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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
Arrive: 9:25AM (+1 day)
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.
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.
BA 747 first class seatmap, per SeatGuru
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.
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.
Shortly thereafter I was offered amenities, including pajamas, slippers, an amenity kit, socks, and eyeshades.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
They do at least feature a couple of Elemis toiletries.
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.
I did watch one episode of Two Broke Girls. Man, Max is feisty!
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.
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:
The bistro selection and dessert menu read as follows:
And the wine/drink list read as follows:
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.
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.
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.
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.
For dessert I had the banoffe pie, which was indescribably sweet… and delicious!
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.
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.
I woke up 90 minutes out of London, and was quickly offered some 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:
I had some muesli to start, along with a croissant and cappuccino.
Then I had a fruit plate.
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.
Our descent was smooth, and as usual the views were quite nice.
We touched down at Heathrow on runway 9L at around 9:25AM, which was quite good time given our “extremely long” flight time.
Our taxi to Terminal 5 took about 10 minutes, so we were at the stand before 9:40AM.
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?