Tag Archives: british airways

Around the World in 100 Hours: British Airways First Class London Heathrow to San Francisco

Introduction
United Club San Francisco, International Terminal
United Business Class San Francisco to Seoul
Asiana Airlines Business Class Lounge Seoul
Korean Air Lounge and Singapore SilverKris Lounge Seoul
Singapore Business Class Seoul to Singapore
Ambassador Transit Lounge Singapore
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Singapore
Changi Airport Free Singapore Tour
Singapore Business Class Singapore to Colombo
Transiting Colombo
Lotus and Araliya Lounges Colombo
Qatar Airways Business Class Colombo to Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Premium Terminal Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Doha to Dubai
Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Emirates First Class Dubai to London Heathrow
British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow
British Airways Galleries First Lounge and Club World Lounge London Heathrow
British Airways First Class London Heathrow to San Francisco


British Airways 285
London Heathrow (LHR) to San Francisco (SFO)
Tuesday, May 28th, 2013
Depart: 11:45am
Arrive: 2:35pm
Duration: 10h 50m
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 4K

Prior to the flight, I had been monitoring the British Airways new first class tracker to see what the odds would be that we would have the new first class product on our flight. While this didn’t guarantee anything, I did see that this flight on Tuesdays had been served by the new product for the past 5 weeks, so I felt reasonably confident that I would get to experience the new first class.

I also checked the seat map about 24 hours out and saw the bassinet in front of 5F, which made me doubly confident that the plane would have new first. But then I asked an attendant in the Concorde Room if the flight had new first and she typed a couple of things in her extremely old-looking interface and said that it would not. Sad pandas.

When I relayed this to my travel companion, he suggested potentially switching to the later flight. At this point, I had my spa appointment, so I told him to go for it if the later flight had new first. When I came back from my spa appointment, he told me that the lounge attendant had been mistaken and that our flight did indeed have new first. We went to talk to the same attendant, and she told me that she had just learned how to look up whether or not a flight would be served by new or old first and before she had just guessed. I can’t blame her for being unable to use an archaic computer system, but she was so confident in her earlier proclamation when she was just guessing…

Anyway, onto the flight itself. The first class cabin is in the nose of the plane on the lower deck of the 747, but they add in 4 more seats than carriers like Cathay Pacific. So the cabin definitely felt a little crowded, and there’s not as much privacy or space as other first class products. It’s probably comparable to some of the nicer business class hard products like the new US Airways Envoy Class or Cathay Pacific Business.

First class cabin

First class cabin

More views of first class cabin

More views of first class cabin

As for seating advice, I would definitely avoid the middle seats in the 4th row as they have the least amount of privacy. Being in 4K, I could see everything that 4F was doing just by turning my head.

My seat, 4K

My seat, 4K

Footrest with seatbelt and in-flight entertainment

Footrest with seatbelt and in-flight entertainment

Closet space

Closet space

Motorized window shades

Motorized window shades

Compared to the overworked and unhelpful service I got in the Concorde Room, I loved the service that the crew provided on this flight. It was a group of older British gents serving the first class cabin, and they were friendly, jocular, and willing to serve. I think they also won the prize for addressing me the most times by my name. Every single time I interacted with one of them, it was, “Mr. ____, what can I do for you?”

They passed out amenity kits and sleeper suits prior to departure. I was pretty excited as I’d read good things about British Airways pajamas, and they’re branded oh-so-subtly and say “First” where a logo normally is. In terms of comfort, though, Emirates has them beat hands down (and surprisingly, the Emirates pajamas are less ostentatious than the BA ones).

Amenity kit

Amenity kit

Sleeper suit aka pajamas

Sleeper suit aka pajamas

While most people started with the main meal service, I asked for turndown service immediately after taking off. I hadn’t slept at all in London, and I wanted to readjust to San Francisco time (do you need to readjust when you’ve been traveling continuously?), so I figured I would try to sleep for as long as I could after takeoff.

Turndown service

Turndown service

This turned out to be a great plan, as I slept soundly for over 6 hours (and didn’t have any jet lag upon returning to San Francisco). The in-flight entertainment system also happened to be inoperable during the flight, which didn’t really matter to me as I slept for so long, but probably sucked for most passengers since this was a daytime flight.

