I had been looking forward to experiencing BA’s First Class product for some time now and I became even more excited when I saw that British Airways had upgraded their onboard soft product including new meals, cutlery, plates, bedding and service.
While a review like this covers the product in photos, why not sit back and relax and watch the video review from this flight?
British Airways have a fleet of 34 Boeing 747s and are one of the only airlines to still operate the jet as such a prominent part of their fleet.
The aircraft are setup with four cabins and after flying first class, we now have only two reviews on this jet. Check out our premium economy review if you haven’t already our review of the old first class product and club world.
First class can be expensive, very expensive. In fact, the retail price for this seat at the time of booking was £9,442. I, as you can imagine, don’t have that sort of money to splash so I used what any sensible person would use: air miles.
I booked directly with British Airways using avios which I earnt using my American Express Preferred Rewards Gold Card. The total cost of the flight was 68,000 avios and £445 which I put on my American Express British Airways Platinum Card to receive 3x points and thus returning 1,335 avios to my account.
If you want to see a full guide on booking British Airways flights with miles click here.
My flight departed Heathrow at 8.30am and I had been told I couldn’t receive my boarding pass online which meant one thing: SSSS (extra security checks). These checks are random for passengers traveling to the USA but the past three times I have travelled I have been ‘randomly chosen’.
For this reason, I arrived a few hours early and entered the ‘First’ check-in area at the far end of Terminal 5.
I am a big fan of this check-in area with seating, drinks and obviously no queues. I checked my bag in, was given my SSSS boarding pass and headed through the private security line in seconds.
The pathway from security takes you directly into the Galleries First lounge.
This lounge is nice but big and busy.
For ultimate privacy and quietness, I headed to the Concorde Room which is reserved for card holders and first class passengers only.
I didn’t eat in the lounge and just had a coffee and some juice in the short time I was there.
You can read my full review of the Concorde Room here.
First class passengers are welcome to book a free 15 minute treatment in the Elemis spa. The spa opens at 7am however and I wasn’t in the mood for a treatment at that early hour.
My flight was announced to be departing from satellite B of Terminal 5 which is accessible via an underground train. I headed down as soon as it was called and boarded the train which took 2 minutes to satellite B.
Once I reached the gate, I was told by the check-in agent that boarding would begin in 20 minutes and that if I wanted, I could visit the lounge just two gates down. I took him up on this offer and visited the galleries lounge which was really nice and quiet. There is also a spa here which is much easier to book a treatment at than the main spa in satellite A.
Once boarding was called, I headed down to the gate and into the line for group one passengers which was empty.
My boarding pass was scanned and I was taken downstairs for my extra security checks which seemed to take an age! I had gone from being one of the first passengers to one of the last and ended up queuing in the jetbridge for about 15 minutes (yes, you have to queue in first class sometimes too!). It was annoying that there was only one jetbridge connected to the plane. Other airlines very often have one jetbridge strictly for first and business class passengers so this felt a bit shoddy.
I was greeted by the friendly crew at the door and let to my seat 2A.
British Airways have set their 747s up in a four class configuration and this specific variant is laid out with 14 first class seats, 70 business class seats, 30 premium economy seats and 185 economy seats.
First class is configured in a 1-1 layout for the first three rows and a 1-2-1 configuration in the final two rows.
While this is good as it allows passengers who are travelling together to sit together, it also limits privacy for the window seat passengers in the final two rows.
My seat (2A) was perfect, I had more privacy than any other seat would recommend it as the seat to choose if travelling alone.
The seat is very old and there is a reason that many critics call it the world’s best business class. In fact, with British Airways’ new business class seat coming this year, I have my doubts on the future of first class. The seat offers large amounts of legroom and I never thought it wasn’t enough. The width is also good and I never felt squashed in.
Positioned to the left of the seat are the seat controls and a small cupboard for the remote control.
This area is nice as it is placed far away enough to not be knocked by your elbow and change your seat position. There is also a USB charging port here but mine didn’t work.
In front of the controls is a small compartment with reading material such as magazines and the safety card. There is also a little pamphlet showing how to use all the features of the first class seat which I thought was a nice touch.
