Review: British Airways First Class 747 New York To London

Introduction
British Airways Concorde Room New York JFK
British Airways First Class 747 New York To London
British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow
British Airways Club Europe A319 London to Brussels
Sheraton Brussels Airport
Brussels Airlines Business Class A330 Brussels To Frankfurt
Brussels Airlines Tomorrowland Flight Frankfurt Gate Party
Brussels Airlines Tomorrowland Flight Frankfurt To Brussels
TGV Train Brussels To Paris
ICARE Lounge Paris Charles de Gaulle
La Compagnie Business Class 757 Paris To Newark
Andaz Wall Street New York


I’ve reviewed British Airways first class several times before, including from:

I’m not the biggest fan of British Airways first class – I find it to be more like a really good business class product – though there’s something I always enjoy about flying with them.

I was especially excited to fly them between New York and London. I don’t think there’s a route in the world that’s more of a science for the airlines than “NYLON.” It’s a tough balancing act between providing a premium experience so you woo over premium passengers, and trying to limit service as much as possible to allow passengers to maximize sleep.

I flew Virgin Atlantic Upper Class from New York to London late last year, so was curious to see how British Airways first class stacked up.

British Airways 172
New York (JFK) – London (LHR)
Tuesday, July 22
Depart: 9:30PM
Arrive: 9:25AM (+1 day)
Duration: 6hr55min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 2K (First Class)

I boarded through door 1L, where I was acknowledged by the customer service director, Helen. She handed me off to another flight attendant who escorted me to my seat, 2K.

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British Airways first class cabin 747

When it comes to British Airways first class, the 747 is a bit of a double edged sword. On one hand I love sitting in the nose of the 747, but on the other hand it’s also the most cramped first class configuration they have – the A380 and 777 are substantially more spacious.

British Airways has 14 seats in the nose of the 747, which doesn’t stack favorably to Cathay Pacific’s nine seats or Lufthansa’s eight seats.

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BA 747 first class seatmap, per SeatGuru

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British Airways first class cabin 747

But one thing British Airways does a spectacular job with is stylishness. Their first class cabins are just outrageously stylish, between the finishes, blinds, “personal” lamps, and mood lighting.

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British Airways first seat 747

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British Airways first seat 747

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British Airways first seat 747

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British Airways first seat controls

Once settled into 2K the first class purser, Jennifer, came by to introduce herself and offer me a pre-departure beverage. I had a glass of bubbly, which was their usual Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle — it’s not Krug, but an excellent champagne nonetheless.

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British Airways first class pre-departure Grand Siecle champagne

Shortly thereafter I was offered amenities, including pajamas, slippers, an amenity kit, socks, and eyeshades.

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British Airways first class pajamas, amenity kit, socks, eyeshades, and champagne

Totally random, but British Airways has some of the sturdiest slippers of any airline. They’re one of the few I actually keep after the flight and use on other airlines.

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British Airways first class amenity kit, slippers, socks, eyeshades, and champagne

The amenity kit was well stocked and gender specific. I ultimately preferred their old amenity kits which were more like boxes, though these are still quite nice and among the better ones out there.

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British Airways first class amenity kit contents

British Airways has among my favorite first class pajamas of any airline, as they’re comfortable and say “First” on them in big letters. What more could you want? ;)

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British Airways first class pajamas

I was then also offered headphones. I always bring my own anyway, but do find it a bit odd that BA uses really cheap, non-branded ones.

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British Airways first class headphones

I was then offered the menu and wine list for the flight, which was quite extensive for such a short overnight flight, with a dinner menu, bistro menu, and breakfast menu.

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British Airways first class menu

The cabin was quite busy as other passengers boarded, and in the end only six of the fourteen first class seats were taken – in my immediate area, 1A, 1K, and 3K remained empty.

While other passengers boarded I took the opportunity to change out my clothes and into pajamas. There are two first class lavatories on the 747, located behind the cabin (obviously). They’re fairly small, so not among the nicest airplane bathrooms out there.

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British Airways 747 first class lavatory

They do at least feature a couple of Elemis toiletries.

