Flight: Austin (Texas) to Heathrow
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA190
Plane: Airbus A350-1000
Cabin: Club Suite
This is the only OneWorld daily flight to leave Austin’s Bergstrom Airport in Texas back to the UK. The flight is slated for an 18:10 departure, arriving into Heathrow at 09:30 the next day, with a duration of 9 hours 20 minutes. Virgin Atlantic also offer a very similarly timed flight.
For me this was a positioning flight, and I was considering flying from Dallas (which I’ve done many times) – but after my positive A350 experience in Dubai, I thought I’d see how this went.
Sadly, this is one of the worst Business Class flights I’ve ever flown with BA.
Although American Airlines have a large hub in Austin, check in desks are actually specifically British Airways, operated by Swissport – on the left of the terminal (from the road). Typically, as with any State in the ‘deep south’, the check in agent couldn’t be more polite or helpful!
Once checked in and luggage taken care of, I walked through TSA Pre-Check in seconds and headed to the lounge. Once again, kudos to America’s TSA teams for being so polite and friendly down in Austin.
Sadly, the Lounge was the first letdown of this flight.
There is no British Airways operated lounge in Austin, and it’s shared with over-crowded and tiny Admirals Club – which I’ve reviewed here. If you wanted to eat more than cheese cubes you’d need to pay for the Admirals Club menu – the same if you wanted any kind of reasonable drink. I also like a shower before flying overnight, and the lounge had no facilities for this!
The lounge was also a fair walk away from the boarding Gate 4 – with the Admirals Club at Gate 22.
All in all this was disappointing and because of Austin’s small size, there was no alternative lounge I had access to.
This was one of BA’s newer A350-1000’s, G-XBWK. The A350 is of course BA’s replacement for the Boeing 747-400 – to which I shall make no further comment on (poor 747’s!!).
Unfortunately, the plane had been badly cleaned and there were signs of someone else’s dinner on it. Great!
BA also have a habit of stacking all bedding any everything else on the seat, meaning that you spend 10 minutes putting it all away!
I have in general terms reviewed the Club Suite here, however on this flight, sitting in 1A was bad.
Firstly, there is a bulkhead door in the footwell of 1A which the Cabin Crew keep their personal items. I was repeatedly woken to it slamming.
Secondly the Club Suite door was completely pointless as it was broken – thus locked open.
Thirdly, a frustrating benefit I have discovered in BA’s Club Suite is the table doesn’t go far enough back to the seat – nor does the seat ‘move forward’. Therefore to operate a laptop on the plan requires the laptop to be at almost ‘tipping angle’ to get it to a reasonable place.
Food and Drink
Before takeoff champagne was offered with orange juice. I had some medication to take, so asked for water – to which I was barked at to “use the bottle we gave you”.
After takeoff, nuts were offered with drinks. Cheap nuts, in a packet, likely to break your teeth! Where has the class gone of at least putting them in something?
BA offered a range of drinks and usually have decent wines, but rather uninspiring beers. In my case because I was (a) positioning and (b) on some medication I was on Coke Zero and Heineken 0%. With that said, whilst BA’s wines are pretty good, their choice of beer definitely needs a review!
This is actually the first time I have flown with BA since they brought back the 3-course meal service. This happened in October, and up until that period I’ve chosen to fly with other carriers who could offer a proper dinner service.
Starters on the menu were:
- Poached prawns
- Sunchoke soup
I went for the Barata which actually really impressed me.
For mains , the options were:
- Beef short ribs
- Seared salmon
- Vegetable lasagne
I opted the short ribs, which I am afraid were awful. They were leathery, tough, hard to cut, hard to chew, cooked about 7 hours too long, etc. The potato served with it was also overcooked, and the vegetables pretty gross. So not great at all!
Desert offered on the flight was:
- Cheese board
- Chocolate and caramel mousse
- Fresh fruit
- Coffee, chocolate and pistachio fondant
As a default option I went for the cheese, but really I think I should have taken the fondant. The cheese was fine though.
Hungry from my poor dinner, I went on the hunt for some snacks. In the middle gallery there are some snacks, but I abandoned this as they were still not set out during my hunt, some 2 hours after dinner……..and I needed sleep!
Unfortunately, breakfast didn’t go to plan.
On offer was:
- Seasonal fresh fruit (to start)
- Chorizio and egg sandwich
- Cheese and tomato ciabatta
There was no ‘proper’ hot option available which, whist I don’t eat it, would have disappointed passengers.
Around an hour west of Ireland began some rather severe turbulence. Understandably, the Cabin Crew were told to take the seats and stop serving hot drinks.
However this passed and once we were over Ireland, flying conditions remained smooth back to London. In fact, the Captain had the seatbelt lights off.
