10 August 2011

Ba Club Europe upgrade - is it worth it?

Is it worth upgrading from BA Euro Traveller to Club Europe?

Euro Traveller is the British Airways standard class for travel within Europe. Club Europe is the business-class equivalent. Sometimes, before your flight, BA may offer you 'upgrade offers' – for example, £59 per leg of your journey. Is it worth the additional expense?

It all depends on your journey – destination, length of flight and time of day – and on your priorities. Flights are classed according to their length and the time of departure, with different food and 'comfort' options for each band of flights. You can find out more about the food options and flight categories by scouring useful forums like flyertalk.

I fly frequently on the Venice – Gatwick route, a flight of approximately two hours. In standard Euro Traveller class you are offered drinks – hot, cold, alcoholic – and a choice of cookie or birdseed. There are three seats either side of the aisle; seating is reasonably comfortable. The first row of seats on the left, behind first class, is the most comfortable place to sit as usually you will have first-class seating - two wider seats with a narrow folded seat between them.

The best offer I've received for upgrading to Club Europe on this route is £59. Not a bargain, especially considering my sister, flying a longer flight to Greece, obtained upgrades for £40.
On my last journey Venice- London I decided to pay the extra and give Club Europe a go. Here's what I got for my money, and what I thought:

- Priority queue for bag-drop and check-in at Venice Marco Polo Airport. In theory useful, in practice I got stuck behind a family travelling on connecting flights with lots of baggage, so had quite a wait.

-Priority through security. The check-in clerk scrawled on my boarding pass print out and I was able to sail through the priority lane, which was a distinct advantage.

- Free entry to the airport lounge. You may already have free or paid admission through loyalty schemes, of course. Using Priority Pass I can use this lounge at a cost of £15. The lounge at Marco Polo is comfortable with armchairs and room to work. It has great views of the apron and runway, and has an outdoor terrace where you can stand and watch the planes. There are free drinks – including local Prosecco – and snacks including filled croissants, small squares of cold pizza, nuts and crisps.

- Priority boarding the plane – in theory. In Venice the staff weren't particularly bothered about the order of boarding, but most airports will ensure Club Europe passengers board first.

-More space on the plane. On the left-hand side, there are two seats with a folded seat between them, on the right hand side there are three seats in a row, of which the middle one remains empty (these seats aren't sold).

- Extra customer service – a friendly assistant available for most of the flight for the small Club Europe section. Staff take customers' jackets and hang them in a locker. Our flight attendant approached me after boarding, addressed me by name and said “I just want to let you know we have your special meal on board”. If you are vegetarian or have other special dietary requirements, notify British Airways in advance of your travel date.

- Cold towel on take-off (more of a damp cloth, really).

- Champagne and other drinks offered early on and available throughout flight.

- A quite substantial meal with “more champagne?” offered. My vegetarian meal consisted of a filling mild curry dish, biscuits, cheese and grapes and a roll and butter. I found it very satisfying. The standard meal seemed to be involve salad; I thought vegetarians did better.

- The Club Europe section is at the front of the plane so you can be first off .

- I think in theory your luggage should have some precedence – a big orange priority label was attached – but I don't know if this often happens. My suitcase emerged quite a long way down the conveyor of luggage.

I really enjoyed the perks as a novelty. If I hadn't upgraded, I might have spent £15 on the lounge and some extra cash on a meal – though this wouldn't really take me up to £59. Compared with budget airlines, BA's standard class is really quite decent. On a strict value for money basis, it probably wasn't worth paying the extra – though a £40 upgrade, or a longer flight time, would shift this equation. The extra space and comfort and service was very pleasant, though. You can't guarantee there won't be babies or disruptive passengers in Club Europe (I once witnessed two men almost coming to blows) but you are more likely to travel in peace. If I expect to have a busy day or tiring onward travel, I'd consider paying extra for comfort. A special holiday would be another time when it might be a welcome treat to fly Club Europe with the lounge access and other perks. It's certainly worth doing once, as I did, just for the experience.

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Anonymous said...

Useful knowing what you can expect but if you upgrade after original booking, are you entitled to and will BA give you the extra tier points and Avios miles?

Italy Heaven said...

Yes, if you upgrade with money you should get the extra points and miles (it can be a good-value way to earn tier points). Check your account to make sure BA adds them correctly after the flight.