16 Hours of Luxury: Cathay Pacific B777 First Class Review

My flight from New York JFK to Hong Kong was to be the second trip on my round-the-world adventure over Easter and I have to say I was looking forward to it the most out of any flight. The mammoth 16-hour flight wasn’t being dreaded at all but the opposite. I couldn’t wait. Below you can see my in-depth video review so why not sit back, pour yourself some wine and watch this!

After landing in New York with British Airways in their First Class cabin, I had around 24 hours in New York and a night to adjust. In that time, I collaborated with FlyNyon, a helicopter company who operate doors off flights over the city. The experience was simply magical. Check out my video of that here.

The private queue for First Class was totally empty when I arrived

The next morning I headed to the airport bright and early even though my flight didn’t depart until 2.50pm. The reason for this? American Airlines’ Flagship First Lounge. I had heard excellent things about this lounge and wanted a full review out of the visit. Instead of extending this already long review you can read the separate review of that (coming soon).

Booking

There are several ways to book Cathay Pacific first class and I have written a separate article on how to book which you can read here to see how I paid only $103 for this ticket.

Check-In

Arriving three hours prior to my flight seemed like a great idea but when I arrived at the Cathay Pacific bag drop desks I was greeted by a woman who told me it ‘wouldn’t be long’ before the staff showed up. I was the only passenger in the First Class line and cracked a small smile as the other queues filled up. 30 minutes later the check-in agents arrived where they told me the flight was 30 minutes delayed. I already knew this from a text Cathay Pacific had sent me the day before.

The check-in agent checked my bag in, gave me my boarding pass and lounge invitation card and sent me on my way through fast track security. The fast track line isn’t a separate channel like you’ll find at London Heathrow or Doha but simply a route that takes you right to the front of the queues. After a typical American thorough security search and a hopeless attempt to chat the attractive girl in front of me up, I headed to the flagship lounge which is positioned just in front of security, on the left.

Access to the Flagship First dining area is granted with your First Class ticket

The lounge is accessed by a lift and stairs and I was welcomed at the top of those stairs in such a friendly manner. The woman who scanned my boarding pass led me through the lounge showing me all the different areas I may wish to use before delivering me to the flagship first dining area to feast on Krug champagne. My hopes for this lounge were very high but the lounge was a let-down in many areas. Read the full review here.

Ground Experience

I headed down to the gate having showered and shaved 10 minutes before boarding was meant to begin and the gate was about a 10-15 minute walk away.  I arrived at the gate to see very long queues and to my surprise, I saw the cabin crew sitting at the adjacent gate which is strange for a flight that is meant to begin boarding in 5 minutes.

Nevertheless, I queued up in the first class line which had 3 other passengers present and waited. The first announcement we heard was that the flight would be delayed a further 20 minutes and that passengers should take a seat. Around 5 minutes later, one of the ladies at the desk started informing business class (not first class weirdly) passengers that they should go to the Admirals Lounge located 5 minutes away and wait for a boarding call. I joined the business class passengers and we all walked to the lounge where small snacks and a bar are located. The lounge is quiet compared to the flagship lounge but has nothing to offer in terms of food.

I sat in the Admirals lounge for what became about 40 minutes twiddling my thumbs and eager to get onboard until I heard a boarding call and quicker than I’d ever left a lounge, I was out like a bolt and down to the gate to board.

Priority boarding was strictly enforced and I marched onto the plane as one of the first passengers to board. I was greeted at the door by check-in agents who led me directly to my seat, 1A.

The Seat

Cathay Pacific have X Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in their fleet have configured them in a 4 class configuration with 6 First Class seats, 53 business class seats, 34 premium economy seats and 182 economy seats.

The 6 First Class seats are laid out in a 1-1-1 configuration with each seat offering a whopping 36 inches of width and 81 inches of pitch.

The seat has fantastic storage space with the left side being almost entirely dominated by a shiny, wooden surface for drinks, amenity kits and anything else.

The huge wooden table top to the left provided the perfect storage space

If this isn’t enough, there is a deep bin for your passport and phone directly to your left.

To your right is yet another storage area (take note airlines that think you don’t have things to store) for literature, your safety card and other items such as your menu.

Next to this are more seat controls which are easily accessible from a lying position.

