London Trip 2010 – The Experience of Flying First Class on British Airways Review

You know how we all have these fantasies about what traveling First Class is like?

They’re all true.

The Opportunity to Fly British Airways First Class

As I wrote about previously, British Airways flew us on our most recent trip as guests – first in Business class and the way home was planned to be in First Class. They wanted to provide us an opportunity to experience both classes so that we could write all about it.

Sounded like a good deal to me!

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to leaving England. However I was a little but just so I could get the First Class experience. So, on the day we were to head home, we boarded the Heathrow Express to the airport and quickly arrived at Heathrow Terminal 5 (still one of the most amazing buildings ever).

Frist Class Check-in

My only complaint about First Class Check-in is that the Heathrow Express drops you off at the opposite end of Terminal 5 as the special First Class Check-in area so one must do quite a bit of walking.

But you feel rather good about yourself as you pass by all the lines of people waiting to check in the old fashioned way for economy.

The first class experience begins at Check-in, located in a a special check-in area. It was the fastest check-in I ever had. We dropped out bags, got our boarding passes and we’re on our way. The staff we’re very friendly and didn’t treat us like we didn’t belong.

It was quite surreal – especially when you see a seat number of 0 on your boarding pass.

We had no idea what we were in for.

As with business class – you have your own special line for security, which moved suitably fast. And then you head to the lounge.

Also known as Valhalla.

British Airways Concorde Lounge Review

The First Class lounge is separate from Business class lounge. In fact, they check your boarding pass twice, just to make sure you belong. The Concorde Lounge in Heathrow Terminal 5 is one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been.

Rather than wax poetical about all the stuff you get in the first class lounge, here’s a list of the benefits of the first class lounge:

  • A Quiet Place to Wait for your Flight
  • Every Newspaper you could possibly want.
  • Every Magazine you could possibly want.
  • Showers and Cabanas to have a sleep
  • Open Bar. Yes Open. Anything You Want.
  • TV’s, computer room
  • Dining area where you get your free pre-flight meal
  • Big Comfy Couches and Chairs
  • A terrace where you can watch planes take-off and land
  • Free WiFi
  • Free Massages
  • Free Snacks
  • Celebrity Sightings

I’m probably forgetting something, but that’s the basics.

When we arrived, Jackie wished to do a bit of shopping so she left me with our stuff while I drank a Sprite on the Terrace area and watched planes take-off and land. I saw the A-380 for the first time (two took off!). It was relaxing and fun just watching the airport. The Lounge is at the very top of Terminal 5, so it’s very quiet, very relaxing. I played on the GoldenTech iPad and read the Sunday British Newspapers. It was awesome.

When Jackie was done shopping, we decided to take advantage of our pre-flight meal. I’m happy to report that there was a hamburger on the menu and it tasted relatively normal. Though they didn’t have chips so I had to settle for crisps. Such a sacrifice. The food was delicious. I made a fool of myself and spilled my drink, thankfully before a celebrity sat down next to us (Piers Morgan, if you’re curious).

The waitstaff in the dining area was very helpful and answered our every whim (though he wouldn’t agree to gladiatorial combat with a colleague).

With plenty of time until our flight, it was nice to eat a tasty meal and relax. After we were suffiently stuffed, we found out our gate number and headed that way. It was such a shame to have to leave the lounge. Our flight was in one of the Terminal 5 satellite buildings, which was a little annoying as you have to go down and take a tram to the other building, then walk quite a ways to the gate. It’s far better than how my departures usually are – queuing up at a gate, then taking a bus to the plane and climbing stairs on the tarmac.

Since we were in First Class, we were at the front of the line. With Jackie being pregnant and the crowd of people behind us, it was quite a blessing.

As soon as you step on the plane and show them your First Class ticket, they take you and show you to your seat personally.

On Board British Airways First

On most transalantic flights, I’ve never even seen the First Class cabin, it was always a place of mystery where presumably celebrities and policiticans travelled anonymously, away from us Proles.

So, it was quite a treat just to see the first class cabin, let alone be given a seat in it.

