I might not have flown quite as much in recent months as I did three or four years ago. And I am definitely no stranger to flying. But even I still have new experiences to look forward to every once in a while. Like flying long-haul business class for the very first time (finally). Turning left as you enter the aircraft. Exciting stuff. So how about I tell you a little about what to expect flying business class? Is the experience flying business class really worth all the extra money? Well, make it to the end of this post and I might just tell you.
Spoiler alert: I did not actually pay exorbitant amounts for my business class experience. Over the years, I had accumulated enough frequent flyer points to upgrade our flight back from New York to London. But more on that in a bit.
Our business class flights were with British Airways. So, I can really only talk about my experience flying business class with BA. And what to expect flying business class with British Airways. Or Club World, as they call it. I suspect the main aspects of the experience flying business class will be the same with other airlines. But I wouldn’t know (yet).
Before I do my best to answer all your questions about what to expect flying business class, let’s start at the beginning…
How did we end up booking business class from New York to London?
No, I am not that flush that I can just upgrade my flights to business as and when I feel like it. Gosh, I sometimes wish I was. And no, I have not found an airline (yet) willing to upgrade me in return for a blog post.
When booking our last trip to New York, we found a good deal on the flights. And decided straight away to book premium economy instead of standard economy, as it was only marginally more money.
Over the last few years, I’ve collected a nice sum of Avios points (not just from previous flights, but also through my credit card) that were just sitting there waiting to be used. I knew that I would have enough points to upgrade one way from premium economy to business class for the two of us. Or both ways for me… just kidding obviously, as tempting as it might sound, no way would I leave Mr T in cattle class on his own.
I went ahead and booked our trip. But when it came to upgrading to business class, I chickened out. Yes, I had enough Avios points to upgrade. But I completely forgot about the taxes. So despite sufficient points, I would have to pay the higher tax. Which added around 200 GBP per person. Something I needed to think about a little more. I was assured that I can decide on the upgrade at any time before the flight.
Eventually, the curiosity of what the experience flying business class would be like got the better of me. I gave in and upgraded our flight from New York back to London. Yes, it was 200 GBP extra, but sod it. I really wanted to know what to expect flying business class.
I had flown Club Europe before, the British Airways business class on European flights. But sitting in front of the curtain in seats that are the same as the ones behind the curtain, just without someone occupying the middle seat isn’t exactly the same experience as flying business class on a long-haul flight.
And we didn’t even have to wait until the flight back to London to experience flying business class. Turns out British Airways decided to upgrade our flight from London to New York. Can you believe it? I was gobsmacked when I checked in online and saw that our preselected seats had been changed. A quick check on the seat chart revealed that our new seats would be in Club World. The entire day I could barely stop grinning. A bit like a kid waiting for Santa at Christmas. I so wanted to find out what to expect flying business class and now I would have the chance to experience it not once but twice. A day flight and a night flight. Talk about a full business class experience.
* Now is as good a time as any to clarify something: This is not a sponsored post. I might be mentioning British Airways half a million times in this post, but I did not get an incentive from them to write about my experience flying business class. I mean yes, I did get a free upgrade. But not because I asked for it or promised a glorious review. Free upgrade aside, I paid for the entire trip. And anything in this post is my personal opinion and experience.
What to expect flying business class: Baggage allowance
The hand baggage allowance remains the same in business as it is in economy and premium economy. But then again, the BA hand luggage allowance is one of the most generous I know. You are allowed one small bag (small enough to fit under the seat in front of you) and a cabin trolley to go in the overhead locker. Both can weigh up to 23kg, if you are able to manhandle them by yourself.
When flying Club World, BA allows you two suitcases with 32kg each. Surely that is enough, even if (like me) you are planning a shopping spree in New York.
Our experience flying business class: Check in and bag drop
There isn’t really any difference at check in between economy (or even premium economy) and business class when flying with British Airways. Both allow online check in 24 hours in advance. The difference only starts once you get to the airport. Business class has a dedicated bag drop area. When I say dedicated… it is for business class as well as BA executive club gold and silver members. So, I am no stranger to that bag drop area, having been a silver member for years (sadly no more).
Having the dedicated bag drop area meant a much shorter queue than you’d have flying Economy. And all bags were labelled with ‘Priority’, meaning they should come out first the other side. Pair that with fast-track security (again, a perk for business class as well as gold and silver members) and we were off to a good start right from the beginning.
