Review of British Airways flight London Madrid in Business

Airline British Airways
Flight BA456
Class Business
Seat 4A
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 02:07
Take-off 25 Nov 19, 06:30
Arrival at 25 Nov 19, 09:37
BA   #62 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 797 reviews
atco
By GOLD 773
Published on 24th December 2019

a club suite spotting trip to madrid


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Welcome friends to another flight report.

This one is out of order from my round the World series which I am dreadfully dragging my feet completing. I'll continue plodding away though until it gets finished.

We all know that BA has a woefully outdated Business Class product. What was once World leading (they were after all the first airline to introduce flat beds to Business Class - something now so standard and expected it barely warrants mentioning!) has been left behind due to a stunning lack of innovation and progress within the airline. It's not so much been passed by other airlines products but been lapped and sat stalled in the pit lane.

So as news spread that BA was introducing a new Club World seat my interest was piqued. Once details began to emerge and news that their new A350-1000s would be getting the new product I was now really interested.

Finally the new product was unveiled - The Club Suite. Full 1-2-1 reverse herringbone seats with a door to completely enclose the suite. I think everybody was fairly stunned, this seemed more akin to a new product from the ME3 than from dear old BA, whose reputation hasn't exactly been stellar over the last decade.

Not only that but Toronto was named as a launch destination for the new product and the A350. It seemed like the air travel God's were trying to tell me something. So with a day of leave around my 4 days off in November the window was there. I had to give this a try.

So I got in touch with my mate Andy and plans were made for a spotting trip to LHR which as we were talking then morphed into one with a side trip to MAD to fly on the A340-600. Everything was coming up Milhouse!


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Routing


booking


This was a booking made with Avios and cash.

Originally there was no business class availability for this flight. It was the only BA departure that day to Madrid that didn't have any so initially I booked us 2 seats in Economy. BA are usually very good about making redemption seats available, so I figured if I just bide my time 2 seats will eventually open in J and if not, well 2 hours in Y isn't the end of the World.
After a couple of months eventually 2 seats did open up. Rather than simply being able to spend the extra Avios to upgrade it was cheaper to cancel and rebook new tickets because of BA's change fees.


check in


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As my mate Andy lives right outside the Perimiter Road at LHR it was a quick 5 minute hop on the bus to get to T5.

We arrived to a pretty quiet Terminal right around 5am for our 0630 departure.
It was a pretty ungodly hour to be up but was our best shot at maximising our time in Madrid. With our return booked for the following day at 1550 we wanted as many hours as possible there.
Being a shift worker I'm well used to being up at such stupid hours, my mate not so much :)

The check in areas were all very quiet and as we were just traveling with hand baggage we only needed to find a self serve kiosk to complete our formalities and get our boarding passes.
This only took a few minutes and the machine spat out 2 boarding passes on the most awful, flimsy paper imaginable.

Compared to a proper boarding pass on proper card stock these things were just awful.

Anyway we were speeding along through the terminal and even security was pretty fast and efficient.

We knew that our flight would be departing from the B Gates and as we both knew the B Gate lounge is often much less busy than the pair of A Gate lounges we decided to head straight for the train to the B Gates.


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british airways galleries club terminal 5b


I'll freely admit I love being around airports, and I hate having to worry and rush when I travel.
So I always aim to arrive at the airport in plenty of time, minimum 3 hours before departure and avoid tight connections.

In this case though, with such an early departure that wasn't going to be in any way workable, and given the fact the lounges didn't open until at least 5am, there was no sense in rushing to the airport.
As we were so close by we decided to get to the airport for around 0500 and that should give us enough time to get checked in, through the security zoo and have time for a cuppa and small snack in the lounge.

Everything worked perfectly, however as I'm so used to having hours to kill in the lounge I completely lost track of time.

My mate and I were both blissfully unaware of the time as we munched on our bacon buns and drank our tea, relaxed and ready for a great day.
It wasn't until he mentioned that he wanted to get something for the cold that was bugging him that we thought about heading into the terminal to find a Boots.
It was at that point that horror struck us when we realised it was 0550 and boarding was due to start.

Honestly had he not needed to find a Boots I would have been sat there for God knows how long, I wasn't even close to thinking about going to the gate. I even had to leave my half finished cuppa as we dashed out of the lounge and raced for the gate, which thankfully was not far away.

Sadly this cost me all of my lounge shots which I was planning to take after I had finished up my tea, so embarrasingly I don't have a single shot from the Galleries T5B lounge!