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British Airways 747 first class lavatory

Shortly before pushback Captain Kingston came on the PA (I wouldn’t usually state the name, but in this case it’s like an American flight with a Captain Smith, Lufthansa flight with a Captain Mueller, or Air India flight with a Captain Patel, so I figure it’s not too far out of place) to welcome everyone aboard.

He informed us that our flight time was “much longer than shed-jeweled and we’ll have a hard time maintaining shed-jewel on this flight.” Shed-jewel is quite possibly my favorite word in the world, so hearing it twice in one sentence made me about as giddy as front row seats to a One Direction concert.

So how long was our “much longer than shed-jeweled flight?” 6hr25min.

We pushed back at 9:30PM sharp, at which point the safety video began to play.

At 9:45PM we made it to runway 13R, and within 10 minutes we were cleared for takeoff. We had a very short takeoff roll, and were airborne with 8,000 feet of runway to spare.

After takeoff the customer service director made a few announcements. I think part of the job description of CSD at British Airways is to actively sound pissed off over the PA, and she was no exception.

I took the opportunity to browse the entertainment selection. Much like with Lufthansa, I’ve never been impressed by British Airways’ selection. Fortunately I usually bring my own entertainment, and in this case was content just enjoying a meal and then sleeping. It is interesting to note that our “flight time remaining” was a bit longer than usual for this route. ;)

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British Airways first class entertainment system

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British Airways first class entertainment system

I did watch one episode of Two Broke Girls. Man, Max is feisty!

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British Airways first class entertainment system

One either unique aspect of this flight is that the 747 operating the flight is the only one in British Airways’ fleet featuring wifi. So I did connect to the wifi to test it out, and it worked very similar to Lufthansa’s FlyNet wifi in terms of speed, cost, process of logging in, etc.

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British Airways inflight wifi

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British Airways inflight wifi

About 15 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began, starting with hot towels. After that, drink and dinner orders were taken.

The dinner menu read as follows:

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The bistro selection and dessert menu read as follows:

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And the wine/drink list read as follows:

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It seemed that almost everyone else in the cabin went straight to bed, while the lady seated across from me was frustratingly inquisitive. I’m fairly sure it took the crew five times longer to serve her than everyone else combined. She asked some of the most ridiculous questions I’ve ever heard on a plane, including whether she could have the recipe for one of the things she ate. She was also extremely disappointed when the crew couldn’t prepare a cappuccino at her desired temperature.

Dinner began with drinks being offered. I ordered another glass of champagne and a Diet Coke, which were served with nuts.

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British Airways first class pre-dinner drinks and nuts

After that my table was set and I was offered an amuse bouche, which was simple but tasty. It consisted of salmon and some sort of quiche-like thing.

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British Airways first class amuse bouche

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British Airways first class amuse bouche

After that I was served the Alaskan king crab and avocado starter. I love crab, and avocado is a food group in and of itself as far as I’m concerned, so it made for a nice combination.

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British Airways first class starter

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British Airways first class starter

For the main course I ordered the chicken tikka masala, which was okay. On one hand I enjoy eating something unique on a plane other than the usual steak or dry fish, but I do think this dish could’ve been executed better.

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British Airways first class main course

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British Airways first class main course

For dessert I had the banoffe pie, which was indescribably sweet… and delicious!

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British Airways first class dessert

During dessert I asked the flight attendant if she could make my bed in seat 1K, so I could go straight to sleep after dinner. She obliged, so as soon as I was done with dinner I moved forward one seat.

I should note that the dinner service was done 75 minutes after takeoff, so was done extremely efficiently. The focus was definitely on efficiency over friendliness and charm, but I’ve generally found that to be the case on BA.

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British Airways first class bed 747

With about five hours to go I headed to bed, and actually slept surprisingly well. I got a solid 3.5 hours of sleep, which is more than I’ve ever gotten between the east coast and Europe.

British Airways’ first class seats aren’t the most spacious in the world, so I think on a 15 or so hour flight you’d certainly notice the difference between British Airways and Cathay Pacific first class seats, for example.

