British Airways 787-9 First Class In 10 Pictures

Hello from London! I just flew British Airways’ 787-9 first class on the 10 hour flight from San Jose, and in this post wanted to share my initial thoughts. I specifically sought out this routing because it was operated by the 787-9, and I haven’t yet flown British Airways’ 787 first class.

The 787 first class cabin consisted of just eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 layout. This is by far the smallest first class cabin British Airways has on any of their planes. I was quite impressed by the hard product. The cabin was extremely stylish and sleek. I found that to be the case on British Airways’ other planes in first class as well, but the 787 is even more beautiful.

I had heard lots of people say that these seats are especially tight, though I didn’t find that to be the case. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t the Etihad Apartment in terms of personal space, but I found the seat to feel like a larger reverse herringbone seat. I thought the cabin felt more spacious than first class on the British Airways 747.

I did think aspects of the seat were poorly designed (specifically, the seat controls, and the ability to only control entertainment on the handset rather than directly on the screen), but overall I liked this stylish and intimate cabin.

This flight had dinner and breakfast, and the food was… alright. I honestly can’t complain about the quality, but it also wasn’t great. It was just unmemorable.

After takeoff there was a canapé consisting of cheese and prosciutto.

Then for the appetizer I selected the smoked salmon cannelloni with lemon puree, pickled yellow beetroot, and a little bit of caviar.

I then had a leek and potato soup, which was flavorful but watery.

For the main course my first choice wasn’t available. Maybe they were having a bad day, though I’d note that the only airlines I’ve flown in the past couple of years in first class where I didn’t get my first choice were China Eastern and TAAG Angola.

So I had the chicken kiev with spicy tomato chutney, herb roasted fingerling potatoes, and shallot jus. Usually I’m not a huge fan of breaded chicken, though it was the most appealing sounding to me of the non-fish options.

Then for dessert I had a lemon tart with lemon curd and strawberry, which was excellent.

Overall the food was alright. Both the quality and presentation simply weren’t on par with what you’d get on Air France, Lufthansa, or Swiss (the other European airlines offering first class on transatlantic flights).

British Airways serves Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle champagne in first class, which is lovely.

The bed was comfortable, and as a side sleeper I could sleep in just about any direction without feeling restricted.

The amenities were also good — I quite like British Airways’ pajamas (though don’t put them in a dryer, as they shrink), and they amenity kit is also good.

On the service front, this flight is operated by British Airways’ “mixed fleet” crews, which are the flight attendants British Airways hired on ridiculously cheap contracts. Many have referred to their pay as “poverty wages.” Flying with mixed fleet crews sort of feels like it’s “bring your kid to work day,” only they leave the parents at home. Half of the crew were probably teenagers, and I’d guess only one flight attendant was older than me.

I don’t mind that because they’re actually more enthusiastic and well intentioned, and this crew was no exception. However, it also means the service isn’t terribly polished. I was never addressed by name, and very few aspects of the service were proactive. It felt more like a decent business class service than what you’d expect in first class.

However, they always quickly took care of any requests I had, and they were genuinely friendly, so…

Where does that leave British Airways’ 787 first class? I quite like their 787 seats, as the cabin is intimate and sleek. The food was alright and service was alright, though the soft product basically makes you feel like you’re in a really good business class. I’d say the only thing about this product that’s truly first class is their champagne.

British Airways continues to rank last when it comes to transatlantic first class products from European airlines. Air France is best, followed by Lufthansa and Swiss, and then British Airways is a distant fourth.

However, it is worth acknowledging that British Airways first class is more readily available than the rest using miles — Air France first class awards can only be booked by elite members of the FlyingBlue program and the cost is 200,000 miles one-way, Swiss first class awards can only be booked by Miles & More elite members, and Lufthansa first class can only be booked through partner frequent flyer programs at most 15 days out. Meanwhile British Airways first class is easier to book in advance, assuming you’re willing to pay the $500 one-way fuel surcharges.

If you’ve flown British Airways first class, how does this compare to your experience?

Comments

  1. You should leave your body to science to measure the effects that all the airline food and miles have done to you.

  2. Flying exclusively in Economy Class (paid discounted fares only), I would say that this BA First Class is just a ok Business Class.

  3. “British Airways continues to rank last when it comes to transatlantic first class products from European airlines. Air France is best, followed by Lufthansa and Swiss, and then British Airways is a distant fourth.”
    What about KLM?

  4. @James – I thought it looked like a stale piece of KFC that you eat cold the next day when you’re hungover.

