British Airways first class has often been called the “best business class product in the sky”. That was surprisingly not my experience. At least on the A380, I found the product very much a true first class product.
Just to note, this review is from October 2014. I publish older reviews because they have never been previously published, changes are actually minimal (and noted) between then and now, and because they provide a better context for how I evaluate more recent flights.
The Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX is worth showing up earlier for. About 20 minutes before scheduled boarding I headed out so that I could be among the first to board. The Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX is beautiful:
But I nearly experienced a heart attack when I looked at the departure board and saw this–
DEPARTED? Thankfully, it was just an error. I’m sure I’m not the only one it scared!
The gate was packed: it would be a full flight tonight. Boarding began on time and I entered the aircraft through Door 1L on the lower deck. The British Airways A380 features 14 seats in first class, making it the densest A380 first class cabin.
British Airways 268
Los Angeles (LAX) – London (LHR)
Tuesday, October 28
Depart: 9:45 PM
Arrive: 2:55 PM
Duration: 10hr, 10min
Seat: 2A (First Class)
British Airways A380 First Class Seat
While first class on the BA 747 or 777 truly does feel like a glorified business class product on other airlines, I was impressed by BA’s A380 first class seat/suite. While not fully enclosed, the seat offers great privacy and room to spread out. There is ample personal storage and accents like retractable honeycomb blinds and an elegant reading lamp that give it a luxurious feel.
If you’re traveling solo in the center section, a sliding privacy wall can be extended.
In lie-flat mode, the bed is quite comfortable and British Airways has very nice bedding, including a plush pillow and nice comforter. I will warn you here, the cabin became quite warm overnight, so warm I did not sleep well. There are no individual air nozzles in the first class suite.
British Airways A380 First Class Service
When I took this flight, British Airways still used “mixed fleet” crews (i.e. a way to pay new hires less) on the LAX route and thus the crew in first class was very young. The FA who served my side of the cabin could not have been more than a few years older than me.
While I give him incredible marks for effort, there simply was not a lot of polish. For example, he meticulously set the table for the dinner service, as you’ll see in the picture below. But what you won’t see in the pictures is that he literally stood over the table for four minutes setting it up. When I asked about what red wine was best, he had no idea which wines were on offer. During dinner, he served courses out of order. Finally, he spilled a glass of water on me. Certainly not deliberate, but also clumsy.
When I flew the same route last year, the crews were much more senior. But I actually appreciated the FA who helped me out because I felt he was doing his best and trying to be friendly. Somehow I’d rather have than than a polished yet pretentious FA who goes through the motions well but hates her job.
British Airways A380 First Class Food
When I took this flight, British Airways offered a wonderful tasting menu to first class passengers, something it sadly no longer offers. I took advantage of it and truly enjoyed the dinner.
It’s nice to have a pre-selected, multi-course meal and I enjoyed every course. BA is absolutely foolish to cut this option, for it nicely distinguishes first class from business class. People will not pay more for first when service levels are on par with business (for evidence, see United Airlines).
After takeoff, mixed nuts and a beverage were offered:
Next, FAs offered a very thin hot towel–
First up on the tasting menu was a California vegetable plate:
Next up, delicious mushroom soup:
That was followed by duck, which was out of order according to the menu. The fish course was supposed to precede the duck course. However, it was not a big deal and the duck was cooked perfectly:
By this point I was full, but the sea bass course came next:
I wish I had this first, because it was the best course of the meal.
But we still were not done. A cheese course, not on the tasting menu, was offered next:
One of the best cheese courses I have ever enjoyed on a plane–all three varieties (herbed goat cheese, blue, and white cheddar).
Finally, dessert, in the form of a delicious salted caramel and walnut sponge cake. This was delicious!
An a la carte menu was also available. If you fly British Airways first class today, you will only have an a la carte menu–
British Airways A380 First Class Wine and Alcohol Menu
And here’s a look at the wine and beverage list:
As we neared London, breakfast was served. I was still full, but opted for a full breakfast for purposes of this review–
Service began with a fruit smoothie featuring mango and lime.
Next up came a delicious fruit plate that included fresh berries.
As fitting on British Airways, I ordered an English breakfast for the main course. The eggs were cold. For whatever reason, I did not order a cappuccino, something that is offered in first class but not business class on BA.
British Airways A380 First Class IFE
No Wi-Fi on British Airways, though it is coming in 2019. The IFE selection was fair (the usual mix of movies, TV, games, and music), though I left the map feature on for most of the flight. One important thing: bring your own headphones. The headphones offered to first class passengers are deplorable.
I have to be honest: I enjoyed the flight and would classify it more like first class than business. With high fuel surcharges, there are better first class products for your money and miles, but I had no regrets flying BA First. While British Airways has made a big mistake in eliminating the tasting menu from first class, the quality and selection of food remains high. If you’re “stuck” flying BA First Class, don’t sweat it–you’ll be fine.