This storage bin to your left is located just below your remote control which was amazing and the another screen which adjusted your seat and lighting.

Above this is one of two reading lamps.

About half way along the large side wall on the left is a plug and USB port for charging your electronics.

The tray table is ejected from the table surface on the left and is simply massive.

Between the windows on the left wall is a flower (yes, it’s real! I was sceptical too) which is so extra but so cool and really sums adds to the elegance of the seat.

There are no overhead bins in the first class cabin but each seat has its own storage compartment much like on British Airways… just much bigger and better. The storage compartment is located to the right of the seat ‘entrance’ and has ample space for a suitcase, shoes and your clothes (see video).

To the front right of the seat by the ‘entrance’ in the television screen. The screen is built into the seat but easily released by pushing the black button next to it. This brings it out to directly in front of you.

Speaking of directly in front of you, the footrest in place at the end of the seat (tough to see in foggy conditions) which acts as the end of your bed or a seat for a fellow passenger to join you for the food service.

Below the TV is…you guessed it… another storage compartment. This one is larger than the one on your right and fits a laptop or iPad comfortably.

The Flight

Once onboard, I was spoilt with cabin crew offering me everything under the sun.

First off was the offer of a welcome drink: champagne of course. I was under the impression that this would be the splendid Krug Vintage 2004 champagne but was disappointed when the arguably better Taittinger Comtes De Champagne from 2007 arrived. This champagne retails at around £100 a bottle and tasted great! The drink was accompanied with warm nuts.

Second was today’s menu. The menu was served on a lovely bamboo board which made me feel like I was dining in a very fancy restaurant. Once this arrived, the absence of Krug was made official. You can see the full menu below.

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Next up came my pyjamas. What I like about Cathay is that the crew will look at you to decide how fat you are instead of asking you.

I was brought a medium whereas I would have gone for a large and they fitted perfectly. It goes to show that the crew know the sizing best!

After the PJs I was brought Cathay Pacific headphones which were super comfy and noise cancelling.

Following the headphones was my amenity kit or ‘male travel kit’ by Aesop. The contents of the amenity kit were pretty weak (see contents in the video).

Before we took off, top ups of the Comtes came around and the lovely crew introduced themselves. One even told me that she had watched one of my YouTube videos before and recognised me when I stepped onboard (it’s the small things in life!).

We took off after a short taxi in rainy New York to some horrendous turbulence. The captain even made an announcement informing passengers it was nothing to be alarmed about but that he had asked the crew to delay service by 30 minutes because of it.

The routing of our flight took us north over Canada, Greenland, the North Pole and down through Russia and China into Hong Kong and it was amazing looking out the window as everything gradually became more and more icy. I’d never flown an ‘over the top’ route before so this was quite a novelty for me.

Over Canada, the crew were finally released to commence service and seeing as they knew my order, they simply started by pouring another glass of champagne.

Around 10 minutes later, the first meal service arrived: Caviar and Champagne! I’d seen so many pictures of this service before and it tasted just as good as it looked.

The caviar was served blinis, chives, crème fraiche and chopped eggs. The service was so good that the crew asked if they should bring some more toppings which I eagerly accepted.

The meal was served with a lovely little hand-written note from the crew welcoming me onboard. It is gestures like this which really separate airlines. Cathay Pacific were so attentive and the attention to detail was incredible.

The crew had suggested that I stuck to wither Chinese or International dishes after my caviar instead of mixing but for some reason I really wanted to try the duck salad before the Hong Kong style chicken. This was the only meal that didn’t amaze me and I was left awaiting my next course eagerly.

The crew were so fast that I knew it would be a matter of minutes maximum before my next meal arrived. Next on the list was the ‘Hong Kong style chicken curry, broccoli and steamed jasmine rice’. This meal was excellent in terms of both presentation and taste.

Following a recommendation from the crew, I also had the signature mocktail called ‘Cathay Delight’. The cold drink is a kiwifruit based non-alcoholic drink with coconut milk and fresh mint and damn it tasted good. Three more of them please!

Finally, the crew brought me a plate of cheese, grapes, crackers and nuts which was a lovely way to finish an excellent meal service.

Once the meal service was complete, I was instantly brought a small box of chocolates, a hot towel, a pot of chinese tea and some toothpicks.

