British Airways’ 747 Business Class: Surprisingly Great

Historically I’ve been a pretty tough critic of British Airways, in particular in business class. I’ve found their business class with eight seats across to be an awful hard product, and my experience with their food and amenities hasn’t been much better either.

Last night I flew from Nairobi to London on British Airways, and had a vastly different experience than in the past. There were probably a few factors at play:

  • This was my first time flying the British Airways 747 in business class, and I even snagged an upper deck seat
  • Not only did I snag an upper deck seat, but I snagged 62A, almost unarguably the best business class seat in the entire fleet
  • This was my first experience with British Airways’ new business class catering
  • This was my first experience with British Airways’ new bedding and amenity kit

When you add up those factors, this went from being one of the more underwhelming business class products out there, to actually being a very good business class experience.

To start I’ll share my texts to Ford when I boarded (not sure what’s going on with the texting style, I’m delirious after flying for a week straight, I guess):


Flying the upper deck is a pleasure

In general flying on the upper deck is such a treat. As the 747 becomes rarer by the day, it’s more of a treat than ever before. Not only am I fan of this because because I’m an aviation geek, but what’s so great about the upper deck is how private it is.

There are just 20 seats, and you have two dedicated flight attendants taking care of you. So it really feels more like a first class service than a business class service, at least by British Airways standards.

Lastly, the other benefit of upper deck seats is that the window seats have huge lockers by the windows, so you can store all your belongings. Lack of storage is otherwise one of my biggest complaints about British Airways’ business class.

What makes seats 62A & 62K so special

As mentioned above, 62A & 62K are hands down the best business class seats in British Airways’ entire fleet.

I’d say in general British Airways’ 747 upper deck seats are among the best in the fleet, given the intimate feel of the cabin and the storage lockers.

The benefit of 62A & 62K is that they’re at the exit row, so you don’t have to step over anyone to get out. For most other business class seats you need to step over someone.

British Airways’ new bedding & amenities are above average

British Airways’ old bedding and amenity kits were very subpar. Their new amenities are a massive improvement.

Each business class passenger gets a plush pillow, two blankets, and a mattress sheet. While not quite to the level of United Polaris in this regard, I’m still very impressed by the quality.

The new amenity kits from The White Company are fairly nice as well. I like the pouch, and the contents are decent as well.

British Airways’ new catering is surprisingly excellent

This was the most pleasant surprise of all. British Airways’ new catering blew me away. On this eight hour flight from Nairobi to London departing at midnight, dinner was served after takeoff.

Service began with drinks and mixed nuts.

Then there was a tray with an appetizer, soup, and salad, which was not only beautifully presented, but tasted very good. This included a seafood tartare and grilled prawn, a mushroom soup, and a seasonal salad. This has to be one of the best appetizer trays I’ve had on any airline in business class in a while.

For the main course I had the pan-seared breast of chicken.

Lastly for dessert I had a tasty coffee mousse cake.

Wow, British Airways!

Frankly I’m stunned by how much British Airways has improved their soft product. The food I’ve had in British Airways on the past was not good, and I’ve often found myself not getting my first choice of appetizer and main course.

The new setup is beautiful and the food is tasty.

The same is true of the amenities, which are a significant improvement over the old ones.

While I’ve never been a fan of British Airways’ hard product, the upper deck of the 747 is such a treat, and is 100% worth seeking out when planning longhaul business class flights on British Airways. And if you can snag 62A or 62K, then you’re especially in for a treat.

British Airways is supposed to introduce a new business class hard product in 2019, and if it’s half decent, they might actually have one of the best European business classes.

VERY well done on the new soft product, British Airways. Bravo!

Anyone else think the 747 upper deck makes a world of difference in British Airways business class? And what has your experience been with their new catering and amenities?

Comments

  1. 62A and K really are the best. I hardly ever fly BA now because their service standards have dropped terribly and their customer services are a joke. However when I have to fly with them to or from Johannesburg I always try for the 747 upper deck. It will be gone before long so enjoy while you can.

