A Tale of Two BAs: Wine Tastings and Ignored Call Bells – Part II



We travelled from London to New York, and from Los Angeles to London, on board British Airways’ Club World business class. The seats were the same, but the flights couldn’t have been more different…

Part One covers our journey to New York; this post reviews our flight back from Los Angeles.

Much like the difference between New York’s frigid winter and the balmy Los Angeles sunsets, our flight home from Los Angeles couldn’t have been more different from that to New York.

The plane operating our flight back to London, a nine-year-old Airbus A380, was delayed on its westbound flight from London.  At lunchtime, prior to a scheduled 8.50pm departure, we received a message from British Airways advising us that the check-in desks would remain open and we could arrive at the airport later than usual.  This gave us time for one last sunset on the beach at the end of the LAX runways.

One last Californian sunset: our hire car parked on the beach at the end of the Los Angeles runways
Enjoying one last Californian sunset.
A 747 taking off from Los Angeles airport
A 747 taking off from LAX, almost directly above us.

After a smooth check-in and a relaxed dinner in the Qantas First lounge (permitted by our British Airways frequent flyer membership; business class passengers would usually access the Business Lounge), boarding was rather chaotic. Initial boarding queues were arranged verbally, rather than with signage, and then subsequently separated again to wait in queues to each of the A380’s three boarding doors.

Qantas' signature Salt and Pepper Squid in their Los Angeles First Class lounge
Qantas’ signature Salt and Pepper Squid in their Los Angeles First Class Lounge, a favourite. So good, there was more than one round ordered.

It is often possible to tell the attitude of the crew very quickly. When we did board, a little over an hour later than scheduled, it was immediately obvious the crew were excellent. We were warmly greeted by name at the door, and pre-departure champagne and menus were brought almost as soon as we were seated. As on our outbound flight The White Company bedding set, amenity kit, water bottle and headphones were already at our seat.

Pre-departure champagne, delivered while boarding was still in progress
Pre-departure champagne, delivered while boarding was still in progress.

Prior to pushback, the Cabin Manager introduced himself with a handshake and welcomed us very warmly.  Our meal and first drink choices were taken prior to departure, ready for a swift service for those wanting to sleep. We were also asked whether we would like waking for breakfast.

Our seats for this overnight leg were at the front of the lower-deck business cabin (seats 10E and 10F).  British Airways operates business class on both decks of the A380 and, while the upper deck has the advantage of two huge toilets and extra side-storage in the window seats, it lacks the “double beds” of the lower deck. At the front of the cabin we would typically have needed to step over the feet of the person in the aisle to get out, but these seats remained empty on both sides.

Seat map showing our seats (10E and 10F) at the front of the lower deck of the A380
Our seats — 10E and 10F — on the lower deck of the Airbus A380.
Business class is also on the upper deck of the A380
British Airways also has 53 Club World seats on the upper deck of the A380. These have access to huge toilets at the front of the cabin (where Emirates fitted showers), and window seats also have additional storage.

As we were in the paired centre seats the two of us would technically be served by a crew member from each aisle, but actually ended up having the cabin manager and his wonderful colleague “fighting” (their words; perhaps “working together” would be better) to both offer us incredible service.

Having thoroughly enjoyed (ahem) the Qantas First Class lounge in Los Angeles (see our review, here), my friend couldn’t quite stomach a full meal and instead chose just a dessert.  Unlike the glacial service on our outbound flight, her yule log dessert was delivered with our first drinks – water and a single malt whisky on the rocks – within just 15 minutes of take-off.

Such was the comfort (and prior indulgence?!) my friend had already fallen asleep, having reclined her seat soon after take-off. The crew offered to save the dessert in the galley chiller for later, but who can resist waking up with a chocolatey midnight snack within reach?!

Reclining into bed mode
My friend reclined into a bed almost as soon as we had taken off.

After more than one portion of salt and pepper squid in the lounge, I decided it best to skip the starter and went straight for the main, a traditional Christmas dinner of roast turkey with delicious chestnut stuffing, sweet potato gratin, gravy and brussels sprouts.  Although without the pool of gravy of the outbound, the turkey was perfectly cooked and paired wonderfully with a small glass of pinot noir. 