My bed was then promptly made with the super comfortable bedding used by Cathay. The mattress topper was amazing and I could barely feel the seat below. The duvet was equally as nice and as we flew over the most northern parts of Canada, relaxation mode was most definitely on.

I put on a film that I had never watched before but heard great things about, Bohemian Rhapsody. The film was a killer and was accompanied by another crew recommendation: Traditional Iron Buddha tea from China.

The film finished and an alcohol induced drowsiness kicked in. Coupled with the super comfortable bedding, eye mask from my pyjama bag and ear plugs from my amenity kit I was out like a light for the next five hours and woke to find the crew had cleared my tea, replaced it with a bottle of water and switched my screen off and placed it back in the seat.

The bed is so wide that it is literally like sleeping in a single bed and the comfort was incredible. I had only been awake 5 minutes before the crew came around asking if I would like to eat or drink. I opted for the same tea and based on a recommendation from a follower, asked for the burger and chips but in an hour. I checked the time in my phone just to see if they were punctual and 57 minutes later the burger and chips arrived. Amazing!

The burger was amazingly laid out and tasted really good. This was accompanied by another glass of Comtes.

After the burger it was work time. I really couldn’t justify sitting on a plane for 17 hours without doing at least a bit of work. In fact, I am writing this onboard QF1 from Sydney to London where, again, it would be hard to justify doing no work.

With around 2 hours and 15 minutes to go it was time to eat again. How my stomach coped with it I’ll never know.

The dinner service only had one starter option which was the ‘fresh seasonal fruit’ dish. It was nice and cold!

For the main course I opted for the chicken supreme. How could you not with a name like that? The chicken was served with mushroom ragout and a bread dumpling. Both were lovely.

I was stuffed by this point and refused the offer of desert in favour of my favourite tea (I should be buying shares in these guys!)

We began our descent over China as the sun began to set and it was time to get changed into my clothes again which had been sitting in the cupboard for the last 16 hours.

We landed around an hour late into Hong Kong and I departed the aircraft feeling super fresh and refreshed.

You always hope that priority bag tags work and for once they did! My bag came out as the second bag off the carousel and I wheeled it off to the airport express train already missing my small room I had rented for the past 16 hours.

Final Thoughts

16 hours on a plane isn’t fun. That’s what everyone will tell you. While I agree that slumming it in economy may have been a little uncomfortable on this flight, I can confirm I disagree with that statement.

I had the most amazing time on Cathay Pacific’s first class product and was impressed by the super wide and comfortable seat which turned into an even more comfortable bed, the excellent seat controls, remote control and television screen, the huge amounts of storage space, the amazingly presented and great tasting food and finally the incredibly attentive crew who didn’t once disappoint.

In fact, when looking back on this flight I think the only thing I didn’t like was the duck salad.

This flight is so easily bookable with points if you use Alaska Mileage Plan and I couldn’t recommend it more, it really was the luxurious experience I was longing for.

British Airways B747 First Class + New Soft Product Review

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.

Booking

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.

Ground Experience

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.

Boarding

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.

The Aircraft

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.

The couple seats in the middle

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 view from 2A

The Seat

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.

The Flight

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.

Overall thoughts

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.

Lufthansa B747-8 First Class Review

Anybody that knows me will know it is no secret that I love Lufthansa and I especially love the Boeing 747-8i. Having not flown the ‘Queen of the Skies’ on the FRA – JFK route since 2013 (when they still had the old upper deck First Class on the 747-400 with the adjoining bed) it was time to fly the newer model on the B747-400s older sister to see if the experience would differ from the FRA-EWR route I have taken recently.

Photo: liveandletsfly blog

Booking

I love miles and points for the simple reason that it enables you to fly incredible classes for a fraction of the price. I have the JP Morgan Reserve credit card which has all of the same benefits as the Chase Reserve, plus some more. This redemption was part upgrade, part mileage award ticket.  For Star Alliance I collect on Mileage Plus – this is both a blessing and a curse as it is the best program because of the low fuel surcharges and generous upgrade voucher deals but I hate flying with United and I only fly them enough to meet the minimum segment requirements, so most of my miles from Mileage Plus were accrued from other Star Partners.  Fortunately on this trip I was able to apply a 1K upgrade voucher from Business to First from United on Lufthansa (nice perk!) and then redeem a mileage bank balance of 110k miles for the other ticket. As I’ve seen countless other times, United seems to get special award space that other partners such as Air Canada and Avianca don’t seem to have so it is definitely worth considering this option.

