British Airways tout the First Class cabin on their web site with phrases such as, “haven of style and comfort”, “impeccable service and attention to detail” and “delicious and indulgent dining”. It all sounded very good! However, this is the same airline that says their lounges are “a world of calm and tranquillity” which a British Airways lounge most certainly isn’t. I had an opportunity to make my own judgement on this so I took it.
BA217 – London Heathrow to Washington Dulles (LHR-IAD)
22 January 2016
Boeing 777-336ER G-STBJ
Seat: First 1A
Departure: 11:15 Arrival: 14:40
The bargain airfare I had managed to purchase meant I would be originating in Prague. When I checked in for my connecting flight to London, my bag was appropriately tagged with a First bag tag and checked all the way through to my destination.
On arrival at London Heathrow, I transferred from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5 and proceeded to the Concorde Room to relax for a while before boarding. During my lounge stay, I also took advantage of the free spa treatment available and had a nice massage. Eventually it was time for boarding.
When I presented my boarding pass at the door to the aircraft, I was escorted to my seat and asked if I was aware of all the features. Replying in the negative got me a quick rundown of what was where. I stowed my bag and took some pictures. The layout of the seat and cabin made it awkward to take decent pictures, but I did my best. This is the view when sitting down. You can see the seat belt for the buddy seat, which someone would use if they were dining with you.
The seat itself is very spacious and the leather on the arm rests is exceptionally soft. The arm rests are so soft that you actually want to be touching them, which was a pleasant surprise. The quilted look of the seat is quite visually appealing, as is the snow white head rest against the midnight blue seat fabric.
In addition to the usual overhead space, each First Suite (as they are properly called) has a spacious closet within easy reach for additional items. They contain a hanger so you are able to hang your coat or jacket for the flight, which is very handy.
There are a couple of notices on the door, which I recorded for posterity.
Directly beside you are the USB device charging points, as well as the literature pocket. This contained the Safety Card, High Life magazine, the Duty Free catalogue and mysteriously did not have a copy of the First Life magazine.
First class is set up so that it is in a 1-2-1 configuration. The middle pair of seats would be very good for people travelling together as you can see in this photo directly across from where I was sitting. If you don’t know the person beside you, you can slide across the privacy screen and never see them.
The personal television is a good size, but I wouldn’t say it was nearly as large as what is being offered on competitors services in First. Adequate is probably the best word in this case as it’s not really widescreen either.
In short order, I was offered a pre-take off drink and it was some more Champagne for me. I took a moment to play with the window blinds, which are an utterly glorious shade of blue when they are down on the ground. You can also see your personal lamp at left.
At a British Airways Open Day several years ago, I had become quite enamoured with the gorgeous blue blinds – I think they are the bees knees – I really do!
The Cabin Crew came around and issued the First amenity kit and asked what size Sleeper Suit (aka, the pajamas!) I would like. Happily they had them in a small, which was just perfect!
As it was a day flight I didn’t bother changing into the Sleeper Suit and still have them exactly as in the picture. The amenity kit was packed with items and the pouch it comes in looks a hell of a lot better than the bag that the Club World kit comes in.
Socks, eye mask, a brush, pen, ear plugs, a razor, toothbrush and toothpaste, lip balm, moisturiser, deodorant, eye balm… it’s amazing how much was packed into such a conveniently sized pouch! I like the First branding on certain items too.
The Champagne was making itself felt, so off to the toilet it was for me.
The First Class toilets had a Rose in a holder by the mirror which was a nice touch. Unfortunately, this is being removed in 2016 in order to save costs. I think it’s a bit of a shame!
I thought the “Wash” and the “Lotion” had pretty cheap looking packaging. The colours scream bland.
The sink area could be any airline sink in any class on any aircraft, so nothing special for those up front.
The handsomely presented menu was at my seat and I was surprised to see the tasting menu as part of it. My flight had originally been scheduled to be an Airbus A380 which is the only aircraft in the British Airways fleet to feature a tasting menu in First Class. As there was a late aircraft swap to a Boeing 777, this shouldn’t have been an option.
I found out later that when there is a late aircraft change, the printed menu from the original flight is just swapped to the new aircraft. Therefore, the tasting menu was not available as I suspected. Instead, the crew informed me there were two extra main course choices. One of those was a Thai Curry, the other I don’t recall.
I decided I wanted to see the Club World menu to see if any of the choices in First class were the same as in Club World. The crew brought one for me, warning me that I might not be able to get a choice from that menu (not that I would have ordered from that menu in a million years!). In the end, all was well as the choices were different on both menus.
