Everyone at some point has wondered what its like to fly first class ….or maybe that’s just my shallow nature and hatred of been stuck behind a curtain with 100 other people fighting over the last bag of peanuts. Thankfully I’m in the fortunate position that I don’t fly economy anymore. So if you want to really know what British Airways First Class offering is like, read on…
Do I get a chauffeur?
Unlike when you travel Emirates business and first, the finance people at British Airways have decided not to pick you up from your house. Always think BA have missed a trick here. I quiet like flying Emirates business class just to get picked up in a clean E-Class and getting chauffeured to departures. But in BA’s case you have to drive yourself to the airport – first world problem I know, but at this price point it is the little things like this that matter.
But I don’t live near Heathrow
Apart from some random Gatwick, LGW, flights all BA’s long haul departures go out of its Heathrow, LHR, hub. So unless you live close by it means a connecting flight. Living in glorious Yorkshire – Yorkshire, Yorkshire, Yorkshire! means I take the BA flight from Manchester down to Heathrow. You can use the BA business lounge at Manchester and it’s a 40min flight down so it’s not a complete ball ache. BA also don’t normally charge for the connection flight if your paying with air-miles so at least that is one bonus come holiday time.
Picking the shuttle flight time depends on if I’m drinking or not. Flying on Pink Fat Bunny business the last thing you want is a 4hr stopover in LHR, especially when you have to meet clients or drive at your destination. However if its a social trip like a trip to Las Vegas for the tables – then a good few hours in the Concorde Room allows you to start your holiday early. But what’s the Concorde Room I hear you ask… keep reading…
Arriving at LHR
If you are checking in at LHR there is a private entrance via the south security lanes for added look at me kudos. BA have just redone their First Class checkin at LHR so you get your own area so you can avoid the riff raff completely.
First Class lounge & the Concorde Room at LHR
Pretty much every BA flight goes from Terminal 5 which even in cattle class it’s not a bad place to spend a few hours. Amongst the selection of business class and first class lounges BA’s pinnacle offering here is the Concorde room. You have the option of the Concorde Room depending on your fare class (A,F or Z does the trick). If you qualify to use the Concorde Room it is located next to the south business lounges which means a quick walk through the terminal to the south side escalators, if like me you are arriving via a connection.
Supposedly based on a 5* hotel if you read the marketing, it does look a like a decent hotel lobby bar, with all the necessary amenities of cloak room, concierge and conference suite.
Dining options are table service or private dining booths with full waiter service. The food is good, not a huge choice just typical UK faire. For an international lounge it would be nice to see some more variety. Tacos and sushi if I had my way. But its a marked step up from what you get in the business lounges, which to be fare is shit.
Cabanas are bookable if you want to hide away with a day bed or catch up on some sleep. But book in advance as I’ve never managed to get one on the day.
The most important bit is naturally the bar – and it’s a proper bar not just a help yourself Premier Inn breakfast buffet type affair like the savages in the business lounge. When I do fly business class you do get the odd car salesman who’s got lucky with an upgrade and is now trying to force 10 bottles of London Pride down his neck (no idea why they stock that shite, couldn’t find John Smiths anywhere!) – whilst at the same time spilling it over his Asda suit and Dell laptop.
Anyway back on point… the bar is amply stocked with pretty much anything you could want and waitered by a couple of typically well trained servers. House champagne is Grand Siecle – for the unwashed thats a good tasting £95 bottle of Laurent-Perrier. They serve it onboard too if that’s your tipple so you can carry on building your champagne hangover for your entire flight. Fancy trying Johnnie Walker Blue – no problem, have a glass and chase it with a nice XO.
The Concorde room can get busy depending what time you visit it. Normally I just sit at the bar and knock back the drinks whilst chatting with whoever sits next to me. It’s surprisingly non pretentious, a large percentage are on business and I’ve never seen anyone famous.
With the choice of high end retail outlets that are in the terminal it’s an easy way to kill a couple of hours or so whilst your partner goes crazy with the Amex. You can relax on the leather sofas and soak in the opulence of the chandeliers and high backed chairs. It has a terrace that overlooks the terminal – it’s good for throwing peanuts to the passengers below whilst you drink your malbec.
Only criticism is the strange toilets they have. They are self continued cubicles that resemble more of a sperm bank or methadone shooting room than a luxury lounge.
Free Spa Treatments
BA do throw in a free 15minute spa treatment with your ticket. Better than nothing I suppose but I they are only £20 or so anyway. You have to book in advance as they are open to other paying passengers so you can’t just decide on the day unless you get lucky and they have a spot free.
They have them at JFK and a few of the other main routes too so you can get a manicure before your return flight too.