If you want to fly this flight then it would make complete sense to do it with miles. My advise for our UK readers would be the American Express Gold Card as it has perks such as double points when spending directly with an airline, extensive hotel benefits such as free upgrades and free lounge access at airports. The best perk of all though, it is free for the first year!

If you’re looking to book on a revenue fare, we advise looking at Momondo or SkyScanner for the best deals.

Munich – Frankfurt | Lufthansa A320 Business Class

Unfortunately since it was a Sunday, the trains were not fully running as there was some construction so I ended up having to take a taxi to Munich and after a short walk to the check-in area I arrived at the luxurious First Class check-in (also shared by Star Gold).

Checking in at MUC

One of the things that really separates Lufthansa from the other carriers is how they care for their passengers. There were weather reports of lighting that afternoon so the agent suggested he move me and my travelling companion to an earlier flight to ensure we make our connection – after few quick clicks on the computer we were confirmed on the next departing Munich – Frankfurt flight.

The GOLDEN ticket

Security at the First Class check-in took seconds and we soon flew through to the Munich First Class Lounge.

The famous ducks decorating the Munich lounge

After only a quick visit due to the earlier departing flight, a double espresso sent us on the short walk to our departing flight to Frankfurt.  Boarding was a bit chaotic as the flight had changed from an A321 to an A320 so a few passengers in economy had to be re-accommodated. Nonetheless, the boarding was very German and efficient.

Our taxi to Frankfurt

Most people talk badly about Lufthansa for their “euro-business class” but it amazing on our flight which had an advertised duration of one hour but actually takes about 25-30 minutes of flying time. We were served a full meal and drinks. Today’s meal was the delicious white asparagus.

This meal was really good – I loved the white asparagus.

After cruising at 32,000 feet and an uneventful on-time landing we arrived at “A” gates which was unfortunate as since we were not at a remote gate, there was no First Class car transfer.

The First Class Terminal

After a short walk outside, it was time to enter the amazing First Class Terminal which, in my opinion, is by far the best lounge in the world and always has the most amazing fresh food. The lounge has DO&Co catering, great selections of Champagne and a huge Gummy Bear dispenser which is always fun. Since I love it so much I had more white asparagus and steak with white wine and Apfelstrudel for dessert.

Let’s gooo!
Like a five star restaurant!

After only a short three hour layover, it was time to board. The main benefit of the First Class Terminal is that you actually skip the normal terminal experience altogether and the only way of boarding the plane is by car. The personal assistant came to collect us on time and we were on our way for the short ride to the beautiful queen of the skies in the back of an extremely comfortable Mercedes.

Arriving at our chariot

Getting dropped off directly underneath the plane and taking the elevator up is one of the coolest things about the whole first class experience and definitely gives it a VIP touch.

Boarding

Boarding and turning left on the 747-8i has to be one of the best feelings in the world as you are greeted and almost immediately poured a glass of champagne upon being seated.  This time around the champagne was a gorgeous 1995 ‘Blanc des Millenaires’ which had the perfect balance of age, taste and bubbles and paired really nicely with the food. The seating in the cabin is one of the best I have flown. It features a 1-1 configuration in rows 1-2 (seats A and K) and a 1-2-1 setup in row three. Seeing as I was travelling with someone, we went for row three and were lucky enough to have seats A and K free which made it feel exactly like the old First class on the 747-400.

Today’s cabin after turning left!

Upon being seated with champagne, the flight attendant hurried over to deliver the pyjamas, internet voucher, slippers, and amenity kit.  I also received a handwritten note from one of my friends at Lufthansa who unfortunately couldn’t be on the flight today as well as a menu with my name hand written in beautiful text.  The menu and wine list is extensive, and has something for everyone’s tastes.  As I love white asparagus so much I selected that for my main course along with a side of Schnitzel.

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Takeoff

Takeoff in the nose of the 747-8 is a bit loud and harsh as you are sitting directly above the landing gear, but once you are off the runway the cabin becomes dead silent.  This is thanks to the sound-deadening carpet and suede walls which mean you can actually hear everyone in the cabin speaking!

