I have reviewed a number of my British Airways flights in First Class and Business Class on the A380. You can find my flight reviews on the A380 below.
How much better is British Airways First Class vs. Business Class, bearing in mind the price and the offering from the pre-flight lounge through to the cabin, seat, food, and staff?
The British Airways A380
The Airbus A380 is the world’s largest commercial passenger aircraft, and the upper deck extends along the entire length of the fuselage. It is also the greenest, with the lowest cost per seat and the lowest emissions per passenger of any large aircraft.
The Airbus A380 is the quietest widebody jetliner flying today, generating 50 percent less noise energy on departure than its nearest competitor, as well as three to four times less when landing – all while carrying 40 percent more passengers. Although four huge Rolls Royce engines at full throttle are used to lift the 571,000-kilogram aircraft off the ground, the plane’s interior is eerily quiet. And the full effect of the lack of noise doesn’t really take hold until you are at cruising altitude. Instead of talking loudly to the flight attendant, passengers can whisper. It also makes it much easier to fall asleep.
BA’s Airbus A380 has a total of 469 seats over two decks with four cabins: 14 seats in First, 97 in Club World (Business Class), 55 in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy), and 303 in World Traveller (Economy). The 97 Business Class seats on the A380 are located in 3 cabins: one on the lower deck (between First and Economy Class) and two on the upper deck in the front of the plane (with a galley in between them). The lower cabin contains 44 seats, while the two more intimate upper deck cabins contain 25 and 28 seats, respectively. The cabin environment of the Business Class cabins offers a sophisticated and contemporary atmosphere, giving a reassuring sense of well-being and comfort.
British Airways currently has 12 A380s in its fleet, deploying them on routes between London and Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami (seasonal), Vancouver (seasonal), Singapore, Boston, and Washington DC.
The look of the First Class cabin is very sleek and beautiful. Still, the experience pales in comparison to that offered by other airlines on their A380 planes, such as Emirates, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, and Qantas.
The First Class cabin is located at the front of the main deck, behind the cockpit. The cabin is modern and sophisticated, with 14 semi-open suites in a 1-2-1 configuration, all of them having direct aisle access and facing forward. There are 8 window seats (4 on each side) and 6 paired seats in 3 rows in the cabin’s center. Although they are not fully enclosed, all suites have high seat walls and enjoy total privacy. Nobody is directly looking into the suite across the aisle as none of the rows quite line up, and the window suites are angled towards the windows while the middle seats are angled towards the centerline. In addition, dividers can be raised for extra privacy.
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 on other airlines, it comes in as the second-best Business Class in the world (only beaten by Qatar on certain planes).
Right now, British Airways Business Class is pretty ropey. The cabin seats are narrow, and the foam is thin. Many of the seats don’t have direct aisle access, and the ones that do are next to seats that don’t, which means it is a no-win in this cabin. If you DO have aisle access, your neighbor will need to climb over you.
Given this, I can wholeheartedly recommend paying for a First Class seat on British Airways if you want to get a good night’s sleep, although there is a hefty price tag to go with your seat, whether you pay with cash or Avios.
Just don’t expect an incredible experience like you would get on Qatar or Emirates. BA in First is like the best of the best Business and is currently comparable to the Qatar Airways business class QSuites (unfortunately, slightly better than British Airways in First Class due to staff, food, and the overall experience).
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 First 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 served in stemware, spirits and soft drinks being served in cut-glass tumblers.
There will also be a new signature afternoon tea service, including 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.
A380 Club World Business Class Cabin
The innovative “Ying/Yang” seat plan is unique to British Airways: window and middle seats face backward, while aisle seats face forward. Because of this unique concept, you may have to jump over other passenger’s feet to reach the aisle when seated in a backward-facing seat. On the lower deck of the Airbus, the seats have a classic 2-4-2 layout (similar to what is found on BA’s 747 and 777 fleet: A,B – D,E,F,G – J,K). On the upper deck, the seats have a 2-3-2 layout (A,B – D,E,F – J,K), so there is more space for fewer passengers.
Current Club World Seat
All Club World seats on the Airbus A380 offer the same degree of comfort, with a seat pitch of 72 inches (182 cm) and a seat cushion width of 20 inches (50 cm). The angle of maximum seat recline is 180 degrees, and the overall length of the seat when fully reclined (and when tilting the separate footrest) is a 6ft (183cm) flatbed. It also has a reclined Z position for relaxing and watching films in a near-recumbent position. Next to the seat, you can find the seat controls, the entertainment controls, a reading light, and a power port.
Best Club World seat On A380
The two upper deck cabins feel more intimate as compared to the larger cabin on the lower deck (because they contain fewer seats), so choose an upper deck seat. In addition, the upper deck is higher above the massive Rolls Royce engines and thus quieter.
For solo travelers, the rear-facing window seats are more private than the ones you want to be seated in. In addition, the seats on the upper deck have a couple of side lockers, which are very useful for storing personal items.
