent of Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus) is one of the world’s leading global premium airlines. The UK flagship carrier has a fleet of more than 280 aircraft – including the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 – that fly 123,000 passengers across the globe every day. A British Airways aircraft takes off from somewhere in the world every 90 seconds. The carrier was created in 1974 after the British government decided to merge several national and regional airline corporations. However, the carrier is marking 2019 as its centenary on the basis of the foundation of its forerunner company, Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited (AT&T), which launched the world’s first daily international scheduled air service between London and Paris in 1919. I fly with British Airways a lot (cf my trip reports below), and although I was disappointed with them in the past, I noticed that the carrier recently dramatically stepped up its game, hence why they rank again among my favorite airlines for longhaul Business Class. Here are ten reasons why I like to fly British Airways (again) and why they are often my first choice for a longhaul Business Class flight.
10. AN EXCELLENT AIRPORT HUB (LONDON HEATHROW)
British Airways uses Heathrow as its base, one of my favorite airports in the world. Heathrow is the largest of London’s six international airports, the other ones being Gatwick (also a major British Airways hub), Stansted, London City, Luton and Southend. With a record 80 million passengers in 2017, Heathrow ranks as the seventh busiest airport in the world by total passenger traffic. While the airport is not convenient when you have to switch terminals between flights, its newly opened Terminal 2 – officially known as the Queen’s Terminal and used by Star Alliance airlines – and its 10 year old Terminal 5 – which is used by British Airways – are great and airy spaces to spend a couple of hours before a flight. These terminals offer some of the best and most abundant airport shopping and dining in the world, with heaps of high-end boutique shops, a Harrods outlet, and a Gordon Ramsay restaurant. Unfortunately, some British Airways flights still leave from the subpar Terminal 3.
9. DECENT LOUNGES
British Airways’ Business Class lounge at Heathrow (called ‘Galleries Lounge’) is definitely a step up from most airline lounges (especially in Europe and the USA). The enormous lounge features Osborne and Little exclusively designed fabric and embraces the daylight with very large windows that offer nice view of the apron and runways. It has plenty of food on display, with a fresh soup bar, hot and cold entrees, lots of snacks, full coffee stations with all sorts of cappuccino and lattes, and a very broad selection of wines, beers and spirits. Next to the lounge is an Elemis Travel Spa, and all Business and First Class passengers are entitles to a 15 minutes complimentary treatment. There are also over 30 dedicated British Airways departure lounges across the world (e.g. the Boston lounge, pictured below) and more than 100 additional partner lounges you get access to (more than any other European airline).
8. THE LARGEST BOEING 747 OPERATOR
British Airways is the largest commercial operator of the Boeing 747, with 35 of these aircraft – also dubbed the Queen of the Skies – in its fleet. The B747’s distinctive hump upper deck along the forward part of the aircraft has made it one of the most recognizable aircraft in the world. More than 1500 of these jumbo jets have been built, with the B747-400 being the most common variant in service. Flying on the British Airways B747 upper deck is a real treat, since it only features 20 Business Class seats arranged in a 2-2 layout, so there is more space for fewer passengers and it almost feels like are flying in a private aircraft cabin. I like the exclusivity and quiet atmosphere of British Airways’ 747 upper deck so much that I still prefer it over the more flashy Business Class products of other carriers’ single-decked planes. Unfortunately, British Airways will retire all of these old birds by 2024.
7. A CONVENIENT ROUTE NETWORK
With a a fleet of more than 280 aircraft, British Airways flies to more than 200 destinations in 75 countries across the globe. Above all, the carrier offers an unrivaled service to Northern America, with more direct flights from the UK to the USA & Canada than any other airline. This allows you to reach your desired destination in the shortest possible time, so you maximize your time spent in the USA and avoid a stop-over in the USA itself (where you have to recheck your luggage, which can be a stressful event when there is a long line for immigration). British Airways has also teamed up with American Airlines, Iberia and Finnair to offer passengers across the Atlantic Ocean even more perks. Online check in can be submitted from all airline websites, as well as integrated customer service throughout the entire experience. More flights are also available, such as London to New York, where a total of almost 20 flights are available each way every day.
