British Airways offers a sub-par product in First Class. Although the seat is very comfortable, the bedding, service and food selection left much to be desired. When comparing the amenities between a Qatar Airways business class and a British Airways First Class, I would pick Qatar Airways any day. When you consider the hefty fuel and carrier surcharges, the decision is a no-brainer.
The Good: The Food was high quality, although selection was somewhat limited.
The Bad: High costs associated with this mileage redemption, and mediocre overall experience.
The Noteworthy: The seat has some very nice finishes, but is still lacking when compared to other first class products out there.
I had booked this trip as a part of a very low fare that was between JNB and Montreal (YUL). Business class was around 2,200, and First class was around 2,500. Since BA’s Club World is truly sub-par, I decided to splurge the extra $300 for First Class. The flights booked in Full Fare First Class on American, which meant I would get 3 EQMs per mile flown. In terms of miles earned, I got about 21,000 redeemable miles because I am Executive Platinum.
Arrival at Gate:
After spending a short time in the Bidvest Premier Lounge, and a bit longer time in the Galleries First Lounge, I walked to the gate. It is worth noting that most of the European flights leave from the far end of the terminal. At a leisurely pace, this walk took me about 15 minutes.
By the time I was at the gate, the crew was waiting to board the aircraft, and people were lining up. The A380 is truly a mammoth aircraft. The plane requires three lanes to board, with two different jetways, sometimes three.
Boarding began right on time, with First Class passengers invited to board first, followed by Club World, Priority Passengers, World Traveler Plus and finally World Traveler. As soon as First Class was called to board, the entire Club World cabin lined up, with people shoving to get to the plane.
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA56
Cabin Class: First Class
Route: Johannesburg to London LHR
On Time: Yes
As soon as I boarded, I went to look around the Club World Cabin on the first floor. The cabin looked very peaceful and organized. However, the seats are narrow and bedding is terrible. The cabin does have some nice detailing and finishes, it’s sad these don’t translate to customer experience.
First Class Cabin
The First Class Cabin consists of 14 seats, arranged in 1x2x1 configuration. The cabin is very spacious, with no overhead bins in the middle section. Each window seat has automatic blinds, and two windows per seat. When we arrived, the cabin was kept mostly dark, keeping with the mood of the approaching nightfall.
British Airways has what they call open suites for first class. They are very similar to the old United First Class seats, so I wouldn’t call them suites per say. The seats are very nicely upholstered, and are wide and comfortable. On my seat there were two pillows, which were small and thin.
Next to the seat there is a side table, from where the tray table pops out. There is also a strrage bin where the entertainment controller, power port and USB port are located. On the ottoman, there was a blanket and a set of headphones.
The IFE screen pops out of the side of the seat, similar to on reverse herringbone seats on American and Cathay Pacific. Each seat also has a closet/wardrobe, where you can leave your clothes and small carry-ons. There was also a plush pillow inside.
Next to the seat, on the side closest to the window, there are the window controls, as well as the seat controls. The knob is very easy to use, and you can adjust your seat to any degree of recline you want. You can also control the lights from there.
The seat has a small lamp next to it, which I find to be the classiest touch of the entire seat.
As soon as I was settled in, the Purser came by and offered me a set of PJs, an amenity kit and asked for my preferred beverage before take off. The PJs are good and comfortable, but they easily shrink after a wash. They are embroidered with the BA logo and First.
The amenity kit contents were good, they are a combination of Refinery products, as well as all the basics. The BA First pen is very high quality, and I use it on normal days.
Departure, Delay and Take-off:
The purser came back with my drink order, an OJ, and I changed into my PJs. At this point, the captain came on the PA and announced our flight time 9h50m, but also mentioned we would be delayed because of a storm that was about to hit the airport. They had closed the ramp in the interest of worker safety. Originally, he said it would be less than 15 minutes. That time came and went; we ended up waiting about 50 minutes. This would not be an issue, as we were going to make up the time in flight.
About 1 hour after our scheduled departure, we pushed back, and after a very long take-off roll we were airborne. The first 15 minutes of the flight there was some pretty serious turbulence, however, after we reached our cruise altitude, the flight smoothed out.
On the ground, the Flight Attendant came by and offered us menus. We would be having dinner and breakfast on the flight. The menu read as follows:
The meal started with warmed mixed nuts and a warm towel. The towel was high quality and the nuts were delicious.
The table setting was elegant, with adorned butter.
As an appetizer, I ordered the South African cured ham, and the parsnip soup and salad. Both the ham and salad were delicious. The salad was a bit plain, but that’s understandable.
As my main course, I ordered the beef fillet. It was tender, and very flavorful. By then I was so full I did not order dessert.
After dinner, I asked for my bed to be made. The bedding was thin, but the seat was comfortable enough that I did not mind. The bed is fairly wide and you can move around freely. The pillows were small and thin, but the blanket was warm. At one point, it got too warm in the cabin, and I ended up waking up. By then, it was almost breakfast time. Which means I got about 6.5 hours of sleep.
Note on Service:
Service was very attentive, but not proactive. I had to call the FAs to have my bed made, and to request more water when I woke up. I saw them walk by less than a half dozen times while I was awake.
I started breakfast with some coffee. It was served with its own cream container and cubed sugar. I don’t like cubed sugar, since it takes a while to dissolve and is very little sugar, so I ordered sweetener.
The table was set similar to the dinner table, but with one less fork. I was also brought some OJ. BA’s orange juice is one of the best I have had on a plane, it is very sweet and tangy, the only complain is that it doesn’t taste fresh.
I started off my meal with some muesli, and it was pretty good. They then brought out toast and croissants, as well as other pastries.
For my main course, I ordered the french toast. It was amazing, not as good as the one I had on jEtihad, but still very very good.
Landing and Arrival:
About 40 minutes after breakfast was over, the Captain came on the PA to announce that we would be landing in about 30 minutes, and that he did not expect a delay. WOW! I haven’t had a direct landing at Heathrow in years! Usually you have to wait in a holding pattern. Before landing, the Flight Attendants and the purser came by to thank us for flying British Airways. By the time we landed, it was still dark and we pulled up to the gate in a matter of 5 minutes after landing.
The flight was OK. I loved the food quality and the seat, but that’s about it. The service was meh and the amenities are good, but not as high quality as other carriers. I would recommend flying in First on BA if you get a good deal, since Club World isn’t all that great. I would not, however, recommend paying a large premium for this product. If BA wants to compete with other carreirs, they need to up the ante with their hard product. Hopefully, the improved service that they started a few months after my flight will put them up to speed with others.
What do you think? Have you flown BA from Africa? What was your experience like? Let us know!
Here is a list of all my flight reviews: The Millennial Traveler Flight Reviews
Here is a list of all my lounge reviews: The Millennial Traveler Lounge Reviews