  5. I flew that route in the opposite direction and had a similar experience, although I found the service to be excellent (youthfully excellent). I was addressed by name, and they checked in frequently, for example. I think the space under the shelf being open makes an enormous difference in space. You pretty much get the full rectangle’s worth of real estate, whereas in other BA first cabins there’s a console in your way. I didn’t mind the handset controller, although others have complained about it being slow or not working. And the vegan meal was the best I’ve had on a plane.

    I think it’s unfair to call this configuration “a good business class” or whatever. I get that with the 747 and 777 seats which are basically reverse herringbone seats with nicer finishes. This seat is appreciably better in a number of ways (storage, privacy, width of sleeping surface), so I think it can be upgraded to a “mediocre first class” at least.

  6. I tried BA first class maybe half a dozen times so far and every flight was just plainly bad.
    I don’t know which crew I had, but they were never proactive and I had to ask for everything, including slippers, blankets, and the turn-down service.
    The dinner service on JFK-LHR was so slow that there was hardly any time left to sleep once they wrapped up the whole dinner service.
    And we all know how outdated the seats are.
    Overall, just bad bad bad, and now I stopped flying with BA.

  7. Thanks for sharing. It looks more like a good business class than like first class. Nothing real stands out and if you compare to Air France, Ethihad or Singapore it’s disappointing. Same for the crew and catering that look ok but not outstanding.

  8. This is what BA business should be aside from the champagne. It’s a very good looking cabine thats for sure.

  9. I flew their 777 F from LHR-ORD, and while it was a pleasant flight it just wasn’t on par with Lufthansa and Air France First, both of which I’ve flown. But I’ve noticed that often BA F paid fares are usually lower than AF, LH and LX. so…

  10. The food and presentation look absolutely awful. It’s like they didn’t even try…

    I can’t imagine anyone want, or willing, to pay for First on BA. It just doesn’t look worth the money.

  11. @Lucky

    a shockingly good report as it almost mirrors my last BA F to MCT..
    finally, some of you have said it..it is more business class than a first class comparing to AF,LH or LX…another schock a very cheap and dry chicken kiew which @emily butler already said..not one at all..
    The difference from my last experience, I had one good and experienced crew..my name is remembered even my drinks..the crew was very polished and had good small talks with them..
    almost unbelievable good as it was not a SQ or CX crew..yet again, it shows in a F cabin how a personalized service directly fom an experienced crew is very important..for me beside a an outstanding F&B a very crucial factor..

  12. Chicken Kiev is a hot Ukrainian blonde in a tight skirt serving whatever the hell she feels like and the passengers enjoying it nevertheless.

    Yumm!

    Seconds?

  13. Lucky – there have been reports of dramatically reduced BA First award space, particularly on non-JFK routes. I’m seeing this when looking for flights from LHR to western US at the end of the schedule (March 2019).

    Have you seen this, and do you have any thoughts on why this might be happening?

  14. I too just flew that flight R/T going over in F and back in Biz, frankly Biz was a better experience than First. Either way the seats are cramped ( I am 6.2 180) controls and locations not the best.

    Food either cabin subpar at least to me. Going over they fed us and disappeared. The “snack bar’ was never replenished during the entire flight. And had to ask for a refill on my coffee.

    I use to be a huge BA fan and not anymore and amazed that BA continues to provide such lousy service and get away with it. I remember in the old days the saying was “BOAC” makes the Boeing late!! Oh well

  15. The meal quality and presentation remember me of my last AZ flight, only the pasta course and the lemoncello are mising. The seat looks stylish but it does not scream First class at all!

  16. @Charlie McMillan
    My thoughts exactly. It Looks like a left over piece from KFC that you pour some hot sauce on in the morning to entice your hangover taste buds.

    Honestly, nothing screams first class in any of the above pics. BA has such a great brand recognition and i’m pretty sure they could charge a huge premium if they had an excellent product in F & J and people would fly them. This is just underwhelming.

  17. Beautiful cabin, but I can’t say its any better than the new forward facing J class seats on AA. The food looks very J class lite!

    The 787-9 is sometimes rostered on to the LHR-LAX route.

  18. I bought two of those chicken kievs from Tesco today for £1.50. Good to see the ‘fuel surcharge’ is being invested wisely!

  19. All my Best experiences with BA in F has been with mixed fleet, Young energetic not so formal, I hate it when FA address me as was it’s my father never happens with mixed fleet.

    @John younger employees, and they are on specific routes and they wear hats.

