Is British Airways first class the world’s best business class product?

Hello from London Heathrow! I just had my first flight in British Airways first class from Seattle to London on an Avios redemption using my companion certificate. I’m enroute to Dubai and was scheduled to have a really long layover in London, though a 2+ hour delay out of Seattle due to a late inbound aircraft shortened that somewhat. On the plus side my flight from Seattle was operated by a 747 equipped with the new first class.

I have to make a confession, and it kills me to make it given the high fuel surcharges British Airways impose on award redemptions — I loved British Airways first class, even though it wasn’t objectively that great.

Part of it is probably that British Airways has the most stylish first class cabins of any airline I’ve flown. And it’s funny that I feel that way, because they also have the most cramped first class cabin of airlines with a “new style” first class. They cram 14 seats in the nose of the 747, compared to 8-10 seats on most other airlines.

Here are just a few cabin pictures:

I’ll write a detailed trip report in about a week, though I’ll say the service was quite good. By no means over-the-top or anything, but a friendly, personable crew that pleasantly surprised me.

The food was fairly good. Not amazing or especially gourmet for that matter, but it tasted good, and that’s more than I expect from a British airline. 😉

They even had ice cream sundaes, quite possibly the best I’ve had on a plane!

The seat itself was also quite comfortable. Row one is awesome if you’re traveling with someone, as you’re only a couple of feet away from them, so you can talk at a normal volume while seated. I wouldn’t want the center seats, which looked extremely cramped.

Other random thoughts? British Airways’ pajamas are the best of any airline I’ve flown. There are certain things I love about Brits. One of them is that when they use a flight number, they preface it with “the.” So it’s “oh, you’re booked on the BA48.” I also love how when they announce the destination you’re flying to they don’t say “London” or even “London Heathrow,” but rather “service to London Heathrow Terminal 5.” They’re a proud bunch, I tell you!

So to sum up the experience, British Airways first class felt like a really, really good business class product. The seats are actually very similar to Cathay Pacific’s business class, and since the food wasn’t amazing I couldn’t help but feel like the products were similar. But as far as European airlines go, I still thought they were fantastic, and I actually am rethinking the value of those companion certificates given that there’s no way to fly first class on them without paying the fuel surcharges.

Unfortunately I have horrible news, and I realize I’m going to disappoint a lot of you with this. I won’t be able to review The Concorde Room, Cabanas, or British Airways new first class product to Dubai. Instead, this is my new ride:

Forgive me? More later on how that happened…

Comments

  1. “Is British Airways first class the world’s best business class product?”

    Best back-handed compliment ever.

  2. Maybe one day I’ll actually get to fly the NEW BA First. Zero for three between SFO and LHR so far. Maybe LAS -LHR will prove luckier!

  3. Ha so this further emphasizes the poor value of the Avios 2-4-1. You pay over $1k each in fees for what you consider is actually a top end business product not even F? Look forward to hearing about the REAL F experience on Emirates. Have to say I do like BA F though. But I am a Brit so for me it’s a taste of home probably same way you have a soft spot for LH

  4. Sorry about the CCR and Cabanas. From experience the CCR is great with amazing champs. The cabanas are good for one person if you need some privacy. There is none between toilet and the rest of the room and the day bed is large enough for one. The shower also sounds like your slowly drowning a large angry hog when in use because of the active drainage. You’ll know what I’m talking about once you’ve done it.

  5. So did you get switched to Emirates first on A380? Those have showers on board no? I have always wanted to try them, it sounds like a very unique experience, not sure which other airline has it… probably not many.

  6. They sure cram a lot of seats. For the same space that Cathay puts 9 F suites, BA manage to stuff in 14.

    But if push comes to shove, I’d still take BA over AA, even with those borderline criminal fuel surcharges.

  7. I just checked the SSCHEdules and his delayed flight from SEA must have missed the SSCHeduled connection to DXB. I am sure he told staff that a wait for the next SSCheduled BA flight 6.5 hrs later would be unacceptable…. 😉 and EK First here he comes!

  8. @The Weekly Flyer-Lucky uses the Canon S95, a favorite camera of travel bloggers & travelers because of its small size, sharp pictures and great low-light capabilities. Canon has newer, more expensive versions of the camera but the essential capabilities are the same as the S95.

  9. @ The Weekly Flyer — They serve Laurent-Perrier on BA. I use a Canon S95.

    @ Tyler A — Hah, those aren’t windows, but just the shades. Windows are normal size.

    @ Lantean — They do have showers aboard. Stay tuned for the explanation.

  10. I like the way they say “The BA123” as well. Flew them a fair amount while living in Europe and thought it was quite cool.

  11. @ Alex — Well the companion certificate covers the cost of the second passenger, but you still pay the fuel surcharges. I figured I’d have no interest in using one again due to the surcharges, though I enjoyed my BA experience so much that I may just reconsider.

    @ KR — LOL, didn’t mean it *that* way.

  12. Lucky,

    I would be interested to hear your view on how BA New First stacks up against QF A380 First in terms of service, dining and seat comfort.

  13. @ Spunkyryan — I’ll have more details in the trip report, though I think Qantas wins hands down with food and seat comfort, and it’s probably dependent on the particular flight on the service front.

  14. Lucky, I think you recommended 4E and 4F to me. However, I listened to some other opinions and went with 2a and 3a. I’m assuming you changed your opinion about 4E and 4F?

  15. funny you write this today…… i just flew in this morning in F class, LHR to JFK on the 117 into JFK’s Term 7. I also compared BA’s new F class to Cathay’s new Biz class, but felt that Cathay has far more personal space and storage spaces in their Biz Class seat, then BA have in their new F class seat. Service was very good. Talking of personal space, its even worse in BA’s 8 across biz class where there is absolutely no accessible storage space (while you are seated) other then putting stuff down on your table. There’s one storage drawer located practically on the floor and its not accessible when seated. You must get out of your seat and then squat, to access it. really bad.

  16. This post and your opinion of BA First are now doomed to obscurity and disdain. Next to Emirates, BA is instantly demoted to your red-headed stepchild. Poor little BA

  17. I flew new BA First SFO-LHR last year with my GF; the center seats near the back of the cabin had plenty of room :-).

  18. @ romsdeals — I far prefer row one, or otherwise seats across from one another in row two. Center section is just too exposed.

  19. New First on the 77W is nicer – especially the window seats have more space. 747 is ways too cramped. The seats in bed mode are ways too narrow on all aircraft.

    BA should have better mattresses in First and the duvets seem to be ways too small and narrow.

  20. First world problem, but I do not fancy BA F or BA J

    Flew BA F 2A – Too Crowded and cramped seat, I am only 5’8″
    Flew BA J Upper Deck
    Odd seat layout and the foot stool/bed part is lame, kept collapsing

    BA service was good, but didn’t meet CX level of attention.

    CX F and J are my favourites
    SQ J isnt too bad either
    I know this is going to sound funny, but I don’t even mind UA Biz for a hard product.

  21. I received TERRIBLE service from British Air. I was told that the Business Class seats for my 90 y.o. mother and me were available, then the minute I transferred my AMX miles all of a sudden the seats were no longer available. We are now booked in economy on some airline I have never heard of!! I will NEVER have dealings with this airline again!!

  22. I hate the BA mileage program — I have zillions of miles and either I can’t get flights unless I book a year in advance or the fuel surcharge makes the cost of the ticket equal to about 85% of a cash-price ticket. HATE. Question is: can I redeem miles for products (is there a catalog?)

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