British Airways Introducing First Wing At Heathrow Airport

I’ve often referred to British Airways first class as the world’s best business class product. While the onboard product is fairly disappointing, the most underwhelming aspect of the experience is the ground service. First class passengers get access to the Concorde Room and priority check-in, though other than that there are no priority services for first class passengers.

British-Airways-747-First-Class
British Airways 747 first class

Compare that to British Airways’ two biggest European rivals — Air France and Lufthansa — which arguably offer the world’s best first class ground experiences at their respective hubs.

Air France offers the world’s best first class ground experience, and picks you up planeside on both arrival and departure, has an incredible Michelin star restaurant in their lounge, and is simply incredible.

Air-France-First-Class-Lounge-Paris - 80
Planeside transfer as part of Air France first class ground experience Paris Airport

Meanwhile Lufthansa has a separate terminal just for first class passengers, and will drive you to your plane in a sports car.

Lufthansa-FCT
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt Airport

Well, British Airways has just announced that next April they will be introducing the First Wing at Heathrow Airport Terminal 5. While they’re still lightyears behind their competitors, it’s a step in the right direction.

The First Wing is essentially a priority security channel at Terminal 5 for first class and oneworld Emerald passengers.

British-Airways-First-Wing
Rendering of British Airways First Wing Heathrow Airport Terminal 5

Per the press release:

The First Wing, set to open in April, will be located next to the airlines First check-in area.  It will create an enhanced private check-in zone where customers will be guided to two new dedicated security lanes, designed to speed up the process of passing through the airport.

Once through security, customers will have dedicated access to British Airways’ Galleries First lounge and through to the airline’s flagship Concorde Room, where they can relax before their flight, making the journey seamless for those premium customers.

The new dedicated security lanes will also reduce the number of customers using the current North and South security, speeding up the journey for all customers, especially those travelling in Club World, through Terminal 5.

This concept is remarkably similar to what Virgin Atlantic offers their Upper Class (business class) passengers, as they also have a dedicated security channel at Heathrow Airport.

Virgin-Atlantic-Clubhouse-London - 5
Virgin Atlantic Upper Class Wing Heathrow Airport

So really British Airways is playing catch up in first class with what Virgin Atlantic is offering in business class. That perhaps describes their ground experience as a whole, as I’d take the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse over the Concorde Room any day of the week.

Bottom line

Kudos to British Airways for introducing this new dedicated security channel, and it’s certainly also good news for oneworld Emerald passengers. Security at Heathrow Terminal 5 can take a long time, so hopefully this shortens the queue considerably for premium passengers.

This is certainly a step in the right direction, though British Airways’ first class ground experience is still way behind those offered by Air France and Lufthansa, and I’d argue Virgin Atlantic even offers a better experience for their business class passengers.

What do you make of the new British Airways First Wing?

(Tip of the hat to @chriscockroft)

Comments

  1. To be fair, it was the airport owners who have been blocking BA from doing this earlier – a quicker route to the lounge = bypasses the shopping arcade. BA is rumoured to have paid handsomely for both this, and the current door to the Concorde lounge that bypasses duty free

    By comparison the Upper Class Wing still deposits you in the T3 shopping arcade, so Advantage BA on this one (unless you like spending time in duty free, of course)

  2. As you said, a step in the right direction. And BA is very generous with their silver and gold in terms of +1s, so security times should really improve.

    If they could only get back to serving Taittinger at the T5F lounge… I would be much happier. And also time for a refurb.

  3. “Compare that to British Airways’ two biggest European rivals — Air France and Lufthansa — which arguably offer the world’s best first class ground experiences at their respective hubs.”

    SWISS is also not far behind. They have a new F lounge (E concourse) and they also offer a ride (albeit sometimes in a minivan). Overall, a much more exclusive experience compared BA (especially if you have to schlep over to 5C where the A380 gates are). Rankings:

    1A) AF
    1B) LH
    1C) LX
    distant second (or fourth) BA

  4. @kt74 – I experienced this and understand the owners logic. Duty free is a huge revenue driver.

    I will add that as an American I hate duty free areas since they take up space from other services I want in an airport serve no purpose for me. Taxes here are low in general (for better or worse…not the point of this comment) and we have whole states that are essentially duty free (NH and Delaware to name two). Due to the cost of airport real estate duty free is never cheaper than a good suburban American liquor store or outlet mall.