Our experience flying business class: Lounge access
If you have been following my blog for a while, you know that I am no stranger to British Airways lounge access. As an executive club silver member, I had access to the business lounge for all my flights for several years.
As we upgraded to business class for the flight back to London, we knew we would have access to the British Airways Lounge at JFK. And courtesy of the free upgrade, we were also able to visit the lounge at Heathrow again. Coffee and breakfast sorted on the way out. As well as a quick shower before boarding an overnight flight on the way back. Perfect.
What to expect flying business class: Boarding our flight
As anyone that has flown British Airways before would know, boarding is by group number. Club World (aka Business Class) boards as Group 2 along with Executive Club silver members. Group 1 would be First Class passengers and gold members.
Meaning, you are not the first one on the plane. But you board fairly early.
Boarding in Heathrow, we were a little disappointed that we had to turn right rather than left as we entered the aircraft. But on the way back from New York, we had a seat in the front part of business class and were finally asked to turn left. Talk about little pleasures.
We were flying with the Boeing 777-300 to New York and with the Boeing 777-200 back to London. Both were already refurbished, so our business class experience included the new Club Suite layout both times.
Where we were previously happy with the roomy 2 – 4 – 2 layout in Premium Economy (as opposed to 3 – 4 – 3 in Economy), business class offered a 1 – 2 – 1 layout. Plenty of individual space.
Since we were travelling as a couple, we wanted to sit together. The (very small) downside of flying business class, we couldn’t get window seats and sit next to each other. Yes, we could have opted for two window seats behind each other. But we figured we probably wouldn’t be able to see much of each other or talk to one another. At least not without disturbing everyone else around us. So middle seats it was for us.
As we boarded very early on, we had plenty of time to explore our Club Suite and take a million photos. And we were greeted with a glass of champagne (or orange juice).
Our experience flying business class: The BA Club Suite
Back in 2019, British Airways revealed their new Business Class interior. And by now, most of the British Airways long-haul fleet has been upgraded to feature the new British Airways Club Suites. Unlike the old business class layout, now all seats are facing forward. And they all have direct access from the aisle (thanks to the 1 – 2 – 1 layout).
Everyone has their own little suite with a door for privacy. Didn’t take long to reveal that this was my very first experience flying business class. I couldn’t work out how to close the door to my suite and asked the stewardess. Only to be told that they are locked and will have to remain open until after the start. By which time they would come and close them for us (and yes, there is a little button to operate them ourselves once airborne). OK, I could have guessed that this was the case.
With that sorted, we continued to explore our suites.
There is plenty of storage for smaller bag, laptop, phones etc. There’s even a mirror in one of the compartments. And a lovely amenity kit from The White Company.
Checking out all the buttons, Mr T was quick to test the adjustable seat. Which doesn’t just recline and have a footrest. Oh no. It folds down completely into a flat bed. Heaven.
Instead of a tiny thin blanket, we had a decent pillow, duvet, and mattress topper. Transforming the seat into a relatively comfortable bed for the flight. Which should come handy for the overnight flight back from New York. As especially Mr T very much struggles to get any shut eye during flights. Even in premium economy. But more on that later.
There is plenty of desk space in the suite, so you could get some work done, if you wanted to. I say could. Because even though I had the best intentions of writing a little during the flight, I ended up just snuggling in the very comfy seat and watching movies. But good to know that I would have had sufficient space for the laptop had I needed it.
The two suites in the centre of the aisles are connected via a window. It comes with a shutter; in case you don’t know the person next to you. As a couple flying together, I must say that the window is small and therefore view and communication is a little limited. Personally, I would have preferred a bit more of a connection. This might not be the same for other airlines, after all, this was my first experience flying business class.
What to expect flying Business Class: Onboard service
Once we had settled into our Club Suite, we checked the onboard menu to decide on our food.
Food on the morning flight
The flight to New York was in the morning, so we would be served breakfast plus a light lunch.
Breakfast was served shortly after take-off and consisted of two courses.
Mr T decided on smoked salmon for starters and the full British for mains.
Whereas I had the charcuterie plate as a starter and the Belgian waffles as my main course.
