For our trip to Venice, we flew Club Europe with British Airways from Glasgow International (GLA) to Venice Marco Polo (VCE) with an 8 hour layover at London Heathrow (LHR). We’ll be reviewing both legs of the trip individually in this article.
We had originally booked an economy flight through EasyJet but we were informed 3 days prior to our departure that the outbound flight had been cancelled due to “National strike action affecting Ground Handling Services in Italy”.
After 8 hours of stress and little consolidation from EasyJet, we eventually decided to book an extra night in Venice, arriving one day before. We did this because we realised we could fly Club Europe (Business Class) with BA instead. This cost 41,000 Avios + £96.66 in total (20,500 Avios + £48.33 per person).
Even though we booked Club Europe (Business Class), we weren’t allowed to choose our seats for free until 24 hours before departure. We thought this was a bit ridiculous considering BA’s valuation of the seats (over £600 per person including the GLA-LHR and LHR-VCE legs).
We checked in online just after the 24 hour window opened but we didn’t print out our boarding passes. Damon wanted a physical copy from the airport as a memento.
We arrived at Glasgow International a few hours before the flight was due to depart. This was my first time flying anything other than economy and even though I knew what to expect short-haul, I was pretty excited for the whole experience.
Heading for the check-in desks, we went for the designated priority check-in queue which had nobody else in it. The staff member at the desk waived us over next, allowing us to bypass around 20 other people, and printed out our boarding passes.
We didn’t make full use of the luggage allowance as we were only carrying hand luggage. This was for a few reasons. Our Venice trip was only 5 nights, plus we were flying back economy with EasyJet. These were the Club Europe luggage allowances that we had at the time:
Checked Bags: 2 bags each (max. 32kg per bag)
Hand Luggage: 1 handbag/laptop bag(max. 23kg and up to 40x30x15cm) plus 1 additional cabin bag (max. 23kg and up to 56x45x25cm)
As Club Europe passengers we also got fast track security at Glasgow. There was one designated fast track lane and it only took a few minutes in total to go through.
After security, we headed straight for the BA Lounge near gate 15.
BA1477 Glasgow (GLA) to Heathrow (LHR)
After experiencing the Glasgow lounge and getting something to eat for breakfast, we were called to the first leg of our trip, the flight to Heathrow (LHR).
As Club Europe passengers, we had priority boarding. Even though we arrived at the gate as the plane was boarding, we managed to skip a rather long line.
The plane left the gate 24 mins late (due to a technical issue that needed addressing) and takeoff occurred 27 mins late at 09:37 GMT. Gate to gate, the flight took 1 hour and 21 mins.
The skies were clear and blue during our flight so we had great views over London as we were coming in to land.
The seats were in a 3-3 configuration but in business class, only seats A, C, D and E are used. Club Europe is essentially separated from the rest of the cabin by a moveable curtain. It moves backwards and forwards, dependent on the number of business class passengers.
Damon and I were seated at the front in seats 1A and 1C so were right in front of the bulkhead (which gave us a lot of room).
I had a great view of the cockpit before the door was closed. The only thing was I was so central in the cabin that it felt as though I should have greeted the passengers as they were walking up the aisle.
We got to experience BA’s new, retrofitted black leather seats, which were a welcome upgrade to their old ones. But we did notice that the tray table that should have been in seat B (in between us) was missing.
The cabin crew began handing out some glasses of water and some hot lemon towels. Whilst the towels are standard in this cabin, we think the water was handed out at the start because of the short delay. There’s not much to say about the towels, they’re quite refreshing I guess.
The bins for hand luggage above our heads were full of safety equipment and cabin crew luggage (the problem with the front seats). We knew this would be a problem in advance so being early and using priority boarding allowed us to store our luggage without any problems.
There was no WiFi on board this plane and no charging points.
Food and Drink
The cabin crew offered us the option of a Full English breakfast or the vegetarian option. We both went for the Full English. This was comprised of bacon, scrambled eggs, sausage, mushrooms and cooked tomato. All were cooked nicely except for the scrambled eggs which were quite rubbery.
On the side we were also given a blueberry & honey porridge oat bar, some bread with jam and butter and a small fruit salad.
In terms of drinks, we could have gotten hot or cold drinks. We opted for apple juice (which was from concentrate - not a plus in my books).
We had a mixed response to the on-board crew. Whilst, practically, they did take good care of us, we felt as though they were a bit sarcastic at times. They did keep us informed about the reason for the delay, a technical issue with the navigation equipment.
But the way they followed that information with news on expected turbulence didn’t help make me feel reassured or relaxed. But I guess reaction to that will depend on the person.
BA598 Heathrow (LHR) to Venice (VCE)
After spending 8 hours experiencing a couple of BA lounges in Heathrow Terminal 5, we were called to the next leg of our trip, the flight to Venice (VCE).
The boarding process was smooth and efficient. Pushback (gate departure) occurred around 3 minutes late at 18:48 and after taxiing parallel to the north runway for 26 minutes, our flight took off (19 mins late) at 19:14.
The flight landed at Venice Marco Polo at 21:52 CET (GMT+1hr) 17 mins late and arrived at the gate at 21:56 (6 mins late), making up some time on the ground.
We flew over Paris and the Alps but since this was a night flight, we didn’t get much of a view. But in the end, the flight provided some on-board entertainment for us. This came in the form of an odd (and clearly broken) rainbow-flickering light at the end of the cabin.
Like our previous flight, seats on the A320 were in a 3-3 configuration, with Club Europe seats only using letters A, C, D and E. This time, we were in seats 5A and 5C, right at the back of the business-class cabin, with the curtain behind us. And this time, we had a seat-B tray table!
Food and Drink
I ordered a cup of tea and was clearly over-excited by the china tea cup and metal BA spoon. Damon had a lemonade and we were given some dry-roasted almonds which were quite tasty.
Then came dinner. We were given a couple of options but both of us went for the Beef Carpaccio. The food was presented nicely on the plate and had a well-rounded flavour but we both thought hot-food might have been better (bearing in mind this was our second dinner of the evening - the first being provided for by the BA lounge).
On the side was a prawn salad (which I didn’t touch) and a delicious chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis.
Similar to the previous flight we both got the sense that the crew were helpful and polite but not very friendly. I felt as though I had to apologise when I asked for a cup of tea.
Conclusion and Scoring
Cabin-wise, the BA Club Europe experience is comparable to economy in most ways. The only real difference is greater space provided for by the unused middle seat. Service, on the other hand, is what differentiates economy class from business.
The inclusion of higher quality food and drink, dedicated crew for that cabin, larger baggage allowances and airport benefits (priority check-in/security, lounge access) separate Club Europe from economy.
That said, as a short haul business class product taking into account the competition, the cabin and service were only just above par. Value-wise, Club Europe tickets were nearly 3 times as much as economy. Having paid for the flight via Avios (with the exception of taxes) we got greater value from the lounges, both in Glasgow and Heathrow, than we did from the in-flight experience.
Would we do it again? In a word, maybe. We did enjoy the experience overall (the lounge access was a huge plus). If it was a promotional flight or a bargain Avios deal, taking everything into account, we might do it again.