  20. The thing about not addressing you by name might just be a British thing, we generally don’t like being referred to as such by strangers, the whole thing of having to give your name in Starbucks for the coffee cup went down like a lead balloon in Britain and we don’t want to know or care what our waiters name is in a restaurant either so you would rarely get a waiter introducing themselves.

    I personally would find it really really irritating if crew addressed me by name, I would prefer that they didn’t. A smile and decent service is enough.

  21. Certainly looks like a good Business Class experience rather than some type of remarkable First Class experience. Personally, I just can’t see myself paying more (miles or cash) for BA First.

  22. It should be “Chicken Kiev”, not “chicken kiev”. It’s the name of the city, after all.
    And I must add that Chicken Kiev as a first-class dish itself is pretty laughable – we normally get it as a cheap meal in self-serve buffets and similar establishments in Russia.

  23. Lucky – a very fair summary which reflects my recent BA First experience on the 787-900 from LHR to Muscat in March: really nice cabin, very strong drinks selection with v good champagne, unpolished but fun crew and poor quality food (albeit plenty of it).

  24. Lucky thanks for the report and for once I do agree with your sentiments, this is a fair report. I am shocked by the photos of your main course – that looks grim. I would actually complain about that.

    To the other commenters saying this is like business class, just no. Let’s compare “apples to apples” so ignore Q-Suites for a minute and focus on what is actually available transatlantic. This is far superior to AF or LH business class, although it is the weakest first class product. Having said that, I find paid BA First available round-trip from London to most US cities for approaching as little as GBP 2,000, probably half the price I have ever seen on LH or AF first. That needs to be considered as well.

    Lucky, beyond onboard experience, is there any way to spot in advance whether your flight is likely to be Mixed-fleet or Worldwide crew? For example by route?

  25. @ Kerry

    You certainly get what you pay for, and I often find BA F fares are actually cheaper than J, and rarely hugely more expensive. There’s then a vast price gap before AF, LH, etc.

    @ Joo

    Agreed. The whole name-checking / fake intimacy thing doesn’t work terribly well in the UK. Subservient service is pretty unfashionable here, too. Foreign visitors are amazed that they’re rarely invited to homes in England – it’s just not what we do.

  26. @Kerry

    ..to be one of the best again..why not renamed the excisting First product as a revamped and a new premium C class..get rid of those obsolete C seats… make a new and better First class but most of all..a far better improved food and service!!!

  27. Just did quick check and that BA tkt runs $8.8k, while could do Air France from LAX-LHR for $8k.
    Much better food and seating for less.

  28. So would it be American first class on the 777-300 or BA first class? Which do you think is better???

  29. This seat really doesn’t feel like a good business seat to me, I flew it last year from LAX-LHR and I wouldn’t exactly say it was a good business seat, unlike the A380, 747 and 777 products, the photos don’t really show how private the seats are, since the partition/walls aren’t very pronounced, and seat’s also bigger than it looks in the photo. However, the seat is still most certainly a bad first class seat, just not quite a very good business class, I think BA deserves at least a little more credit, right? (I mean everything else they have is trash compared to AF, LH and LX)

  30. Flew this route in July of last year, R/T F on the way there and J on the way back. Pretty much same sentiments as Ben, but I will say I miss the ability to dine with a companion that the new seats don’t afford, though they do have much better finishes on them.

    As for MF versus WW crew, I find myself liking the MF crew more, as they seem to be more engaging. I’ve experience MF and WW several times in both F and J, and I’ve never had bad service, but I’ve had crews provide indifferent service and some provide outstanding attention-to-detail. All things being equal, though, I’d prefer MF since they’re bubblier and more outgoing.

  31. Thanks Lucky for the report.

    The seat looks beautiful. I was wondering how you would compare this seat to the new Qatar business class seat. For that matter, how would you compare BA First to Qatar Business Class, which I think is your current top rated business. Also, how do you think this compares not just to the European airlines doing TAs but also to BA’s Oneworld partner, AA, which is the only US carrier committed to offering first class or any other Western hemisphere airline with first class doing a TA (if there are any). I think AA’s seat is more spacious but doesn’t look as elegant. While not bad, AA’s first class food doesn’t scream first class either.

    And I agree, that Not-Chicken-Kiev looks cheap and bad.

