Flight: London Heathrow to Seatlle
Airline: British Airways
Flight Number: BA053
Plane: Boeing 777-300ER
This is a review of my flight with British Airways from Heathrow to Seattle, in First.
At the time I took this flight, BA offered a once-daily flight from LHR to SEA at 09:40, landing in SEA around 11:30, on the Boeing 777-300ER. With American Airlines offering a flight around 14:00, landing at 16:00.
Seemingly, AA have now pulled the route – but BA have increased their offering to two daily flights – with departures at 09:40 (landing at 11:30) and 15:35 (landing at 17:20). Both of these flights are now operated by a Boeing 787-9.
As I was flying First, I used the First Wing to check in (which I can do as a BA Gold Member anyway).
I have to say, the Agent checking in was extremely helpful and dealt with a few issues on the booking in an excellent way! Well done to her!
Unfortunately, the security was backed up out of the First Wing – so I used the Fast Track Business Class security line and used the ‘secret door’ into the Concorde Room.
I was hoping to use this as an opportunity to review the B-Gates Galleries Lounge – however, I stayed in the Concorde Room, and lucky I did. When the gate was finally announced, it was A10A – which was a bus service to the plane!
Boarding was by Group Number – I was Group 1. However, it made no difference as Groups 1, 2 and probably all the way to 8 piled onto the bus, and it was a good 15-minute drive to the aircraft!
This was G-STBA British Airways 777-300ER, a 12-year-old aircraft, and in fact I believe the first -300ER to enter BA’s fleet back in 2010.
This plane is fitted with 14 ‘old First’ seats, 56 ‘old Club World’ seats, 44 Premium Economy seats and 185 Economy seats.
For this trip, I was sitting 1K. In order to try and reduce the length of these posts, I review the seat separately; you can find that here.
Food and Drink
After taking off I was offered a drink, as well as having my food order taken. I took a beer, with the options being the same as in Club World. Heineken, Brewdog or Heineken Zero. I have to say I think there should be better options offered in both cabins – but I wasn’t impressed at all with these options in First. Give me Stella please!
There are also many similarities with BA’s First and Club World options – in particular the serving of the same nuts – or as I call them teethbreakers. I was lucky the Cabin Crew shared my sense of humour on this and brought me crisps! If you’ve not experienced BA’s ‘nuts’ before – you may need to see a dentist afterwards. American or Qatar Airways’ offer of hot nuts in a bowl is by far better. Also, are nuts in a packet appropriate to be serving passengers in First?
I was provided with a menu pre-take off. Rather strangely there were two beef options (starter and main).
The starting options on the menu were;
- Road British beef carpaccio
- Loch Fyne smoked salmon
- Whole grain salad
Main options on the menu were;
- Slow cooked beef chunks
- Grilled North Atlantic salmon
- Handmade ricotta mezzaluna
Allegedly, these came with a series of sides, but these never arrived!
Desert options were;
- Chocolate and crème brulee tort
- Vanilla ice cream
- Fresh seasonal fruit
Canapes were brought around initially, and then it was the choice from the menu.
It was my plan to have the salad to start – but unfortunately despite being sat in 1K (the first row) they ran out when they took my order pre-takeoff!
I didn’t want raw beef or fish – so I passed.
Having boarded the flight around 9:00 – and having had breakfast in the Concorde Room, I decided to use the Dinner on Demand feature.
Since I was using the ‘on demand’ service, I was told that it would take 20 minutes to cook my dinner which was fine – it was the same experience as Qatar Airways. However, when around 3 hours into the flight and I asked for it – it came immediately. This may sound good, but unfortunately the food was on the colder side of warm.
For the main I had the beef chunks. These were pretty good, for my liking there should have been some kind of potato offered with it. Or even better, chips (fries for the Americans)!
As I’d not had a starter I decided to have the ice cream and the cheese.
I have to say, compared to Harriet’s efforts on my LAX to LHR flight – this wasn’t exactly presentation at its best on the ice cream front! Compared to the pride American Airlines put into their Sundaes in Business Class – this was a poor effort!
The cheese was fine, however – the crackers had raisins in, which is a big no for me! So I asked, and was given a small plate of non-raisined crackers!
As I mentioned above, no side bowl was offered.
To be frank, I got the impression since I was the only passenger who asked for dinner on demand, I was a bit of a thorn in the side.
The afternoon serving was BA’s Afternoon Tea.
Afternoon tea really isn’t my sort of thing – so I had a few scones and some other bits. It was pretty good.
As I write about in my seat review, because of the lack of privacy in the seat, I was able to take a sneaky picture of the lady next to me who had the ‘full’ afternoon tea.
In absolute fairness, the presentation of this was very impressive – it was the same as you’d get in a decent hotel.
Tea was served in teapots and ‘proper’ cups.
If you like afternoon tea, it’s great. If you don’t – you may be slightly disappointed and prefer the mini pies and ice cream on American Airlines!
According to the menu a selection of popcorn, crips and Lindt truffles were on offer. Not a great snack offering for First Class passengers really, when you consider American Airlines offers cheese plates, fruit salad trays and all sorts – and that’s just in Business Class!
However, when I went to the First Galley for an explore, the cabin crew initially searched the cases – finding nothing, they then went to the Club World galley to find the snacks.