6. LUXURIOUS BEDDING & AMENITY KIT
British Airways partners with The White Company, a luxury lifestyle brand, to ensure a great night’s sleep in the sky. The iconic British retailer supplies excellent bedding and amenity kits in Club World, the carrier’s longhaul Business Class cabin. The bedding now includes a luxuriously soft large pillow that comes in a white cotton pillowcase featuring a day and night design; a super-soft woven day blanket with satin trim; a specially developed luxurious duvet; and a new padded mattress topper to provide an extra layer of comfort to improve your quality of sleep. You also receive an elegant day cushion, which doubles up as lumbar support when working or relaxing on board. The new Club World amenity kit comes in an elegantly designed bag from The White Company and contains products from the retailer’s Restore & Relax Spa Collection, offering a further touch of luxury in the sky.
5. DELICIOUS ONBOARD FOOD
Since last year, British Airways serves DO & CO meals on all its flights leaving from Heathrow. Thanks to an innovate service concept and its high and uncompromising quality standards, DO & CO has been a benchmark in the airline industry for many years. The company provides the onboard meals for Austrian Airlines and Turkish Airlines, which both rank among the best regarded longhaul airlines for Business Class food. As I experienced myself, the new DO & CO food onboard British Airways is a tremendous improvement over the carrier’s previous pathetic Business Class catering. In fact, the meals served onboard British Airways now rank among the best tasting and nicely presented dishes in the skies. The restaurant-style menu offers you a choice of starters, main courses and desserts, all served on beautiful table settings with proper crockery and cutlery.
4. A WELL-ESTABLISHED FREQUENT FLYER PROGRAM
Launched in 1995, the frequent flyer program of British Airways is called the Executive Club. In 2011, following its merger with Iberia, the flag carrier of the United Kingdom and the founding member of the Oneworld global airline introduced dramatic changes to its Executive Club program, creating a distinct reward currency, Avios. Avios is a coalition program, offering members of the frequent flyer programs of British Airways, Iberia, Aer Lingus and Meridiana thousands of ways to earn and redeem points for flights, hotels, and even travel experiences. Although Executive Club has some downsides, it scores high in my list of the world’s best frequent flyer programs because it’s the only well-established loyalty program of a major Western legacy airline that is not revenue based (yet). Read here my review of Executive Club, with pros, cons and tips how to make the most of it.
3. A CONSISTENT FLEET-WIDE BUSINESS CLASS PRODUCT
While British Airways’ Business Class (dubbed Club World) raised the bar worldwide two decades ago with the introduction of the first fully lie-flat seat and an innovative “Yin/Yang” seat plan, the seat concept itself is now dated and outclassed by some of its competitors. So you would not expect British Airways to end up in a list with the world’s best Business Class products, but the truth is that it remains one of my preferred airlines for longhaul travel, not only because the seat is extremely private (as long as you don’t end up along the aisle) but mainly because the product is consistent across its wide-body fleet. All of British Airways’ wide body aircraft – which comprises the Boeing 747, the Boeing 787, the Boeing 777, and the Airbus A380 – features the same type of seat and cabin layout. This is a contrast with many other carriers, which often operate different types of Business Class products across their fleet (leaving you puzzled at the time of booking what type of seat you will get).
2. A HIGHLY EXPERIENCED CREW
British Airways employs the most experienced crews in the air and on the ground. It currently has approximately 45,000 employees, including 16,500 cabin crew and 3,900 pilots. Pilots and cabin crew have an average of 15 years’ experience. The airline’s 4,700 engineers have an average of 19 years’ experience each. That is a reassuring thought for a nervous flyer like myself. What also helps is that British Airways not only has an inflight video to ease nervous flyers (trailer), but also that their professional and friendly crew always uses the exact same routine for passenger communications. For example, the flight crew always talks over the intercom to the passengers before take-off and 40 minutes before arrival (no matter how short the duration of the flight is), and the cabin crew always addresses the passengers following their flight crew colleagues. Somehow, this predictable routine (often lacking with other airlines) makes me feel a lot more comfortable.
1. INTRODUCTION OF A NEW FABULOUS BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
British Airways recently unveiled its new business class seat – ‘Club Suite’ – which will arrive on the first of its A350 aircraft in July. The airline’s sophisticated and newly-branded ‘Club Suite’ will offer direct-aisle access, a suite door for greater privacy, and luxurious flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Boasting 40 per cent more storage, every aspect of British Airways’ Club Suite has been designed for today’s customer, including a vanity unit and mirror, WiFi, enviable 18.5-inch inflight entertainment screens, high definition gate-to-gate programming, and PC/USB power. The first A350 aircraft will start some short-haul flying between London and Madrid to familiarize cabin crew with the aircraft layout. In October 2019, three other A350s will join the fleet and operate long-haul flights to Toronto, Dubai, and Tel Aviv.
Culled from The Luxury Travel Expert