Whilst not bad, the waffles weren’t my all-time favourite. But it might just be a case of being full already (after all, we started the day with breakfast in the BA lounge that morning).
Although it was served on a tray, all food was arranged nicely on china, rather than in little plastic bowl with lids. It even came served on a linen tablecloth.
Throughout the flight, we were served drinks from the bar. All in nice glasses, no plastic cups in sight.
Somewhere between movie 2 and 3, we were then served our light lunch, a choice of a BBQ chicken sandwich (Mr T’s choice) or a quiche (my choice).
Followed by crème caramel for dessert.
Food on the overnight flight
Once more, we had a full menu waiting for us in the suite as we boarded the aircraft. The dinner menu included not just the choices for our three-course meal, it also featured a full bar menu including cocktails and mocktails.
To ensure we wouldn’t be disturbed during the night (and to get us settled as quickly as possible), the crew took our full order in one go and asked us, if they should bring everything at once. To speed dinner up, so that we could go to sleep. Very considerate.
As we both already had some food at the BA lounge at JFK, we skipped starters this time and ‘only’ went for mains and pudding. Ok, maybe also because both starter options weren’t particularly speaking to me.
My onboard dinner included tagliolini al tartufo with a side salad and a mango toffee dessert.
Mr T opted for the cajun spiced grilled chicken breast and the same dessert.
About an hour or so before landing into Heathrow the next morning, it was then time for breakfast.
A chia pudding for starter, followed by scrambled eggs and bacon on a muffin. Accompanied by orange juice, coffee, and a croissant.
Be assured, we didn’t go hungry on either of the flights. And I know, aircraft meals can sometimes be a little adventurous (to put it mildly), but overall, the food was decent. But surely, you’d expect that flying business class?
Sleeping on board
For all our New York trips, we’ve always booked an overnight flight back home. It just makes sense. You still get a full day in New York, you head to the airport in the evening, spend the night flying and then arrive in London in the morning. Perfect. Until you realise you can’t sleep on an aircraft. Unfortunately, we’ve been there far too many times. Especially Mr T is particularly bad sleeping during a flight (which always astounds me, given that he can fall asleep within seconds on the sofa).
However, we had high hopes that our experience flying business class would help overcome this problem and we’d finally be able to get some sleep onboard an aircraft.
As already mentioned, the British Airways Club Suites have seats that fold down flat into an almost 2m long bed (1.98m to be precise). We did give it a little try on the flight out (and hubby even managed to snooze for an hour or two). But it was really the flight back that we were hoping for a good night’s sleep as part of our experience flying business class.
With dinner service over and trays collected, the lights were dimmed throughout the cabin, and everyone was settling into their beds. We came prepared and brought our PJs on board. No point having a comfortable bed but ruining it by trying to sleep in your jeans. We quickly nipped to the toilet to get changed (and believe me, we weren’t the only ones), then settled down. Within the provided amenity kit, we were provided with an eye mask and ear plugs, so it was easy to shut out the rest of the cabin. The suite gives you relative privacy. I mean someone walking along can obviously look in from the top. But there is less risk of sticking your bum out onto the aisle as you toss and turn.
I am delighted to say that the experience flying business class meant several hours of uninterrupted sleep on a long-haul flight. Finally. Doesn’t mean jetlag didn’t kick in the next day. But it wasn’t as bad as it had been on previous trips.
Overall, we very much enjoyed our experience flying business class. I mean, I’ve always wondered what to expect flying business class. And now that I have experienced it, I don’t really want to go back to flying economy. Obviously, reality kicked in eventually and all my flights since were economy (but also all short haul).
Would I spend the money to fly business class again? Well, I guess it depends. If I could find a good offer, I would certainly consider it for intercontinental flights. But it would need to be a really good offer. No way can I justify to myself doubling or tripling the flight cost just to experience flying business class again. But you never know. Maybe we are lucky enough to accumulate sufficient Avios points before our next big trip. Or shall I say, maybe we can delay our next big trip until we have enough points? Well, whichever way… I will definitely not say no if someone offers me another business class upgrade. Or maybe even a flight in first class? Well, that’s the next goal on the travel bucket list then.
Tell me, have you done it? What was your experience flying business class like? Which airline was it with? And would you spend the extra money again? Or stay in economy or premium economy as not to blow your travel budget?