That said it was a pleasant lounge.  Much quieter than the T5A lounges.
There is nothing different in terms of the facilities or food and drink on offer.

There was a machine for coffee and teas of course, as well as soft drinks and even alcohol for those so inclined at 0530!

There was a nice breakfast spread with toast, hash browns, beans, eggs and bacon rolls. plenty of fresh fruit was also available along with free newspapers and reading materials.
There was plentiful seating, although it was filling up as we left.

Infact it was a bit too calm and relaxing!


ba456 lhr-mad


Flight Details:
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA456

Departure: London Heathrow LHR
Scheduled Departure Time: 1820
Actual Departure Time: 0630

Arrival: Madrid Barajas MAD
Scheduled Arrival Time: 0955
Actual Arrival Time: 0937

Flight Time: 2:07
Travel Date: Monday November 25th 2019
Class: Business
Seat: 4A
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Registration: G-EUXL

FR24 Track:


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Flightaware Track:


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As we hurriedly made our way to Gate B45 we arrived just as Group 1 was being called for boarding. As is usual with BA Group 1 seems to make about half the passengers.

Boarding was however swift and before long we were on our way down the jetbridge to our waiting A321.

On boarding we were warmly greeted by the cabin crew and directed to our seats in 4A and 4C.

The seats and cabin are as standard as you get in Europe.


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BA like most European airlines has the much derided 3-3 Business cabin with the blocked middle seat and moveable curtain to determine the cabin size.

It's a pretty poor product overall, but its usually priced accordingly and does have some advantages still over Economy.

That said of course one of the biggest drawbacks or Euro J is that the seat pitch is the same as in Y and for most people flying Business one of the key differentiators is more room and a bigger seat. It takes a pretty poor product to make you pine for 2-2 recliners as featured in North America.

Sadly however its cost effective for the airlines and Euro J isn't going anywhere anytime soon. I just hope that it remains a European thing and doesn't spread throughout the World.

Today's flight would be virtually full. Club Europe stretched all the way back to Row 11, meaning that the crew were going to have their hands full on this morning departure.


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The seat itself was OK. Pitch was bearable but there was little in the way of amenities.

No IFE is provided on BA's shorthaul fleet, my entertainment would be limited to the free newspaper at the jetbridge, a nap and breakfast service in flight.

In the seatpocket in front was stuffed the usual suspects, a safety card, magazine and duty free catalogue.
In flight wifi was offered on this aircraft and there was a guide to connect if you wished to pay for it.
Frankly I can do without being online for 2 hours so did not bother.
I do however regret not taking a picture of the wifi guide for you, so apologies for that.

It was clear from the early going that our crew were going to be exceptional.
They were assured and friendly and were all over the cabin helping people. This excellent service would continue throughout the flight.


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We pushed back right on schedule for the short taxi to 09R.

On the way we passed G-XWBA that had delivered me to London just 24 hours previously.

There was a bit of a delay with some arriving aircraft on 09R. At this time of the morning Heathrow operates in what is known as Mixed Mode. Rather than the usual operation of 1 arrival only runway and 1 departure only runway, this mode allows both landings and departures on both runways (although the Cranford agreement eliminates 09L departures). The biggest advantage of Mixed Mode during heavy arrival periods is that arrivals can be staggered on alternating runways allowing them to be much closer together than if they were in trail on the same runway.

Eventually though we lined up on 09R as this awful picture shows!


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Not easy getting a good shot in the pitch black while moving!

We departed right on time and with a lengthy take off roll. Clearly we were quite heavy this morning with a full load.

Shortly after take off the crew began the service.

Hot towels were passed out


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Club Europe menus were handed out


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Breakfast Options


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For the hardy (or alcoholic!) options for the bar


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Soon after it was time to take breakfast and drink orders.

Here annoyingly one of the shortcomings of BA's service came to light.
I was fine, I wanted the English breakfast and that order was taken with no issue.

My buddy though wanted the Salmon option and even though we were sat in Row 4 he was told they were already out.
Considering that there were 11 rows of Business on this flight that seems to be some awful catering management.
This is a frequent criticism of BA, that they run out of food options far too early in service.

Also irritatingly for him because of how BA conduct the service, a passenger in the row behind him got the last Salmon before my buddy.
BA use a cart for the service so there are crew positioned at the front and back of the cart.
So Row 1 and Row 3 get served first with the cart adjacent to Row 2. Once those rows have been done the cart moves and Rows 2 and 5 get served and the cart sits alongside Row 4. Then it moves again and Row 4 and 7 get served and so on.
So my friend got to overhear the row behind him get the last Salmon dish!


