I’ve been a long-time fan of British Airways dating back to the time we lived in London. My has flown BA between San Diego and London Heathrow in Club World (business class) multiple times since this direct flight launched.
Here’s what it’s like.
British Airways Lounge Access in San Diego
Qualifying passengers on this British Airways flight use the Airspace Lounge in Terminal 2.
Access to it is for business or first class passengers on this British Airways flight, American Airlines Admirals Club members, American Express Centurion or Platinum cardholders, and oneworld status holders (Sapphire or Emerald) on this flight. Anyone else (ages 2 and older) pays $35.
British Airways passengers have access to a free special menu that includes cheese and charcuterie plates and much better options than the normal Airspace menu (which you would otherwise have to pay for).
The British Airways menu also includes premium wines like Stag’s Leap. It’s not a bad way to kick off a flight.
On the Plane
Boarding is usually smooth but I must confess that I am not a fan of how the seats are in a 2-4-2 configuration. It’s tight. Most airlines have one or two seats less per row.
The two seats near the window face head-to-foot, which means one person flies backward.
Two seats in the middle row of four face the same direction and are in their own little pod together, riding backward. You would not want to sit here with someone you don’t know as there is very little personal space. These seats are popular with families.
A small little divider can be extended a few inches for a tiny bit of extra privacy but not much. My daughter and I were fine sitting here together, with my husband in one of the forward-facing pods adjacent to my daughter.
These two middle pods are split between flight attendants so my daughter and I each had different sets of flight attendants tending to us.
We’re used to the head-to-toe arrangement and it’s fine when it’s just my husband and I flying because it is easy to talk. A divider can be raised and lowered between the seats should you not know your neighbor. The flight attendants will have to lower it to serve you which can grow a little tiresome but isn’t the end of the world.
There are eight seats in a row in business class on this Boeing 777 which is one more than American Airlines and four more than Cathay Pacific (though, of course, one must consider how they’re angled and such).
I do feel a little squeezed for space, relatively speaking. There is only a very little drawer for storage at your feet that will hold a small laptop, your amenity kit and a few other odds and ends. So, ladies, you are forced to put your handbags and anything else that won’t fit in the drawer up in the overhead compartment for take-off and landing.
Speaking of the amenity kit, it was what you would expect with lovely Elemis amenities, a pen, toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask and earplugs. Slippers are provided but socks are not.
The items come in a soft bag. (I still use an Anya Hindmarch amenity kit bag that I received from British Airways first class over 10 years ago.)
Some routes will provide an option for you to pre-order meals in advance online.
I reserved child’s meals for my daughter by calling right after making the reservation, which they delivered to her onboard. She quite enjoyed them but I do think she would have been fine with the adult options now that her palate is more sophisticated.
The child meals are two courses (dessert is lumped on to one of them and is usually candy or a pudding of some sort). The below are an assortment of recent child meals my daughter has (mostly) enjoyed.
Regular meals are three courses with a salad and appetizer served together, an entree and a dessert. I didn’t photograph every course because I forgot.
On our departure flight, my salmon and rice pilaf was, frankly, not edible but my husband enjoyed his beef entree very much.
The salads and starters were fantastic, however, on both the departure and return flights.
The meals aren’t presented with the same flourish as American Airlines, Japan Airlines or Cathay Pacific, nor is the quality the same. But, they’re fine. I’m a hard marker when it comes to airline food because it can be honestly really good.
One observation is that I think it’s strange bread isn’t handed out with tongs. Passengers grab it from the basket by hand. I haven’t seen this on any other airline.
In between meals, passengers are invited to visit the galley for good grab-and-go snacks that range from ice cream to tea sandwiches. Stay hydrated by helping yourself to sodas and water (or champagne) here. I made the mistake of not taking advantage of the drinks on offer here on the way over to London and landed dehydrated and hungry.
The second meal was more like a snack with a croissant and fruit, basically, which wasn’t very substantial. On the return, I visited the galley to rehydrate and grab a tasty yogurt parfait so felt pretty good after landing.
The wine on British Airways is always excellent and something I look forward to.
The televisions are touch-screen but quite small and could use an upgrade. I used my own sound-proof headphones but some were provided. Having lived in London, I am a fan of a lot of British televisions shows so caught up on a few of those as well as movies I wanted to see.
I highly recommend that you check entertainment options before departure especially if you have kids in tow to decide if you need to download a few extra movies.
There is a dedicated Skyflyer channel for kids with Cartoon Network shows and a variety of kids’ movies so my daughter was fine with only these.
The seats recline fully flat, which is something I’ve always appreciated. But if you’re any taller than me, you won’t be able to fully extend. My 6’6″ husband has trouble on most airlines for this reason. That being said, it’s nice to be flat and the provided blankets and pillows are quite comfortable.
Service on our outgoing flight was patchy but it was fantastic on our return, partially due to a customer service manager who was clearly on the ball.
Kids in Club World did not receive the special amenity packs but we did notice some kids in World Traveller (economy) carrying them during our last flight.
Baggage Claim Woes
Flying in business class entitles passengers to a priority luggage tag attached to checked baggage.
In most cases, this means your luggage is first off the plane and on to the carousel. I can’t for the life of me figure out why this wasn’t the case in either direction on our recent flight.
I waited 30 minutes at the baggage claim for my luggage in San Diego, which was one of the last to hit the belt. The same thing happened to me at Paris Orly airport. This is something that just, frankly, shouldn’t happen.
Connecting at Heathrow Terminal 5
This flight is an excellent gateway to the rest of Europe. If you are flying in Club World, luckily, you’ll be able to use the Fast Track line at Heathrow Terminal 5 for faster security screening.
Yes, even if you were screened in your departure country, you will have to do it all over again in London. Therefore, it is wise to plan for extra time because the lines here can be grueling.
Terminal 5 is beautiful with incredible shopping and dining options, including a gorgeous Fortnum and Mason bar area and store, Harrod’s, Louis Vuitton, and much more. It is not a bad place to kill time!
Galleries Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 South
British Airways has a number of lounges in the new Terminal 5 but we sat in the Galleries Club.
Despite 800+ seats, it was hard to find space for three people near an electrical outlet on a Saturday afternoon, but it was fine on the Tuesday afternoon of our arrival.
Excellent wines and light meals are served here as well as a variety of deluxe coffee drinks. The decor is contemporary and comfortable with spacious bathrooms, a young kids’ play area, and multiple bars.
British Airways knows how to do lounges right. There is even an Elemis spa to take advantage of!
The Bottom Line
I still very much like British Airways/ The question that I’m getting as a oneworld Alliance member is whether to choose American Airlines or British Airways long haul to Europe from San Diego.
I regret that there isn’t necessarily a clear answer for me because they both have strengths and weaknesses. It’s becoming a tougher choice, now that American Airlines flights to Europe have lie-flat seats. I will say that I feel less strapped for storage and space in general on American Airlines.
I would say it comes down to price, where your layover is and how many elite qualifying miles and dollars you’ll earn.
If you are not flying business class, the second security screening at Heathrow can take a while so you’ll need to plan plenty of extra time.
From San Diego, we’re often able to fly to Europe on American Airlines via JFK. I tend to avoid this during winter as we all know what NYC winters can be like.
If you’re a oneworld Alliance member, you’ll also want to calculate which flights will earn you more the most elite qualifying dollars and miles.
I will definitely fly this route again on British Airways.
Any thoughts on future or past BA flights? Do share.
Top photo is used courtesy of British Airways