Boarding soon finished, we had the safety demonstration and were off to Washington DC. Once in the air, I perused the menu properly.
There was absolutely no chance that anyone could go hungry, lack of tasting menu notwithstanding!
Landing cards and hot towels were distributed by the crew next. Beside you, there is the console from where you pull out your table.
Drinks orders were taken and staying true to form, I had more Champagne. Nuts are presented in a ramekin as you can see here. In Club World, they come in a bag, so it’s a step up.
Around this time, I was welcomed on board by the senior member of the Cabin Crew who noted that this was my first flight in First. It wasn’t really, it was just my first flight in First since I had been a member of the Executive Club, so to BA it was my first First.
I wasn’t being given special treatment – this is a standard British Airways greeting when a customer is flying in First for the first time. We had a bit of a chat and it turned out he used to work for EasyJet before joining BA.
Lunch was to be served, so the enormous table was pulled out and set up for the meal. From where you’re sitting, it looks like it goes on forever. I’m a big fan of the coloured glass tumbler, as a splash of colour is always welcome! I thought the salt and pepper looked classy too.
To begin with, we were served an amuse bouche which I believe was duck.
I couldn’t narrow down my choice of starter to just one. I really wanted the soup, but I also really wanted the caviar that came with the salmon. The solution was to ask if I could have two starters and my request was accommodated happily.
My first starter was the Haricot bean soup.
I added some pepper to the soup as I prefer a little spice and overall found the soup to be quite tasty. Of course, bread was offered as well from the basket.
Starter two was the Loch Fyne Kinglas smoked salmon. It had caviar and I do like caviar!
I wouldn’t say the taste of the salmon and caviar was out of this world. I found it to be okay. Usually British Airways on board dining is quite tasty, but this wasn’t. It was more tasteless than it should have been rather than a bad taste.
As you can see from the plethora of drinks, I was matching my wine to the dishes and having sparkling water for good measure!
Next up was the main meal and I chose the Seared loin of Scottish venison.
I wrinkled my brow at the presentation. What were they aiming for here? It all looked a bit strange and sparse on the plate, and not in an artistic way.
Once again it was an okay tasting dish, but not out of this world. For dessert, I chose the Mango and coconut delice, which was quite nice.
It was accompanied with dessert wine of course!
Unexpectedly, I didn’t find myself particularly delighted with the food. It was all fine but for some reason it seemed to lack some panache. It was all servicable, but I wasn’t going to be walking off the flight raving about the meal. Usually the meals on BA are surprisingly good in my opinion and this was just okay. It was nothing to complain about, so perhaps I was expecting too much from a First class meal? Either way, I felt quite let down at the time.
While the meal was going on, I was watching some Magic Mike movie which was entirely forgettable and at one point I wandered up to the galley for a little chat with the crew. While there, I noticed some chocolates and fruit that were laid out. I had a few chocolates, which were quite difficult to grab with my fat fingers!
The box had the descriptions of the chocolates, so if you’ve ever wanted to see what First class people eat by way of chocolates, here you go!
When I got back, I decided to take a video of my favourite blinds being raised. It’s a crying shame these blinds are not on the A380 or the 787.
You’ll notice that they’re not the same deep blue colour as on the ground. In flight, they are more a washed out blue grey colour, which was interesting. I didn’t expect the colour to be any different, so there you go.
The flight was smooth and uneventful and eventually my table made an appearance once more for the afternoon tea service.
There were several parts to this too, it was all so elaborate and very British! First, there were a number of finger sandwiches.
Being a British carrier, scones were of course part of the afternoon tea service! I utterly love the scones on BA! They are not to be missed if you’re offered them as part of a British Airways flight.
The tea part of afternoon tea – I love how it’s served properly in a tea pot and with the appropriate china. Quite glamorous!
There were also little cakes served as well.
By now I was bursting at the seams after all the food, so I was happy that we were descending into Dulles. The movie was finishing too.
Finally, I remembered I hadn’t got a picture of the seat controls, so here they are!
Nice and handy!
Overall, I was quite happy with the experience flying in First. The difference between Club World and First is very apparent. You’re escorted to your seat, generally made a fuss over a lot more, there’s less waiting for things and the service is just better in every respect.
Unfortunately, it was let down by a meal that didn’t really delight the senses. This is unusual for meals on British Airways. Also, on this particular flight the movie selection wasn’t very good. Obviously there weren’t a lot of decent recent releases available as usually the selection is very good.
The seat is very comfortable, with the leather arm rests adding a quality touch. I’d love to try it out in bed mode as I think it would give a person a pretty decent sleep. Overall, I liked the flight for the novelty of flying First, but it definitely could have been a lot better.