From Airbus To Megabus: A Trip Of Contrasts
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Villa
Review: Six Senses Zighy Bay Activities & Dining
Review: Al Maha Bedouin Suite
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Dining
Review: Al Maha Desert Resort Dubai Activities
Review: Dubai International First Class Lounge DXB
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A320 Dubai To Doha
Review: Qatar Airways First Class A380 Doha To London
Review: British Airways First Class A380 London To Los Angeles
Review: British Airways A380 First Class Tasting Menu
Review: Sheraton Gateway Los Angeles Airport LAX
Review: American Flagship Lounge Los Angeles LAX
Review: American First Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
Review: Hilton Austin Airport
Our flight from Doha to London was delayed by a bit, so we only arrived at around 1:45PM, and our connection to Los Angeles was scheduled to depart at 4:15PM. Unfortunately we had to switch terminals, as we were arriving at Terminal 4 and departing from Terminal 5.
First we had to walk through the maze which is the Terminal 4 arrivals area, until we found ourselves at the transfer center.
Once there we had to wait a few minutes for the bus.
The bus between terminals took almost 15 minutes, which just shows you how bizarrely spread out Heathrow is (on the plus side, we had the bus to ourselves, so it was sort of like a transfer at the Lufthansa First Class Terminal… only not).
Once at Terminal 5 we had to queue for security, which took quite a while. While there’s a Fast Track lane, a lot of passengers at Heathrow are eligible to use it, so the line still took about 20 minutes. I sure wish British Airways had some improved ground services for their first class passengers, as the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class ground experience is significantly better than the British Airways first class experience (and that’s comparing business class to first class).
We briefly stopped in the Concorde Room, which I’ve reviewed several times before, so I won’t cover it again. I’ll simply say that I consider it to be the world’s most overrated lounge. The fact that I realized I misplaced my pants on the Qatar Airways flight while in the Concorde Room probably didn’t help. 😉
Our flight to Los Angeles was scheduled to depart from the “C Pier” of Terminal 5, so we had to take the train two stops to get there. I saw our plane as we ascended the escalator, and noticed that the engine cowling was open. Ruh roh, that can’t be good!
We got to the gate at around 3:30PM, which is when boarding was scheduled to begin. About 10 minutes after we got there the gate manager came on the PA, and in the most sheepish way possible announced that there was a problem with the plane. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone make such an incompetent-sounding announcement, let alone someone who claims to be the gate manager. “Ummmm… ummmm… this is your gate manager… we… ummmm… have a… ummm… problem… with the airplane.”
She basically said the flight was delayed because there was a problem with the engine, and that she didn’t know when we’d board. So she invited people to leave the gate. The only problem was that less than five minutes later she came back on the PA to say we were ready for immediate boarding! Go figure at that point about half the passengers had already left the gate area.
I was excited about this flight, and especially looking forward to comparing it to the British Airways A380 I took from London to Los Angeles in 2013. In general I’m not a huge fan of British Airways first class, though I’ve reviewed them between New York and London, Seattle and London, London and Seattle, etc.
I’ve called British Airways first class the world’s best business class, though after flying their business class recently I also realized just how much better their first class is.
So I was curious to see how this flight measured up!
I should note that prior to the flight I was telling Andrew about how the Los Angeles route is operated by Mixed Fleet crews (Tiffany wrote about them the other day), which are the flight attendants British Airways has been hiring for the past five (or so) years. Basically British Airways was having labor issues with their other crews, and eventually decided to just never hire another flight attendant under that contract, instead springing for more junior crews which they pay significantly less. There are plenty of Mixed Fleet flight attendants who are 18, and they even have some Cabin Service Managers (CSMs) who are 21. It sort of feels like “bring your kid to work day.” But they’re usually very well intentioned.
British Airways 269
London (LHR) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Saturday, October 10
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 2A (First Class)
We boarded through the forward lower deck door, where we were greeted by one of the first class crew, who escorted us to our seats. British Airways’ A380 first class is on the lower deck, and consists of a total of 14 seats, spread across four rows in a 1-2-1 configuration (there are no center seats in the first row, due to the location of the stairs).
The cabin is extremely sleek, especially once the mood lights are turned on.
I assigned myself seat 2A, while Tiffany was in 1A, and Andrew was across the aisle.
I find the A380 first class seat to be more spacious than on the 747 and 777, though the seat still feels like it has a lot of “wasted” space. As you can see, the seat itself isn’t actually that wide, but rather there’s a solid two feet between the window and where the seat starts.
The seat is quite private at least, thanks to the high barriers around the seats. Much like a reverse herringbone business class product, the seats are angled towards the windows and have ottomans. The good thing about this seat is that the space for your feet isn’t restricted (in many reverse herringbone seats the gap for your feet is less than a foot vertically), meaning you won’t ever feel constrained while trying to sleep.