After waking up, I decided to get some food. I knew that I had to try the tea service, but I also ordered some appetizers from the main menu just to sample more.

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Sandwiches for tea

Sandwiches for tea

Poached lobster and cod timbale

Poached lobster and cod timbale

Asparagus with poached egg in truffle sauce

Asparagus with poached egg in truffle sauce

Scones and clotted cream

Scones and clotted cream

Tea pastries

Tea pastries

I really enjoyed the scones and clotted cream, and I was surprised that the truffle sauce on the asparagus actually had a slice of truffle in it. Overall, I thought that the food was good, but I would have thought that they would have served something more substantial than tea service as the second meal on a 10+ hour flight.

Prior to landing, the crew apologized profusely for the inoperable in-flight entertainment, and they proactively handed out cards for everyone to fill out so we would get compensation. I thought it was the right way for them to handle the situation, and it was a nice 20k Avios bonus for this flight.

While British Airways might not have the nicest hard product in first class, I loved the service and slept really well, which is as much as one can ask for. I would happily fly them again, although it’s not as aspirational as many other carriers.

Around the World in 100 Hours: British Airways Galleries First Lounge and Club World Lounge London Heathrow

Introduction
United Club San Francisco, International Terminal
United Business Class San Francisco to Seoul
Asiana Airlines Business Class Lounge Seoul
Korean Air Lounge and Singapore SilverKris Lounge Seoul
Singapore Business Class Seoul to Singapore
Ambassador Transit Lounge Singapore
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Singapore
Changi Airport Free Singapore Tour
Singapore Business Class Singapore to Colombo
Transiting Colombo
Lotus and Araliya Lounges Colombo
Qatar Airways Business Class Colombo to Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Premium Terminal Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Doha to Dubai
Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Emirates First Class Dubai to London Heathrow
British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow
British Airways Galleries First Lounge and Club World Lounge London Heathrow
British Airways First Class London Heathrow to San Francisco


Since we had a lengthy layover and all of the British Airways lounges in Terminal 5 are so close together, we decided to go lounge hopping to see what the other lounges were like.

Our first stop was the Galleries First Lounge, which is directly across from the Concorde Room.

Entrance to the Galleries First Lounge

Entrance to the Galleries First Lounge

While the Galleries First Lounge had many more people in it than the Concorde Room, it was also considerably larger. It felt busy, but not overcrowded, as many domestic lounges can be.

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Interesting lighting choices

Interesting lighting choices

Perhaps this is just due to expectations, but I think I preferred the Galleries First Lounge to the Concorde Room. Even though the Galleries First Lounge is more self service and less exclusive, at least the self service options were well stocked, so I could access anything that I wanted immediately. On the other hand, you have to ask for things in the Concorde Room, which is great if there are enough staff, but I didn’t feel like there were.

In terms of the actual amenities, I think what was on offer between the Galleries First Lounge and the Concorde Room was largely comparable, although the Concorde Room had a slightly better selection of alcohol.

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The thing that made me really like the Galleries First Lounge, though, was the terrace had a better view of the tarmac. From the corner of the terrace, you have a great view of one of the runways, so I sat for a while to see multiple 747s and an A380 takeoff.

View of a runway

View of a runway

Next up was the Club World Lounge, which is upstairs from the Galleries First Lounge and the Concorde Room.

While there wasn’t any hot food on offer in the Club World Lounge and the alcohol selection was not as good as the lounges, I thought it was a pretty decent business class lounge, and easily better than most any domestic lounge in the US.

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There were also quite a few people using the lounge, but the lounge is quite large with a lot of different seating areas, so it didn’t seem to hard to find a spot to sit down and work.DSC02069 DSC02068

The best part of the lounge, though, which neither the Galleries First Lounge nor the Concorde Room had, was an ice cream fridge!

Ice cream for breakfast!

Ice cream for breakfast!

The Galleries First and Club World Lounges are pretty good lounges, especially if you’re getting access through alliance status. British Airways really needs to step up their game for their own first class passengers, though, as the Concorde Room is nothing special.