As the service was going on, we were treated to an absolutely amazing sunrise over the Channel


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Airbus A321 wing shot!


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Once my breakfast arrived, it had the usual English breakfast elements. Delicious!


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This was a cracking breakfast, complete with a fantastic cup of tea to wash it down with. Much needed given that I had to leave most of my tea back in the lounge!


The sunrise continued to provide all the IFE that was required


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After the breakfast was cleared away, the crew continued to check on all passengers asking if they wanted any additional drinks.

I took the chance to grab a nap as it had been an early start and we had a long day of spotting ahead.

I woke as a PA started announcing our descent into Madrid.
The lack of any IFE on BA shorthaul is quite frustrating. Even a screen with the flight map would be something. It's not something unusual to BA of course, but there is literally nothing at all to do on board.


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The forecast for Madrid had not been very good, so it was a pleasant surprise to see just broken clouds and some Sun.
Especially as Heathrow had been a total washout the last couple of days.

Being my first time to Madrid I was surprised how mountainous it was around the City. It made for some beautiful sights though as we made our way for a straight in approach to RW18R.


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We landed again right on time, indeed a little early on 18R and vacated left to T4S


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We parked up on Gate 556 right next to an Iberia A330-200.

And so ended a pleasant and uneventful Club Europe flight with BA.

T4S seemed to be an endless maze of escalators and we took a long and winding journey to the train that would take us to the main T4.
As we were only taking hand baggage we made our way straight to the exit and the car hire center.


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See more

Verdict

British Airways

6.1/10
Cabin6.0
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi3.0
Meal/catering6.5

British Airways Galleries Club - 5B

6.8/10
Comfort7.0
Meal/catering7.0
Entertainment/wifi6.0
Services7.0

London - LHR

7.5/10
Efficiency7.0
Access8.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness8.0

Madrid - MAD

7.0/10
Efficiency6.0
Access7.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

BA Club Europe is nothing special. Its an OK product priced accordingly.
We all know about intra-Europe Business Class. Its a pretty dire product with the awful blocked middle seat. Its Economy dressed up as Business.

With the right expectations, Club Europe is a decent enough product.
You know going in the seat will be an Economy one with the middle blocked. Sometimes that's enough though. It does mean a bit more room on a full flight and at least you know you will get your carry on in the overhead.

What really shone on this flight was the crew and the service. They were an absolute delight and provided service BA should be proud of.
The breakfast was excellent and my first experience of the new catering out of LHR.

The one area BA constantly fail at is loading enough of each option so in this case one of the options was gone by Row 4. On an 11 row cabin that's simply not good enough.

Given the cheap cost of this flight it was well worth it and we were both happy. Certainly better than being squashed into Economy with a stranger and fighting for bin space.

Information on the route London (LHR) Madrid (MAD)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 22 reviews of 2 airlines on the route London (LHR) → Madrid (MAD).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is British Airways with 7.3/10.

The average flight time is 2 hours and 20 minutes.

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2 Comments

  • Comment 534697 by
    YGeorgeW GOLD 183 Comments

    Hi atco! Thanks for the report.

    This looks like a fairly standard intra-European J flight. The catering sounds dubiously planned to say the least. I don't fly intra-European that much, but 11 rows!!! I'm looking forward to some good spotting in Madrid.

  • Comment 542073 by
    socalnow GOLD 980 Comments

    Greetings Atco and thank you for another installment in this series. Posted on the Eve of Christmas no less.

    I'll freely admit I love being around airports, and I hate having to worry and rush when I travel.

    -We are cut from the same cloth. The specter of tardiness puts me in a foul attitude and is best avoided.

    My buddy though wanted the Salmon option and even though we were sat in Row 4 he was told they were already out.

    -Does BA practice the method of allowing the higher tier Club members select first as is common in the US?

    So my friend got to overhear the row behind him get the last Salmon dish!

    -Did you opt for the full English then? Really all three options sound tempting to me.

    This was a cracking breakfast, complete with a fantastic cup of tea to wash it down with.

    -A world away from the snack basket that would have been offered here in the colonies...

    What really shone on this flight was the crew and the service. They were an absolute delight and provided service BA should be proud of.

    -Impressive with 44 J seats to tend to!

    Excellent telling of the story as usual Atco, thank you. Happy flying.

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