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British Airways A320 Club Europe

Originally published on businesstraveller.com 12/07/2014 - Filed under: Tried & Tested » Airlines » Tried & Tested » Tried & Tested » Airlines » British Airways »

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BACKGROUND

British Airways is in the process of fitting new seating across the majority of its short haul, A320-family fleet. The main difference is the reconfiguration of the seating so that both economy (Euro Traveller) and business (Club Europe) have the same seat pitch of around 30 inches. This is a review of the first aircraft to be refitted with this standard seating – an A320 – on a three and a half hour flight returning from Kiev, Ukraine to London Heathrow.

To read the outward leg of the flight, and the first impressions of the seat, click here.

To read about the new seat and see large pictures of it (from British Airways) click here.

FIRST IMPRESSIONS

I had stayed on the aircraft at Kiev, so I didn’t see anything of the airport or the lounge. Instead I walked around and took lots of photos which can be viewed in this review.

British Airways Club Europe A320

I took a couple of pictures but only with the flash turned off can you see the mood lighting.

THE SEAT

This is British Airways new short haul seating which is being retrofitted across its A320-family fleet of aircraft. To read the news stories about this, and to see the photos, click here.

We will have a seat map drawn up shortly, but the configuration is 2-2 in Club Europe (business short haul) and 3-3 in Euro Traveller (economy).

British Airways Club Europe A320

The seating is ABC-DEF throughout the aircraft, but in Club Europe the middle seat is blocked out with a tray table, so seats B and E are not sold.

Depending on how many seats of Club Europe have been booked, a curtain is moved up and down the cabin. On this flight the curtain was just after row 4, and so there were four rows of Club Europe.

The seating configuration is from row 1-28, with no rows missing (there is a row 13, for instance).

In Club Europe, the middle seat is blocked with a central tray table with a half leather, half wood effect surface, where you can place work items and drinks when working.

The back of the seat has netting for placing personal items, though these will bang against your knees, and also a slot at the top where magazines can be placed.

BA also says you can hang your tablet from this to watch your own IFE – but, of course, that's only if you have an appropriate tablet case – mine is a sleeve and so I wasn't able to use this feature.

Note also that there is no in-seat power for any of the seats, so for flights of longer duration such as this one (over there hours) if you are working there is the issue that your devices will have powered down by the time you arrive.

The new seats look lovely, and are pleasant and comfortable for sitting. I suppose the colour is charcoal, though depending on the light it seems there are almost touches of brown to that colour.

Since this was newly-fitted, the cabin smelt fresh as well, with the leather adding to the effect. The seats have adjustable head rests which as well as going up and down, depending on your height, also have winglets allowing you to rest your head to one side or another, although few of the people I saw sleeping had made use of this feature, so perhaps it’s worth the cabin crew pointing it out – it certainly helps prevent your head lolling around when you are asleep or trying to sleep.

One point — since this is a retrofit of the seating, although new mood lighting has been introduced, there is no change to the inflight entertainment (there isn’t any), and the overhead screens simply show the safety video and then revert to the flight map for the duration of the flight.

On the way back, Rows 5 and rows 6, though in Euro Traveller now, still had the central console table in place, which seemed to defeat the object of having the new cabin, since it was the ease of converting the seats according to the flight load of business to economy passengers that was one of the reasons for the new configuration (well, that and the fact you can get more seats on, and presumably they are lighter and so more economical to fly round).

In fact, this was unusual, and was simply because the ground crew at Kiev had either forgotten to do so, or didn’t know how since this was the first aircraft to be refitted (or perhaps they were more concerned with refuelling the aircraft without being struck by lightning). Anyway, normally this would have been done, and I asked a flight attendant to show me how quickly the seat could be converted, which he did in row 4 where I was sitting – there was no one else there so it didn’t disturb anyone.

The process is very quick. underneath the front of the table is a catch which, when pressed, allows the front leaf of the table to fold over and upwards. There are then two more buttons on either side of the underneath which press in, and the table can then be pivoted forward and slips under the seat, allowing room for access to the lifejacket which is underneath. The arms of the seats then fold down to make the seats into three (ABC or DEF).

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?

In Club Europe, the front row – row 1, is the one you need if you want to work on a laptop, there just isn’t enough room in the seats behind this – especially if the passenger in front reclines their seat.

British Airways Club Europe A320 window seats

Strangely some seats in Club Europe (and possible in Euro Traveller) seem to have less room than others, particularly the window seats. Could this be because the aircraft is slightly thinner towards the front of the cabin and the seats have to nestle to the side of the aircraft?

I don't know, but I'd noticed it in seats 4F, and have a look at this photo of 2F – it’s not crystal clear, but see how the seat cushion in 2F is slightly ahead  of the ones in 2D and E? That's not some entasis-like optical illusion, you really do get less leg room in that seat, and generally, I would choose an aisle seat in Club Europe.