  2. I’ve flown BA Club World in 789, 788, 777 and 747. I agree with you that the 747 upper deck experience is by far the best.The worse for me would be the 788/789 because of the curvature of the plane whenever you get the window seat. Cramped would be the right word. But I noticed you got the non refurbished 747. It looks so old.

  3. Ben – still not sure you’ve proven that you’re you and haven’t been abducted by aliens. Please post a picture with today’s newspaper to prove BA hasn’t kidnapped you for a good review.

  4. 62A/K are great, but a little exposed. I prefer 60A – very private, easy to sleep, more room than the other seats, and direct access to the aisle behind 60B seatback.

  5. Fortunately, the only times I’ve flown Club World have been on the upper deck of the Queen. Has always been a treat for my inner avgeek.

  6. Upper deck on 747 is always the best. IMHO, J upstairs is better than F downstairs (KE or BA) – all the intimacy and privacy of the A318 LCY service with all of the stability and amenities of a big plane.

  7. Finally! I can’t wrap my head around how you were actually able to escape BA’s 747 upper deck business class for so long. I had the old soft product to ORD in 2016, but very much enjoyed 64K – it afforded privacy and offered direct aisle access as well.

    Hopefully you’ll get the updated IFE system on your next JFK leg. I loved their refurbished interiors, which is found on a lot of transatlantic routes and worth seeking out given BA’s other aircraft options.

  8. In the pictures British-Airways-747-Business-Class-3.jpg, British-Airways-747-Business-Class-5.jpg and Marriott-Frankfurt-Hotel-14.jpg (from the last review) I see some image artefacts in the form of horizontal stripes with wrong colours.
    I also tried to view the pictures on another device and found these errors as well. Could you figure out what the problem is (maybe problems with the upload or the jpg?)?

    Ulf Müller

  9. I have felt the same as of recent. Yes, the Upper Deck and 62K (my preferred) makes for a wonderful flight and is as good as BA First in my opinion and leaps and bounds more comfy than the god awful Virgin config, The service and food lately has been a massive improvement. I find the food to also be better than Virgin now. I feel like the FA’s are also more engaged and happier to serve (perhaps more pride in their product). I mentioned how I am noticing the improvements last week on a LHR-IAD flight and the Purser said “Wait until January, it’s going to be even better.” I did not pursue what is happening in January but I assume another upgrade to the catering in Club. BA deserves a bit more in the way of respect now. It’s not Emirates or Singapore but I would call it better or equally as good a product of any of the European carriers.

  10. BA is rolling out Do&Co catering in business class systemwide – and i believe they will upgrade both ahrd and soft product in first class too sometimes soon. I think we’ll be rewarded for the long wait.

  11. Big difference from Y, where most BA cabin crew these days appear to be scrubbers fresh off the local council estate.

  12. Glad you liked the upper deck. You’re incorrect to say tthat 62A and 62K are the only (I’m sure you meant “window”) seats that don’t require you to step over anyone – seats 64A and 64K (which is my preferred seat) both also have step free access, and more privacy than row 62.

  13. Was on the upper deck yesterday London to Chicago and had similar experience. I was dreading it as had only flown BA First in the 747 before but could not get First Class seats for the return journey using Avios and Chase companion pass 🙂 It was like flying on a all business class jet. Also quieter up there I think. Two bathrooms for 20 people is almost the same ratio as BA first on the 747.

  14. Agree wholeheartedly. I’ve always read your issues with BA and wondered if you and other fly a different airline. Turns out I do! All of my BA flight are (luckily) upper deck 747 – and then mostly day flights between NY and LON. 62A/K are best. 64A/K similar and even 63A/K (where you can squeeze by from the back for direct access).

    I’m torn about this post though – now the secret is out!

    Direct aisle access makes a huge difference. Actual aircraft also makes some difference – JFK tends to get the newest refurbs, JNB last month showed every bit of its age. Crew also makes a huge difference – and I’ve found crews upstairs tend to be generally “happier”. Combined with improved catering and comfier bedding – BA Club Upper Deck is certainly not “uncompetitive”.

  15. Sadly as you note, this is a vanishing bird in the flock. But enjoy while it lasts. BTW the upstairs on the A380 has the same storage lockers.

