Welcome to Club World – Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
British Airways’ business class — branded “Club World” — has been flying for a long time. It was unveiled back in 1999 as one of the very first fully-flat business class seats. It’s undergone a few updates and refinements in the years since, but the design fundamentals are still the same. I’ve wanted to fly Club World for a long time, because of its unique layout and because of the aviation blogosphere’s mixed opinions on the product. I finally got my chance — on the majestic A380, no less. While there’s no denying that the seat isn’t the best out there, I found plenty to like about my experience.
Read on for the full scoop on my flight in Club World and the future of BA’s business class.
Our ride to London Heathrow – Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
The Korean Air A380 readies for departure at LAX – Photo: Kevin P Horn
This summer, my partner Natalie and I decided that we wanted to visit one or two cities in Asia during the short window that we had off. I researched the airlines, routes, and cities that we were interested in flying to and ended up choosing Seoul and Tokyo for stops. I had accrued about 200,000 points through Chase credit cards and started looking through redemption options. A friend of mine pointed me towards Korean Air, since they were partnered with Chase for 1-1 transfers and had an excellent 62,500 mile redemption (63,000 since I could only transfer in 1000 point increments) for business class to Asia one-way. These flights had the option to select a multi-day stopover in Seoul, so it precisely lined up with our travel goals.
I booked two one-way flights to Tokyo Narita (NRT) in Korean Air Prestige class with a five-day stopover in Seoul (ICN). I ended up booking a return with United Airlines on an Economy Saver redemption for 35,000 miles. But I’m not writing this to talk about United economy; flying on the upper deck of both an A380 and Queen of the Skies 747-400 is much more interesting.
Austrian Airlines A321-100 “Pinzgau” – Photo: Alastair Long | AirlineReporter
Following a five-day trip to Austria, my son and I flew back from Vienna International Airport (VIE) to London Heathrow (LHR) in economy on Austrian Airlines — flight OS455. We had sampled a serious amount of wiener schnitzel over the last few days and that was important; we had to bench test Austrian’s own wiener schnitzel on the way home.
The airline’s slogan is “We fly for your smile,” and we were hoping to find lots of smiles.
We Fly For Your Smile – Austrian Business Lounge reception at Gate F – Photo: Bo Long | AirlineReporter
We arrived at VIE and made directly for Austrian’s short-haul business lounge at Gate F in Terminal 3 — courtesy of the airline. The friendly receptionist found us on her list and gave my son an Austrian branded set of aircraft Mega Trumpf (top trumps) cards – we didn’t even need to fly for his first smile.
I recently had the opportunity to fly Air Transat’s Club Class on their service from Manchester to Vancouver using an Airbus A330-200.
Club Class on Air Transat is more equal to premium economy on other European carriers, or World Traveller Plus on British Airways; it is not a true business class. That said, there are only two rows of seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, the seats sport a 36-inch pitch, and there is a dedicated cabin crew member; all this makes the cabin feel very personal.
From Manchester to Vancouver – Photo: GCMap.com
Although my flight did not depart until mid-day, I arrived very early at the check-in area which turned out to be a mistake. On a Friday morning, Air Transat also has a flight to Toronto that departs an hour before the Vancouver service. This meant that my flight was not yet open. After a 30-minute wait I was ready to check in. Although Club Class has its own desk, passengers still had to join a general melee to be processed and have passports checked by the handling agent’s security personnel. Having overcome this early problem, the rest of the processing was quick and the staff were polite.