British Airways has a strong reputation for carrying the British flag around the world with sophistication and a focus on service. First Class is its ultimate premium product, which is now offered on only a handful of its routes.
British Airways First Class may not be the most groundbreaking of travel experiences as the airline evolves, but it offers plenty to appreciate and enjoy when flying long-haul around the world. From excellent lounges at its London Heathrow hub to an afternoon tea service using fine porcelain and bespoke tea blends, the experience is, as they say in the United Kingdom, brilliant!
As a founding member of the oneworld alliance, fliers can earn points in the airline’s Avios program or in one of its many partner programs including American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Qantas or Qatar Airways.
If starting your travel at London Heathrow, a dedicated British Airways First Class check-in area and expedited security lane known as the First Wing takes you directly into the First Class Lounge easing you right into the journey. Most First Class itineraries are routed through Heathrow versus British Airways’ other hub at London Gatwick. At other airports, First Class passengers can use premium check-in and security lanes if available.
Whether you are transiting London or beginning your journey there, security officials are notoriously strict and often brusque or unfriendly. It is enough for some travellers to avoid flying through London altogether by choosing another airline, but if flying with British Airways there is no choice.
Relaxing after rigorous security queues is often a necessity. The spacious First Lounge is open to all oneworld Emerald passengers flying in any cabin as well as First Class passengers redeeming miles. For paying First Class passengers, the Concorde Room is a quieter hideaway with table service and the most expensive wines, spirits and refreshments the airline offers. Both lounges are lovely, but the Concorde Room is more exclusive.
In the First Lounge, travellers can enjoy self-serve wine, beer, soft drinks and Champagne - including Canard-Duchêne Charles VII and Jeeper Brut Grand Rosé.
A hearty buffet features an English breakfast during the morning hours and switches to salads, tasty curries, soups and other offerings. An afternoon tea selection includes traditional sandwiches, scones, cookies and fine British cheeses. There is also an à la carte menu with burgers and salads that can be delivered to your table.
Views of the airport’s active runway and apron are especially entertaining, and for those that would like to refresh in between flights, showers are available.
It is worth noting that there are no longer any Elemis Spas in the British Airways premium lounges.
First Class is only available on some of the airline’s Boeing 777 and 787 and Airbus A380 aircraft and always designed in a 1-2-1 configuration meaning that those travelling together should opt for the centre section. Solo travellers will enjoy one of the single seats at the window. First Class flights only have between eight and fourteen seats, and the cabin is quite intimate. Boeing 787 First Class cabins are the smallest with only two rows making them the quietest. There is no charge to make an advance seat assignment in First Class.
Each suite has a 198 cm (6ft 6in), plush, reverse herringbone seat that transforms into a bed with side tables for easy-access storage as well as a private closet to hang a jacket or place small items. Easy-access power outlets as well as windows with electronic blinds that raise or lower at the touch of a button. Similarly, electronic controls shift the seat from lounge to bed mode easily.
Since there is not much of a divider to the side of the seat, some may feel a bit exposed to the aisle. Those seated in the centre section of two seats do have a sliding panel that can be opened for conversation or closed for privacy. Beautiful glass lamps make the suite feel more like a residential space than an airplane cabin, and the ottoman has its own seat belt meaning that someone else can sit there and join you for restaurant-style dining.
In response to passenger demand and the trend of First Class featuring enclosed suites, British Airways has introduced a modified version of its First Class seat on its newest B777-300ER aircraft. The modified First Class seat includes sliding privacy doors and a three-point seat belt.
Large tray tables fold out toward the seat with plentiful space to dine or work. They can be pushed forward and backward to allow for easier access to the aisle. Each seat comes with a foam and microfibre mattress topper plus 400 thread count duvet, thick pillow and Temperley London pajamas and slippers. When passengers are ready to sleep, flight attendants can turn down the bed on request.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes images, videos and seat maps for most airlines and aircraft Search results also include details such as seat pitch, width and recline. This way you can see the seat and cabin configuration of the flight in which you are interested, before making your choice.
On board, the food service is one way that an airline can really distinguish the First Class experience, and British Airways does a nice job. It is not as flashy as many Middle Eastern or Asian airlines, but it is a pleasant offering using distinctive British products. British Michelin-starred chef Tom Kerridge helped to design the menus, which are served on William Edwards crockery using Studio William cutlery from the Cotswolds. Even the crystal glassware is British - hailing from Dartington Crystal. Keeping it British is a great source of pride for the airline.
Service starts with canapés and a beverage of choice. Next, linens are laid on the oversized tray tables with cutlery placed at precision along with bread plates and salt and pepper shakers. A choice of starters arrives on large, beautiful plates followed by savoury soup course.
Four main course options typically include beef, poultry, seafood and vegetarian - often featuring British beef or a chef-designed entrée. Side dishes including potatoes and other vegetables can be added to any meal. The customisation of the experience makes it more like a restaurant than an aircraft cabin.
Dessert consists of a sweet pastry or cake, cheese platter or ice cream followed by coffee, tea or cordials. The “dine anytime” menu is another perk of flying with British Airways in First Class - allowing passengers to order portions of their meal whenever they wish during the flight.
During the flight, a menu of sweet and salty snacks is available upon request with pre-arrival meals served typically 90 minutes before landing. Depending on the hour, they can range from English or continental breakfast to afternoon tea or a hot main dish. On day flights, the afternoon tea setup is rather elegant with a large pot of tea placed at each seat, a selection of traditional sandwiches and pastries plus warm scones with clotted cream. There is nothing more quintessentially British, and the airline hits the mark well with this lovely presentation.
As guests board, they are welcomed by the flight attendant and offered their beverage of choice, which includes Champagne. The selection can vary, but in British Airways First Class, it is usually Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle Brut or Lanson Rosé. Warm towels are served on small trays along with a ramekin of nuts before takeoff.
Printed menus outline what is available throughout the flight including Champagne. There is now a bespoke sparkling wine produced to celebrate British Airways 100th birthday being offered - an English Blanc de Noirs, three white wines, three red wines and two dessert wines. There is a long list of cocktails and mocktails plus a wide assortment of soft drinks and juices. International beer selections are available including Brew Dog Speedbird 100, a beer brewed exclusively for the airline. Even the Harrogate Spring still and sparkling water is British.
Union Coffee and Twinings Tea, two more British brands, are served on board with espresso and latte coffee options.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on which Champagne is served in Business Class and First Class on many airlines. We do our best to keep track of any changes, but feel free to let us know if there is something we missed.
Flight attendant service can vary by the crew, which means on some flights the service can be incredibly friendly and personalised and on another, there may be little interaction beyond the basics. No carts are used in the aisle which – in comparison to Business Class - makes the experience less noisy.
Look out for Fougasse, the First Class winged butler logo on the menu that was created for Imperial Airways in the 1930s by a British cartoonist. The symbol is meant to highlight the carrier’s pride and continued focus on service for First Class despite recent changes over the decades.
Noise-reducing headphones plug into the side of the seat and work rather well with the 15-inch, touch-screen entertainment screens. There are 1,000 hours of blockbuster Hollywood movies, an international library of comedies and short subject features like comedies and documentaries, and audio programming from around the world that make the flight literally fly. A 3-D moving map display is of excellent quality for those that like to know where they are at all times.
Wi-Fi is available aboard the majority of the airline’s aircraft with First Class, and it is complimentary.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi.
British Airways has special First Class amenity kits stocked with British-made Elemis beauty products with even more available in the lavatories. The Temperley London loungewear, amenity bag and slippers are nice take-home souvenirs to remember the flight.
First Class is only available on certain long-haul flights, and passengers connecting to short or medium-haul flights enjoy the typical Business Class service on the airline’s narrowbody aircraft - or the occasional widebody operating a short-haul route. If connecting between two long-haul flights via London, keep in mind that not all aircraft will feature First Class. In that case, passengers are accommodated in the Business Class cabin.
Domestic and European flights are operated with narrow body planes and economy class-style seats with the centre seat blocked. Service is sometimes delivered by aisle carts, but it is usually quite attentive and friendly. Other times, flight attendants may choose to deliver service directly from the galley.
Even short flights enjoy a range of beverages and meals appropriate to the time of day. The airline offers an open bar, including choice of red or white wine, sparkling wine or beer, and a decent cocktail selection. Juices, soft drinks and still or sparkling water round out the choice.
In addition to the expected efforts like recycling on board, reducing energy usage through better flight planning and eco-friendly ground handling operations, the airline is also committed to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. It starts with flying more fuel-efficient planes; the carrier rid itself of its Boeing 747-400 planes – which featured a First Class cabin - in 2020.
New sustainable fuels are in the works using waste products and ethanol converted to fuel in the coming years, and the company is the first European airline group to guarantee 10 per cent of its flights will use sustainable aviation fuel by 2030. The airline also offsets carbon emissions on all of its domestic flights.
The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on CO2 emissions for each flight. Our quality algorithms also give a higher score to flights operated by the most modern and environmentally friendly aircraft.