The free stuff didn’t stop in the lounge. In British Airways first class, you get the following stuff:

  • Luxurious Pajamas
  • Slippers
  • Toiletries Kit
  • Headphones
  • Blankets
  • Pillows
  • Lay Flat Seat
  • On Demand Entertainment System

The service from the British Airways cabin crew was absolutely wonderful. They were very helpful and attentive. They even knew our names. We had lugged around a map of the London Underground with us and they offered to stow it away because it wouldn’t fit in the overhead compartment (and they were sure to have to hand it to us as we deplaned in Boston).

Jackie was still in the early stages of pregnancy when we flew, so she was not exactly feeling her finest. She was also pretty gutted that she couldn’t have any wine and after the cabin crew kept offering wonderful wines, she had to let them know she was pregnant. Within minutes all the other cabin crew came up to congratulate her and see if she needed anything.

I wasn’t pregnant and it made me feel rather jealous!

We got comfortable and the plane took off on time.

Flight

You know how airplane food pretty much always sucks?

First Class is different.

Not only do you have a choice of things to eat – you can have steak. Yes, steak. They will grill you a steak at 30,000 feet. I couldn’t bloody believe it! And it came with chips! And they had ketchup!

Needless to say, it was by far the best airplane meal I’ve ever had. With a dessert to match (ice cream).

I read my selection of British Newspapers and watched some British TV on the iPad. The flight went by very quickly and was very relaxing. It was not a sleeper service so we arrived in Boston just a couple hours after we actually left. Flying back in time is always fun.

The flight arrived on time. We got off the plane first and Customs was a breeze.

Our trip was over but the memories would last a lifetime.

I know I’ve already thanked them a million times before, but I must thank British Airways once again for flying us as guests and giving us such a wonderful flying experience. It truly is the way to fly.

The Question: Business vs. First

Now, after all that, what’s the verdict on business class vs first class?

Well, if price is no object then obviously fly British Airways First Class.

If your budget is tighter, I would encourage anyone to save some extra money and spring for business class Club World seats. They are excellent value for money. You’re not crammed in Coach, you get access to the lounge and all the benefits of that (including the arrivals lounge). You get a seat that lays flat and a good selection of food. You are able to sleep flat and arrive at your destination refreshed.

Business class is the way to go. Read our review of British Airways Business Class here.

Comments

  1. avatarKari Rippetoe says

    I have not had the pleasure of flying BA First Class, but my husband and I got the opportunity to fly business class last year when BA had an AWESOME 2 for 1 deal. I don’t think we’ll be able to fly to the UK any other way now (unless it was First Class, of course).

    I can’t tell you how much of a Godsend it was to have those flat beds, not to mention the nice, quiet and comfy Executive Lounge in which to wait. Heaven.

    I’m quite envious you got to fly First Class, but I’m so glad you enjoyed it! T5 is pretty cool too, isn’t it? Did you eat at Gordon Ramsey’s Plane Food?

    • avatar says

      T5 is awesome. Didn’t eat at Plane Food – gourmet food was provided in the lounge so we didn’t have the opportunity. I hear it’s quite good. Slightly unrelated but I have eaten at Ramsey’s Maze Grill in Grosvenor Square and it was possibly the best meal I ever had.

  2. avatarDenis Belair says

    To whom it may concern;

    My wife, our son and I were travelling on British Airways the day The Prince of Wales and Lady Diana celebrated their wedding at St Paul’s Cathedral. It was very much memorable. We still have in our possession two menus that were handed out to us. Wow, you really went all out.

    Thank you
    Denis Belair

  3. avatar says

    Just ran across this old article. I am so jealous.
    I got to fly first class home in December, after I put up a fuss about my flight getting canceled because of the snow. It was wonderful. Real down blankets!

  4. avatarBritMan says

    Just found this. They don’t actually grill the steaks in the sky. The food in First is cooked on the ground and reheated in the air, just like the economy meals. The presentation is much nicer, of course :)

  5. avatarpatrick owen says

    BA business class is great, and of course first class better – but I do think you are doing a little diservice to your own airlines.

    The best food I have ever had was in American Airlines first class and they give you loads of it!! And if airport lounges could show off then I would bet the Virgin lounge at Heathrow would have the biggest head – it is amazing!!! Defo the best in the world. The last time I flew from Heathrow to Miami my colleague got the airport 3 hours earlier than needed to get a spa treatment in the lounge.

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