A380 Extravaganza: British Airways First Class London Heathrow to Seattle

Filed Under: British Airways, Travel

British Airways 49
London (LHR) – Seattle (SEA)
Monday, January 21
Depart: 2:30PM
Arrive: 4:05PM
Duration: 9hr35min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 2A (First Class)

At the door I was greeted by the CSD (customer service director), Alistair, who addressed me by name and escorted me to my seat. As I walked into the first class cabin I was fully expecting to see paddles, beach balls, and life rafts, though there was none of that. No sign of a flood at all, oddly enough. I asked him what the problem was, and he indicated that one of the lavs had a slight mishap, though that was it. Seems like the gate agent blew the situation out of proportion.

Forward Club World cabin

As I said last time I flew British Airways’ new first class, aesthetically I really like the cabin. The colors give the cabin a really modern feel, and the blue mood lighting makes the ambiance even better.

Unfortunately they cram 14 seats in the nose of the 747, making for a very tight fit, compared to most other airlines which only put 8-10 first class seats in the nose.

I selected seat 2A for this flight. Row two is probably the most private on the plane given that there are no center seats in the row and the two window seats are fairly far apart.

Seat 2A

Seat 2A

Seat 2A

Seat 2A

Seat 2A windows

Seat 2A storage compartment

Seat 2A lighting and seat controls

View from seat 2A

Once settled in the three flight attendants working first class introduced themselves. There was Jamie, the purser (at British Airways the purser isn’t actually the “purser” in the traditional sense of the word, but rather only in charge of the first class cabin), and flight attendants Sunil and Denise.

I was immediately offered a set of pajamas, an amenity kit, slippers, and hot towel. While I was brought medium pajamas I had them swapped for large, given that BA’s pajamas are on the small side to begin with, in my experience. I also wanted to be sure to take good care of this pair, as British Airways hands down has my favorite airline pajamas.

Amenity kit, slippers, and pajamas


To drink I ordered a glass of water, which seemed to disappoint the flight attendant.

Pre-departure water

As the departure time approached the first class cabin was half full, with rows one through three taken, and one passenger in row four.

The captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of nine hours, anticipating some turbulence after takeoff but an otherwise smooth flight. We were about 30 minutes late departing, though the captain still expected we’d arrive on-time due to a shorter than normal flight time.

The safety video played as we pushed back, and we taxied to runway 27L, with lots of cool traffic to look at.

Departing terminal five

Two Singapore 777s

Once at the runway we were number two for takeoff, behind an American 777.

American 777 ahead of us for takeoff

Our takeoff roll was fairly long, and we were airborne at around 3:30PM local time. The views on the climb out were stunning as the sun slowly began to set, enhanced by all the snow on the ground in London (which I was happy to be leaving behind!).

View on climb out

View on climb out

After takeoff I browsed the entertainment selection for a few minutes, which is pretty lackluster compared to the selection offered by Cathay Pacific, Emirates, Singapore, etc.

Entertainment selection

About 20 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began.

At this point the CSD walked through the cabin to welcome aboard each passenger and present them with a menu. As he handed me my menu he said something along the lines of “thank you so much for your constant business to British Airways, your retention is very good.”

I’m not sure what that actually means. I am a British Airways Gold member, though I didn’t have that frequent flyer number on my ticket, as I was crediting to American. I’m not sure if that was in regards to my OneWorld Emerald status or the fact that I was (technically) on a paid first class ticket. Or maybe it was a “thank you” in advance given the potential toilet issues the airplane apparently had on the inbound flight. Who knows… 😉

Sunil offered me drinks shortly thereafter, and I had a Diet Coke which was served with mixed, warm nuts. British Airways has one of the best nut mixes out there, in my opinion, as I love their honey roasted cashews.

That was quickly followed by the amuse bouche, which consisted of pear with stilton cheese.

Amuse bouche

At that point meal orders were taken.

The menu read as follows:

And the wine list read as follows:

For the starter I had the salmon, which was excellent.

Loch Fyne classic smoked salmon

Then for the main course I had the seared fillet of beef. This was about as good as the beef I’ve had on domestic flights, so quite a disappointment for an international first class entree. The beef was tough and chewy.

Seared fillet of British beef with red wine and tarragon sauce, pied de mouton mushrooms, creamed leeks and fondant potatoes

For dessert I had the ice cream sundae. Sunil asked how I wanted it, and I told him to surprise me, which he did. I had some breakfast tea along with my sundae.

Ice cream sundae

As the meal service finished up I was offered a bottle of water. As we were well over Iceland I figured it was time to get some sleep.


I requested turndown service, which was promptly taken care of.

