This past weekend, I made a last minute booking to try out the new British Airways Airbus A350. The ticket was around £90 on the morning of departure. The outward flight to Madrid was on the Boeing 777-200ER, so this would be a good comparison of the airlines’ latest World Traveller product against their previous. What followed was one of the better British Airways experiences I’ve had, although admittedly it was more down to the crew and a light load more than the plane itself.
Although it wasn’t a direct comparison due to the fact I had an exit row on the 777 – minus a window.
The seat itself was comfortable enough for the 2 hour flight down to Madrid. I also flew in the 777 economy cabin with British Airways long haul last year, and even back then I seem to recall it being perfectly fine for the 6 hour flight back from Kuwait.
How does the A350 compare in Economy?
First impressions of the seat was that it wasn’t quite as comfortable – the seat back wasn’t quite as padded as the 777 and this was definitely noticeable. The recline was generous however, and the bottom of the seat also moved forward when you reclined. This means you’re in more of a vertical position without disrupting the person sat behind too much. I should say at this point that I had the whole row of three to myself so I cant compare the seat width in real terms.
The arm rests seemed a little on the basic side though, especially compared to the likes of the Boeing 747 in the British Airways fleet. Although that’s not just a British Airways thing. I’ve seen similar on the Lufthansa A350 too. Just the way the aviation world is heading.
The headrest is fully adjustable, with movable wings to get the perfect position. This is unlike the economy seats on the 777, 787 and A380 where the only way you can move it is either up or down.
Like most of the British Airways long haul fleet, their Airbus A350 doesn’t feature any personal air con nozzles.
The seats in the last row could be reclined, but maybe not by quite as much as the other rows.
What else does the seat feature?
This is where the A350 is most definitely ahead of the 777. For an economy seat, there were more than enough features.
First and most obvious is an enhanced IFE system. Gone is the blue with white icons and in comes a much more pleasing on the eye (and in my opinion, better looking) white layout with a more pictorial guide as to what’s on offer. Unfortunately I didn’t grab a picture of this part of the IFE, but its featured in the video attached to this article.
The quality of the screen was one of the better ones I’ve seen.
One minor niggle was that even with the volume set to max and with noise cancelling headphones, it still seemed a little on the quiet side for my own personal taste. The seat back screen does tilt so you’re able to adjust it to your liking if the person in front reclines.
Along the bottom of the screen is a pair of headphone jacks, and a USB port.
From the initial pictures I saw of the economy seat, I assumed the dark bar across the seat back was a storage area for smaller items. This wasn’t the case however. It holds the airline literature, so there’s no way you can store anything else there.
For your own personal storage, there is a further seat pocket at the bottom of the seat. It was large enough to hold my iPad and my headphones but I think it would be a bit of a push to hold much more in there.
Hidden away under the seat was a 110v universal socket, with two of these per row.
Whilst were on the topic of what’s under the seat, notable by their absence was any form of IFE box, which is a huge plus point. Basically the whole underfloor area was clear.
The cabin itself was decked out with some pretty good looking mood lighting – something that British Airways appear to have done away with on their new A320/21neo deliveries.
What is World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) like?
Admittedly, I didn’t get to actually sit in the World Traveller Plus seat, so can’t say too much about it. From passing though, it looked like every seat had a full blown leg rest as well as a foot rest, opposed to just a foot rest as found on the rest of the fleet.
The IFE was the same from what I could see, although the screens were noticeably bigger. Also featured in this cabin was remote controls for the IFE – something which is absent in the World Traveller cabin where it is entirely touch screen.
The World Traveller Plus layout on the British Airways Airbus A350 is set out in a 2-4-2 configuration. This is a little tighter than the airlines’ A380 and 787 fleet but in line with the Boeing 747 and 777 fleets. By comparison, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore Airlines and Delta all have a similar layout on their A350’s, so it would appear to be standard.
The new Club World Suite
Towards the end of the flight, I was invited up to the Club World cabin to give the new suite a try.
If you’re familiar with the previous generation Business Class seat found on many of Qatar Airways A350’s, A380’s and 787’s then you’ll be at home in the new Club World offering. Unlike Qatar Airways however, the seat is adjusted with a touch screen. Which is more like what’s found on Air Canada’s version of the B/E Aerospace/Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seat.
What is unique to the British Airways Airbus A350 though (and soon to be a few Boeing 777’s) is the sliding door fitted. Whilst the door was locked on the seat I tried out, it didn’t seem to offer quite as much privacy of the Qatar Airways Qsuite when in a seated position. Having said that, even with the door in an open position I wasn’t overlooking anyone else so privacy isn’t too much of an issue anyway.
What was noticeable from the previous generation of the Club World suite, other than the obvious differences is the increase in personal storage.
The shelf area along the window opens up to reveal a pair of storage areas. One contains a power port, with USB and the remote for the IFE. The other doesn’t contain anything.
The third area is at shoulder level and is a cupboard with mirror.
What I did find though was that none of these areas had all that much depth to them. The cupboard could maybe store an iPad or laptop at a push – but nothing too bulky. The two areas along the side of the seat were also a little on the shallow side. They could take a phone or a glasses case maybe. But anything more, such as your typical headphones case – I think you may struggle. There was a further storage area at foot level, but this wasn’t particularly big. I suspect it will be used for storing a bottle of water on the longer flights.
The table pulled out from underneath the IFE screen. Again, much like what is found on Qatar Airways aircraft that also feature this seat. From briefly trying it, it seemed fairly solid and large. Using a laptop shouldn’t be an issue.
The flight deck
After the flight I was able to visit the flight deck. Whist I cant comment too much on this area, I did notice how spacious it was compared to other Airbus flight decks I have previously visited.
The British Airways Airbus A350 is definitely a step up in all three cabins.
Ok, so it may have seemed better due to the fact that I had the whole row to myself. And whilst the seat in the World Traveller cabin was a little anorexic compared to the older jets, the almost completely empty floor space under the seat in front was a huge bonus. The improved IFE was a bonus too, as was the power ports even down the back of the plane. This aircraft also featured WiFi, however I didn’t try it out on this short sector.
The World Traveller Plus cabin also looked like an improvement. The addition of leg rests is a step up and with the soft product also getting an upgrade, this looks to be a strong cabin.
The area where British Airways is really showing off though is their new Club World Suite. And rightfully so. The airline has attracted much criticism over the past few years for flying an outdated 2-4-2 layout on the majority of their fleet. One thing I will say though is that the whole cabin seems a little dark. Yes, I know I was on a night flight but it’s the first time such a thing has really struck me on an aircraft. Had it been a daytime flight, my opinion might be different. But I guess that’s my personal taste.