Above this is a small table area from which the tray table comes. I felt the seat heavily lacked storage space and this small table helped me think that. I found it to be cluttered for most of the flight.
In front of you, there is a footstall which has a seatbelt. This is important as it means a fellow passenger can join you for meal service.
To the left is the screen which folds into the side wall. This is also a shame as it means passengers don’t have the privelige of gate to gate entertainment.
To your far left is the only noteworthy storage area. The small cupboard has two spacious nets which can hold items such as your passport or iPad and below them is an area for your shoes.
Once onboard, I instantly knew the crew would do fantastic job looking after me. They were all super upbeat and seemed genuinely happy to be onboard. Once I was seated, the crew asked what welcome drink I would like. I opted for orange juice and it was brought promptly with a bowl of nuts and a hot towel.
Minutes later, my pyjamas and slippers arrived. The pyjamas come in three sizes and instead of the crew sizing you up like on airlines such as Cathay Pacific, we were asked what size we wanted. I opted for a large which was slightly on the baggy side.
After my PJs had arrived, my ‘male wash bag’ or amenity kit arrived.
The kits are new to first class and made especially for BA by Temperley. They were velvety and full of everything you would expect in an amenity kit such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, a comb, socks, an eye mask, a pen, moisturiser etc. The women’s bag featured similar items plus a mirror and the bag had a lovely floral design.
Before we took to the skies, the crew asked what I would like to drink after takeoff and I chose one of the mocktails called Royal Fizz. The drink was lovely and I’m glad I chose it.
We took off on time from Heathrow and started our 6 hour and 40 minute flight to New York. As soon as the seatbelt sign was off, I got changed and the crew came around to ask for out breakfast orders. I decided not to go for any of the starter options and dived straight into the mixed grill breakfast which came with the offer of breads and pastries. I opted for English tea and raspberry juice to accompany the breakfast.
The food service was very good but not excellent. It is the kind of meal I would have expected in business class but not first class. I didn’t finish it thinking how impressive it was but nonetheless, it was a nice meal.
The new crockery and cutlery was incredibly slick and stylish.
After my breakfast I asked the crew to make my bed so I could check out the new bedding BA uses. I have to say, this was really really impressive.
The mattress topper was very thick and comfortable and the duvet was equally as nice.
I slept for around an hour and was woken upon request with the smoked salmon entrée on toast. This was really nice and I was impressed with the layout too.
The headphones in BA First class are really cool and hipster. They were fully noise cancelling and came in a nice, compact pouch.
After the smoked salmon meal, the crew brought round hot towels and a box of chocolates to eat while watching a film. I watched an awesome film called Lion which I would highly recommend and Johnny English which was, well, Johnny English!
The IFE system was ok and very responsive. There was an range of film and audio but I would have preferred an updated system. The maps were great.
Passengers can also buy WiFi onboard and the prices were actually quite reasonable starting at £4.99. It was a shame First Class passengers weren’t offered complimentary WiFi like on Qatar.
Around two hours before landing the crew began setting my table for the final meal service: afternoon tea.
This service is quite famous for BA first class and it supplies the stereotypical British afternoon tea set up which should be illegal to be had without tea!
The service comes with two little sandwiches, two scones with cream and jam and three small sweet desserts.
The sandwiches were nice but nothing special and the scones were lovely! I was so full by this point so just took a bite of the three sweet bits, all were very nice and very sweet! The service was accompanied by Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle champagne.
After the final meal service, I spent some time in the galley with the really sweet crew. There was one woman from Ireland who really made my flight. She was so attentive and so sweet and I have completely forgotten her name. She showed me around the upper deck and I am so happy she was on my flight!
I got changed with around 30 minutes to go and returned to my seat for landing.
While I had a really fun time onboard, this wasn’t a first class experience like that offered by competitor airlines. The BA seat is outdated and lacks both privacy and storage space. The food is good but that is as far as it goes which is a shame as it has real potential.
The crew were exceptional on my flight and they really made the experience for me. They were light-hearted, jokey and friendly and I loved flying with them.
Flying BA first class is a really awesome opportunity but unfortunately it doesn’t compare to other first classes around the world and I am interested to see if the cabin gets a refit like business class or is scrapped altogether.