    I still hate how the BA configuration makes you stare lovingly in the face at your fellow stranger business traveller for take off/landing/and meal services and will take a reverse herringbone configuration anytime over their hard product. I keep my BA Golds status by deliberately flying AA and other OW partners instead.

  16. I just had that same seat yesterday on my flights to Phoenix (thanks to that amazing Iberia Avios deal). I have to agree with you, Ben. BA has done a good job on that flight. Though, at least the airplane that I was on showed, how aged BA’s fleet is. 4 out of 5 stars rating for the soft product, 2,5 out of 5 stars for the hard product.

  17. I’m an American expat who moved over to London a bit over year ago, and as a result have flown BA J a fair bit since — both before and after the new soft product was rolled out. I mostly agree with this post — BA gets a bad rap for its J product, but if you know what you’re doing it can be quite nice. In any case, it blows away the Virgin Atlantic J hard product, which is impressive in how it’s managed to make a 1-1-1 product so truly terrible. At least it’s possible to sleep — and recline your own damn seat — in the BA seats.

    One quibble though, and I think regulars on the BA FlyerTalk forum would be inclined to agree with me on this: 64K is, in my mind, inarguably the best seat on the 747 upper deck (and, by extension, in the entire fleet). Same aisle access, more privacy than either 62A or 62K. The exit row is a bit exposed.

  18. BA has hundreds of planes and thousands of seats. They have managed to make 2 seats tolerable enough to fly in, on one random route, in a plane they will soon retire. Thanks but no thanks. BA still sucks.

  19. Yes 62A/K suck less having a 747 with only two J seats worth sitting is not something they should be happy about.

  20. Every single time I’ve had to use BA, I’ve had a horrid experience. Doesn’t matter if it’s Coach or Business, it’s just terrible. Use another airline.

  21. A few people have now debated between the direct access upper deck seats as being “best”. Honestly YMMV for the individual choice between 62A/K and 64A/K.

    62A/K has the easiest access but some claim that’ss “less private” (although to be honest I don’t see it because the “entrance” may be exposed without a bulkhead wall, but it’s tucked away right by the emergency exit and there is no “through traffic”.

    64A/K is considered “more private”, which it is (it’s like the window seats on JAL – you’re in your own little world there). But in 64K the bulkhead by your feet is the wall of the rear upstairs lav and in 64A the door to the lab is diagonally across. No direct sight lines for either seat, but we all know that the labs are fine when they’re fine – but if there’s an issue it’s not your sense of sight you’re worried about!

  22. I have to agree with Ford on this one.

    “Wait is this Ben?!
    Tell me something only Ben would know!”

    You even admit it yourself @Lucky. “I’m delirious after flying for a week straight, I guess”

    Once a BA always a BA. They always suck.

    Sleep over it, and admit your guilt next week. We forgive you.

  23. Ben- you actually managed to make do a genuine double take. BA is not perfect but at the right price & seat selection it definitely has a few sweet spots.

  24. Glad your experience was “Great”. My experience was the “Worst” biz class ever!!! LHR-DEN. Was upper deck and days before they booted us out of the great seats we had picked 6 mos prior. Put us lower deck by bathrooms. FA was clueless on service even admitted to being pulled from economy. Product is terrible. Will spend more money to avoid them. Just like I do for United Airlines. BA sucks!

  25. Ben, over the years I have read so many complains about the 8 seat rows in Club World. Then I read about the “best” business class ever flown (Qatar QSuites) an when looking to a seat map I was very surprised. Did really none of the BA critics realize that the QSuites are 8 in a row, too (as are Etihad’s business suites? That Qatar gives the rows two numbers does not change that.

  26. I fly both BA and AA LHR-JFK several times a year. Outbound I prefer BA upper deck for the longer day time flight. Really like the White Company bedding and the DO & CO Catering. The LCY-JFK flight is also good. On the flight Way I’ve been taking the new AA 777W as the seats seem better for sleeping. I have no complaints. I know which planes are old; which planes are new. Keeping your expectations realistic helps.