  5. I fly the SEA-LHR on BA first many times a year on miles as well as occasionally Virgin, although that will change next year when VS takes over the SEA-LHR route from DL. The security area at T5 for premium passengers rarely has a wait so I do not see this as that much of an upgrade. I just flew from LHR to IAD on Virgin using that security channel and had to wait behind a family of five. It was comedic seeing them try to go through security and try try again. Wait time 15 mins. So no better than BA to me.

    Lounge – agree that clubhosue is way better than Concorde room. The service in there is outsourced as I have mentioned to the BA staff that it is lacking and mixed. Some friendly smiles mixed with body language of they do not want to be there.

    BA needs to step it up.

    And good luck in trying to book something at the Elemis spa. Unlike you prebook(open to first class only for prebooking) or arrive 4 hours ahead of your flight, you’re likely to be out of luck.You’re competing directly with the business passengers.

    Step it up BA.

  6. A car to the plane? Jeez!! That’s a deal breaker when choosing who to fly! The reality, as Lucky pointed out below, is that very few pay full price for First Class, and the majority are upgrades of some sort.

    And who is (more) profitable? BA, AF, or LH?

    BA seems to be doing EVERYTHING right.

  7. I have to disagree. Definitely the AF F on the ground service is absolutely great. But the GA otg service still beats it.

  8. No good news for us connecting in LHR 🙁
    Maybe it will be better to go landside and then make the way to the First Wing.

    In regards to “tax free shop” haters, if you check in LHR with BA first, you dont end in any shops on your way to Concorde room.

  9. @MAKP – but OWE do not have access to CCR unless they are flying BA F. They currently have to go through all the duty free to get to Galleries F lounge. This new F wing sounds like OWE can access the Galleries F without having to go through all the duty free.

  10. Any chance they will be fixing the dreadful connection experience (and replace thesurliest of the surly screeners) fr first as well?

  11. Every pound Heathrow make from the shops reduces the landing fees you pay (through your ticket) by a pound (google single till regulation) so even if you don’t shop there, they are providing a benefit to you.

  12. Not sure this will make a dramatic improvement. Transfers will still be painful and immigration times still a lottery. Best thing BA could do is improve its overwhelmingly grumpy ‘I don’t want to be here’ staff. I use the Concorde room as a short cut to serve myself in the 1st Lounge. My last few flights were on Qatar and Finnair. Given the choice I’ll book with them and accept a stop in HEL or DOH.

  13. BA need to do something with the domestic to international connection process at T5 for their first passengers. It can involve long queues, often for just one agent, to scan your boarding card to go up into departures) and then trek through the shops from north to south.

    Also, if they can’t provide a car or luxury minibus transfer to/from the aircraft (like LF and AF) how about at least making a the most proximal carriage of the T5 shuttle reserved for F ticketed passengers only? Add some carpet and cordon ropes to that door with a sign ‘reserved for our First passengers’. Give them a little space and a few less steps to walk. It would involve the cost of an additional member of staff to police access, but an easy fix to add an extra priority touch to the ground between T5 ABC.

  14. In my humble opinion BA’s problem is simple this: Why would anyone go through LHR unless they were forced to? As noted by many who have commented, the experience is generally dreadful (that sounds very British), when there are other noted options which are far better.

  15. I feel sorry that the Royal Family has to fly British Airways when on official royal business, though I suspect they do put the best crew and might even freshen up the planes ahead of a senior royal’s trip.

  16. BA needs to remodel its First and Concorde shower facilities. These are by far the worst showers anyway.. Very institutional and poorly ventilated.

    The restroom are also bad.

  17. Value for money and quality of service? BA 747 Upper Deck Business.
    Don’t see any huge benefit paying the significant extra for First as it is currently.

  18. Mike, While I agree with you that LHR is a mess, the reason for me to use it is because it gives direct flights everywhere. Changing at another airport means longer travel times and a doubled risk of delay.

    Avoiding hefty taxes and fees are a reason to do that anyway of course.

    As for this change, First passengers can already use the “secret” entrance to the Concorde Room, so I don’t see this as a game-changed

  19. Is it possible or allowed even, to exit LHR and then check in again via the new First dedicated area? This instead of following the “connections” route and having to go into the usually lengthy security line which ALWAYS has travellers who NEVER take the liquids out or their belts off or laptops out separately etc.and thus making the whole process double the time it should take. If it’s an option then I might just “check in” again

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