Click the video above to see British Airways Business Class Sleeper Service reviewed on a flight from Washington DC to London.
British Airways Business Class Sleeper Service
British Airways dominates the transatlantic business market, ferrying people to and from London from across scores of US destinations. The corporate travel market is hugely important to British Airway’s profits, and they carry hundreds of business people overnight each night from the East Coast, ready for work in London the next morning.
To appeal to these corporate travellers, BA market many of their later flights ‘sleeper services’ – these qualify you for a free ‘restaurant-style’ meal in the lounge, and when on board you can recline your seat in to a fully flat bed and sleep your way across the Atlantic. However, British Airways have a reputation for cost-cutting and poor implementation so we thought we’d see if the reality matched up to the marketing on this flight from Washington Dulles to London’s Heathrow airport.
BA Business Class Check-In Experience
The terminal at Washington Dulles is architecturally stunning, and check-in was a breeze with permanent British Airways desks (complete with 1960s font) just a few feet from the entrance. BA have a slick operation, regularly running 2 or 3 flights from the same check-in desks and gate each night. Our bags were dropped off after just a short wait, then it was down to security, and down again for a short train ride to the lounge.
Our boarding passes were carefully scrutinised in a manner similar to that entering Fort Knox before we were allowed access to the sleeper service dining area (in care we were merely economy passengers with gold cards) and the anticipation built up – what gastronomic delights awaited us?
The answer, dear reader, was a few leftovers and bread rolls. There was a big buffet counter and chef cooking station, with signs telling you what you could eat – but the pans themselves were empty, having been raided by passengers already. We were advised that all the main courses had been eaten, and there was nothing left for us. The staff were able to find some soup, and there was a bit of salad left over along with some bread rolls.
Quality catering this was not, and we filled our empty stomaches with champagne (of which there was plenty). The staff advised that the plane was boarding, so we ambled along to the dedicated premium gate and got onboard the 777 which would be our hotel room for the night.
Onboard BA’s Business Class Cabin
The first thing that hits you when you see British Airways’ business class seats – branded Club World – is the density. Wow, they’ve packed a lot of passengers in this 777, with people facing head to toe to maximise the number of seats.
Sadly, most seats don’t have direct aisle access – you’ve got to try and jump over someone’s feet to get out of the window seats (no mean feat on overnight flights) but our luck has changed and we’ve hit the jackpot. Our seats are at the end of the cabin, so we have no-one to jump over.
We have gone for the centre pair of seats, which means you are right next to your neighbour with only a tiny screen separating your upper body when you go to bed – no good for strangers, but really nice for a couple. There’s a small personal TV at every seat, which folds away when not in use – which is great when you’re trying to sleep, but means you can’t watch anything when taking off or in the (ever present) long holding patterns to land in London.
Facing you is a stranger in the aisle seat – you’re able to put up a privacy divider, but this can only be done after the safety briefing is over, so there’s a lot of awkward facial expressions in the mean time!
The seat goes fully flat, but there’s quite a few bumps, lumps and gaps in this mode. It’s OK to sleep on (and was ground breaking when it first launched) but it’s miles behind the sort of comfort you get on Qatar or Virgin Atlantic. There is basically no personal storage space – a small drawer is available for a magazine or small laptop, but you can’t get to this bed mode. There’s nowhere to put a water bottle, phone or glasses which seems a poor bit of design.
BA’s Business Class Sleeper Service Food & Drink
A choice of champagne, orange juice or water is offered before we take off, which is a nice touch. Amenity kits are handed out, but for some reason, there’s no eye shades or ear plugs in the bag. OK, as frequent travellers we have our own high quality ones with us, but I’d be unhappy if I’d paid cash for a night flight and not been given these. There’s no pyjamas or slippers offered either.
The basic sleeper service food menu is handed out, and it’s clear you’re meant to refuse or have, at most, a hot chocolate and biscuit. We’re pretty hungry at this point, and disappointed to find that there’s no starter, a choice of 2 main courses, and a single desert option. BA literally feed their economy passengers more food than they’re offering business passengers on this flight.
The food we get is a basic chicken salad, the sort you’d get at any deli. The crew sense our disappointment and offer to serve a spare economy meal to us. This chicken tikka masala is far more tasty and filling than anything on the business class menu!
Once fed, we lay day down for a few hours sleep. The bed is great for a couple – you are able to spread out quite a bit. If you were travelling with a colleague or stranger, it would be a bit weird to feel their leg next to yours though.
In the morning, a light breakfast is served – including a traditional bacon roll. Again, the portions aren’t massive but it’ll do, and we’re on the ground 40 minutes later. This however is a surprise to British Airways, as we have to wait 10 minutes for some buses to arrive to take us back to the terminal. How it makes sense for a multi million dollar airliner to be sat around waiting for a bus we do not know!
The premium service ends as we step off the aircraft – the bus has a maximum capacity of 50, so the bus driver won’t leave until he has 50 first and business class passengers onboard, even if this means everyone is pressed in to each other’s armpits. The difference between this and the premium buses on Qatar Airways (where everyone gets their own armchair) springs to mind.
Best British Airways Business Class Sleeper Service Seats
This service is all about the seat. The ground experience, lounge and food is terrible, so pick your seats carefully. If you’re a couple, go for the middle pairs – and if not, avoid these at all costs.
The best seats are the window seats that have direct aisle access – but note that BA know this, and will change most customers $100+ just for the seat reservation.
British Airways Business Class Sleeper Service Conclusions
The idea of a British Airways sleeper service sounds great, and no doubt made sense to the manager who proposed it on a Powerpoint. The real experience – at least on this occasion – was a million miles from the idea, with food shortages on the ground, a terrible menu in the air, and frankly disrespectful ground handling at Heathrow.
If you can work around the shortcomings – arrive at the airport early enough to eat at a proper restaurant, bring your own eye mask, and treat the arrivals bus as a theme park adventure of London’s Tube at rush hour, then you’ll get a decent night’s sleep for the working day ahead. Otherwise pick an alternative carrier on this route, like Virgin Atlantic or United.
Want A BA First Class Review?
For a review of British Airways First Class on the A380, click here.
Want to see a BA 747 business class review?
For a review of British Airways 747 business class cabin, click here.