  27. Wow Lucky, talk about something I never expected to read! I’m happy you had a better experience this time and are giving some credit to the soft product improvements.

    I have my share of problems with BA J, but I never did understand quite the level of venom directed towards them from some commenters here. IMO, with the new soft product improvements over the past year, and if you know what you are doing when you choose your seat, it can be quite a decent experience. 62A and K also have unrestricted legroom, and all BA seats have one small advantage in having no restrictive foot cubbies.

    Having said all that, I got stuck in a lower-deck middle seat (on an upgrade) a couple months ago on an un-refurbished 747 and the experience was dramatically worse, and left me wondering why the hell they can’t fix this after all these years. What’s so frustrating now is that BA, with the recent bedding and catering improvements seems ‘so near, yet so far’ in terms of having a really competitive product. As you say with a new/better hard product this could be a really great business class to fly.

  28. I like 62A/K until the surly BA crew member insists on dropping the partition between the seats every time he/she hands you a glass, plate, or otherwise wants to speak to you. Then it’s just as bad as every other J seat in their fleet.

  29. I usually find that BA J is not as bloody awful as I expect, but I expect economy plus so a low bar to pass and it usually at least makes that.

  30. I flew an upper deck 747 2 years ago and I liked all the storage space but the plane was the oldest plane I’ve seen in ages. The flight was supposed to be a Dreamliner but the 747 was swapped in last minute. Last week I flew a Lufthansa 747; I stayed downstairs in the nose because so many complain about flight attendants walking back and forth to the cockpit. That had a nice, new interior and was a pleasant flight.

  31. I wrote almost the exact messages to a friend after a recent trip with BA. I was so surprised I actually thought my 747 IAD-LHR experience was a fluke but I then enjoyed my inter Europe BA flight later that trip…… a bizarre turn of events for BA but I’m not complaining, it’s rare an airline improves these days!

  32. I enjoy flying on the 747. I don’t care much about the carrier because the joy of flying aboard the Queen is always an occasion!

    The images forced me to raise an eyebrow…

  33. Interesting article, thanks Lucky.

    By strange coincidence I booked London Heathrow to Nairobi a couple of weeks ago and managed to bag seat 62A on the upper deck of a 747. I flew to Chicago in it a few years ago – one of my better BA experiences.

    Looking forward to the flight now after your article m (in particular, as the flight leaves from T3 so I can skip the BA lounge and use either Cathay Pacific and/or Qantas instead!).

  34. Great review but the big story relates to the changes in award inventory on BA and AA for premium transatlantic and transcon travel. If you search, for example, for the next available date for JFK-LHR, it is three weeks out, on Thursday, 11/22. There is also availability on Friday, 11/23 but then nothing until mid-December via Boston.

    The same applies to AA’s JFK-LAX route. Zip.

    It’s pretty clear that both BA and AA have made a business decision to withhold award availability for travelers who have used Avios to fly on short notice.

    As late as three weeks ago, you could snag award bookings on short notice, usually midweek and on Saturdays.

    I can’t tell if travel bloggers are reluctant to cover this because their revenue is derived in large part from affinity cards and restrictions on award redemptions lessen their value. For example, a last-minute trip to London can cost upwards of $8,000 while an advance purchase can knock that down to $2,500 or so.

    I decided to opt out of the Amex Avios promotion until it’s clear how this is shaping up.

    But it strikes me as a really big deal.

  35. Agree – 62A is a terrific seat. Anything on the upper deck, but 62A and K are terrific (I prefer A because I think a jump seat is across from K).

  36. I’m rather shocked by this.

    I have never written a response to a post prior to this one.

    I am a BA Gold card holder; however, having flown the 747 to NYC in 62A and K, I have always been rather shocked at the utter lack of quality.

    Soft products only ever go so far; if doing the red eye, the hard product is far more important. BA is truly one of the worst hard product experiences, irrelevant of the aircraft type.

  37. Yep 747UD is fantastic – have flown it many times, I prefer 64K over 62 – was gutted when equipment change for 777 on two recent flights. Will be very sorry to see these planes retired.