Seat in bed mode

Seat in bed mode

I got over five hours of sleep and woke up with about an hour to go to Seattle, just as we passed Calgary.

Airshow after waking up

I was immediately offered afternoon tea, and decided to go all out. The menu read as follows:

The service was as delicious as it looks.

Afternoon tea

The views out the window while I enjoyed afternoon tea were nothing short of breathtaking. Clearly I need to travel a few hundred miles Northeast of Seattle.

Mountain views

30 minutes out the captain advised us of our anticipated arrival time and the crappy weather conditions in Seattle, and shortly after that the CSD made his announcements, which finished with “cabin crew, thanks so much for all your hard work.” That announcement has been present on both of my British Airways longhaul flights, and I’m not quite sure I get the purpose of the self-congratulating over the PA.

As we began our final descent I was wondering what bad weather the captain was talking about, since it looked beautiful outside.

Based on the fact that the lowest cloud layover was still below us I thought we were maybe 10,000 feet up when the gear dropped. Fine, I figured we may have been a bit lower, and that the captain was dropping the gear down to slow the plane down a bit.

View on approach

But sure enough three minutes later the engines power up and we’re doing a go around, and were probably just three thousand or so feet up when the above picture was taken. Crazy!

Going around!

Visibility was really limited, so I figured this could be fun. My first and only go around ever was on Sri Lankan Airways at 4AM in the morning over Colombo with virtually no visibility, and I have to admit that one left me a bit uneasy (if for no other reason than that we were maybe 150 feet up when doing that go around, and at no point did I see the airport, which makes me wonder how far off they were).

This time it was pure fun, since I was confident the guys up front knew what they were doing. A 747 powering up is quite a sensation, and the steep climb out was quite fun too.

We began a rather long pattern around the airport which lasted maybe 20 minutes, and about halfway through it the first officer announced that due to low visibility we went around as a safety precaution, since we never “broke” out of the clouds.

The visibility seemed to be a bit better on the second approach, and we had a smooth touchdown that time around.

Our taxi to our arrival gate was quick, and we bid farewell to the lovely crew before deplaning through door 2L.

Immigration queues were non-existent, though it’s a moot point since we both have Global Entry.

I will say it sure is nice being at home in your bed 30 minutes after landing off an international flight, something I never got to experience living in Tampa.

On the whole I had a great flight. I still think in terms of hard product British Airways’ first class is more like a good business class product than a first class product based on the seat width and lack of storage. And the food isn’t amazing by any stretch of the imagination either.

But I still think it’s better than most US airlines, if for no other reason than the stylish feel of the cabin and the fact that it’s something different.

Thanks for following along on this trip!

  1. While you are clearly more smitten with other F products, this line left me wondering “But I still think it’s better than most US airlines”…what US airline do you think offers an F product that is even remotely close to BA?

  2. Glad your trip ended on a pleasant note. I was expecting a final summary of SQ suites vs. EK suites, though…

    What type of mid-flight snack service does BA offer on a flight like this? Is there a separate snack menu, or can you just order bistro/classic options from the menu?

  3. If I understand correctly you believe BA F is a great business class product because you more or less see it as on par with Cathay’s new business.

    So there’s one business product out there that matches. And I suppose I agree *if you have the forward business cabin on the 777*, the mini-cabin with 2 rows of 4. Although I’d still (marginally) take BA F.

    I’m not sure that makes BA F a business class cabin, that CX has a business product that actually *is* ‘BusinessFirst’.

    BA F is undoubtedly better than UA/AA F.

    And BA’s BUSINESS is even better than many of the world’s business class products (just for the seat, which isn’t of course best in the world).

    The food, and dine on demand, is better than bsuiness class. The pajamas and amenity kits are too. As is the stylish cabin. And frankly the seat isn’t a business seat either.

    The lounges aren’t special. There isn’t caviar and there isn’t Dom/Krug. And it isn’t as exclusive as a 6 person F cabin like Cathay’s 777. No doors on the suites.

    But I just don’t buy that it’s a business class product, subjective though that may be.

  4. @ Tom: I think some may consider the new AA 77W F product to be superior to BA, the seat is much larger and they have upped in-flight service standards.

  5. You say your credited your AA account, but presuming this was an award ticket, did you actually get FF credit? I know it happens more often than anyone wants to admit, and I am just curious.

  6. “How far off they were”

    Likely, not at all. Go arounds have nothing to do with being “off”, and everything to do with the weather being below minimums for whatever approach they are flying.

  7. I’m kind of with Lucky on this. While it might be better than many BC products, from what he’s shown us, it’s *still* a very *underwhelming* FIRST CLASS product.