Whether this was due to under-stocking, or someone forgot something, I don’t know. But As I wrote about on my trip to Dubai – the ‘Club Kitchen’ disappears fast, and it’s not hard to see why, if First are taking the goodies!
Beers offered on board were Heineken, Heineken Zero, or Brewdog. No difference between First and Club World. As someone who enjoys a beer, I am getting a little fed up with these options – none of them are great tasting. It also starts to blur the lines between the supposed superiority between First and Club and does little to the justification of the price increase.
Wines on offer included;
- Ropiteau Freres Saint-Romain 2017 (White) [around £45 per bottle]
- Pouilly-Fume 2018 (White) [around £65 per bottle]
- Weingut Malat 2016 (White) [around £37 per bottle]
- Chateau Larrivet Haut-Brion Pessac-Leognan 2011 (Red) [around £41 per bottle]
- La Follette Los Primeros Pino Noir 2017 (Red) [around £16 per bottle]
- Nietschke Julius Shiraz 2017 (Red) [around £20 per bottle]
Champagne offered included;
- Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle NV [around £165 per bottle]
- Hattingley Valley Blanc de Noirs 2015 [around £45 per bottle]
- Lanson Extra Age Rose Brut NV [around £65 per bottle]
Plus, a whole pile of desert wines, ports, etc.
These wines are different from Club World. For example, Club World offer a Sauvignon Blanc which retails at £10.98 per bottle – where are those offered in First are closer to £50 a bottle. Whilst the price isn’t important, it’s useful to see where the value for money sits; when BA often ask for £7,000 per ticket, it’s probably not in the wine!
BA offer a male and female amenities kit. I was able to see both and was surprised at the differences between the two (in a good way). Each of these was packaged into their own unique bags – with a navy blue for male, and a patterned for female. The amenities kits were may by Temperley of London.
Male Amenity Kit
- Eye Mask
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Shaving gel (but no razor)
Female Amenity Kit
- Eye Mask
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Lip Balm
- Sleeping mist
- Ear plugs
- A bunch of nail products
- A flip up mirror
- Various wipes
I was very impressed with the Amenity Kits – it seems BA has put a lot of thought into them and the differences between the two.
Additionally in the course of the flight I was asked if I wanted pajamas and slippers. These were good in quality too.
The controls for the entertainment are very similar to ‘old’ Club World – and in fact as is the fact that the screen ‘flips in’. This, of course has to be stowed for takeoff and landing.
The entertainment system is controlled via a remote control hidden behind a small door.
Having flown with BA back in February, apart from a few films being updated – it seemed that most of the music options and TV content were unchanged. Not great if you fly as regularly as I do.
In comparison to the Club Suite, I’d say these screens are actually under-sized for the size of the First Seat. Then again the ‘old’ Club World screens aren’t huge either.
Gone are the days BA prided themselves in updating the entertainment every month!
Customers flying First have the benefit of free wifi for one device – once you’re connected that device cannot be changed. I am slightly skeptical about this, as I think it should be two devices – or at least the ability to switch between devices!
Nevertheless, my Wifi worked surprisingly well compared to my previous trip to Miami, and I was able to get a lot of work done.
In general terms the Cabin Crew were good – but not exceptional.
I was sometimes addressed by name, sometimes not.
Upon boarding they asked if I wanted escorting to my seat – I personally think this should be automatic in First.
No hot towels or anything were handed out during the duration of the flight, everything seemed very ‘by the book’ – which didn’t seem to have that many pages. My colleague sat in 4K (three rows behind me) wasn’t offered an amenities kit and had to ask for one.
The dinner was quickly served to the usual First standard, as was afternoon tea. If I was to be fussy (and at £7,000 per ticket, why not) – the table cloths were badly creased, and the cutlery wasn’t all facing the same way. Is this going too far in expectations……….? Wouldn’t happen on Qatar Airlines!
With that said, if I was to compare it to my experience last time I flew First – I would suggest that this flight was miles behind on service. It simply comes down to the enthusiasm of the crew.
There was nothing the cabin crew did ‘wrong’ – but I didn’t leave plane in Seattle with the ‘buzz’ I have previously had on other airlines – or that I had last time I flew First on BA.
Landing and entry to Seattle was very straightforward. It is a very long walk from the Gate to baggage; the bags arrived with a short 10-minute wait. After that it was a very quick trip through Border Control and off to my hotel!
With the ‘old First’ fitted on this aircraft, it was a step ahead of ‘old Club World’ – but it certainly didn’t feel like the premium service BA would like it to!
The seat aside, when some of the RRP’s for single-leg flights in First are over £7,000, I just don’t see the value for money – especially if you’re not able to get the meal choices you might want!
Considering everything in the round (Seat, Food, Entertainment, Service, etc), if I had the option between BA’s First and Qatar’s Business Class – I’d unquestionably choose Qatar Airlines, every time. Unfortunately, BA’s First just can’t compete with the other Business Class products out there – on both hard and soft product, let alone First Class.
In fact from the perspective of the seat, ‘old First’ appears to have difficulty with competing with BA’s new Club Suite.
The only game-changing difference would be the Concorde Room, which is exceptional – and also the Amenity Kits were very good indeed.
That may sound a harsh critique – but if you’re charging premium money, the service has to be that cut above! Right now, it just isn’t.
99 out of 111, which is 89%.
There needs a lot of improvement, I am afraid, to make this even compete with what other carriers are offering at a ‘lower’ Business Class level.