Even on a short route like London to Madrid, I quickly recognized what a game-changer the A350-1000 is. British Airways’ latest aircraft offers a stunning new business class that can compete with leading business class products of the world.
I say compete, but stipulate at the outset that so much of competition is perception. British Airways currently has a business class seat that is widely regarded as inferior…but I like it. I like the unconstrained foot room and sleep just fine on it. But eight passengers across in business class is a tough sell and the new business class seat and cabin gives British Airways bragging rights that it offers a closed-door suite on par with many of the best airlines in the world.
While British Airways will operate the A350-1000 on longhaul routes, it is currently flying them from London Heathrow to Dubai and Madrid. My destination was Barcelona, but I booked an extra stop in Madrid in order to try out the new aircraft. Even though (well, actually because) I booked the day before, there was plenty of award space on the BA flight. In fact, it went out with open seats. British Airways is very good about releasing award space at the last-minute on shorthaul routes when there are unsold seats.
I spent some time in the British Airways lounge in T5 before making my way to the C-Gate area to board. By the time I arrived, boarding was about to commence.
British Airways 464
London (LHR) – Madrid (MAD)
Thursday, August 08
Depart: 04:45 PM
Arrive: 08:05 PM
Duration: 2hr, 20min
Aircraft: Airbus A350-1000
Seat: 9A (“Club World” Business Class)
As I stepped onto the plane, I noticed a self-serve buffet area just inside the door. It was not set up, of course, and would not be on the short flight to Madrid, but there was a refrigerator for beverages, shelves for snacks, and plenty of counter space. With nice cabinets and the silver-colored “Club World” logo, the whole area looked classy.
British Airways A350 Business Class Suite
As I turned left to enter business class, my first thought was how much the large business class cabin reminded me of the large business class cabin on United’s 787-10. British Airways offers 56-seats in its A350-1000 business class cabin, but 44 of those seats are in the forward cabin, creating a very large space.
The reverse herringbone seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, with direct aisle access at each seat and a privacy door that can be engaged once in-flight.
No blankets were available on this flight, but the white pillow resting on each seat was among the softest and most comfortable I have experienced in business class. Longhaul flights will offer a comforter and mattress pad as well.
I found there to be plenty of space for your feet and the tray table did not inhibit my knees like it recently did on Virgin Australia. Three personal storage compartments offer a power outlet, two USB ports, and a mirror. There’s a fourth compartment under the armrest of the chair that is intended to store a water bottle as well as a built-in coat hook and reading light.
The seat can be adjusted with a touchscreen unit embedded into the seat. Touch once to turn it on, and a second time to access the seat controls.
British Airways A350-1000 Business Class Dining
Menu cards were offered after takeoff along with a choice of beverage and a hot towel. For dinner, I chose British roast chicken with green beans, peas, and potato risotto. It was served on a tray with Mediterranean courgette, a bread roll, cheese, and chocolate moouse.
The entire meal was honestly tasty, though I appreciated the cheese the most. Both cheeses were British and included Red Leicester and Cropwell Bishop Blue Cheese. The sourdough crispbread crackers included with it were perfect, as was the fig chutney.
I finished the meal off with coffee and shortbread cookies.
I don’t drink beer, but there was a special BA Speedbird 100 IPA blend offered onboard, in commemoration of BA’s 100th birthday. “Speedbird” is BA’s call sign.
British Airways A350-1000 Business Class IFE
My in-flight-entertainment system did not work. One veteran flight attendant told me he had never seen anything like it in all his decades with British Airways. It was a new plane after all, but just a standard Panasonic IFE system. Despite numerous attempts to restart the system, it simply would not work for my seat and the two seats in front of me.
Thankfully, there were other open seats in the cabin and I was invited to move a few rows back. In browsing the IFE selection, I found a mix of movies, TV shows, games, flight map, audio, and info about a BA.
Noise-cancelling headphones were provided.
IFE could also be controlled by a hand-held unit located in one of the storage compartments.
Wi-Fi was available onboard, though I found pricing to be very uncompetitive. Sadly, British Airways has taken the data-based charging approaching for its A350. Packages range from GBP4.99 for 25MB to 17.99 for 150MB. That’s absurd, as far as I am concerned, so I did not bother to connect.
More so than the IFE, I enjoyed browsing a special anniversary edition of High Life, the British Airways magazine.
British Airways A350 Business Class Lavatory
Lavatories are located in the front of the aircraft and between the larger and smaller business class cabin. Lights built into the mirror provide abundant light. Hand wash and hand balm from the White Company are available and the white countertop gives the lavatory a very nice look.
British Airways A350 Business Class Service
When customers are happy, the crew is generally happy. You should seen the gasps and looks of amazement as travelers, many of them regular BA flyers, saw the new business class cabin for the first time. Everyone loved it and the cabin became the “selfie cabin” during the flight (sorry, no selfies from me).
The crew was very proud of the new aircraft and new cabin and very diligent in flight. It was a “mixed” crew meaning old and young flight attendants, but everyone provided professional and warm service onboard.
British Airways A350 Cockpit Visit
After the flight, I ventured up to the flight deck to check it out. The captain and first officer were very friendly and happy to show me around the “front office”. I felt like a kid again…
Here are some shots I took out my window during the flight:
I loved the comfortable, private new suite onboard the British Airways A350-1000 in business class. Other than the IFE issues and absurd wi-fi prices, the flight was nearly perfect.
In addition to Dubai and Madrid, BA will deploy its new A350 to Toronto (starting October 01, 2019), Tel Aviv (starting December 01, 2019), and Bangalore (starting January 01, 2020). You can also catch this new hard product on 777-300ERs to New York JFK. With BA’s improved soft product and new hard product, I’m really looking forward to giving British Airways another try.