A short review of British Airways Club Europe, shorthaul business class, between London and Madrid. One of the routes where the more extensive inflight concept in business class is offered with a three courses meal.
I was in transit at London Heathrow airport connecting between two flights at terminal 5. There is a fast track channel through transfer security at terminal 5 which you can use as a business class passenger. It was fairly quick this afternoon at 3 pm, at peak times even the fast track can be fairly slow. I made it to the lounge within 20 minutes of touching down on the runway.
As a British Airways Gold card holder I could use the British Airways Galleries First Lounge where they offered cheese tasting this afternoon. A very nice initiative. I really enjoy all the events they organise in the Galleries First Lounge. Having had lunch on the inbound flight and since I was expecting a full dinner on the next flight I skipped most of the food on offer in the lounge and just had a glass of white wine to drink from the decent selection at the self-service bar.
Passengers travelling in British Airways Business Class/Club Europe but not holding a BA Gold Card or a OneWorld Emerald Card have access to the one of the Galleries Club Lounges, either the one in the northern part of the terminal or the larger one in the southern part of the terminal right above the Galleries First Lounge.
British Airways flight BA 464
The flight to Madrid was to depart from B-gates, which requires a train ride from the main terminal building where most of the lounges are located. Boarding had already started when I reached the gate but they had a separate priority line where they continued to process priority customers who arrived later, so even though general boarding had started I did not have to join the main queue.
An Airbus A319 was used to Madrid. There were six rows assigned to business class and all seats but one were taken. Economy class seemed completely full and the boarding process took some time, especially with all the hand luggage.
Nevertheless we managed to push back pretty much on time with an expected flight time of around two hours to Madrid.
Hot towels were offered on the ground before departure but there were no pre-departure drinks. Newspapers were available from a rack at the gate.
Seat and cabin
The Airbus A319 had the standard shorthaul cabin design with the seats in black leather in a 3-3 configuration but with free middle seats in business class, where there is a cocktail table in business class.
I had seat 02D on the flight with a Spanish man in 02F. 02E was indeed kept empty and both the tray table and the cocktail table at seat 02E came to good use.
Food and drinks
After the seatbelt sign had been switched off the purser came into the cabin and greeted me personally by name as a British Airways gold card holder, which was a very nice touch. Presumably I was the only one in the cabin and I was taken well care of during the flight.
The purser had a Danish flag on his name tag and also a family name which sounded very Danish, so I asked politely about it and it turned out to be perfectly correct. So we could actually communicate in some kind of Scandinavian language during the flight. From experience the Scandinavians working on BA usually do a good job. The rather punctual and orderly Scandinavian approach together with the laid-back approach at BA, often with a good sense of humour, seems to be a rather good combination. The best of both worlds.
A first drink round was done in the cabin after takeoff before the meal service. I asked for a gin & tonic, which was served with some nuts. They have two gins to choose between in business class, Tanqueray and Gordons.
The printed menu was also handed out for the meal service.
A few minutes later the meal tray was handed out with the starter, the cheeses and the dessert. Bread rolls were also offered as well as more drinks.
The starter was Balik-style smoked salmon with horseradish cream. Quite tasty and a nice presentation. I was offered a refill of the gin & tonic, which I happily accepted.
There were two choices of main course. Herb-grilled chicken supreme with thyme jus, truffled linguine and root vegetables. Or Grilled Atlantic cod fillet with olive mash and ratatouille.
Sitting on the second row there was no problem getting my first choice, the chicken supreme, a dish I had tried in the past and enjoyed the last time. I asked for a glass of white wine to drink with the main course. The wines are served from large bottles and there are usually two red wines and two white wines to choose between. I had an Italian white wine to drink.
Finally there were cheeses on a small plate on the tray, Croxton Manor mature Cheddar cheese, served with mango chilli chutney and oat cakes. And to finish off a coffee cream caramel dessert with gingerbread crumble.
More white wine was offered and finally coffee and tea. With a full business class cabin the inflight service took most of the flight to complete. By the time I had finished my coffee we started our descent into Madrid.
Overall the inflight concept offered in business class on these longer intra-European flights (usually above 2:20-2:30 in flight time) is excellent. Printed menu, a cocktail service after takeoff, a three courses meal with two choices of main course (with the main course served separately), wines from large bottles, followed by coffee, tea and liqueurs. This is one of the best shorthaul business class products in Europe at the moment. If they could only offer some more rotations of the food.
Great service from the staff and especially from the purser. After the personal welcome by name after takeoff the service level continued in the same manner. I was well looked after the service was flawless in every possible aspect, even with a nearly full business class cabin to attend to.
The gold recognition on British Airways is far from perfect and way too often it is non-existent onboard. But when they offer some recognition they usually do it perfectly.
We landed at Madrid Barajas airport (nowadays called Adolfo Suárez airport) on time just after 8 pm. The aircraft parked at the satellite building used by most non-Schengen flights called terminal T4S. From terminal T4s you take an underground transit train to get to terminal T4, the main terminal building, where the baggage reclaim is located.
The train ride actually takes some time due to the long distance between the two buildings (there is even a runway in between) but it helped sitting on one of the front rows and fortunately I also only had hand luggage.
I had a reservation at one of the airport hotels so started looking for the bus stop for the hotel shuttles outside the terminal.
Excellent flight with excellent service and recognition from the purser and one of the best intra-Europe business class products available at the moment. Printed menu, a cocktail service after takeoff, a three courses meal with two choices of main course, served separately, followed by coffee/tea and liqueurs. Overall a solid product.