Transport : Airlines

Is travelling in First Class on British Airways much better than flying in the current British Airways Business Class or “Club World”? In this article, I compare the two products and work out which is best and whether you should spend your money or air miles (Avios or other) to upgrade your Business Class Seat to First Class.

One flight in First Class on British Airways from London to New York on 16th Jan 2018 (Off Peak) costs:
First Class Ticket Price: £8,448
First Class Ticket Price In Avios: 68,000 + £362.51
Business Class Ticket Price: £5,801
Business Class Ticket Price In Avios: 50,000 + £362.51

I value the Avios which I collect at around 1p per Avios, so at this valuation, the cost of the tickets in Avios are:
First Class Ticket: £6,800 Avios + £362.51 = £7162.51 (a saving of £1,287 over purchasing a ticket on ba.com)
Business Class Ticket: £5,000 + £362.51 = £5,362.51 (a saving of £439 over purchasing a ticket)

On immediate inspection, it looks like you are spending more Avios for your First Class ticket but making a better saving over the price of the ticket on ba.com.

But is the First Class seat worth that extra 1,800 Avios or £2,647 more than the British Airways Business Class seat?

My point of reference for the First Class experience is my First Class trip on the British Airways Dreamliner B787-9 London Heathrow to Muscat in Oman.

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I have also reviewed British Airways in Business Class or Club World on a number of occasions:
Review: British Airways Business Class London to Vancouver, A380
Review: British Airway’s Business Class, Calgary to Heathrow, 787-8 Dreamliner
Review: British Airway’s Club World, Los Angeles to London Heathrow, A380
Review: British Airways Business Class London to Tehran, B777-200
Review: British Airways Club World London to Los Angeles, A380
Review: Club World on the Dreamliner B787-9,
Review: British Airways Club World Tokyo to London, B777

British Airways First Class Vs Business Airport Lounges

If you are flying out of London Heathrow, flying in First gets you access to the Galleries First (exclusively for First customers and Gold Executive Club members) and the Concorde Room (First Customers only) in London Heathrow Terminal 5. These are excellent First Class only lounges. In particular, the bar in the Concorde Room is iconic and harks back to the heydays of luxury travel making it one of the best First lounges in the world.

It is also worth noting that if you travel in First from Heathrow Terminal 5, you get to use “The First Wing” with a private check-in area leading directly to two exclusive security lanes, and a direct walkway that leads seamlessly into the Galleries First Lounge and then the Concorde Room.

Business or Club World passengers only get access to the two Galleries Club Lounges in Heathrow Terminal 5 or the Galleries Club Lounge in Terminal 3. These lounges are huge and pleasant with decent buffet food. They have everything you need but are not noteworthy and can be busy with entire fleets worth of Club World and Club Europe passengers coming and going. In Business Class you get fast track through security but still have to navigate through the Heathrow shopping area to get to the entrance of the lounges. You do not get to use the “First Wing” private corridor direct to the lounges.

British Airways First Class Vs Business Class Seat & Bed

Seats in First Class are bigger, softer, and more private (see photo above). They also offer significantly more storage on most planes. They all offer aisle access, and the First Class cabin looks utterly stylish. They say “we’ll turn your seat into a 198cm (6ft 6in) fully flat bed with a luxurious quilted mattress, crisp white cotton duvet and pillow while you slip into a pair of our wonderfully soft cotton pyjamas”. I can’t describe it better myself; British Airways First really is a very good product.

British Airways was one of the first airlines to introduce fully flat seats in their Business Class so you can be sure of a lie flat seat when you travel Biz. British Airways has however fallen behind other carriers in improving the Club Class seat since they were launched.

Yes the Business Class seat goes flat, but it is thinner, which means less privacy when you are trying to sleep to the point that you can feel quite vulnerable to passing traffic on these thin seats. Of course, if you have a non-aisle seat you will feel less vulnerable but you do not currently get aisle access from a non-aisle seat, so you have to climb over neighbours to get out. This will change with the new BA Club Class seat design but for now, this is a poor effort for Business Class and explains why British Airways comes quite low down in my top 10 Business Class Airlines. I am not a deep sleeper and the feeling of being trapped in my seat to avoid climbing over a neighbour during a flight, or even worse, having a neighbour climb over you mid-sleep, means I do not sleep well in this class.

British Airways First Class Vs Business Class Amenities

You get pyjamas in First, not in Business Class. The amenity kit is also better. In First you get a pretty Liberty London amenity kit. They were first introduced on selected flights between London and Los Angeles in January 2017, and have now been rolled out across the rest of the First class network. The stylish washbags have a contemporary look, using prints from Liberty London’s textiles archive. The women’s version features the eye-catching ‘Christelle’ oriental inspired floral print, and comes with a convenient wristlet. The men’s washbag is made of a black embossed textured exterior, with ‘Felix Raison’ paisley motif printed lining. The kits contain a range of well-being products provided by Aromatherapy Associates. You can read about the best Airline Amenity Kits.

h3>British Airways First Class Vs Business Class Food

Neither First of Business Class on BA offer the best food in the sky; you can read my various BA reviews for a detailed run down. IMHO, there is little to choose between the food, at least nothing that would justify the extra expense.

Conclusion

If you want a comfy bed and seat and to get some sleep during your flight, First Class is a hugely superior product to Business. The bed in First Class is superbly comfortable offering a comforter and pillow. The Business Class seat is narrow with nowhere to put your stuff, plus you are vulnerable to disturbance. In fact, if you are a light sleeper like me and are booking an overnight flight, the more comfortable and less vulnerable First seats are well worth paying more for.

If you are on a day flight, are a good sleeper or are on a budget, you will most probably get some sleep in Business, just don’t expect the Ritz!

For me, if I were booking with Avios, I would be happy with Business Class on a day flight but would choose First on a night flight. For me, it would be worth the additional 1,800 Avios London to New York. Equally, if I were offered a paid upgrade at check-in around the price of £1,800, I would grab it.

Would I pay £2,647 to travel First over Business? No, I would “rough it” in Business or I
would fly transatlantic with American Airlines on their new or reconfigured planes as their Business Class is vastly superior for seat comfort.

If you are choosing between British Airways and Virgin for transatlantic travel, you may be interested in my comparison.

British Airways