The wonderful crew suggested I might like to taste the wine prior to pouring, a service usually reserved for the First Class cabin, and this really helped to create an “event” around the meal service.  Sitting at the front of the cabin and facing backwards, I could observe the crew interacting with the rest of the passengers; tastings were offered and genuine conversations flowed for those not engrossed in a film.

Main course of traditional Christmas turkey.
Dinner of traditional Christmas turkey. Photography skills appear to have absented themselves here.

Having seen my friend’s yule log a little earlier, it didn’t take much persuasion for me to accept the dessert.  The meal on this overnight flight was over just one hour after take-off.

Dessert of Christmas yule log with berries
Dessert of Christmas yule log with berries.

After a conversation about films and pets with the crew (including a film recommendation to seek out after the flight) I reclined the seat and set out The White Company mattress topper, huge pillow, and blanket. These were the same as on our flight out; all soft and substantial except for the thin mattress topper. We were also offered extra pillows, though unnecessary.

I donned The White Company eye mask — thick and soft, and contoured to remain in place — and retired for the night.

The White Company leather amenity kit pouch
The White Company amenity kit, at our seat on boarding.
Contents of The White Company amenity kit: moisturiser, pulse point run, lip balm, earplugs, eye mask and pen.  Also toothbrush and toothpaste, not pictured
Contents of The White Company amenity kit: moisturiser, relaxing pulse point rub, lip balm, earplugs, thick soft eye mask, and pen. Toothbrush and toothpaste also included but not pictured.
Our beds for the night
Retiring for the night. The divider between seats can be raised slightly but these double beds are best booked by those on speaking terms.

I can’t tell you about the next seven hours as I slept solidly in the old style Club World seat.  Upon waking a little off the west coast of Ireland, I was immediately offered breakfast – I chose a fruit plate (perfectly just ripe), chia pudding and warm and flaky croissant, followed by a courgette and goat’s cheese frittata with a cheddar sauce (improved with a little black pepper).  The crew kept our juices topped up during breakfast, as well as offering a second coffee. As our flight arrived in the afternoon the British Airways Arrivals Lounge, where I often eat breakfast after an overnight flight, would be closed.

My friend, who had woken a little earlier and was engrossed in a film (2023’s Hypnotic), ate breakfast with me. The in-flight entertainment system (including a remote control with tactile physical buttons; most appreciated in the dark of night) included the same content as our outbound flight, but continued to provide plenty of appealing options. While I slept the crew had occasionally been walking through the cabin, and noticed and replaced my friend’s empty water bottle.

Breakfast starters: fruit plate, croissant, orange juice and coffee
Our breakfast starters: fruit salad, croissant, chia pudding, orange juice and coffee. Note the mood lighting and more modern seat colour palette on the Airbus A380, compared to the unrefurbished Boeing 777-300ER of our outward flight. Apologies to Ben Affleck for the pause.
Hot breakfast main: courgette and goat's cheese frittata
Breakfast main: courgette and goat’s cheese frittata.

Landing into Heathrow was beautifully smooth and, as usual for A380 flights, we parked at a Terminal 5C gate. A short transit train ride to the main terminal ended an exceptional journey and a fantastic trip.

These flights could have been two different airlines

British Airways really is capable of offering outstanding business class flights, as evidenced by our flight home from Los Angeles. But, as we found on our journey to New York, that’s not always the case.

The hard product on-board is improving and is competitive; food, drink, and amenities are largely excellent. The older Club World seats of these flights are certainly dated but offer an exquisitely-comfortable bed, and there are some seats on every plane with high levels of privacy once airborne; see our detailed explanation of British Airways business class seats. At the time of writing around 60% of the longhaul fleet has been converted to the new Club Suite product.

But, as these reviews demonstrate, a business class experience is about more than the planes. It’s the crew which can make or break the experience.

As with all airlines, one can experience a bad day; our crew to New York were indifferent and — frankly — lazy.

Thankfully experiences like that to New York are rare.

British Airways is blessed with huge numbers of hard-working crew that exude warmth, individuality and humour. Crew like those on our flight from Los Angeles, and so very many others, who are proud to provide a service that truly outshines the competition. With them, British Airways really is the best business class across the Atlantic. 

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We travelled in December 2023 and paid for this trip ourselves.


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