The Service

We took off on-time at 17:10 and we were at cruising altitude of 37,999 feet after just a few minutes. Immediately, the flight attendants sprung into action with the caviar. The presentation and taste is so wonderful and so amazing that LH serves seconds on request.

I loved this caviar

Next came the appetizers, the sorbet and then the main course. All of these courses are served with the wine of your choose with a helping hand from the crew who know exactly which wine to pair which each meal.

My appetizer
And the main course

The crew were so friendly on this flight and that really is where Lufthansa shines compared to some other airlines who have employees with bad attitudes or sometimes there are strong cultural/language differences making it hard to connect on a personal level with them. On Lufthansa’s First Class you know you will have an expertly trained flight attendant who can immediately sense which passengers want the full First Class experience and which ones want to be left alone to sleep. Service is so personal and attentive too. For example, the flight attendants would speak to me in German and then immediately repeat to my friend in English even though they could have spoken English to both of us.  It is the small things like this attention to detail that really put Lufthansa above and beyond in my mind.

After too much food, dessert and cheese it was time to settle into the bed and watch a film. The IFE and WIFI on the plane are both free of charge which is a really great perk. The IFE screen is very large and perfect for indulging in your guilty pleasures. I, for instance watched ‘I,Tonya’.

Time to eat even more!

Unfortunately, due to the bottle of wine that I drank and several glasses of champagne prior to that, I fell asleep half way through the film and was woken 30 minutes before landing with a warm and friendly brush on my arm to awake me. The crew had left me a hot towel prepared, a tooth brush and mouthwash and a double espresso, orange juice and water. This was the perfect wake up call.

My wake up call was wonderful!

Landing

The landing was unfortunately a lot longer than expected as we had to make turns around JFK due to the fact that we were slightly early and couldn’t land yet. We cruised at 20,000ft around New Jersey and Long Island for about 45 minutes before being cleared for landing.

Holding around New York

We landed 45 mins ahead of schedule and parked at JFK Terminal 1.  The escort met us, helped us through security and then had our bags waiting for collection. Another VIP moment.

The Conclusion

For me there is no better airline than Lufthansa and no better way to fly than in First Class. Put the two together and it makes for one of the most pleasant flights imaginable. Sure, I am not crazy and know that their 5 star rating in business class is questionable, but in First, the experience is incomparable to any other airline for me.

While Lufthansa isn’t the best airline flying in my opinion, I always choose Lufthansa’s First Class for those extra touches, VIP feelings, incredible food and drink and fantastic crew!

Want to see how this compares to First Class on the British Airways B747 then click here.

This review is part of our monthly guest review programme. The author of this review is Mark (@markbuttons) who flew this flight in early May 2018. If you have an upcoming flight you think we’d like to see then you can apply here.

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British Airways B747 – First vs Club

British Airways is preparing to retire its fleet of 747s. This is sad. The Jumbo Jet has been around for about as long as I have. There are better aircraft, no doubt, more fuel efficient, cheaper to run, better for the environment. But she remains the Queen of the Skies.

With the end in sight, I decided to take advantage of a business trip to Boston to sample my first and probably last flight in BA’s 747 First Class cabin. With the cost of an upgrade just £200 one way, it was a pretty easy decision.

I decided to go First on the outward leg as this would give me the chance to enjoy the Concorde Room at Terminal 5. This made double sense because I was planning to fly out in the evening, which meant I was able to get to Heathrow in good time to really enjoy the experience. My flight out of Logan was going to be an early morning rush.

The Queen of the Skies

The pre-flight experience

Arriving at Heathrow’s Terminal 5, the first thing to remember is to get dropped off at the far end of the departures hall. This is where those lucky enough to have a turn-left ticket are sheltered from the rest of humanity and enter a dedicated check in area via the doorway below.

First Class

Once in, I strolled over to the check in desk (no-one in front of me, of course) and got the first good news of my trip. Would I like to swap my assigned 3K seat for 2K? Even a first-class newbie like me knew that there was only one answer to this question. 2A and 2K are, in my opinion, the best seats in the First Class cabin, better even than the two in front of them.