Boarding the plane
Chances are your plane will be departing from the B or C gates as thats where the long haul flights are. The B gates have a business lounge so you can get another drink before boarding but C doesn’t have any lounges so stay in the main terminal until as late as possible or you’ll have to drink from the little Weatherspoons kiosk with the other people.
Naturally you board before the rest of the rabble. But you’re mixed in with the business lot too so the hating looks cast upon you by economy crowd get spread around. Compare this to Emirates at their main airport, DXB, where you can board straight from the lounges via a direct lift. Now that is a nice touch.
Now once you step through the door on to the plane it really does vary on the cabin crew. 9 times out of 10 as soon as they see the first class ticket you’ll get the standard “good morning Sir” and then get chaperoned left, through the curtain and taken to your seat. Your jacket gets taken from you followed by the offer a drink. Champagne it is – but which one! Once you have decided the drink keeps on coming, no having your drinks taken away when the seat belt light comes on. On one flight to JFK I pretty much went through a bottle of Grand Siecle before we took off as we had to queue on the taxi ways.
During the flight
Normally this time is a chore as your sat in your seat enable to move with your eyes fixed at the small screen in front of you. Constantly checking your watch willing the hours to pass like minutes so you can get off the plane and start enjoying your trip. Thankfully a first class ticket remedies this. The space you get is such a change, especially the first time you upgrade from cattle class. I even have a favourite seat that I always book when on a 747, its 3A, read more about it here.
The first cabin is styled differently to the rest of the plane so you get more of a private jet feel to it. I like that fact I can stand up and wander round the cabin, even if its just to harass the air hostess for more drink. Each seat can be used as a mini dinning area for two if you wish to spend every minute of your flight with your wife/partner. No idea why but the option is there.
Your own seat it reclines into a flat 6ft bed. Pyjamas are provided so you don’t crease your own clothes. You get a large pullout screen and noise cancelling headphones, together with the fact you can recline your seat back and get an endless supply of drink the film watching experience is fairly good. But not a patch on the ICE entertainment system that Emirates have in business class seats. Some of the BA content isn’t even 1080HD.
Along with your branded pyjamas you get a little wash bag filled with all the relevant Clarin’s products depending on if you have tits or a tallywacker. Have a load of these bags in my home office bathroom – they look too nice to throw away. But compared to Emirates the standard is poor. Their business class wash bag comes packed with Bvlgari products!
Where is the stand up bar?
Pretty much all other airlines offer a stand up bar in their first class cabins, especially on new planes like the A380. British Airways does not. Things like this annoy me as it means someone has sat down with a calculate and worked out the math on removing two rows of seats vs the customer satisfaction of standing up and having a martini.
Whats the food like?
The menu’s are substantial and the food is great quality. You can pick when you want your meal too. So you can wolf it down first thing and get some sleep, or relax and watch a film before tucking into your in-flight gourmet experience. The hostess are great and normally let you have an extra starter or dessert as long as there are some spare. Long haul you’ll get 2 decent meals so you’re not walking off the plane feeling hungry.
You can snack from the gallery in-between meal times but the selection isn’t great and they don’t have freezers for the ice cream so its always melted beyond a couple of hours into the flight. Didn’t really think that one through now did you BA!
As I said before you are now in the hands of the cabin crew so the level of service will depend entirely on how they are feeling. It’s normally pretty much perfect but sometimes I’ve had to ask for my glass to be refilled – not the end of world but it’s these little details that command the price point of First.
Sample menu’s depending on which route you travel
Anything different when I land?
Naturally you get to disembark first. So you can politely walk to immigration with your matching Samsonite without having to wade through a see of duty free and Boots carrier bags. Most of the big airports have arrival lounges where you can get showered and get some food before leaving the airport. Never used any of these as can’t really see the point, but you have the option.
Overall is it worth the upgrade from business class?
Tricky one this. The gap between economy and business class is night and day in terms of what extra features you get. The gap between business and first is just in the finer details and the bonus of a posher lounge. But the difference in fare is huge. First returns to JFK will set you back from about £6,000 depending on when you fly. You could fly Business class from around £2200. Is it worth the extra 4 grand; probably not. But it makes for a good talking point at the golf club so I’ll continue.
How does it compare to other airlines?
Going from Economy to First is worlds apart and you’ll love it. But going from Eithad/Emirates First to British Airways First and you’ll be thinking you’ve dropped down a class. British Airways just don’t appear to be upping their game as much as their competitors as of late. So no in-flight showers, no stand up bar and no self contained suites like some of the big players.
So why do I fly with BA?
Unless you are flying east you can’t compete with BA’s choice of routes, especially to North America. And 9 times out of 10 it’s a great experience.
Feel free to comment or ask any questions below.