British Airways A380 First Class

On Friday afternoon I flew from London Heathrow to Los Angeles in first class on the British Airways A380. British Airways began A380 service to Los Angeles just two months ago, so these planes are still brand spanking new.

What made this flight especially unique (for me, at least) is that it was operated by one of British Airways’ “mixed fleet” crews. For those of you that have no clue what British Airways mixed fleet is, let me explain. As you may remember a few years back, British Airways flight attendants went on strike because they couldn’t agree with management on contract terms, and British Airways threatened that if they didn’t have more reasonable terms then they’d stop hiring flight attendants under their contracts.

The flight attendants didn’t give in, so what British Airways did is start hiring “mixed fleet” flight attendants, that operate select shorthaul and longhaul flights. They’re paid significantly less, typically don’t stay at hotels that are quite as nice, and have shorter turnarounds (typically only one night). However, they’re also much younger and more enthusiastic. Admittedly there’s sometimes a bit of a tradeoff, since they’re not always as polished as their “worldwide fleet” colleagues, that have been working for decades. British Airways’ mixed fleet flight attendants exclusively operate all the Los Angeles services, so I was quite looking forward to that.

So basically British Airways mixed fleet flight attendants make me feel old… which is a problem. Hell, you know that’s the case when several of your crew members aren’t even old enough to drink in the US.

Anyway, on to the actual flight:

British Airways A380 First Class Seat

In the past I’ve declared British Airways first class to be the world’s best business class product. That’s because the first class seats on most of their fleet really aren’t much better the new reverse herringbone business class seats offered by many airlines, like American, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air, etc. I mean, they cram 14 first class seats in the nose of a 747, while Cathay Pacific only puts nine seats there. While not the most spacious, British Airways’ first class cabins are damn sleek and sexy, no doubt.

But I have to give British Airways credit for their seats on the A380. They’re considerably more spacious than in the rest of the fleet, I suppose thanks in no small part to the fact that first class is on the lower deck, so it’s a much wider cabin. Now, I do feel like there’s a lot of wasted space in the seat — they could have just as easily made the seat wider rather than adding so much pizazz to both sides of the seat — but it’s much more spacious for sure.

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British Airways A380 First Class Food

To be perfectly honest, I remember the champagne service more than the actual meal service. I’ll take Laurent Perrier any day over 2003 Dom, and I did go to town on it. I had roughly two bottles before takeoff, and then I’m not sure exactly how many after takeoff. Regardless, it was FUN!

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The food was very British — the edible kind, fortunately. It wasn’t amazing and can in no way compare to the first class catering offered by Air France, Asiana, or Swiss, but it wasn’t bad either.

The amuse bouche consisted of quail’s breast.

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Then there was a crabmeat and avocado starter.

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Then a butternut squash cream soup.

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Then a salad.

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Then some pan-fried halibut.

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Then key lime pie.

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British Airways A380 First Class Service

So the flight attendant working my aisle, Stuart, was phenomenal and probably made the flight for me. He seemed to be the most senior crew member by far (he was in his mid-30s and probably a decade senior to just about everyone else aboard), and worked for another major British carrier that shall remain nameless prior to starting as a mixed fleet flight attendant for British Airways.

Not only was he incredibly professional, but he was hilarious. And he could hold his own when it came to banter. After my fourth pre-departure glass of champagne he said “Sir, this is a delicate champagne.” I responded “I know, or else I wouldn’t be drinking it.” He said “it’s 180 quid a bottle, you know.” I called him out on that, as it’s really “only” about half that, and told him not to pretend that it’s 2002 Dom. He responded “oh, Dom in first class is so cliche.”

I’m not sure why (I guess I blame alcohol), but when placing my dinner order I asked if the halibut was breaded. He responded “Sir, of course not, this isn’t the Red Lobster.” ROFL!

British Airways A380 First Class Amenities

Okay, so I really do love the British Airways amenities. They have a nice new amenity kit.

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But most importantly I love their pajamas. I’ve always loved them because they say “First” in big letters on them, but now I love them even more since they say “First A380” on them. How cool is that?!

