I have reviewed a number of my British Airways flights in First Class. You can find my flight reviews on the A380, B787 Dreamliner & B747 below. The question I also answer in this article is whether it is worth upgrading from British Airways Business Class to British Airways First Class bearing in mind the price and the offering from the pre-flight lounge through to the cabin, seat, food, and staff.
Is First Any Good?
Yes and no. British Airways First Class is absolutely not the best in-flight First Class product in the world. Not even close. But when compared to Business Class, it comes in as the second-best Business Class in the world (only beaten by Qatar on certain planes).
I cannot wholeheartedly recommend paying for a First Class seat on British Airways. You will get better sleep than in their Business Class, but it is not a particularly good First Class when compared to other airlines and is not worth paying a high price for. In fact, the Qatar Airways business class QSuites are better than British Airways in First Class.
How About The New British Airways First Class?
British Airways has just announced that they are introducing a refreshed experience in first-class as of March 31, 2019. This includes new bedding, amenities, and menus, “that would not look out of place in a revered five-star British hotel”. These changes are purely simply soft product changes.
British Airways will also be introducing a slightly modified first-class seat later this year on the 777s that feature their new business class, but the details of that haven’t been announced yet.
The big changes are amended pajamas and amenity kits; loungewear from British fashion brand Temperley London, with separate options for men and women, and new amenity kits introduced, featuring Temperley’s “Star” design. The bags will be filled with products from Elemis, including items to cleanse, revive, and hydrate.
There will also be new bedding with a 400 thread count bedding, accompanied by a foam-fiber mattress topper, in addition to a new day blanket.
New a la carte menus, focused on “fresh seasonal ingredients and British provenance” served on new bone china crockery, designed by William Edwards, and will be accompanied by cutlery from Studio William along with Dartington glassware, with champagne and wine being served in stemware, and spirits and soft drinks being served in cut-glass tumblers.
There will also be a new signature afternoon tea service, which will include a selection of sandwiches, pastries, and scones.
While these improvements will make BA in First Class slightly better, it still doesn’t make their First Class even slightly comparable to the likes of Etihad with their First Class apartments. It just isn’t that great and without a major overhaul will never be close to its competitors.
Why Fly BA First Class?
What IS interesting is that British Airways makes it really easy to upgrade to First Class. You can upgrade any paid Business Class ticket (even a discounted one) for a reasonable number of Avios, assuming there’s award availability.
Book a paid Business Class ticket. Don’t forget to contact our luxury travel concierge to get a quote before booking as we can offer cheaper Business Class flight prices. We also offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, and VIP benefits at luxury hotels.
Then redeemed Avios to upgrade your flight from Business Class to First Class. Usually, this costs around 20,000-25,000 Avios and is worth doing. As far as I know, BA is the only major airline that lets you upgrade pretty much any discounted long-haul business class ticket.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly
At first look, the First Class cabin is very sleek and beautiful, so ugly is not the problem. The cabin is swish and designed in blue tones with stylish lighting. This box gets a tick, particularly when compared to some of the more gaudy Emirates First Class cabins.
Whilst I am a big fan of the British Airways air hosts and hostesses, these stewards are underpaid and do not appear to have received much-upgraded training suitable for a First Class cabin.
Expect kindness regarding extra scones but not foresight on when you are thirsty or hungry, as you might expect on Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Qantas. They are unlikely to anticipate your every need and the whole experience is not as polished as you would get on the best other airlines.
Don’t get me wrong. The crew is good but no better than you would expect from a crew in a Business Class cabin. In fact, on the last Business Class flight I flew on BA back from Sydney to London, the cabin crew kept forgetting to serve my father. He as in one of the middle seats of 4 in the center of the cabin and the staff didn’t give him his meals. When he chased them for the food, they bought him Premium Economy food as they had run out of the Business Class meals.
This kind of “ignoring” won’t happen in First as there are fewer seats to serve. You also won’t suffer the horror of a double middle seat in that you find in The pilots are always great on BA but you get the same pilot in Economy as Furst so this is not a reason to book First!
On my last flight on BA, a meal was served shortly after takeoff. The crew handed out hot towels to the First Class passengers before the food was served. The food was good but not great. My dinner menu read:
- Duo of citrus-flavored rock lobster medallion and beetroot and dill back salmon with orange confit and fennel purée
- Cream of lemon and carrot soup with toasted almond sumac
- Grilled beef fillet with ginger, honey and sour cream sauce, potato au gratin and roasted vegetables
- Lemon cake with fresh strawberry compote and crème fraîche
About 90 minutes prior to landing, the cabin lights were switched on for a delicious breakfast. I was served with the following items:
- Chilled fruit juice
- An energizing fruit smoothie of pineapple and ginger
- A selection of yogurts
- Bircher muesli with strawberry, apricot, and prune (a personal favorite)
- Fresh seasonal fruit
- French toast with apple and rhubarb, strawberry coulis and mascarpone cheese
There is nothing wrong with British Airways food but it just isn’t that great. There is no WOW factor. Add to this that there isn’t always a choice of meals left on the trolley, so make sure you pre-order or the airline may run out of your preferred meal choice in First. I find this unacceptable for First Class.
It would be a solid business class offering. Staff is willing to serve you your meal whenever you’d like, but there aren’t significant midflight snack offerings so this functional meal service feels much like an assembly line.