Around the World in 100 Hours: British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow

Introduction
United Club San Francisco, International Terminal
United Business Class San Francisco to Seoul
Asiana Airlines Business Class Lounge Seoul
Korean Air Lounge and Singapore SilverKris Lounge Seoul
Singapore Business Class Seoul to Singapore
Ambassador Transit Lounge Singapore
Singapore SilverKris Lounge Singapore
Changi Airport Free Singapore Tour
Singapore Business Class Singapore to Colombo
Transiting Colombo
Lotus and Araliya Lounges Colombo
Qatar Airways Business Class Colombo to Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Premium Terminal Doha
Qatar Airways First Class Doha to Dubai
Emirates First Class Lounge Dubai
Emirates First Class Dubai to London Heathrow
British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow
British Airways Galleries First Lounge and Club World Lounge London Heathrow
British Airways First Class London Heathrow to San Francisco


The British Airways Concorde Room is reserved for First Class passengers on British Airways flights. Perhaps anything would have been a letdown after the epic extravagance of the Emirates First Class Lounge in Dubai, but I was overall disappointed by the Concorde Room. Too crowded, not enough staff, and an overall mediocre level of service.

The first thing I did upon entering the lounge was make an appointment at the spa, as you’re entitled to a 15-minute treatment. It’s a good thing I did this as soon as I arrived, because I was able to snag an appointment that would finish right before I would have to board my next flight. My friend who decided to shower first wasn’t able to get an early enough appointment after showering, which I think is a little crazy given that we were in paid First Class. You’d think they give first class passengers priority or something, which I guess they vaguely do through their YouFirst service, but it’d be nice if they reserved some slots for first class passengers who aren’t able to book in advance.

Spa and shower rooms if you didn't pre-book a cabana

Spa and shower rooms if you didn’t pre-book a cabana

Since we had booked our tickets so last minute, it also meant that we weren’t able to pre-book a cabana. There are only three private cabanas in the Concorde Room in Terminal 5, so when I inquired about availability, the concierge told me that they were booked until 4pm (and I was asking before 8am). That being said, I got a peek inside one of the cabanas and they didn’t seem all that special.

The lounge itself was fine, although it got pretty busy at times. The staff seemed harried at most times, and I was never proactively approached to see if I needed anything.

Lounge + bar area

Lounge + bar area

More seating

More seating

Terrace seating

Terrace seating

Since we had a roughly 4-hour layover, I wanted to grab some breakfast, but I have to say that I was overall disappointed by my dining experience. It seemed like they didn’t have enough people to appropriately staff their dining area as the servers forgot items, people were left without menus, etc. Rather than feeling like I was being welcomed to eat, I felt more like I was imposing on the over-worked and over-stressed staff their. And then the food itself was quite underwhelming. The fresh fruit was generic fruit salad mix that you might get at a bad all-you-can-eat buffet, and the non-meat options were unsatisfying.

Dining table

Dining table

Breakfast menu

Breakfast menu

Soft-boiled eggs with toasted soldiers

Soft-boiled eggs with toasted soldiers

There also seemed to be capacity problems with the bathrooms, as at several times people were waiting for bathrooms to open up. This is just for bathrooms, not even showers. And even though there appeared to be dedicated bathroom attendants, I found trash on the ground and other signs of uncleanliness.

Some highlights of the lounge: they have seats from the Concorde in their business center, and the alcohol selection is pretty extensive.

Seat from the Concorde

Seat from the Concorde

Liquor selection

Liquor selection

Also, perhaps this is a British idiom, but several people working the lounge asked me, “Are you okay?” when I was waiting for them to help me. Not, “Can I help you?” or even “Is everything okay?”, but “Are you okay?”. It’s as if they thought I was mentally deranged or about to break down in tears. Can anyone explain this to me?

In general, I was underwhelmed by the Concorde Room. There’s really nothing special about the lounge, the Qatar and Emirates first class lounges are far superior, and I much preferred even the business class lounge offerings by Singapore and Asiana at their hubs.