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That being said, this is the most “no frills” A380 I’ve seen. There are no special facilities, the lavatories are small, and there’s no bar, shower, lounge, duty free gallery, or changing room.

Bottom line

The British Airways A380 is a huge improvement over the other aircraft in their fleet thanks to the much more spacious first class cabin. This was my first flight with a British Airways mixed fleet crew, and I was really impressed by how friendly, proactive, and professional they were.

The rest of the British Airways experience is mostly forgettable if you’ve flown other top airlines in first class. They could definitely make some improvements to the ground experience and food, though I do always enjoy their afternoon tea service.

Stay tuned, because I’ll be publishing a full report of my trip starting tomorrow.

Comments

  1. OMG ‘First’ AND ‘A380’ on the pj’s! i need some ASAP (i too already love their non-A380 ones) – not sure how i will manage it, but i now have a new goal for 2014 – somehow get on a BA A380 flight in F…

  2. Your reports are getting more and more enjoyable. The detail about the service is informative and entertaining. Can’t wait to read the full reports on this trip. Hope you are taking some time with family in warm Florida for the holidays.

  3. Disappointed – I was thinking about take this just for the flight, but if they don’t have the extra bling, not sure..lol

  4. I love BA, but then I am a Brit!

    Grande Siecle is far, far better than Dom. It is one of Champagne’s hidden gems. It is always made as a blend of three vintages, so tends to be more consistent than single vintages

  5. Ben,

    I’m considering on booking this particular flight twice. While the taxes are $474, it is worth it because you can add a leg to the flight — so LHR-LAX can become LHR-LAX-LIH or LHR-LAX-JFK in the new A321 first.

    Wondering if you added a flight on your current trip.

  6. two questions then, Lucky:

    1) How many Avios and what were the taxes?

    and

    2) Do you feel the A380 is worth it for 62,500 AA miles and $474 if you are able to tack on a flight like I described above?

    I’m flying TXL-LHR-LAX and also CDG-LHR-LAX on two separate flight purchases.

    Thanks!

  7. @ Michael — Frankfurt to London to Los Angeles cost me 84,000 Avios plus ~$400 in taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges. I would say it’s probably worth it if you can tag on a one-way to Hawaii.

  8. Not sure if the slight re-design of the seats works for me. One the one hand, the shell does look like it offers more privacy. On the other hand, it now looks like a staggered business class seat even more…

  9. Why don’t you write in
    To customer relations and give your speech to them? I’m sure they would be happy to get your experience and what needs improving!

  10. There is so much wasted space, it’s a shame! This is the latest First cabin rolled out and its a pity that this is not closer to what Qantas put on their fleet. So much space and still they can’t offer a decent mattress or make the seat wider for more comfort. This product has just been released and will fly for the next 15 years. Very sad chapter for BA…

  11. I guess your “friend” Stuart knows nothing about champagne. A Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle retails in the US for around $100 while a Dom Perignon 2003 will cost around $159. It is about preference but a Dom would cost more for BA than the one he “believes” is better.

  12. Aesthetically it looks nicer than the AF First cabin, and the crew was probably more aesthetically pleasing as well.

  13. Great trip report. I agree that it is a little disappointing that BA has not kept up with its competitors. I flew business and chose BA on the LAX-LHR, and AA on the return. I could not believe that BA’s product was far behind AA’s in business class.

    Lucky, how full was the cabin. I noticed that as you mention BA inventory management releases very very few F seats. Between now and the end of the summer, I think I see a single seat on April 13th, and another single seat on August 28th London to LA. I imagine the fist cabin must have been pretty full with paying passengers??

  14. @ Greg — On my flight 9/14 seats were taken, so it wasn’t especially full. That being said, based on most of the A380s I monitored, they do seem to go out pretty fully. Club World was full, on the other hand.

  15. Had I been on the flight in first and witnessed you and Stuart carrying on like that I would have been tempted to say “Get a room already you two!”

  16. Interesting, and thanks for the report. This First class is more like the Best First-Business Class Product on any A380.

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