First Class Seat Review On The BA A380
The BA A380 First Class seat probably offers the best First Class experience on BA although the First Class seats are relatively consistent across the fleet. The seat features a semi-open design, although it’s located within its own cocoon and feels totally private (no other passengers can see you, thanks to the herringbone layout and high seat walls as stated above).
The seat itself is spacious, with a generous pitch of 78 inches (198 cm) and a width of 22 inches (56 cm). It features a dark, leather-stitched upholstery. In front of the seat, there’s an adjustable ottoman that can be used as part of the flat-bed or as an extra seat to dine with someone else. The entertainment screen is located above the ottoman and swings out from the suite’s sidewall. That same seat wall also holds a cabinet opening to the aisle where you can hang a coat and store your shoes.
There is a reading lamp and a small cabinet for storing smaller items. This space also contains the power ports, a USB port, and the inflight entertainment remote. Above this cabinet are some buttons and a jog wheel control device to regulate everything within the suite, from the programmable seat positions and the suite’s lighting, privacy screens, and the automatic window shades. This side of the seat has a platform to place a drink on and that stores your tray table.
The seat can be transformed into a fully lie-flat bed of 78 inches (198cm) long. The crew provides a soft mattress topper, a thick pillow, and a very comfortable blanket. This is much, much better than the Business Class seat but not particularly fabulous for a First Class seat
So yes the seat is good, but when compared to the Etihad First Class Apartment or Emirates in First Class, well there is simply no a comparison at all. British Airways First is more like a Business Class offering!
Is The Seat Any Good?
For First Class, not really. But, and this is really crucial, the BA First Class seat is MUCH better than the BA Business Class seat. I also have compared British Airways First Vs Business Class and unsurprisingly, First comes out on top, with seats you can truly sleep on (I find the Business Class seats to narrow and uncomfortable to sleep on for long).
It is worth noting that the Best First Class seat on the BA A380 for solo travelers are the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats. You don’t have to worry though about ending up as a solo traveler in one of the paired, middle seats as there is a divider between these middle seats which can be raised once the flight has commenced.
I would suggest avoiding the window and middle seats in the last row since proximity to the galley may cause some noise disturbance (nothing too bad though).
British Airways First Class Amenity Kit
The BA First Class Amenity kit is not one of the best airline amenity kits in the world; it is adequate. There is different content for men and women. The stylish, grey-colored bag features a BA leather logo on the front and the word “First” imprinted on the leather zipper pull. The men’s bag contains shave gel, revitalizer moisturizer, lip balm, deodorant stick, and eye gel from London based, grooming emporium for men, The Refinery, in addition to essentials such as a pen, eyeshades, socks, earplugs, hairbrush, and razor.
British Airways First Class Sleepwear
BA’s First Class passengers also receive pajamas with slippers which I have taken a picture of (see scroller above). The lightweight, dark green pajamas, and feature the BA First Class logo on the chest. Again these are good and nice to have but they are not great.
What Else Is Missing?
Briitish Airways did not install a fancy bar on their Airbus A380s or any of their other planes. If you are holding out for one of these you have chosen the wrong airline.
It does have a walk-up “Club Kitchen” onboard. This is basically a cupboard of food shared between where Business and First Class fliers so that they can graze between meals (this has been photographed above in the scroller).
Is it any good? Not really! BA has drastically reduced its selection of snacks in Club Kitchen. During the flight, the walk-up bar only featured retro sweets, Cadbury chocolates, and Kettle chips. Rubbish!
Teeny ting toilets are what you can expect on the A380. No onboard showers. In fact, no room to swing a cat! These rather small toilets are located directly behind the cockpit and in front of the first row of seats. They aren’t upgraded in any meaningful way.
They’re just as small for First Class as for Business and Coach. In fact, on my last Business Class flight, passengers from Premium Economy were using the Business Class toilets (no-one stopped them) so when I used them mid-flight in my socks, these well-used toilets had liquid on the floor. I can’t tell you what the liquid was. It may have been water it may not have been water. Either way, it seeped through my socks and onto my feet, so I had damp and possibly wee-wee socks on for the rest of my flight. Not nice.
How about the Pre Fight Airport Lounge?
When flying in First you get access to the British Airways iconic Concorde Room. You can only access the Concorde Room if you are travelling in First. You can alternatively get access to the British Airways First Class Galleries Lounge at Gatwick or the Galleries First At Heathrow if you are travelling out of London.
The Concorde Room is only available at London’s Heathrow Airport and New York’s JFK Airport (with smaller, less extensive Concorde bars at Dubai Airport and Singapore Airport). This lounge can only be accessed if you’re flying First Class on an airline in the Oneworld alliance (one guest is welcome as well), or if you hold a Concorde Room card, given out for earning 5,000 tier points in a year.
These lounges are not groundbreaking but they are very good and better than the Galleries Business Class lounge. Whether they are worth the extra money is your call.
Flying BA in First offers seats you can truly sleep on. As I outlined above, I find the BA Business Class seats to narrow and uncomfortable to sleep on for long.
If you can upgrade from a Business Class ticket on Avios is a great deal BA in First remains is a great way to fly and good value using partial redemptions. Just manage your expectations in advance. This is not the Etihad apartment.
For a truly luxurious First Class flying experience choose Emirates, Qatar, Etihad or Qantas. When compared to these airlines, BA in First is poor, but when compared to Business Class across these airlines it is brilliant. I suppose the choice all comes down to price (or Avios!).
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