But for such a short flight it’s perfectly comfortable. And British Airways does have good bedding.

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British Airways first class bed 747

I woke up 90 minutes out of London, and was quickly offered some orange juice.

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British Airways airshow

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British Airways airshow

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British Airways first class orange juice

Having just eaten dinner a few hours ago I wasn’t very hungry, though I do what I can to take one for the team, so decided to have a continental breakfast. ;)

The breakfast menu read as follows:

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I had some muesli to start, along with a croissant and cappuccino.

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British Airways first class breakfast service

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British Airways first class breakfast service

Then I had a fruit plate.

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British Airways first class breakfast service

About 30 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to advise us of our updated arrival time, and that he wasn’t expecting any further delays.

I quickly changed out of my pajamas and freshened up a bit, and once again stowed my carry ons.

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On descent into London Heathrow

Our descent was smooth, and as usual the views were quite nice.

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On approach into London Heathrow

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On approach into London Heathrow

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On approach into London Heathrow

We touched down at Heathrow on runway 9L at around 9:25AM, which was quite good time given our “extremely long” flight time.

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On final approach into London Heathrow

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On final approach into London Heathrow

Our taxi to Terminal 5 took about 10 minutes, so we were at the stand before 9:40AM.

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Touchdown London Heathrow

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British Airways oneworld 747

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London Heathrow Terminal 5

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London Heathrow Terminal 5

Upon deplaning I was dreading the usual Heathrow transit experience, though much to my surprise it was actually… pleasant?!?

British Airways first class bottom line

Typically I have mixed feelings about British Airways, but I was actually sort of impressed by this flight. Flying New York to London and being both well fed and fairly well rested is rare, and British Airways delivered. The food was perfectly edible, seats comfortable, and I loved having wifi.

The crew was okay — they were extremely efficient, though it seemed like smiles cost extra.

So while I don’t go out of my way to fly British Airways, they’re a consistent, solid transatlantic option that I’ve flown before and will fly many times in the future.

If you’ve flown British Airways first class, what was your experience?

Comments

  1. says

    FINALLY! Someone who doesn’t “ooh” and “aah” over BA First Class. I got upgraded (from business) about a month back on a flight back from Beijing and I wasn’t particularly wowed by the experience and in fact, almost liked sitting up on the upper deck in business better. Sure the menu was a little more extensive and I got a different amenity kit and pyjamas, it was a little wasted as it was a 9 hour day flight.

    I am a BA Gold members, mainly b/c I max out on Star Alliance midway through the year, so figure I go for another alliance but I don’t love them. I find their service okay at best and I little if any sort of recognition for being a “loyal” customer – rarely do they ever greet me by name (and really, that is all I want). I could take them of leave them. . .

  2. Joey says

    Another awesome review Lucky! In the beginning of the post you mentioned one of the reasons for taking this flight is to compare it to Virgin Atlantic’s upper class. So, how does it compare? Would you fly transatlantic on Virgin’s upper class over BA’s first class product?

  3. TravelinWilly says

    Regarding BA’s bedding, I think it’s…tolerable.

    The bedding on CX and LH are infinitely better, especially on LH which is really closer to a real mattress. The BA seat covering is more like a sheet. Not a big fan.

  4. Lantean says

    I flew the reverse route last year and I liked it a lot… very solid product.

    I have a question… for my next LHR-EWR BA F flight the BA website is showing 5 rows of F seats on this 777… but seatguru says BA doesn’t have any 777 with 5 rows of F… so what is it? Are they getting new 777 with bigger F cabin?
    Thanks.

  5. lucky says

    @ Joey — Ultimately first class is better than business class, so I do think BA F has the edge over VS J. I’d definitely do VS J over BA J, but first is first…

  6. lucky says

    @ Lantean — Hmm, when are you looking at traveling? Have never seen five rows of first class…

  7. beachfan says

    Hi Lucky;

    I agree 100%. Nice (but not tops in class) soft product, cramped hard product. Cramped to the point that it interferes with my sleep over a long period (my arm seems pinned between my body and the wall of the suite).

