This article is part of the Flight Reviews series, in which I review the onboard product offered by airlines across a variety of aircraft types and routes. These first-person reports review a particular flight — a unique combination of factors including operating airline, aircraft type, route and class of service.
International business class is a treat, and I was happy to have the opportunity to enjoy a long-haul trip with British Airways on its flagship Airbus A350 aircraft. Let’s start with some basic flight details:
Airline/Flight: British Airways, BA297
Route: London Heathrow to Chicago-O’Hare
Flight Date: November 16, 2022
Aircraft: Airbus A350-1000
I took this flight as part of a longer itinerary from Brussels, Belgium to Boston, Massachusetts, making it the second segment of a three-flight journey. The Airbus A350 aircraft is familiar to me, but this was my first opportunity to experience the aircraft type with British Airways. It was also my first time interacting with BA’s new business class product, the Club World Suite.
How I booked the flight
My itinerary was purchased with American Airlines frequent flyer miles — The total cost was 57,500 AAdvantage miles plus $343.38 in taxes and fees.
Although the taxes and fees component was pricey due to some pesky British Airways carrier-imposed surcharges, I considered it a fair deal and a great opportunity to experience a new business class product.
British Airways Airbus A350 Seating Layout
The British Airways Airbus A350 is a three-class aircraft with 56 business class Club World Suites with sliding doors, 56 World Traveller Plus premium economy seats and 219 World Traveller economy class seats.
Seats in the World Traveller (economy class) cabin are arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration, while the larger and more comfortable World Traveller Plus (premium economy) seats are arranged 2-4-2. A detailed seat maps is available from aeroLOPA.
Business Class “Club World” Seat
The Club World Suite is a customized version of the popular Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat, my personal favorite. Although I’m fond of the core seat product (check out my review of the American Airlines Super Diamond seat), I was nervous about the accessibility implications of the suite’s sliding privacy door. I’ll address the door later in this review.
I found the Club World Suite to be spacious and comfortable — it reclined into a fully flat bed position. On long-haul international flights like this one (nearly 9 hours), lay-flat seats reduce the risk of pressure sores. I enjoyed an uninterrupted snooze of 3 to 4 hours.
Seat features are controlled via a control panel adjacent to the seat — recline into a lounge position or further into flat bed mode with the press of a button.
The 18.5-inch HD touch screen display provides a fantastic inflight entertainment experience, with a large library of movies, TV shows and more right at your fingertips. During the flight, I watched Top Gun: Maverick — a fantastic sequel.
A universal 110V AC electrical outlet delivering up to 125 Watts off power and two USB-A charging ports are provided.
The above slider gallery contains photos of the Club World Suites from a variety of angles. The 56-seat cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, with direct aisle access at every seat. Sliding privacy doors add an extra layer of luxury and intrigue to the business class experience, but present an additional accessibility barrier to passengers with reduced mobility.
With a maximum clearance of 16 inches between the opened door and adjacent seat enclosure, lateral transfers between the seat and aisle chair are restricted. Although I was ultimately able to self-transfer with some difficulty, I noted assistance staff in both London and Chicago were hesitant to lift me in and out of the suite — they hadn’t been trained for such a complex transfer.
Privacy is great — passengers love it, myself included! But it need not come at the expense of accessibility. Were the Club World Suite retrofitted to include a removable sliding door and wall component, British Airways could be the market leader in premium cabin accessibility.
Food & Beverage Service
The international flights on which this aircraft type typically operates offer a multi-course meal service with ordering from a printed menu, but the meal service on this flight was a typical domestic first class offering.
I started with a glass of water and a cocktail — Woodford Reserve bourbon on the rocks, my favorite. The meal consisted of a salad with grilled chicken, a hard boiled egg, shredded cheese and other accompaniments. A small chocolate cake was provided as dessert. The meal hit the spot and I enjoyed it.
There is no secondary snack service provided on a flight of this length, but I requested some Biscoff cookies from the economy class offering later in the flight. They pair nicely with a cup of coffee (or a final glass of bourbon)!
The accessible lavatory on the British Airways Airbus A350 is located at the center of the economy class cabin, behind row 35. Midway through the flight and after meal service had concluded, I rang the call bell and told the flight attendant that I needed to use the lavatory. Within a few minutes, he returned with a colleague and the onboard aisle wheelchair.
The journey to the lavatory was arduous — with remarkably narrow aisles, I bumped into more than a few economy class passengers, waking some of them along the way.
Accessible lavatories come in a number of shapes and sizes, and some are much more accessible than others. If I were to rank the various styles, this one would be at the bottom of the list.
The accessible lavatory on the British Airways Airbus A350 isn’t purpose built: a folding wall that separates two standard lavatories is opened to provide for additional space for the aisle chair and a companion or care assistant. Passengers have their choice of two toilets, but there are unfortunately no horizontal grab bars in the space. A vertical grab bar is useful for those who can stand, but that isn’t my situation.
Pro-tip: When a flight attendant is assisting you to the lavatory using an aisle chair, advise them to pull you backwards — it’s safer, much easier to maneuver and will prevent your knees from bumping into seats.
For more information on getting to and using the bathroom on the airplane as a wheelchair user, read the article on wheelchair accessible airplane lavatories, which contains photos and descriptions of the various lavatory styles.
The Airbus A350 is a fantastic, modern aircraft, and I took a longer route in order to experience the British Airways iteration. I enjoyed the Club World Suite, but noted opportunities for improvements to the seat’s accessibility and the onboard lavatory. As one of the largest transatlantic airlines, British Airways could position itself as a market leader in accessibility — I hope they’ll make that commitment in the future.
If you’re traveling to Europe or elsewhere in the world and find what’s been described here suited to your needs, take flight! I’m confident you’ll find the British Airways team welcoming and eager to serve you on your travel journey.