To the left of the seat was a large storage compartment, which also housed two USB ports, a 110v power port, and the entertainment controller.
Then to the left of the seat were some of the other seat controls, including for the reading light and seat recline.
Waiting on the ottoman was a light blanket as well as a pair of headphones. For international first class I find the headphones to be cheap and uncomfortable — American has far superior Bose headphones in business class.
The plane has automatic window shades in first class, so you can open and close them at the push of the button. That’s actually a handy feature, since the window shades themselves are quite large on the lower deck of the A380 (the windows themselves aren’t that large, though).
In addition to the blanket there were two rather flat pillows waiting at my seat.
Once I had the chance to settle in, one of the first class flight attendants, Geri, came by to introduce herself. She was extremely lovely (and senior, given my expectation of a Mixed Fleet crew). She was professional but also playful, which I appreciated. As I said above, I was expecting a Mixed Fleet crew on this flight, so was a bit surprised when I saw a crew which looked much more senior.
I joked to Geri and said “this doesn’t look to me like a Mixed Fleet crew… since when does Worldwide fly LA?” She joked “are you calling us old?” I quickly responded “oh no, just more experienced and professional than the kids usually working the route, you know?” Of course it was all in good fun, and we both got a good laugh out of it. She explained that as of three months ago the route was transferred to the Worldwide crews, so it’s no longer Mixed Fleet.
Anyway, Geri offered me an amenity kit, slippers, and a pair of pajamas.
British Airways has among my favorite pajamas, though unfortunately they no longer have special ones for the A380 (I thought it was pretty cool to have pajamas which said both “First” and “A380” on them).
I love British Airways’ slippers, as they’re quite sturdy, more than those offered by any other airline I’ve flown.
I was also offered an amenity kit. While the kit itself isn’t quite as stylish as the one British Airways used to offer, it is significantly more practical.
Shortly thereafter I was offered a pre-departure beverage. I ordered a glass of champagne, and within a few moments was poured a glass of Grand Siecle at my seat. Yum! I was also offered the menu for the flight.
Geri explained that I could eat what I wanted when I wanted, so I commented “well all I really want is the afternoon tea, that’s half the reason I fly British Airways.” Unfortunately she informed me that British Airways recently eliminated afternoon tea on flights to the west coast, and are instead offering a full meal before landing, due to “customer feedback.”
I was sort of devastated. This led to a further conversation about afternoon tea etiquette, and in particular about whether you put the jam or clotted cream on the scones first. She explained she was from Devonshire, which apparently made her an expert on the topic. 😉
She also snuck us a couple of brownies from the midflight snack selection, when she found out how sad we were about the lack of afternoon tea. I gave mine to Andrew, because he has an even sweeter tooth than I do (who knew that was possible?).
The crew was busy during boarding, given that just about every seat seemed to be occupied on the plane, including in first class. Nowadays British Airways allows you to enjoy inflight entertainment on the ground, so I got started with an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, one of my favorite shows.
Our departure was delayed a bit due to the miscommunication at the gate. When the gate manager announced the delay, a lot of passengers left the gate, and then we had to wait for them. The door to the plane finally closed at 4:40PM, at which point the Customer Service Director (CSD) came on the PA. We’ll call him Stewie, because the way he spoke was identical to the character from Family Guy. It was uncanny.
I know Brits and Americans have different phrases they use, but I really had no clue what the point of this guy’s announcements were. He started off with explaining the delay, saying “it’s all very clever here at Heathrow, and everything is most efficient it can be.” Say what now? There are many words I’d use to describe Heathrow… “clever” isn’t one of them!
After that he explained the advantages of the A380, stating “one advantage of this plane is that it’s quiet, so please keep that in mind when talking to people so you don’t bother others.”
He then continued to explain how to fill out the landing card, including insightful information like “all UK citizens residing in the UK should put the UK as their country of residency.” Oh, is that how that works? I realize he was trying to be helpful, but all of his announcements just came across as so condescending.
We pushed back just after 4:40PM, and began our taxi to the departure runway. As we taxied the safety video played.
The good news is that we were departing from runway 9R, which was just a short taxi away.
Once short of the runway we were number three for takeoff, and less than five minutes later we were cleared to taxi into position on the runway.
After waiting for a British Airways A320 to depart, it was our turn.
As we began our takeoff roll we passed a gorgeous Air New Zealand 777, and a few moments later we were airborne, at around 5PM.
The views on departure were lovely, especially of Terminal 2.
As we climbed out I switched to the airshow.
