Until recently I’ve been content to fly Club Class using my AVIOS. However, I’ve recently been accumulating them so quickly that I decided to upgrade to British Airways First Class to fly to Beijing. I will be honest, I wasn’t sure whether it would be worth it. I couldn’t imagine why anyone would pay so much more to fly British Airways First Class. So, here’s my review of our experience, and my conclusion as to whether it is worth spending extra AVIOS.
Check in is through the dedicated check in First wing at London Heathrow Terminal five. It’s nice that it’s private, but I was surprised by a) the number of passengers and b) the limited number of check in desks. I honestly wasn’t expecting to be waiting!
That said, a representative greets you with cold towels and fresh drinks. There is also a convenient seating area if you need to rest.
Is it worth using more AVIOS for? Probably not.
British Airways First Class security is a different story. Even in fast track, sometimes the queues can be lengthy, but in the dedicated security channel for First Class there were no queues. The space is comfortable and bright and seating areas await those who have been screened. You can take a seat and comfortably replace shoes and belts. There’s also a spacious repacking area so you are not tripping over other guests.
Is it worth using more Avios for this British airways First Class experience? Absolutely yes!
The security channel leads to a brightly lit corridor which opens directly into the First-Class lounge. This lounge looks much the same as the Club Class lounge, however exit the lounge and walk over to the Concorde room. It’s a whole different ball game.
The Concorde room is much smaller and more exclusive. There’s a dedicated bar with table service, and a private dining area with booths. We opted for dinner in the booths and found the service and food exceptional. No sooner had we taken a seat than we were being offered champagne!!! My kind of lounge!
We feasted on leak and potato soup, salmon and a rhubarb tart. Everything looked divine, the service was quick and unobtrusive, and the food was exceptionally tasty. The champagne flowed freely, and the food alone makes me wonder whether I can ever return to Club Class.
The dining in British Airways First Class is considerably better than in Club Class. There’s more choice, it’s silver service rather than self-service and the food looks gorgeous. This First-Class perk alone is worth the extra AVIOS in my opinion.
The lounge area
The lounge itself is much smaller than Club Class but much more upmarket. It’s more like a living room in a stately home, with smart sofas dotted around the room. If you are lucky, you can even bag a private alcove complete with fireplace.
Although it is more compact, there’s plenty of space as it is nowhere near as busy as the Club lounges.
There are private cabanas for those desperate to get away from prying eyes. Check out this review by One Mile At A Time before booking as they do not look spectacular. If you are a celebrity in need of time out, I’m guessing you might not care that they look a little like a private room in a hospital.
The one disappointment of the lounge is that the toilets are more hospital decor than high end hotel! There’s absolutely nothing to suggest premium or luxury about them.
There are plenty of bar staff (in fact, overall the ratio of staff to clients seems exceptionally high) who will take your drinks order. There is a cocktail menu although the choice is limited (no daiquiris for instance), but as the only cocktail you will be getting in Club Class is one you make yourself, I’d still say this is cool.
The lounge definitely merits blowing extra AVIOS. You may also be lucky enough to bump into a celebrity or two. For instance, I walked past Brian May on my way to the bathrooms!
Our British Airways First Class flight
The line for First Class was much shorter than Club so we didn’t need to wait to board. Sadly though, we weren’t on a plane with a separate door for First and so did have to wait to board once in the tunnel. On our return journey, a separate door for First was available and I loved this feature, especially as Club Class boarding had begun by the time we reached the gate.
Once onboard, we were personally escorted to our seats. As we settled in, staff offered us wash bags, pyjamas and champagne. Whoop whoop! First Class was getting better by the minute.
The wash bags are considerably better quality than those you receive in Club Class. Whilst the latter have fabulous Elemis products, they nevertheless come in uninspiring blue or mint bags. In First Class, the washbag is a dedicated leather bag in bright blue colours for females. For males, it’s a discrete black bag.
The bags include the following items:
- Contoured earplugs
- Retractable hairbrush
- Premium eye mask
- Lip balm by Aromatherapy Associates
- Orange flower hand lotion by Aromatherapy Associates
- Triple Rose Renewing Moisturiser by Aromatherapy Associates
- Rose cleanser by Aromatherapy Associates
- Aromatherapy Associates deodorant stick (don’t mistakenly use it as a lip balm as I did!).
- Aromatherapy Associates cotton pads
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
The aromatherapy items smell and feel divine by the way!