  32. My two times in BA First was JFK to LHR on a 777 and LHR to MIA on a 747. The most memorable parts of my trip were the lounges. Some like to dis the Concord Rooms, but for me, never having been in one, I found the exclusivity of the JFK room, the service, food and champagne, the highlight of my entire experience. The other aspect was being brought to the head of the security line by a BA staff upon checking in, as well as shown to my seat on the aircraft as opposed to pointing to it. The flight attendants on the LHR to MIA were abysmal, older and cranky. The food was bad and the cabin was crowded and stuffy.
    The seat itself is less restrictive than the reverse herringbone on most business class cabins which is a good thing, but overall, the experience is just a good business class.

    Since then I have flown Cathay’s First Class from JFK to HKG, SQ’s from SIN to DBX and the Ethiad Apt from ABU to JFK. I have to say that I like Cathay’s the best, then SQ and then Etihad. Yes the Apartment is spacious and yes I took a shower on the plane, but I found the food to be less than stellar and the seat to be very dirty when I accidentally used the hot hand cloths to wipe something from the seat and saw it’s resulting grime all over the cloth. That made me very skeptical of the entire environment. Cathay and SQ flight attendants are professional beyond words and just made me feel special. I cannot say the same about Etihad and definitely not BA. I have had better service on China Eastern, Shangai, Delta and even American, which is laughable but true. Just my two cents.

  33. Great review, Ben! Honestly why would anyone use zillions of AA miles *and* pay hundreds of dollars for an obviously average biz-class experience in F? This boggles the mind.

    But to all those in Silicon Valley whose companies pay for F, well then do enjoy the watery soup.

  34. I’d still rather fly Qatar business class… I’d like to fly BA again but their product seems hardly worth my cash and/or miles.

  35. Looking forward to hearing about the ground service – does BA also have walloping fees for for seat-selection in F like they do in J, for non-elites? How is the Concorde Room these days, mixed reports recently, filthy showers and the champagne hidden away. And be sure to arrive super-early at T5 and not book tight connections, because even F is not immune to BA’s spiteful treatment of latecomers. When passing security – even if you can see the gate and there’s no plane there – you’ll be barred from boarding after 35 minutes ahead of scheduled departure time.

  36. That’s a very nice looking business class product, but it’s ridiculous that they call that first class. What a joke.

  37. We just returned from flying BA from Phoenix to London to Accra and back in First Class. The cabin crew on all legs were great and the meals and drinks were all OK but definitely nowhere near as good as on any of the Mid-East or Asian airlines. The aircraft itself, possibly the very first 747-400 off the line, was very, very tired. Whoever designed the seat has evidently never actually traveled themselves as there is no small storage space for glasses, keys, etc. Also the video monitor is downright terrible – very, very fuzzy picture. To add insult to injury all segments operate out of Terminal 3 rather than the newer and much better Terminal 5. As you have said so correctly before BA management simply doesn’t care and has no pride in their product.

  38. Chicken Kiev is a weird dish to serve on a plane. Lots of components, complicated to prepare, everything needs to be cooked just so. Like, I could almost see it being a Top Chef challenge.

  39. I flew BA F twice a week, every week for almost three years before I saw the light. But as the Lovely Paul and other have said, BA F is typically much cheaper than AF and LH F, priced just slightly above J. It is sometimes relatively good value

  40. Hi Lucky,

    Is there any word why booking first class on Lufthansa using Miles and More isn’t available more than 14 days out or so? I would not mind the surcharges as much if I could book these further out, but only able to book first class close in PLUS having to pay the huge surcharges is a no go for me.

    The British Airways fuel charges using Avios are so high, but it appears that booking using Asia Miles can reduce the surcharges quite a bit like by $200 or so. Is that option a mirage?

  41. @Joo I agree – I don’t want really to be addressed by name all the time, maybe once on boarding, otherwise it is just weird for a Brit.

    @Lucky, I’m pretty sure I once read you liked those seat controls, with the easy to use dial. Perhaps I’m mistaken. Anyway, I find it easier than most others to use.

  42. @Peter_Volny BA flights operated out of terminal 3 are a godsend — I take every one I can get, and use the CX First lounge, easily the best in London, for as long as I can make it before departure!

  43. Seat is a business class reverse herringbone seat. Food is business class food (if that!). Service is business class (maybe premium econ).

    So you or anyone else would pay First Class prices for this why exactly?

  44. Certainly the report is interesting. I have not flown F but use Biz class on frequent basis from Abuja on BA.Quite honestly the pics of the F i saw is far not near the Biz class of Qatar air.To me is not worth it and the service is not commensurate with the hole it eill create in your pocket

  45. @ CS

    “So you or anyone else would pay First Class prices for this why exactly?”