Despite this (and the Cabin Crew having more than enough time to continue), breakfast was abandoned. The only thing offered to passengers was a pastry, no hot drink, no announcement, no apology……..nothing.
Having flown BA extensively, the Amenities Kits are now always the boring same (unless flying First). I always think it’s exciting when you get an Amenities Kit with airline, to see what’s in it, what the bag is, etc. But not with BA. The usual drab and cheap Amenities Kits are dragged out, offering the bare minimum and predictably useless contents.
The contents is:
- Eye Mask
- Un-branded Pen
- Tooth Brush & Toothpaste
- Hand Cream
- Lavender Spray
According the BA App on board, Free Wifi is available in First…….Well I was in 1A and BA don’t offer First on their A350’s – so this appeared to be dangling the carrot – or another BA IT issue!
Standard Wifi was offered art £11.99 or some restricted messaging at £2.99. I was going to sleep on this flight, so only did some offline work on my laptop.
A separate thing that annoys me with BA wifi is it’s single-device use, where as American Airlines do let you switch between devices. Often this is highly practical, as it can be the case during dinner that you’ll want to put your laptop away and use your phone to connect to the internet, etc.
The Club Suite does have a good IFE system, which I reviewed in my last A350 post.
Back in the ‘good old days’, BA prided themselves with doing monthly announcements of new entertainment. Now, they don’t seem to care.
Whilst there was a minority of new offering on films, the same music and TV was available – which hasn’t been updated for years. Flying regularly with BA is becoming boring from an entertainment standpoint!
Another disappointing feature on my IFE system is that the Moving Map didn’t work. So according to the IFE, the plane thought it was in Austin and static, with no indication of where I was, what time we’d be landing, etc. For me, on an overnight flight when trying to conserve sleep – its extremely disorientating to not know where you are, what time it is or, when you’re going to land.
Generally, even if ‘everything else’ isn’t quite right I can generally rely on the Cabin Crew with BA to be up-beat and trying to win the customer over.
Unfortunately this Cabin Crew were one of the most surly, lazy, miserable and un-interested Cabin Crew I’ve ever had on a BA flight.
- Generally there were no smiles, no thank you’s, no basic courtesy
- I asked (whilst seatbelt lights were on, but Cabin Crew doing drinks service) to pass my medication from my overhead. The response was “do you really need it right now?”. My response “yes I need it at very specific times, the flight is very delayed and I should have the medication nearly 2 hours ago…..”. To that an eye roll, and complaint that the bag it was in was inconvenient and too heavy…..Well it’s either that, or my condition becomes worse and we divert the plane….. (I didn’t say the latter)
- No thank you for being BA Gold/OneWorld Emerald. They didn’t care about my loyalty
- No apology for my Club Suite door being broken, despite being the Club Suite’s selling point
- No apology for the IFE not working correctly
- Dinner took FOR EVER, with dirty trays, plates and glasses piling up seemingly for hours
- Then there was the issue with the closet door slamming and being repeatedly awoken by the Cabin Crew going through the closet. They knew they were doing it because when I woke up, at least to of the Cabin Crew made eye contact with me!
- There was very loud gossiping talking coming from the galley, again keeping me awake
- The breakfast thing was unforgivable, no reason to stop the service if the Captain was happy to allow passengers to walk the cabin – and there was plenty of time to continue (yes, I’m a Pilot…..)
- One Cabin Crew member in particular was extremely rude and had a clear chip on her shoulder, she spoke to my partner (who was also on the flight), awfully.
I could attempt to make all kinds of arguments about the circumstances, the weather, BA’s atrocious A350 galley layout, crew morale, etc. But actually, I really don’t care. I have been loyal with my travel on BA for years, this was the best seat on the plane and came at a premium price – it’s really not my problem that the Cabin Crew may having a bad day.
Most certainly I shouldn’t be awoken by Cabin Crew banging the door shut by my seat over and over again!! The idea of Business Class is to rest and sleep during the flight!
Landing in Heathrow
We eventually landed in Heathrow (late), upon which the Cabin Crew barely mustered a “thank you” as I left the plane.
Luckily my bags checked thorough so I didn’t have collect.
This is one of the worst flights I’ve ever flown on with BA.
The plane was late. The lounge was poor. The door on the Club Suite was jammed open. I was repeatedly awoken, when trying to rest (hence flying Business Class). The IFE didn’t work properly. The food was poor. The drinks were boring. The seat was dirty. The breakfast service wrongly abandoned . The Cabin Crew couldn’t care less, had a poor attitude and were at times rude.
I will be bringing this review to the attention of BA. They may care……they may not. Depending what they are prepared to offer me will depend on whether next time I just fly with American Airlines from Dallas – where they have a fantastic Cabin Crew, great food, and a brilliant lounge!