  8. @ Jason
    lucky just said that it was a paid ticket, and if you read the introduction post, he tells how much the ticket costed in miles or $

  9. Lucky, your comment about being home in 30 minutes made me wonder – do you park at the airport, take a cab or take a bus to Bellevue? As Redmond residents who use The Wallypark garage, we usually have to budget at least an hour to get home!

  10. You said you were technically on a paid ticket. Did you use credit card points to buy it? Did you find a good sale? I priced a first class saver award on BA using AA miles (SEA-LHR non-stop and round trip) and the taxes and fuel surcharges came to $1234. Too expensive for me unfortunately!

  11. @heather – Lucky took advantage of the AA ex-CMB Premium cabin fare that has been around forever. I believe he said he paid about $2100 for the whole ticket, CMB-DXB-LHR-SEA. (mentioned in the first post).


  12. The purpose of congratulating the cabin crew? Everyone likes to hear ThankYou. Keep the crew satisfied and feeling appreciated, and they’ll likely do a better job. Everyone wins, no?

  13. An unprofessional announcement in my opinion, especially for a “classic” airline like BA. The PA system isn’t the proper place for this; The team meeting after the flight is. If anything, thank the passengers once last time for keeping BA in the air.


  14. That really looks cramped compared to AA 777 TA FC, and the beef doesn’t look any better than I’ve had on AA TA FC either. But I don’t remember AA having Johnnie Walker BLUE available. 😀 {$175 a bottle at BevMo}

  15. Lucky, Im Headed to Central africa this summer from the US. In your opinion how does F class compare between British, Swiss, and Emirates?

  16. The cabin looks cramped and that seat is probably as tight as that Brussels air you wrote about a few days ago.

    As far as the 747 the minimum DH ( decision height) is 200 feet. And the fact that the aircraft was already light after burning so much fuel made it a quite powerful go around.

  17. @ Tom — Both American and United offer a more spacious first class product on their 777s than British Airways does on their 747s. Not saying I’d prefer either of them, but purely in terms of personal space I think American’s first class suite is better than British Airways’ (at least on the 747).

    @ wwk5d — I don’t think there is a specific snack menu (though I believe there’s a small bar set up in business class with snacks). I believe you can just order anything off the menu at any time.

    @ Gary — And that’s why I say it’s the world’s best business class product. Because the hard product is on par (maybe slightly better) than the world’s best business class product and the food is more or less business class quality. Yes, it’s better than US airlines, but that’s not saying a whole lot. Compared to the first class products of the world’s “premium” airlines (which I believe BA considers themselves to be), I’d say it ranks last.

  18. @ Jason Steele — It was a paid first class ticket. I was on an ex-CMB fare, as described in the introduction post.

    @ HB — In this case I was being picked up, though usually I use the Wallypark Premier garage. One of the best values when you stack the AAA discount, other discount codes, buying gift cards at Costco for 50% off, and their own loyalty program.

    @ Heather — This was a paid ticket on an ex-CMB fare. If you see the introduction post I outline the cost of the ticket.

    @ Carl — But I figure they could do that in private, no?

    @ Nick — I’d say Emirates has the best first class product, followed by Swiss, followed by British Airways.

  19. Re: Mountain Views. Ben, you should get on the “nice bus” and take a morning AS flight from SEA to FAI in seat 2A to get a great view of the seaward side of the Inland Passage, then, further north, the Chugach and Wrangell Mts and their glaciers. Come back in the afternoon (when light changes to the other side-same seat going south)for other great views of the glacier side of the Inland Passage. Best done in summer when the light lingers and, of course, the weather needs to cooperate. If it does, your face won’t leave the window.

  20. I agree 100% BA F just is not that great. I just went LHR ORD in F. Every time I fly BA up front I tell myself why am I on BA again? AA has a far better seat and honestly the service on AA has been better. This last BA flight the service was lackluster at best. We only had 6 in F on a 777.

    I took Cathay back ORD HKG in F you simply cannot compare. It makes BA look sad!

  21. You were home in 30 minutes? That fast? Does “home” happen to be under a bridge on one of the freeways leading from the airport?

  22. @ Wade — Immigration and customs took only about five minutes, and it’s a 25 minute drive home, so yes, that sounds about right.

  23. First Class is not about the hardware – BA’s beds are excellent – it is abut knowing when not to bother the customer and the mature nature of the staff. BA realise that flying is no big deal for many of its customers who merely want to get fed when they want and want to be left alone. Try CX new business – yes the bed’s are great but they serve breakfast with full lights on two hours before landing and now parents have worked out they have enough space in the new seats to bring babies business class. And as to taking the chance of CX first class with a bunch of loud mainlanders…

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