British Airways First Class Review feature image

British Airways First Class Review

British Airways has gotten a bad rap. I understand why – the first time I flew in their Premium cabin, I was less than impressed.

I don’t remember the type of aircraft, but my friend and I were flying in Club World, which is their Business Class. I remember having to literally climb over her to access the aisle to go to the restroom.

So, when I upgraded my mom and myself to business class on British Airways on our recent trip, my expectations were low. However, BA far exceeded my expectations and won me over as a loyal customer.

Snapshot Verdict

The British Airways First Class Suites on their four-class Boeing 777-300 should be considered an aspirational award. The hard product was fantastic! The cabins were sleek, refined, and modern, and the suites spacious and comfortable.

The pajamas were soft and cozy, and the well-stocked amenity kits provided everything I needed to feel refreshed and pampered throughout my flight. Service onboard, though, was the real standout! Our every whim was anticipated and satisfied, and we left well-fed and well-rested.

How I Booked

My husband and I enjoy traveling with our parents and like to treat them to a vacation every other year or so. This year, we were going to take them on a Royal Caribbean cruise of the Norwegian Fjords, which left out of Southampton, UK.

To make the most of our travels, we decided to fly into London a few days early and explore the city.Â

Royal Caribbean offers packages through their ‘Air2Sea’ program, which they offer as an all-inclusive deal which takes you from your home airport to the ship and back with little effort on your part.

It typically includes flights, transfers to and from the hotel to airports and to the port, and sometimes also includes accommodation.Â

I do not usually use this program, because I like to book my own flights. I prefer long layovers and getting to the airport early so we can enjoy the lounges and have a more relaxed experience.Â

But, in this case, we were dealing with older folks and the flights were a little complicated. My husband and I were flying from Little Rock, Arkansas to Charlotte, North Carolina, where we would meet my mom and fly together to London.

His parents were flying from Seattle, Washington direct to London. Getting a taxi or Uber with so many of us, including those of us of a more mature age who had some trouble getting around, sounded too complicated. I wanted to leave nothing to chance.

So, I used Royal Caribbean’s Air2Sea program to book flights and transfers along with our cruise. We booked Economy Class tickets for my husband, my mom, and myself on American Airlines. The round trip tickets came out to $1,497 each.

Tip

Based on one experience, I do not recommend Royal Caribbean’s Air2Sea Program. Boarding the coaches at the cruise terminal was a mess – it seemed nobody a clue what was going on. We were running late, which turned out fine but stressed me out! Next time, I’ll take my chances and book everything myself.

How I upgraded

My status on American Airlines as Executive Platinum allowed me to earn ‘system-wide upgrades’, which could be used on flights marketed and operated by American Airlines. At the time of writing (March 2024), system-wide upgrades can be used on transatlantic British Airways flights, as long as one of the flights on your itinerary is on American.Â

These are one-cabin upgrades, so you could go from Economy to Premium Economy, Premium Economy to Business, or Business to First. Our return flight was in Premium Economy, and there were only two seats available in Business Class.

My husband graciously agreed to stay in the cattle car so my mom and I could share the upgraded experience for this 8-hour flight. But this article is not about British Airways Business Class, or Club World, is it?

British Airways Fleet and Classes of Service

British Airways has four classes of service: Economy, Premium Economy, Business, and First. For flights within Europe, Economy is Euro Traveller, while for International flights it is World Traveller.

Premium Economy is World Traveller Plus. Business Class for flights within Europe is Club Europe, and Business for International is Club World. First is, well, First.

Along with numerous narrow-body, short-haul planes, BA’s 122-strong fleet consists of a variety of wide-body planes.

These include the Airbus A350-1000, the A380, 777-9, 777-200, 777-300, 787-8, 787-9, and 787-10. Some have three cabins (eliminating First Class), and some have four.

There have been three major upgrades to BA’s First Class seat, which occurred in 2010, 2015, and 2020. The A380s and many of the 777-200 and 300s were upgraded in 2010, the 787-9 and 10 in 2015, and more of the 777-300s in 2020.

The cabins updated in 2010 have 14 suites, while those updated in 2015 and 2020 only have 8. Those refurbished in 2020 are the only ones with doors.

Our aircraft was updated in 2010, which was 14 years ago, but it felt new, clean, and modern, not at all dated. The hard product was great, and the soft product excellent!

Boarding Area / Boarding Process

We arrived at our gate at London Heathrow, after a fantastic cruise. We were all exhausted and looking forward to resting on the plane.

First class suite middle partition screen

We didn’t have time to visit the lounges, because the coach that the cruise line had arranged for us was late. That was definitely a disappointment. Thank fully though, check-in was a breeze, since we got to use the dedicated First/Business Class line.

The boarding area was a bit chaotic, and soon after we arrived, I heard an announcement calling my name.

I approached the desk and the agent said there had been an aircraft change and my mom and I had new seat assignments. I was handed First Class boarding passes, seats 3E and 3F.

This was the second time an aircraft change worked in my favor! This flight was originally on the A350-1000, and we had window seats in the Club World (Business Class) cabin.

The new metal was the 2010 four-class Boeing 777-300, which was equipped with 14 open suites, and we snagged two of them!

Because my mom needs a little extra time to get down the runway, we were placed in a holding area. The attendants were so friendly and kind to my mom.