The reason is that these are the only seats out of all 14 in the premium area to be completely private. I could see what the man in 1A was watching and rows 3 to 5 are, to be quite honest, a bit squished up for such a pricey ticket. Row 2, as you can see below, is definitely position A.

View from 2A to 2K

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. Before I got to see my seat, I was whisked through the gate with a flash of my boarding pass and into the dedicated first class security. This is probably the best reason of all to go First. Security took about 90 seconds, there was no queue, and I was treated as a guest rather than a potential threat. Here’s how empty and relaxed it all is.

Through in 90 seconds!

Devices back in my bag and I was on my way, through the space-age tunnel shown below and into the Emerald Lounge. By the standards of most airport lounges this was pretty glamorous and normally I would have been more than happy to linger for an hour or so here.

Next Stop: lounge.

But in the strict hierarchy of air travel at this end of the market, the Emerald just didn’t cut it, I’m afraid. Why? Well quite simply because it was not exclusive enough. Anyone with a First or Club ticket, or even someone with a Gold membership who’s slumming it in Economy can hang around here.

The Emerald Lounge

For the real celeb experience, I had to duck out of this lounge, past the BOAC memorabilia and pictures (nice) and over to the Concorde Room. To enter this inner sanctum you need a First Class ticket, no ifs no buts.

The Concorde Room

The top of the range waiting room is not particularly big but it does feel pretty exclusive. The centrepiece is the large, brightly-lit bar, with plenty of comfortable seating around, a restaurant-style eating area with private waitress-served booths and, perhaps the nicest part, the Concorde Terrace, an area overlooking the main concourse below.

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The room is pretty classy, if a little tired in places. If I were being hyper-critical I would also say the service didn’t make me feel massively special. The eating area could have been cleared away more quickly to avoid guests sitting down next to someone else’s empties. But, hey, the champagne was flowing and I had a pretty nice club sandwich, just to try the food out without ruining my appetite for the flight.

Soon enough my flight was called and I wished my new friends bon voyage to Chile. Her grandfather had been the finance director at the John Player factory in Ipswich where I had my first holiday job as a lift boy. Small world!

Quibble number two

Now you can get used to travelling First Class pretty quickly so the next bit of my journey was a bit of a shock. To get from Concorde to gate B46 you need to re-acquaint yourself with the real world for a short while. Specifically, you need to go down the escalator into that concourse you’ve been looking down on for the past hour or so, then you head down further to the train that links Terminal 5’s A, B and C gates. And then it’s more mingling with the hoi polloi at the gate.

Transit to B gates

My experience here was a bit prolonged by a half hour delay to the flight, which it would have been nice to hear about in the lounge (or maybe I just didn’t look closely enough after a couple of glasses of champagne, I can’t quite remember). Anyway, queuing up with my fellow ‘premium’ customers didn’t feel particularly premium at the time.

Queuing…

The good news was that First was called before everyone else, so I did have the enjoyment of knowing that everyone else knew that I was about to turn left. Small things…

On board

So, into the nose of the plane and the first thing you notice is quite how small the cabin is. Nicely lit, comfortable, but pretty cosy.

First things first, I hung my coat up in the big cupboard right at the front and managed, just, to get my very small hand baggage into the overhead locker. If you had a decent sized wheelie, you would struggle to get it in.

I liked the ambience of the seat. A proper reading light, blue-lit blinds on my two windows, a nice hanging area for a jacket had I been wearing one.

Nice Ambience

Rachel, who was serving one side of the cabin introduced herself, brought me some bubbly, my First Class pyjamas and a pretty fancy wash-kit from Liberty. Then I experienced the main difference between First and Club – choice. When would I like to eat? There are no set times in First – you’re in control and the cabin crew really are super attentive.

I pressed the button to call Rachel over at one point and I swear my finger was still hovering when she arrived at my shoulder.

Rachel!

Anyway, push back finally came (40 minutes late – the delay had been caused by the tractor pulling the plane to the gate breaking down!) and we were off, heading north west through a battle scene of Bonfire Night firework parties all the way up to the Irish Sea.

The Food

While we flew above the pyrotechnics, dinner arrived and here too the difference between First and Club was apparent. No trays, no cutlery pre-wrapped in a napkin. No, it was real restaurant service. My table was made up for me on an elegant white cloth, nice salt and pepper shakers, all very sophisticated.