If you cannot secure a window seat, the next best choice for solo travelers is the middle seat in the 2-3-2 upper deck configuration, as it has an extra storage compartment. However, you will have to step over the passengers’ feet on either side unless you are in the row furthest to the rear (in each cabin).
The “honeymoon” center seats on the lower deck, where you’re basically seated as close to the person next to you as you would be in economy, are great if you’re traveling with someone you want to be that close to, though it would be downright awkward when you end up next to a stranger in that configuration.
Row 53 (upper deck, front cabin): the window seats A & K are the single best seats on the plane since they offer direct aisle access without having to jump over the feet of other passengers. While the window seats on row 15 (lower deck) and row 59 (upper deck) also offer a clear exit route, they are less than desirable (see below).
The middle seat in the 2-3-2 upper deck configuration on rows 53 and 59 not only has an extra storage compartment but also offers direct aisle access.
How About The New British Airways Business Class?
The new British Airways Business Class is a game-changer for British Airways. This new Business Class seat is excellent and is launching on the A350 with a 56-seat Club Suite cabin in a 1-2-1 layout.
All seats have direct aisle access. The seats are angled at 30 degrees instead of facing forward, with your feet disappearing into a hole underneath the seat in front of you. The bed is 79 inches long when reclined, which is seven inches longer than the current seat. The IFE is a 17 to 18.5-inch Panasonic screen, cupboards near your head that will take a small laptop or iPad, and all A350 planes come with Wi-Fi. Further storage can be found next to the control unit and another by the floor, plus a useful mirror. A small privacy screen is placed between the middle seat pair.
If you choose to take a middle pair of seats, the privacy screen can be slid in and out, but the seats are angled inwards, so your head is nearer to the person’s head across the aisle than the person in the other middle seat. Overhead lockers are provided for extra storage. I prefer the window seats, and even if I were traveling as a couple or a single, for me, the best seats in the cabin would be the window seats.
Why Fly BA First Class?
If your option is to fly British Airways in old Business Class or British Airways in First, the First experience is hugely superior. In fact, on the A380, this is currently the only choice: old Business Class vs. First. The new Business Class will not be retrofitted to these A380 planes for the foreseeable future.
If your option is to fly British Airways in NEW Business Class or British Airways in First, the First experience is not hugely superior. Your money is more efficiently spent in Business. Yes, First is still better, but not hugely so. So, if you are due to fly on a new A350 (currently the only planes in the BA fleet that will have the new Business Class), consider flying Business over First because it offers better value.
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.
Then, redeem 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.
Using Avios to upgrade one class (from Economy to Premium Economy, from Premium Economy to Business, or from Business to First) is one of the best ways to spend them. It usually requires around 25,000 Avios to upgrade a cash booking to the next cabin on a long-haul flight. Avios can be used to upgrade yourself on British Airways, Iberia, and American Airlines flights.
Fly For Free On British Airways
I usually book my flights for free on air miles and American Express Rewards, which convert directly to Avios (along with other airline miles). The free Amex Gold Card is an incredible deal with a huge free bonus of Membership Rewards and even more if you apply through our referral link. You also get limited free airport lounge access with this free card. You can apply for the UK & US card right here.
How To Get Unlimited Airport Lounge Access
For unlimited airport lounge access, you will need to apply for the Platinum card right here. With my referral link, you will get more Membership Rewards points.
The Good, The Bad And The Ugly Of First
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 was in one of the middle seats of 4 in the cabin’s center, 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, and you won’t suffer the horror of a double middle seat. The pilots are always great on BA, but you get the same pilot in Economy as First, so this is not a reason to book First!
Food In First On BA
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. About 90 minutes prior to landing, the cabin lights were switched on for a delicious breakfast.
- 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
- Chilled fruit juice
- An energizing fruit smoothie of pineapple and ginger
- A selection of yoghurts
- 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.
The First food would be a solid business class offering. Staff are 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. There’s an adjustable ottoman in front of the seat that can be used as part of the flatbed 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 power ports, a USB port, and the inflight entertainment remote. Above this cabinet are 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 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 seats on the BA A380 for solo travelers are the window seats, while companions should choose the middle seats. You don’t have to worry 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 vs. Business 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.
This compares to the Business Class amenity kit, which is a thin blanket, a small (and not-so-comfortable) pillow, and an amenity kit in a drawstring bag (one for men and one for women) that is designed to double up as a shoe or lingerie and underwear bag and includes Elemis products to refresh, revive and rehydrate, created in travel sizes exclusively for British Airways customers. Both the men’s and women’s versions include moisturizer and lip balm, as well as an eyeshade, earplugs, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, and a pen for filling out arrivals forms.
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. You don’t get PJs in Business.
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 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 tiny 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 traveling 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 traveling out of London. Business Class get access to the standard Galleries Lounges.
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 outlined above, I find the current BA Business Class seats too narrow and uncomfortable to sleep on for long. This will change once you can book into the new Business Class, but these won’t be on the A380 for a while.
If you can upgrade from a Business Class ticket on Avios, this is currently a great deal as BA in First remains 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!).
British Airways Flight Reviews On The A380
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