She was concerned because we had to board a bus and climb stairs to board the plane. This very sweet older gentleman reassured her that he would take care of her, and he did. Climbing the steep staircase was a challenge for her, but we helped and she did fine.Â

The Cabin

The 777 First Class cabin was in a 1-2-1 configuration, with 4 rows of window suites on each side, and 3 rows of 2 suites in the center, so everyone had aisle access.

No more climbing over people to go to the toilet! The overall feel was sleek, serene, and exclusive.

The Suites and Amenity Kits

We were both pretty excited to see our seats! I was surprised to see that they were suites, and over the moon that I could share this with my mom. Honestly, no matter how many times I fly, I still get a little giddy, especially when I am trying out a new premium cabin. 

The suites were spacious, but did not have doors. Instead, the sides were open to the aisles, and the walls were probably about 5 feet high.

Since we had center seats, there was a divider between us that could be raised or lowered. We had a good deal of privacy, and I rarely saw another passenger.Â

BA Temperley of London freebie First Class

The window suites had large rectangular openings with blinds over 2 ovoid windows.

Blankets, pillows, slippers, Meridian noise-canceling headphones, and amenity kits were already in our seats, and I opened my amenity kit like a kid at Christmas.

The female amenity kits were made by Temperley of London, and each of the makeup bags is slightly different. Ours had floral patterns with butterflies, and were filled with practical and indulgent items.

They included an eye mask, dental kit, a pen, a compact mirror, socks, and ear plugs. There were travel-sized luxury Elemis products including travel-size deodorant, facial/makeup remover wipes, hand lotion, facial mist, facial moisturizer, eye cream, and lip balm.

Very nice! You can buy one on eBay for $45 (USD).

Right away, we met our flight attendant, who raised the flight experience to that extra level! This darling man reminded me of Patton Oswalt and seemed to really enjoy my mother’s company.

BA First Class passenger with onboard flight and flight attendant

She is bubbly and fun, and had never experienced anything like this. Her excitement was infectious, and we both caught it!

Our flight attendant (we will call him Patton so I don’t have to keep saying “our flight attendant”) brought us warm towels, champagne (mom had coke), a packet of nuts, and navy blue Temperley London ‘sleep suits’.

Mom and I giggled about this term, as we had never heard pajamas called sleep suits. Of course, I changed into mine before take-off.

The champagne was lovely, Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle NV, which retails for $250 here in the states.Â

The seats were comfortable and spacious. One advantage of being 5’2” tall is that most airline seats have plenty of room for me to stretch my legs. One disadvantage is that I cannot reach the footrest in most First Class suites!

Image of BA First Class Suite aisle view

These seats, however, had multiple intuitive functions to allow you to adjust the seat to your comfort, so after take-off, I just raised my footrest.

The full length of the bed is 6’6” or 198 cm, which was way more than enough length for this petite frame, and the width is advertised as 22 inches or 56 cm – but I left my measuring tape at home, so we will have to take their word for it.

There were multiple options for storage, including cubbies under the side table and footrest, a cabinet on the aisle side of the seat, and a mini-wardrobe for hanging clothes.

The toilets were nothing special, but were clean and stocked with dental kits, Elemis lotion and facial mist, and other necessities one would expect.

Service and Menu

The service on this flight was impeccable! Friendly, yet elegant and not at all stuffy or uptight.

After all, isn’t the point of service and, for that matter, etiquette to make others feel comfortable, special, and taken care of? The staff on this flight seemed to understand this, and executed perfectly!

Soon after take-off, Patton presented us with our multi-page menus on fine white paper. We were presented with a trio of canapes, consisting of bresaola (a type of cured raw beef) with melon, smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumber, and a red pepper roulade with goat cheese.

BA First Class A La Carte Menu

For my first meal, I chose the double-baked souffle with asparagus and morel mushroom sauce for my starter, which tasted far better than it looked.

For my main course, my choice was the duo of lamb, which included a rack of lamb and braised lamb served with feta and pomegranate jus, with a side of potatoes. Tender, hot, and flavorful.

For my final course, I enjoyed a cheese plate, with a variety of cheeses served with crackers, fruit, and plum chutney. I couldn’t finish it all!

To accompany my meal, I had a glass (or two) of the Chateau Chauvin Bordeaux, which was bold, tannic, and dry, just how I like it. Perfection.Â

After dinner, I asked Patton to make my bed, which he did during my toilet break. There were full-length mattress pads, soft, fluffy duvets, and nice pillows which made for a cozy cocoon and a great nap. 

BA First Class Seat TV

The TV was 23 inches and had a touch screen, although there was also a remote control that reminded me of the portable PlayStations our kids used to have. This was helpful for me, because I have a small frame and the screen seemed to be a mile away.

The entertainment options were endless, and I chose a movie until I fell asleep, donning my eye mask and earbuds, putting up the divider, and closing my door.Â

About an hour or so before we were scheduled to land, Patton offered us afternoon tea, which was very lovely. 

Patton brought out two-tiered tea trays with finger sandwiches, pastries, and scones, clotted cream, and jam. The tea was very nice, and mom and I felt oh so British. What a pleasant end to a perfect flight.

Verdict

British Airways has really stepped up its game with its refurbished First Class suites. The hard product is solid, and the soft product excellent.

Our sleep suits and amenity kits were luxurious, and the menu impressive. We enjoyed restaurant-quality, inventive cuisine and excellent wine in a comfortable suite with plenty of entertainment choices.Â

If you haven’t flown British Airways recently, give them another try! You won’t be disappointed. I plan to seek out the 777-300 with the 2020 closed suites as soon as I can, and I will let you know how they compare.

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