A great setup

First an amuse bouche of charcuterie, washed down with a nice Pouilly Fume, then smoked salmon (excellent) and finally a main of beef, a bit overcooked but tasty, accompanied by a really fantastic South African red from Stellenbosch. All in all, the food was good when you consider the conditions in which it was produced and served.

The salmon starter

The Lazy Bit in the Middle

On a seven-hour flight, there’s plenty of time to settle down and enjoy the in-flight entertainment in comfort and so that’s what I did next.

I’d say the film selection was pretty average but I did find a couple of movies I wanted to watch. It was a toss-up between Hampstead and Churchill. I went for Hampstead (sentimental, don’t bother if you haven’t already seen it).

The best thing about the lie-flat experience in First as opposed to Business is that it really does feel like going to bed. I could have had a proper mattress laid out but didn’t bother as I only intended to be horizontal for a short while. But the duvet and full-size pillow was a lot nicer than the Club blanket I would not bother with five days later. After the film, I was therefore able to get a decent hour or so of zzzzz.

zzzzzzzz

Now for Some More Food

I have to say at 3 in the morning UK time, after a decent feed the evening before, the last thing on my mind was classic English afternoon tea but, as you can see, that’s what came.

It was delicious, the tea tasted fantastic after a few glasses of wine and was poured out of a nice china teapot with milk in a jug.

Afternoon Tea

Hello Boston

And that was pretty much it. We arrived in Boston at midnight (the clocks were still two hours away from going back, a week after they did in the UK, so the time difference was only four hours). That’s actually a very good time to get to the US. We were the only flight so customs, even in these hyper vigilant times, was a doddle and the taxi into downtown took about 15 minutes and was less than $30.

Summing up

So what do I think of BA’s 747 first class? The pre-flight experience is excellent. It takes all the stress out of flying even if it a shame that you have to duck back into the real world for a bit on your way to the gate. On board the service is very attentive (thank you Rachel Ward), the food is very good, the wine selection excellent.

I do think the cabin is a bit pokier than I would have expected and as part two of this report will show not as comfortable in some ways as the upstairs Club experience on the same plane.

Would I pay for First again over Club. Probably not. But I’m glad I did it once before this wonderful plane heads off to the desert for a well-earned retirement.

Back Home in Business

So five days later, it was goodbye Boston and back home again. This time, I was flying in the upstairs cabin which holds 20 Business Class seats in 10 opposite-facing pairs.

The Club Cabin upstairs

I’ve only experienced this layout on BA flights and I have to say it is pretty rubbish if you don’t know the person you end up facing during the parts of the flight (safety instructions, getting your food served) when the divider between the two seats has to be down.

For a £3,000 seat, you really do expect a bit more privacy and it is not a patch on the seat layout I’ve experienced on Emirates, for example.

That said, compared with the pretty cramped quarters in First Class, the upstairs cabin does feel very spacious and I would always head up behind the flight deck given the chance.

My seat on this return flight was right behind the pilot, which was probably the most private place to be because the only reason to go past my seat was to the bathroom. It was the quietest corner of the cabin and I had access to four windows which gave me plenty of different views onto the Maine coast and up over Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland.

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Food Service – Back to Reality

So, the accommodation in Business is definitely not a massive step down from First. When it comes to the food, however, it really is back to earth with a bump.

I have to say the food on the return leg was pretty disappointing. For one thing it comes on a plastic tray which feels cheap. My choice for brunch – smoked salmon and mixed grill – was also pretty uninspiring.

Mixed Grill

After that I settled down to a film (Churchill – worth catching if you haven’t, the great war-time leader as a kind of raging King Lear figure) with a glass or two of pretty decent Aussie Shiraz. No complaints on that score.

Coming home from the States is quick – five and a half hours – so after the film and writing this review, we were already coming into land, dark already thanks to the time difference. A very easy and comfortable flight.

First vs Business

I would say that once you are on the plane, upstairs Business is more than adequate and the extra for First is probably not worth it.

On the ground, the Concorde Room experience is nice but not materially better than the Business lounge. Other than that, what you really get for your upgrade is the millionaire’s security search and a pair of free cotton pyjamas.

Nice Pyjamas

Oh and in the Queen of the Skies being able to say you’re flying in front of the pilot!

Article by Tom Stevenson.