    Once you consider the fuel surcharges, it’s not that attractive unless it’s the only option. (Fuel surcharges are in and out of London, use them to India or South Africa and it’s a tremendous cost, over $3k for two including departure tax if you stop off in Lonon).

    Do you have any BA business class (TATL) trip reports? It doesn’t look pretty back there.

  8. Al says

    you said this women asked some of the most ridiculous questions you’ve ever heard. What are some other?

  9. Chrs says

    @Lantean @Lucky

    BA has some 777-200 with 17 first class seats and a fifth row. You can check the seat maps on thebasource.com

  10. Lantean says

    @Chrs

    thank you. have you flown that cabin? is it equal to the regular 4 row F cabin? or or crammed?
    thanks.

  11. Siggi says

    Hate the heathrow transit expirence as well. Did you guys end up Parking in the B section (where you have to take that trolley), or was it early enough to get one of the A stands?

  12. Johan says

    Don’t you think it’s weird they charge you for wifi? Shouldn’t it be complimentary in first class? Assuming that paid fares are typically in $10k range…

  13. lucky says

    @ Johan — For what it’s worth almost all airlines even charge premium cabin passengers for wifi, so BA is in the majority with that policy.

  14. Johan says

    @Lucky, I know. I just wonder what the thinking is behind that? It’s not like the 10 people in F are going to bring that much more revenue or slow down the internet at the same time. Nor do I think it’s technically that hard to give them some voucher codes or anything.

  15. lucky says

    @ Johan — My guess is that from the perspective of the airlines:

    — Even offering inflight internet is a competitive advantage
    — Wifi is offered by third party vendors, so the airline would be paying for it directly
    — They assume that if you can pay $10K for a ticket you won’t care about $10-20 for wifi

    I agree, I think it would be a nice thing, but at the same time I’m thrilled just to have access to wifi when flying, and consider the prices they charge to be extremely reasonable.

  16. Matt says

    Lucky – either you’re predictable or I’ve been reading your blog for too long (or both); 9/10 times I know what meal you’ll choose from the menu. I think we both need to get out more…

  17. PittDoc says

    Took 4 transatlantic segments of BA F recently and 2 more coming up at the end of the month. Need the Since you asked what we think of BA F… I need more OneWorld EQMs so BA is the only F choice across the pond. Flown this route on VS J and LH F many times (not as many as Lucky) so I’ve got something to compare BA to. Seat/bed LH >>> BA > VS. Biggest complaint is nowhere to put my briefcase and stuff I need in-flight. VS is even more cramped. I like the creativity of BA and LH food but my tastes are more eclectic than Lucky’s. After 100’s of in-flight steaks you couldn’t force me to have another. Service VS > BA > LH. If I spoke German LH might do better. VS is always fun and flirty. BA is witty. LH is, well, pleasantly efficient. One factor that isn’t mentioned anywhere is that BA is often significantly cheaper than LH F. (Yes, somebody actually pays for premium tickets.) Just over $5K RT for my next BA transatlantic in F, and while I’ve also paid $12K for a last-minute BA ticket it was still less than LH. Game changer would be LH-like ground services at LHR. I’m sure we’ll here about that in your next update.

  18. PIttDoc says

    My apologies to AA for forgetting that they fly F to LHR in my (somewhat garbled) post above. But then again I always forget AA transatlantic, for good reasons. Bigger seat but nothing else.

  19. Vinod says

    Our First Class experiences with BA have been fairly good, both with the experienced crew as well as the mixed fleet crew. We floew from ATL to LHR a couple of weeks ago on First, and the service was impeccable. Granted, the food may not be as exquisite as SQ, LH or CX, but I enjoyed the simplicity of it. The crew were very warm, and spent a lot of time getting to know us. Our Return on Club World was only average.

  20. Johan says

    @ Lucky: regarding your third point, it doesn’t take into account the “Pain of Paying”.

