LONDON, UK: British Airways' first Boeing 787 Dreamliner arrives at London Heathrow on 27 June 2013 (Credits: Garrish/British Airways)

LONDON – British Airways is currently rolling out a host of Club World improvements across their network, including new bedding and amenity kits designed by The White Company, a renowned British luxury lifestyle brand, and new restaurant-style dining service onboard.

What you will find are classy display trolleys with a choice of pre-plated starters, desserts and cheeses, high-quality table settings, and a superb duvet and pillow.

My day job as a college professor takes me back home to South Africa at least once a year.

I generally try to find competitively priced Premium Economy seats on the AA/BA codeshare through London or a combination of oneworld mileage awards to Europe and low business class fares on one of the ME3 carriers, most frequently out of Madrid or Amsterdam.

For my trip this past July, I found a reasonable fare in BA’s World Traveller Plus (WTP) cabin (their Premium Economy) for $3,036 from DFW to JNB return.

I find BA’s WTP product decent, though not close to Japan Airlines’ or Qantas’ offering codeshare, at 6’ 5” of height, I frequently pay the difference from coach just to get the extra legroom.

My flight on 7/7/18 was BA 192 from DFW to LHR on a 747-400 with an onward journey on the A380 to JNB, all in WTP.

However, a rather nice surprise awaited me as I approached gate D15 for our 5:55 PM departure, my name over the airport PA asking me to re-check and pick up my new boarding pass.

As an AA Executive Platinum, I never expect upgrades, especially on other carriers, but it sometimes happens and I was especially grateful for this one, as I love flying upstairs on “The Queen of the Skies”.

Moreover, I managed to snag seat 64 A on the upper deck, consistently rated as the best seat in the business class cabin on the 747.

No one steps over you in this seat, there are the very handy storage compartments along the windows and, most importantly, it is direct aisle access.

While Airways has reviewed BA’s Club World cabin several times, the reason for this report is that my flight was one of the first out of DFW with their new “Dining and Sleep Improvements.”

It was a serendipitous opportunity to review this product. So, how did these upgrades to the Club World cabin stack up?

First, a quick word about the service. I have always found BA’s inflight service and FAs to be top-notch, and this flight was no exception.

The CSD welcomed me by name (I assume he recognized that I was an AA EXP flyer) and made it very clear that nothing would be too much trouble in the upstairs bubble.

In fact, all the upper deck crew were friendly and efficient. It was the elegant British service at its finest!

Prior to departure, I was offered water, juice, or champagne (I chose the latter, naturally) which was served in a very elegant stemless flute.

I was also given a bottle of water for the flight followed by the obligatory hot towel that seemed thicker and more substantial than normal.

The new menus in Club World are a classy affair. Tall, slim, and printed on textured paper, the menu folds out concertina-style with cocktails and soft drinks on the inside sleeve and the wine selections listed on the back.

After takeoff, I chose a second glass of champagne (it seemed rude not to!) which was the Henriot Brut Souverain NV, an excellent blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

Cold nuts served on a rather sleek black tray accompanied this.

Once drinks were cleared, food trays were delivered with the new beige linen tablecloths.

I thought the presentation was spot on here, especially the metal breadbasket that contained three varieties of warm, fresh, crispy bread, a porcelain dish for butter, a glass of sparkling water, and a rather nice added touch: a chocolate wrapped up like a soccer ball.

It was, after all, World Cup month!

The trolley then appeared with the starters. I have to admit, I am a bit old-fashioned in this regard as I really like to be able to see my food and then select something based on the presentation and texture.

Perhaps I was just feeling sentimental, thinking back to my many trips across the pond in the 1990s when trolleys were standard.

In any case, they looked the part, along with the wines and champagne presented on top of the trolley in a large silver wine cooler.

I opted for the marinated grilled tiger prawns, which was served with smoked hummus and a Moroccan salad.

This was just flat out tasty, as fresh as could be.

I could have had a second starter as well as a soup, but decided to order the seasonal salad to accompany my entrée, the Canadian salmon, which was served with five-grain couscous, green beans and roasted baby peppers.

I almost never order fish on a flight, but as the beef short rib did not quite grab me, I was glad I did. The salmon was flaky and cooked to perfection.

For dessert, I chose the warm orange and chocolate croissant pudding (how can you not order something with custard on a BA flight?) which was, like the rest of the meal, excellent.

I did find it strange that there are only three entrees but four desserts and a cheese board, but my sweet tooth did not really protest too much. Still, I think a fourth entrée option would have been the way to go.

The second meal service was a light breakfast of chilled orange juice, strawberry yoghurt, a selection of breads and pastries, and a very tasty smoked salmon and scrambled egg wrap.

Overall, this was as good a meal as I have had in business class, anywhere.

The new amenity kit by the White Company was decent enough, including the usual socks, earplugs, and toothbrush/toothpaste.

I liked the eye mask (even though I always fly with my own full blackout pair), and the toiletries included products from the retailer’s ‘Restore and Relax Spa Collection’, including a restorative eucalyptus moisturizer and luxury spa lip balm. 

The new bedding was certainly a highlight and included a duvet, mattress topper, and a large, luxurious pillow (day flights also get a day blanket).

This new bedding is a significant upgrade, particularly the duvet and pillow. The mattress topper did not seem to make much of a difference as it was rather thin, but it did cover the seat and stayed in place pretty well.

I arrived relatively fresh and well rested.

Overall, BA says it has spent 400 million pounds on these upgrades to Club World.

From a customer experience standpoint, the difference is noticeable and puts the carrier’s business class soft product into the same tier as its oneworld partner American Airlines.

With a hard product revamp in the pipeline, I see British Airways coming back into the fold as a leading premium cabin player.

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By day, Mike Slattery is Director of the Institute for Environmental Studies and Professor at Texas Christian University, USA. He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Oxford, England. Originally from South Africa, Mike is an internationally-trained geographer and environmental scientist who has written more than 85 scientific articles and a book on a range of environmental issues, from human impacts on rivers systems to the socio-economic impacts of large-scale wind farms. But he is also an AvGeek with a particular interest in (and extensive collection of) airline menus. Mike’s work takes him all over the globe to landscapes as diverse as the cloud forests of Costa Rica to the game reserves of Southern Africa. At last count, he had flown more than 1.4 million miles, equivalent to being in the air 118.5 days or 5.8 x the distance to the moon. “I’ll never understand how an airliner gets off the ground, but I sure love being in them!” He lives with his family in Fort Worth. drmslattery@gmail.com