In Euro Traveller, the exit rows are best – over wing these are rows 11 and 12, and these do have more room, but only by a few inches.

One point about sitting in Euro Traveller – the exit rows by the over wing emergency exit (rows 11 and 12 on this aircraft) do not have the same amount of room that the emergency exits had in the old configuration.

Just a couple of weeks ago I flew back from Vienna with BA in the exit row of Eurotraveller and it was very spacious – more so than this. As you can see from the photos, there is extra leg room, but it isn’t 34 inches.

British Airways Euro Traveller A320 exit row seats

British Airways Euro Traveller A320 exit row seats

THE FLIGHT

While waiting for boarding to begin there was a simultaneous huge crash and flash of light, then all the lights went off.

The ladies cleaning the aircraft had just finished, so the sudden twilight on the plane hadn’t slowed them, but a minute later ground crew came up the steps and told us that there had been a direct lightning strike to the apron about six metres from the aircraft.

Luckily, they hadn’t been refuelling the aircraft at the time. The pilot came out, shrugged his way into a waterproof jacket  - it was still raining hard – and said it had knocked out the power to the plane, and though he’d been told the lightning strike had missed, he was going to have a walk round the plane in any case, and so he went off down the stairs.

The aircraft was then free for me to go back on board and take some more photos.

We pushed back at 1320 and had no delays in taking off.

The drinks service and meal service was quite leisurely in Club Europe (no complaints, but I noticed because the meal service was taking place at the front of the Euro Traveller cabin directly behind me long before we got our meal – but then, that’s a much bigger cabin and they have to serve a lot more people.

The two flight attendants dedicated to Club Europe were excellent, and every few minutes during the flight were round checking on things and if they thought we needed anything asking if we wanted any drinks.

Appetiser

  • Seasonal salad with dressing

Main

  • Beef stroganoff with vegetable rice and tomato
  • Fried hake with Bechamel sauce, potato, carrots and broccoli

Bread rolls

Dessert

  • Applecake with orange sauce  or
  • Selection of crackers

British Airways Club Europe lunch

Wines and Champagne (Monopole) were offered with the meal – though many people in Club Europe didn’t eat, but just had coffee.

The rest of the flight passed off without incident and I dozed for about half an hour.

ARRIVAL

We landed slightly ahead of schedule at 1435, and this time at the main terminal at T5 (having departed from Satellite C).

We were quickly off the aircraft and since I had only hand luggage, there were no delays once through immigration (which was swift) and I was off to the Piccadilly Underground station.

VERDICT

As detailed in the previous review, these are comfortable seats, with a lovely leather finish, some nice touches such as the magazine pocket doubling as an iPad holder (provided you have an appropriate case) and new mood lighting in the aircraft. For Euro Traveller, this is an improved offering.

The reduction in leg room for Club Europe, however, will not be welcome.

British Airways A320 leg room

Leg room in 4F - I was sitting well back in the seat, and I'm 5' 11''

Passengers buy Club Europe for many reasons, whether transferring onto or from a long haul flight, or because they want more personal space, or they simply want to work.

The reduction in seat pitch from 34 inches to 30 inches makes work difficult, unless you secure the front row. This increase in the number of seats is occurring across most short-haul fleets, including competitors such as Lufthansa and Air France.

In answer to the question why would someone pay for Club Europe to have the same leg room, the answer seems to be the whole package – the extra room courtesy of the middle table, the enhanced food and drink (Monopole Champagne), the lounges, the priority boarding, first off the aircraft at the other end and so on.

FACT BOX

Plane Type: A320

Configuration 2-2 Club Europe (business), 3-3 Euro Traveller (economy)

Seat width: 18 inches

Seat pitch: 30 inches

Seat recline: Club Europe recline is 3“ and Euro Traveller is 2“.

ba.com

Tom Otley
 

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COMMENTS » 

sparkyflyer - 14/07/2014 09:49

Excellent review and great to see the pics.

But it seems that the one thing this new seating prevents you from doing, which is what most businesses who are paying for a Club Europe ticket, is business, as there is no space to use a laptop, It seems you cannot even recline to a meaningful angle to have a powernap as there is no space for the knees.

I feel this decision by BA/IAG will come back to haunt them. With BA Club World now an inferior offering versus many of its long haul competitors, and now a far less desireable offering on its European network, business passengers will choose other carriers for longhaul flights, not worry so much about avios to redeam on short haul flights, and look at other options for short haul.

gordies - 03/08/2014 16:09

Thank you for the excellent report. At 6'3" there is now zero point in even contemplating CE, and I think BA have made a terrible mistake with this that will penalise them.

It is nonsense that their old 737's out of LGW are now going to have the most room in CE, and not modern aircraft. It is utter madness in my humble opinion.

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