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
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
Duration: 10h 50m
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.