    The fact that you have to ask this shows you know very little about the economics of air travel. Most people aren’t trying to ride the world’s best 1st class product for the fun of it.

    Most of us are in City A, and we want to get to City B. Most of the people flying premium will be doing it for work (the clue is in the name of far-and-away the most popular premium product – “BUSINESS class”), and therefore want a convenient schedule that takes the shortest time, with minimum hassle, in reasonable comfort, and not at a cost so outrageous that someone in Accounts starts asking questions.

    So, you tell me how best I should get from London to Austen (a trip I’m making next month). Direct, non-stop daily flights on BA? Or reverse back on myself to go to a Euro-hub, fly TATL to some other city in Texas, then get another connection? Or fly, I dunno, one of the US3 to one of their hubs; do the whole US immigration thing (have to allow extra time for the connection, now that “enhanced” security is in place); then fly to Austen on some cramped regional jet?

    All the alternatives – even if the main premium product is better (and, sure, AF 1st is a thousand times better than BA 1st) – require such horrible extra journeys that it just ain’t worth it.

    Competition from the US3 is laughable: fine if you want to go to one of the 8 US cities they serve direct in total (and don’t suffer an equipment swap to get an angled seat in American; United, of course, is ending international 1st class). But BA flies direct, non-stop to 23 US gateway cities.

    Air travel is not designed around avgeeks like us. LHR is the world’s single most expensive airport to operate from, yet BA is fantastically profitable (and unlike the US3 it hasn’t had to put itself through bankruptcy to get rid of all the investment debt; BA has paid every cent it owed to its creditors and still makes profits).

  46. @ the nice Paul: Very well said. The people who fly on credit card signup bonuses want to maximise the experience of flying. People flying on paid tickets for work just want to minimize the stress associated with travelling. That means direct flights, good departure times, efficient ground experience, reliable operations and responsible irrops, consistent cabins that always allow for a good night’s sleep. That’s why airlines like BA and Lufthansa do so well, despite their products being supposedly uncompetitive.

  47. These comparisons with Air France and Lufthansa are meaningless because they do not fly direct from London to US cities. You’d have to take 2 flights and wait around at an airport

    So BA F is better than them IF you are flying from London

  48. @ Tom — They’re perhaps somewhat meaningless if you’re just flying to/from London, but I was connecting, as are tons of people who have a choice between all those airlines. Not everyone is flying to Frankfurt, London, Munich, Paris, or Zurich.

  49. Outside of the dining, British Airways first-class is what most major international airlines call business-class.

  50. @ Lucky
    “I was connecting, as are tons of people who have a choice between all those airlines”

    What percentage of pax voluntarily choose to transfer through the hellhole that is LHR, versus percentage originating or terminating there? I confess I thought you were exaggerating with your use of the word “tons”, but it turns out that fully 1/3rd of passengers at LHR are transfers or in transit.

    WTF? Who are these dummies?

  51. @Frank

    I think it’s hard to beat 70K Asia Miles plus $263.19 in surcharges. That’s for IAD-LHR. Those surcharges are significantly lower than you would using Avios and other currencies.

  52. I didn’t get my choice of started or main course flying in F on Emirates from India to Dubai. And there were only two of us in F. Apparently they had only loaded one of each dish…

  53. I have a medical condition that requires me to elevate my feet a couple of inches when I sleep (on an inflatable pillow). The BA 1st class seat on the 747 works great since there is no “box” or overhang from the TV to prevent this. (It is also painful to hit my toes on these overhangs.) I cannot tell from the photo if this is the case on the 787-9. I have a choice and would prefer the San Jose flight on the 787-9 for timing reasons. Can you or anyone please tell me if you remember whether your feet go under an overhang on the 787? (i’m 5’9″. I realize it may difficult to say.)
    Thanks.

  54. I haven’t flown BAs 789, but flew LHR-HKG on the A380 a two years ago. I was actually quite impressed by the food both in the Concord Room and onboard, but they have since discontinued the tasting menu I had. The seats on the A380 were poorly cleaned, but OK comfort wise, and I disliked that the monitor had to be stowed for takeoff and landing. Service was polite but indifferent.

    Despite the poor reviews, I’m keen to try F on the 789, because the cabin looks so stunning. I was thinking about going to MCT, which is served by the 789, but for some reason, F now seems to be blocked on these flights. The seat map shows F seats on the plane, but they’re all crossed out.
    Anyone know what the deal is with the MCT flights?

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