  38. I am more of a 64 A/K fan. If you dont mind the lavatory right infront of you (really hard to hear to be honest) you not only get all the benefits of 62 A/K, but also total privacy. Especially 64K is like a suite due to the wall infront of you and you still have direct access to the aisle without stepping over somebodies feet. Even the flight attendance can hardly see you when they walk around. Flown the BA747 Upper deck multiple times a month and still wait for the day they put a placard with my name on 64K. It feels like “my seat”. 😉

  39. The benefits of 62A/K have been on any number of blogs/flight reviews, and I have experienced them myself.

    Welcome to enlightenment, Lucky.

  40. Without doubt Delta had the best 747 upper deck (1-1). I think it was the best business-class cabin in the world for a variety of reasons including pilot interaction with passengers.

  41. BA
    LHR MIA LHR
    taxes, not able to secure a seat preference…horrible experience………
    the WORST !!! !!! ! !! ! !! !! !!! !
    glad you had a nice trip
    smiles

  42. I’ve always thought BA J criticism was overblown. But I’ve ONLY flown it (multiple times) on a 747, always upper deck (a sucker for a 747, and with so many flights between NYC and London, it’s easy to make sure you get on one). I also think even their old catering is some of the best for a European airline (for vegetarians at least – I’m clearly biased). Perhaps third to TK and AF (haven’t flown Austrian, so can’t comment). I’ve found their crews great also (with one flight being a notable exception).

    Enjoy BA F as well in row 1 in the nose of the 747 🙂 (also like the food – I know it’s not spacious, but a fun experience, especially for a short TATL flight).

  43. OK, this my first time ever leaving a comment here.

    I have to say, the screen capture cracked me up out loud!!!

    😀

  44. Looks like their same old crappy step over seats, just on a different plane.
    You actually ate raw fish on a BA flight?

  45. With regards to 62 A/K vs 64 A/K…the seats in 62 are probably a little more unique in that they are I believe the only window seats that offer direct aisle access without being in the last row of that particular business class section. You find seats like 64 A/K throughout the fleet.

    However, looking at this seat plan from seatguru, it does look like seats 20 A/K have the same aisle access that seats 62 A/K do, though they don’t have the extra storage that seats 62 A/K do…

    https://seatguru.com/airlines/British_Airways/British_Airways_Boeing_747-400_B.php

  46. “I am more of a 64 A/K fan. If you dont mind the lavatory right infront of you (really hard to hear to be honest) you not only get all the benefits of 62 A/K, but also total privacy.”

    Are you watching porn and/or masturbating? Otherwise, I do find the whole privacy issue kind of hilarious. I mean, your flight won’t be ruined if you can see someone briefly in your peripheral vision or vice versa. Or if you should make a few seconds of eye contact with another passenger or an FA…

    Granted, for me, having direct aisle access matters more. I know it doesn’t for others.

  47. Agree on Upper Deck bring the best BA offering.

    What does surprise me about this review is that I have usually found the service by Mixed Fleet crew (the post-2010 joiners who are paid a pittance) to be amateur (but friendly)
    The FT wiki says that Nairobi is a Mixed Fleet destination.
    Maybe some of them are now maturing,

  48. Agree with the people extolling the virtues of 64K. Definitely go for the window seats in the bubble, flying backwards isn’t a problem and you just get so much more storage.

  49. Although i have never flown either i have to be honest, this looks better than your recent Lufthansa first trip minus the fancy champagne, caviar and other snooty FC pax

  50. Glad you enjoyed. I couldn’t disagree more strongly. I was on BA MIA-LHR two nights ago. Upper deck aisle seat. It was not competitive with AA or DL east coast to Europe. The seat was narrow. My biggest complaint is the total absence of space for items. There isn’t even a place for a water bottle. FAs were good but no better than DL. Food was average. “Priority “ baggage came out in the middle of the pack. All in all not competitive and not a good value.

  51. I had 62A on my LHR – BOS flight which was my first time flying BA J and loved it! Mr carry on holdall went right in one window locker with my bedding in the other so had absolutely no use for the overhead bins.