- Contoured earplugs
- Premium eye mask
- Hair comb
- Refinery lip balm
- Refinery Shaving Gel
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Refinery deodorant stick
Most long-haul Club cabins adopt a 2-4-1 configuration. In British Airways, this means you either step over a random passenger to reach the aisle or a stranger steps over you. This is my biggest gripe with British Airways Club Class, as it can be a tricky manoeuvre.
No such issue in First Class, as the cabin on our 787 was 1-2-1. Everyone has direct access to the aisle and with two washrooms for 12 guests, there’s unlikely to be a queue for the bathroom.
The layout gets a huge thumbs up from me, although a privacy screen would be a nice extra touch.
British Airways First Class seats
Before I flew First Class, I wrongly assumed a flat bed was a flat bed. I could not be more mistaken.
The first-class seat is longer (6ft 6in v 6ft) than the Club class bed. It’s also much comfier, with less awkward angles to cause discomfort. After eating my dinner, Damien kindly converted my seat into a flatbed complete with sheet, duvet and pillow. It may sound like a minor point, but that duvet and pillow made a massive difference, as I slept a solid 6 -7 hours en route to Bangkok.
Before flying First, I could not understand the point of the pyjamas and why anyone would use them. Again, I was totally wrong. The benefit is simple – they are comfier to sleep in than jeans or shorts.
Other features that help you to sleep are the impressive window blinds, mood lighting and better quality earplugs. Plus, the seatbelt was sufficiently large that it could slip over the duvet without any need to disturb passengers during turbulence.
The other feature I loved about these seats was the footstool seating area. The footstool doubles as a window seat from where you can admire the views. Alternatively, you can dine with your partner, with one person seated on the footstool and the other taking the seat. Neat hey?
On the downside, the seats are angled towards the window rather than being flush to the window. This means that when you are in the seated position for take-off and landing, you cannot easily see out of the windows.
This seat had me completely convinced that it is worth spending extra AVIOS to fly British Airways First Class.
First class service
There is no question that the service in First trumps Club any day. That’s not to say the service in Club isn’t great, as I’ve usually found it is. It’s just that First goes that extra mile.
Your crew personally introduce themselves, they make time to chat, constantly fill your champagne glasses and even encourage you to indulge in wine tasting. I almost wanted to adopt Damien, our steward by the time we arrived. He was so lovely.
We had a very similar experience on our return journey, with the added bonus of Hotel Chocolat treats from our steward.
The TV screen in first is considerably larger than Club Class at 15″ versus 10.4″. As in Club. It offers a selection of movies, TV programmes, music, games and a journey planner.
Sadly, it needs to be stored during take off and landing and honestly, I did not find the selection of films that spectacular. This may however be because we have been visiting the cinema weekly to use our free Vitality cinema tickets.
The food in both directions was absolutely excellent. Cabin crew set your table before each meal with silver cutlery, glassware, a table cloth and napkin and small salt and pepper pots. They serve each course individually and if you want a break between each, you need to simply ask. Here is our menu on the outbound leg.
How about this for a bit of indulgence on the way out?
On our return journey, I enjoyed the following menu:
- Antipasti plate featuring prosciutto ham, beef bresaola, roasted red pepper and pickle
- Trio of Asian dim sum, vegetable spring roll, yam baozi and mei cai
- Chargrilled fillet of beef with red wine sauce, snow peas, carrots and sweet potato au gratin
- Cheese plate
For the second meal, I selected:
- Smoked salmon tartare with classic accompaniments
- Pan-seared loin of lamb with a grain mustard sauce, broccoli and roasted herbed potatoes
What can I say? The food was delicious. It’s hard to say that it is definitely better than in Club Class but it was certainly beautifully presented.
For each course, there is a selection of four to five meals with two dessert options. I was incredibly impressed with the food overall and the unhurried way that it was served.
As with boarding, First Class passengers get priority disembarkation. The only problem is that I did not want to get off either of our flights.
We flew to Beijing and stayed at the Renaissance Wanfuging. It’s a very comfortable hotel with an impressive lobby and super kingsize beds. It is near to the shopping area of Wanfujing and key attractions such as the Forbidden City and Tiannamen Square.
We relied heavily on our Lonely Planet guidebook due to language difficulties and a lack of readily available tourist information in our hotel.
Lonely Planet Online Shop
Our rating: ★★★★
The verdict on British Airways First Class
It is an absolute no brainer. It is definitely worth blowing more AVIOS for First Class flights. After flying First, I fear that even Club will not cut the mould in the future. What do you think?
Of course, if you are wondering how the hell you are going to earn enough AVIOS to fly First, you need to check out the 14 week plan to travel hack like an expert. You will need to consider getting a British Airways Credit card too but before you jump in be sure to read the best UK airline credit card and why you should avoid the best UK airline credit card
My experience is that it is only worth the extra outbound from the UK, not inbound, unless you have a 241 voucher available
I also found AA first suits me too.
Sadly I’ve yet to have that joy but I’ve a bunch of AA points to use so it’s just a matter of time. Thanks for commenting
I found BA trans-Atlantic first to be inferior to QR’s as well as CX’s trans-Pacific in not only the lounge experiences but also the on board service and catering. The unjustifiable “fuel surcharges” on awards tickets dropped its desirability further.
I hear other airlines have a great first class experience and am aiming to try as many as possible. However I don’t think BA can be blamed for the surcharges as that is UK legislation.
The check in at Heathrow, Concorde room and security really do make a difference… last year, my wife and I flew F from LHR to YYZ and back.
This year, we came back CW, as the whole check in, lounge and boarding and YYZ just is not worth either the cash or points to justify it, in my humble opinion.
Similiar experience for us but perhaps not as bad. The Concorde room at Heathrow is fabulous but on our return journey from Beijing we were put in the BJS Lounge (post coming soon so if interested in hearing about it, please sign up for the newsletter in the bar at the top of the page) and it was rubbish. I felt a little cheated after the CR.
That said, I still had an incredible experience during my flight so did not feel too hard done by. I am heading to Vancouver in First in february though and praying that the first class lounge there is of a good standard.
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated and always great to hear about other people’s experiences.
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The lounge at Toronto is the Premium Plaza (if I recall correctly) and, whilst there was the ‘dine before you fly’ option in the First Lounge, there wasn’t much of a premium feel – particularly as you could wander into the Business Lounge next door and get more or less the same on a self serve basis.
Don’t get me wrong, the on-board experience in First is amazing (I’ve been lucky enough to fly back from Jo’burg, to and from JFK and to and from YYZ now) and I would thoroughly recommend everyone to aim to experience it at least once in their life – and definitely from LHR. But I would recommend reading as many reviews as you can about the homeward leg lounge before booking a return in first class.
You didn’t mention the Elemis Spa at T5… did you get a treatment in there?
Welcome onboard! Now that is a good point, I didn’t mention the spa because I couldn’t actually get an appointment. That’s not strictly true however. Originally we were scheduled to fly on the Tuesday and I pre-booked a spa treatment a month in advance as per the First Class benefits. That is a real benefit as I have only once managed to get a CW spa treatment at Heathrow.
However sadly my gran passed away shortly before we left meaning we needed to change our flights so that we were not out of the country for th funeral. Obviously the great thing about a redemption flight is that flights can be changed up to 24 hours before departure so we changed our flights only two weeks beforehand. The downside was that I did not get organised until a few days prior to departure by which time there were no spa availability.
The experience I had previously was excellent however. To be honest, I wasn’t too disappointed on this occasion that I did not get a treatment as I really wanted to focus on the dining but when we go to Vancouver I will certainly be looking to indulge in both. It is so nice to get a head massage or equivalent before a long flight.
I have booked First both ways for Vancouver but hear what you say about the lounges as I have just booked flights to Kiev and only bothered with Club one way as did not think it worthwhile paying the extra AVIOS in London for an early flight but want to see what the lounge is like in Ukraine. Not holding my breath!
Where are you heading next?
Sorry to hear about your gran – we had a similar issue last year (though not as serious)… I was taking my mum to Canada to see friends and their family that we originally emigrated to be with 50 years before; she hadn’t really seen them since we came back in 1969 and I wanted to treat her to the First experience. Complications with illnesses and blood pressure led to an operation she needed being put back and back, to the point where she couldn’t fly, which is why we went again this year. I was bale to cancel her ticket free of charge, which was a major relief!
I’m looking at some tier point holidays to retain silver, so likely a week in November somewhere warmish and probably a quick weekend in January. Probably Lanzarote and Malta, or something like that – and have just applied (literally) for the BA Premium Plus AmEx to maximise the potential!
OMG wow so are your family now based in the UK (but originally from Canada?). Hope you used a referral for the Premium AMEX: those extra points all add up.
Hope your mum is ok now. I lost my mum 11 years ago and it was devastating but I have my memories and my mum’s dream was to go to Niagara Falls. I always knew that as soon as I made it (otherwise known as got out of student debt and started earning decent money) I was going to take her which I did in 2002, 5 years before she passed. I am so glad I had that opportunity as I look at that picture of my mum in Niagara every day I wake and it makes me smile.
Thanks for your condolences. My gran was 94 so she has lived a good life but it is always sad losing a family member! Especially as she was my mum’s mum which is yet another link to the past disappearing. Wow that sounds maudlin!
I also fancy Malta so if you go let me know what you think.
Well, my parents and I originate from the UK, but we emigrated to Canada when I was one. My brother was born out there, though, and we are now all back in good ol’ Blighty!
My mum’s falling apart, to be blunt, and if she was a horse…
Last year, my wife and I did go to Niagara, as she hadn’t been before – my mum, however, wasn’t too bothered this year (“I don’t suppose it’s changed much in 50 years”), so we gave it a miss as it was quite a long drive to get there. The photo of your mum at Niagara sounds a great memento, though!
If we do Malta, I’ll let you know!
OOh I really did chuckle at this comment but I sure hope your mum does not read it!! I think we all start falling apart as we age – I was just having this discussion with some clients I saw earlier today actually.
I’m actually planning to do the reverse to you and once I near retirement/semi-retirement plan to spend a lot more time in Canada. That combination of being able to sail in the summer (kayak etc) and ski in the winter is massively attractive to me. What made you come back?
We bought return tickets 😉
Oh. You mean back in ’69? My mum missed her mum, basically. She came out for my brother’s first birthday, but that just made it harder for my mum. Also, my dad was holding down three jobs at the time and we apparently were only just making ends meet, so raising two toddlers almost single handed was a struggle for her.
To be honest, I love it out there – it has all the same things as ‘Murica, but without the attitude or the Americans.
🤣🤣 do you have dual nationality? That truly would be the best of both worlds although I have no idea if it is possible. I can’t wait to go back although it will be my first time in Vancouver.
My brother does, in fact he went out on a Canadian passport, then used the shortest queue on his return with his GB passport!
I have Landed Immigrant Status, though – but it’s not quite as sturdy as it was
Omg how cool is that?
Apparently, very. He likes to tell me this VERY frequently. 😂
Well, I had the opposite experience with BA First. Had a meal in the booths, not one person came by to refil my glass with champagne. Boarding was nightmare I had to walk behind economy passengers to board. The so called window blinds did not work and had to be hand crank down manually. Disappointed with First Class amenity men’s kit. A 15 inch TV screen far too small for first class compared with Qatar Airways. My cabin crew attendant(Asian female) not worldly about British fare of food or drink. She didn’t even know the difference between a lager or a beer. I paid $750.00 in surcharges for the BA First Class booking using AA miles one way.
I was very disappointed with overall service from start to finish with BA First.
That’s a shame. I guess it all depends on the staff on the day as I have flown BA and had great service some days and not so good other days. Likewise with other airlines. A client was telling me only last week about how they had a similiar disappointing experience with Emirates and yet I have always found them brilliant.
I hear what you say abour surcharges but assuming the flight originated in the Uk, BA cannot be held responsible for those as most of it is levied by the UK authorities sadly. it drives me nuts too as I would love to be able to redeem for those flights in the US where it only costs $5.60 in tax!!
Thanks for taking the time to comment. Much appreciated and always great to hear about other people’s experiences (even if it is not a positive one!)
The big problem with BA is the horrible surcharges. The only way around them that I know is to actually begin your trip in a place where the surcharges are illegal, like Hong Kong. Can you think of another way to avoid them completely?
Hi Christian it’s not so much a BA issue as a UK issue as all flights originating from the UK suffer the taxes.
Your thinking is correct though. You can use avios to redeem with other airlines in the one world group or do as you suggest. If I use my avios in the state for instance to redeem on American Airlines, I pay virtually no taxes. The big downside is that I cannot use my companion voucher to fly two for one but is maybe be less bothered considering the difference in taxes.
Can the voucher trip originate in Brazil or Hong Kong?
I’m pretty sure it had to originate in uk or USA depending on where you earned it but not 100% sure. I can’t pull up ba in Brazil as I’m in uk
Very good report! I really enjoyed all of the photos along with the detailed descriptions.
Excellent job! Keep it up.
I normally fly Business Class too on BA. I once flew First Class LHR-JFK.
The experience was similar to yours, but having flown First Class on SQ and CX, I was not as wowed with BA F.
That’s good to know. I’m on a mission to try some other airlines but it’s so much easier to earn Airmiles for BA in the UK. I’d love to do emirates and Singapore airlines in business.
Thanks for commenting and enjoy your weekend.