    From morgenland.se: “Every time we pay for something we experience what is called ”The Pain of Paying”. When we pay any amount of money we feel some psychological pain. This is associated with giving up our hard earned cash. But it also turns out that this pain does not increase linearly with the cost. This means that when we double the payment, the pain doesn’t double – it only increases by a bit. In fact, the biggest increase in the pain of paying comes when we switch from paying nothing to paying something. Which means if you dine out with your friends, to reduce the pain of paying as much as possible, you shouldn’t split the bill, instead take turns each time you go out. ”The Pain of Paying” is a mysterious behavior that economists long tried to solve.”

    I would think that the marketing guys at airlines know about this…

  21. John says

    “……front row seats at a One Direction concert” :)

    “When Harry Met Lucky” ……

  22. lucky says

    @ Johan — Not disagreeing at all, just trying to come up with possible reasons from their perspective. I agree with you.

  23. lucky says

    @ Ed — You know, clearly I’ve never actually looked at the menu very closely, as I didn’t realize they had anything other than Grand Siecle. I’ll have to give it a try on my next BA flight.

  24. SMK77 says

    BA F is a very underwhelming product. BA F on the 747 is the most underwhelming version of all: the space and footprint of the seat is basically the same as in Business.

    Not sure where the “good bedding” comment is coming from: the blanked is too narrow, there is no mattress or comforter, just a lumpy cover sheet. The space restrictions of the table are annoying when you are sleeping on the side (which most people do).

  25. says

    the fact that BA provided a very dumb headphone for the first class make me laugh. And that lady as well are a boss! there always a funny story on the trip that you take.

  26. JustSaying says

    Did SFO-LHR FC with spouse a couple of years back and don’t disagree with any of your comments…..BUT the DEAL BREAKER is BA fuel surcharges………..There has to be a better option out there and my gut tells me it is with Alaska miles………

  27. Gil K says

    Lucky .. I have a question about the best location in the 747 F cabin for a family of 3 (2 adults plus 1 child, age 2) traveling from NYC to LON on a daytime flight (not sure if that makes a difference except that she will likely be awake). We normally would not travel this way, but have been afforded the opportunity to do so. I’m not sure which seating arrangements would be best to keep an eye on her and to easily reach her if needed. At first, I thought that sandwiching her between us in Row 4 (seats 4A, 4E, 4F) was a good idea, but then there is the partition which makes getting to her quickly difficult. Then, I thought maybe we would sit in 4A and 4E and she would sit in 3A so that we can keep an eye on her from behind and easily reach her. But then, after seeing how tightly packed the seating is in your photos, it looks like maybe the very front of the cabin would be the best location with her seated in 1A and us seated in 1K and 2K (or 4E). Any advise would be greatly appreciated.. thanks.

  28. wwk5d says

    Glad you enjoyed the food, but the dinner menu as a whole seemed a bit…underwhelming. Even for a night time transatlantic flight. I guess the seats aren’t the only thing “business class” about that experience?

  29. lucky says

    @ wwk5d — Yeah, there’s consistently nothing “first class” about British Airways’ food. I’d argue Etihad’s business class food is better.

  30. lucky says

    @ Gil K — Keep in mind that 1A & 1K are blocked for elite members until check-in, so you won’t be able to pre-reserve that unless you have status. If you do have status I would do 1A, 1K, and then a seat in row 2. Row 4 really feels pretty crowded, so otherwise I’d do 2A, 2K, and then maybe 3A or 3K. Enjoy your flight!

  31. Chilangoflyer says

    I have flown BA First with a friend on a 777-200, only (1K and 2K) and I must agree, the cabin looks very cramped even on this metal. The seat didn’t look or feel more spacious than the Club World seat (though it is quite longer, wihich is a big plus). The food is better than in CW and in my eyes solid. The food on LH is more sophisticated, but I prefer down to earth meals. The hard product is much better with LH or LX, whether for sitting or sleeping. So my verdict is for the hard product LH>LX>>>BA and meals BA>LH>LX. Concerning the FAs, I have not seen big differences between LH and BA (I speak German and English as Lucky does). I will not include LX on this, my only F experience with them was with a horrible FA (and wonderful MdC), so it would not be fair to rate LX on that.

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