    I found the service was a bit slow, but they kept the champagne topped up (daytime flight) and having the direct aisle access was fantastic. Had the A380 on the way back and lack of direct aisle access and having to somewhat stoop to get out of the seat wasn’t ideal but as it was a night flight it wasn’t a huge deal.

    Not the best J product out there as I’ve also flown Qatar A380 and QSuites, but I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again if I can get a good price or Avios upgrades which is what I used for my flight.

  52. Ah, now you have spoiled this for those of us who have always known that the bubble is like being in First or, perhaps, like being on a private jet.

    The only seat I’d rather have than 62A is 1A (or K). But those are usually reserved for VIPs anyway.

  53. Chilango

    Agree, most airlines have 8-across in Business but they disguise it by “staggering” them. but it’s still 8-across.

    What matters much more is the square feet per passenger

    Love the BA 747 CW upper deck. It’s like being on a private jet.

  54. Yup, I did LHR-SFO-LHR last year. UD on the way out, perfect. LD on the way back, absolutely awful; the staff didn’t care, service was slow, ran out of options etc.

  55. @flylots

    Sadly, not always – I felt in F to JFK in August on a very old, very much unrefurbished 747. I guess I was just unlucky, unless BA considers dried snot on your seat to be lucky.

  56. Finally, Herr Erste Klasse flies a BA Club World he liked. As we all told you earlier, the difference between lower and upper decks is night and day. I prefer aisle as I hate traveling backwards and those seats have almost zero storage apart from a drawer that is under the Ottoman when you are comfortably reclined. Give me 1-2-1 reverse herringbone anyday.

  57. I couldn’t agree more, Ben! Always a joy to fly these seats, and the crews on the upper deck have mostly been superb. They seem to treat that cabin more personally than any other CW cabin I’ve flown. Going to be sad when these go out of service, but feel lucky to have flown it a few times.

  58. It’s all relative. Are they the best airline out there? No. Are they deserved of the flack they cop on here? Well that will be down to personal experience. But for me it’s more a case of they haven’t progressed what was originally a revolutionary product when launched in 1999. Now it’s way outdated. But we have to remember that BA had fully flat beds for YEARS while the US airlines were still flying around ‘recliners’ or ‘angle flat’ seats on long haul flights.

    But if the price is right i’m more than happy to pay it for BA. Would I consider paying GBP3000 for a return flight in Club to NYC? No.

    I just booked direct with BA return flights LHR-JFK in Club with three nights in a four star hotel for GBP1559 for me and hubby.

    An absolute bargain. So I won’t be moaning. And when similar deals come up i’ll be jumping at them.

  59. For me personally, it depends on value for a given product.

    Would I pay GBP3000 for a round trip London – NYC flight on BA? No.

    But just yesterday I booked round trip flights from LHR to JFK for the hubby and myself for GBP1559 each – INCLUDING three nights four star accommodation. For me, that’s a bargain.

    BA is no different to the US carriers a few years ago – they have products which were considered great ‘back in the day’ yet have failed to innovate. Let’s not forget BA was flying around fully flat beds on all longhaul routes while some of the US carriers were still flying around ‘recliners’.

    I’ll look forward to the new BA product but while BA still offer a good flat bed product (absolutely mediocre) at the right price point then I will continue to book with them.

    Would they be my first choice if I was travelling London – Hong Kong and both BA and Cathay were the same price? Of course not. But when BA is often thousands cheaper – yes thanks.

    I guess many other have the same idea – they are filling their planes to the brim and making billions of dollars in profit for some reason.

  60. Have always enjoyed the upper deck 61 or 62 (couple) Flying Qantas upper deck to Syd and hope it is as good.

  61. I’m glad you enjoyed it but BA has the worst hard product in the competitive market IMO. I agree upper deck is better but I avoid BA unless the route / layovers are significantly better.

    The only thing I like about BA is I get a one class op-up about 30% of the time. With that being said I equate BA F to many other carriers J

  62. True. My wife and I flew back from New York this week on the 747 and we were upgraded from 62A/B to first class. We turned it down. Took us a little while to get our seats back, but we did.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *