We’ve started to see the horror stories on the news of the packed out flights and people moaning that there’s no social distancing going on etc etc. AIR TRAVEL IS DOOMED. Lets take a look at my long haul flight between Chicago USA and London UK that I took in the middle of June 2020 (1 week after the ’14 day quarantine on arrival’ was introduced in the UK). It wasn’t that bad at all. This post will be just focusing on what it’s currently like to fly in Business Class (Club World) with British Airways. I’ll be doing another post about the full airport to airport experience too.
Long Haul British Airways Club World Experience 2020
Before The Flight
Originally I booked my flight before the poop show that is 2020, kicked off. I have the AAdvantage Credit Card (American Airlines) and had a whole bunch of air miles. I cashed in 59,000 miles plus $280 for a business class ticket between Chicago and London. This involved a connection flight though, so would have been first class on American from Chicago to Boston and then business class on British Airways from Boston onto London.
However, once everything kicked off and I was unsure if flights would even continue, I kept my eye on flights like a hawk. British Airways went from having several flights daily from US airports, to cancelling all but 8 routes down to just 1 daily flight. When this happened, the air mile value of the flights changed too. Because the Boston flight I was booked on was due to be cancelled, I rung up American and asked to be switched to the one departing, direct, Chicago – London flight. The business class ticket now cost the same amount as the original connection flight. For my own peace of mind, I wanted to fly direct, it seemed silly to still connect. I was on hold for around 20 minutes and walking away with a new ticket. Very pleasant experience.
I was aware before flight day that the business class experience was going to look different to the usual level of service. I was sad that my first and potentially only time I was going to fly business, wasn’t going to be the full experience. For several reasons, I still wanted to fly and there were elements of the business class ticket that I was still requiring, such as the luggage allowance.
The Flight Experience – At The Airport
Passengers are currently required to wear face coverings at many airports and on British Airways flights. I had my own masks, so I’m not sure if they have any to hand out to people that don’t have one.
For the time being, the Club World luggage allowance has remained the same. Travellers are allowed two 32kg/70lb checked in bags, along with a 23kg cabin case and a 23kg bag to take on board. Due to repatriating, the luggage weight was a big factor for me. I even paid $340 ($170 each) for two EXTRA suitcases and they could both weigh 32kg too.
The business class check in line was still open at Chicago ORD, so I was able to scoot to the front. The business/first security line was shut though but there were only two people in the normal line, so that didn’t really matter. I was also offered a first class upgrade for $599. Normally this would be a bargain, but as far as I’m aware the only difference between first and business at the moment is a slightly different seat and free WiFi. I may be wrong but I don’t think first were given different meals etc. First class travellers also get a third checked bag for free. Maybe if they had of knocked $170 off the $599 for the 3rd bag that I’d already prepaid for, I might have been more tempted…
Travelling During 2020
One of the biggest differences at the airport is that all of the lounges are currently closed. Chicago ORD does have a couple of those office/workspace pod things that I could have used…BUT you have to pay to use them. I was more sad that I wouldn’t be able to get the free food from the lounge! Instead I had a Burger King…that I had to pay for.
I’ve heard that airlines have started to board the planes differently, boarding by row number rather than group (I’ve always thought group boarding was RUBBISH. First and Business class passengers were still called first for boarding.
On the BA Dreamliners, First class is to the left of the door but Business is on the right, before you reach the economy cabin. So even though I was first to board, the economy passengers had to pass my seat to get by me. Not exactly a problem, there were only around 22 people on my flight, plus 9 crew members. That’s almost a ratio of 1:2! I was the only passenger in the business class cabin so I had a crew member all to myself AND my own toilet!
Food and Drink
Usually in Club World you’d get a pre departure drink. There isn’t any alcohol on board at the moment but I was offered a bottle of water…which was more than what I was expecting!