After that I browsed the entertainment selection, which I find fairly lackluster on British Airways. I decided to watch another couple of episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm, even though I had seen them before. The show never gets old for me.
Shortly after the seatbelt sign was turned off the captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard and apologize for the delay. He explained that our flight time was a shorter than usual 10hr30min, so he anticipated we would still arrive in Los Angeles on “shed-jewel.”
About 20 minutes after takeoff the other first class flight attendant came around to take meal orders.
The lunch menu read as follows, with the choice between a tasting menu and an a la carte menu:
The beverage list read as follows:
Service began with hot towels being distributed.
I find British Airways is usually pretty slow to get the actual meal service started, and this flight was no exception. About 45 minutes after takeoff drinks were offered, along with warm nuts. I ordered a gin & tonic.
It was another 30 minutes after the drinks were served before the table was set for lunch.
I was offered an amuse bouche, consisting of goat cheese with tomato (at least that’s how it was described to me).
I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and selected the focaccia.
I chose the crab starter, which was quite good.
For the next course I ordered the salad, which I also enjoyed.
Meanwhile Andrew chose the soup.
For the main course I ordered the cod filet, which was flavorful, though also tasted quite “fishy,” but I guess that’s to be expected from cod.
Andrew had the beef, which looked, well, well done.
For dessert I ordered the chocolate and hazelnut bread and butter pudding. It was every bit as delicious as it looks. Nom nom nom. Good thing they dolloped a huge quantity of chocolate on the side, as the dessert wouldn’t have been sweet or unhealthy enough otherwise. 😉
I intended to finish off the meal with a cappuccino, though the machine was broken. So I settled for a coffee with milk instead.
The meal service was done 75 minutes after it started. I thought the pace of service was fantastic, and the two ladies working first class were really top notch, among the best I’ve had on British Airways.
Once the meal was done they told me to let them know when I wanted my bed made. I took advantage of that right away, as I was quite tired given the early start to my day, and the flights from Dubai to Doha to London.
The turndown service was promptly taken care of, and a bottle of water was also placed at my seat. While the seat itself isn’t that wide, the bedding on British Airways is good. Add in how quiet the A380 is, and I slept like a baby.
I slept for about five hours, and woke up with about three hours left to Los Angeles. Upon waking up I ordered another cup of coffee, and decided to get some work done on my laptop.
About two hours before landing the crew came around to offer the pre-arrival meal. The menu read as follows:
Again, I was quite sad to see that British Airways no longer serves afternoon tea, though apparently they felt it made sense to add a second meal for “competitive reasons,” given the length of the flight.
My table was promptly set, and I was again offered my choice from the breadbasket.
For the starter I had the artichoke, mushroom, and truffle frittata, which I wasn’t a huge fan of. It was sort of grossly lukewarm, and I didn’t love the texture either.
For the main course I had the salmon, which was better than the cod served earlier in the flight, in my opinion.
For dessert I was proactively served fresh fruit. Thank goodness, because it’s just about the only healthy thing I had on the flight.
We were making good time enroute to Los Angeles, and it looked like we would arrive on time, up until we passed Las Vegas. At this point the captain came on the PA and explained that President Obama was inbound to Los Angeles, which was causing indefinite holding for the time being.
I took the opportunity to enjoy some more of British Airways’ world class entertainment selection.
We only had to hold for about 20 minutes, at which point we were cleared for our final descent. I changed out of my pajamas, stowed my carry-ons, and was excited to get back to the US.
We finally touched down on runway 24L at LAX at 7:30PM, only about 10 minutes behind schedule. We had a beautifully smooth landing, and from there it was a short five minute taxi to our arrival gate at Tom Bradley International Terminal.
We bid farewell to the crew, and were through immigration in a matter of minutes thanks to Global Entry.
British Airways first class bottom line
This was one of my more impressive flights on British Airways. The A380 offers my favorite British Airways first class product, given that there seems to be a bit more space all around, compared to the 747 and 777. The service on this sector was fantastic, as this was probably the best Worldwide British Airways crew I’ve ever had. They were professional and attentive while still having a sense of humor, which is a perfect combination.
The food was fine, though nothing amazing. As usual, the dessert was excellent, the appetizers were good, and the mains were “meh.”
One amenity I really value is wifi, which British Airways is one of the worst carriers about. The fact that they don’t have wifi on a vast majority of their fleet (I think they just have a few test planes with wifi) sort of deters me from flying with them.
While I think British Airways has an all around slightly better first class product than American, I’d probably choose American on the route due to the availability of wifi.
Am I the only one who is sad to see British Airways eliminate the afternoon tea service on flights to the west coast? Would you choose to fly American or British Airways between London and Los Angeles?