As for dinner, the meal service is pretty much non existant. British Airways aren’t taking any special meal requirements, there’s no hot meal and everything is already pre-packaged. You get what you get and you don’t mind a bit. Hmm. I was giving a cardboard box and inside was:
- A bottle of water
- 2 Oreos
- A fun size Twix (not even a full sized one…)
- A cheddar and tomato chutney croissant – I don’t eat cheese so I flicked out the manky piece of cheese and the one small dot of chutney, so was left with a plain dry croissant…good job I had the extra water because it was hard to swallow.
As far as I’m aware, economy is only being offered water as a drink. In business I had the additional option of tea or coffee AND I was offered a tiny can of either coke or sprite.
Club World Kitchen
Club World Kitchen WAS open. From what I had read online, usually you can help yourself, but you had to ask the crew and they’d get it for you instead. There was popcorn, crisps or nuts.
Breakfast is pretty non existent too. I was offered another tea or coffee and at the same time I was given a small packet of shortbread biscuits and a chocolate.
So not exactly a balanced diet being offered onboard at the moment, but hey it’s something and was a bit more than what I was expecting. Eating and drinking also gave you a nice break from wearing a face mask. On a 7hr flight, plus 3 hrs in the terminal, it can get a little bit suffocating after a while!
Lie Flat Seat & Entertainment
Club World passengers flying long haul still obviously get to enjoy a lie flat seat. Apparently Club World usually has mattress toppers, a blanket, a duvet/quilt and a pillow. However at the moment only the pillows and quilts are available. The pillow is LOVELY. The seat and the back lie flat but then a foot stall folds down to then make it a full bed. The arm rests collaspe too, to give you a little extra space. Without the mattress topper you could feel all the joins in the seat which was a shame. I’m 5ft 4 and I also filled up most of the space.
I liked the little reading light. There were 2 USB ports and a plug socket. The Tv was in a comfortable position but didn’t have a huge choice of entertainment (I think someone had said it had been cut back). As it was a night flight there was enough for me to watch either side of sleeping though. The headphones had a twin jack, so I’m not sure personal ones would work properly without an extension. During take off and landing the floor needs to be kept clear, but there is a small storage drawer that you can keep essentials in.
Rear facing seat
The window seats are rear facing which is really WEIRD. I like having the window and had never been backwards before so thought it would be fun to try. It was a strange sensation though! Being the only one in the cabin, I didn’t have to worry about social distancing. But if the flight was fuller there’s definitely more space between the seats that are in front and behind. The neighbouring seat could be a little awkward if there was a stranger in it, as you would end up facing them directly. But other than take off and landing, a divider can be raised which would give you your own personal space. The window is definitely more private, but you’d need to climb over the neighbours legs to get out, if they have the foot rest down.
Club World travellers also receive an amenity kit in an awesome little zip up leather pouch. Inside is:
- Eye mask
- Ear plugs
- Toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste
- The White Company: Pulse point aromatherapy oil (AMAZING), moisturiser and lip balm
The Club World toilets also have The White Company products to use, such as hand cream and hand wash.
Obviously Business still get to disembark just after First and the luggage comes out first on the reclaim belt. (Although when there’s only 20 people on the flight, you wouldn’t exactly have to wait very long for your bags!)
Overall I felt very safe and comfortable flying long haul with British Airways during this strange time. All the crew wore masks, the few passengers that were onboard all wore masks. Yes I’m disappointed that I didn’t get the full business class experience, but the alternative would have been connecting in Boston and then having LESS time with the sky bed! I have a feeling the flight service may stay like this for a while, even when more flights start back. My next post will be sharing the whole flight day experience. I’m not sure I’ll ever see airport terminals and flights as empty as I did on this particular day. The photos are just weird, it’s sad to see an industry that I love so much in this current state!
Travelling in 2020 Posts
UK 14 Day Quarantine On Arrival: What It’s Like Travelling Into London Heathrow
Flying Long Haul Business Class on British Airways: Chicago to London
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