Review: British Airways First Class 747 London To Nairobi

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, British Airways

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British Airways 65
London (LHR) – Nairobi (NBO)
Thursday, November 8
Depart: 10:10AM
Arrive: 9:50PM
Duration: 8hr40min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 1A (First Class)

I boarded through the second door on the left, where I was greeted by the cabin service manager, who handed me over to one of the first class flight attendants.

This flight was operated by one of British Airways’ high density 747s (with fewer business class seats). While some 747s have two big business class cabins on the lower deck (in addition to the one on the upper deck), this one has premium economy immediately behind first class, and then there’s one business class cabin behind that.

Yeah, it’s a bit odd to go from first class to premium economy to business class, though arguably it’s less odd than Air China’s 747, which has business class, then first class, and then economy. 😉

British Airways premium economy 747

British Airways’ 747 first class cabin is dense, as it has 14 seats. Some other airlines put just eight first class seats in that same space.

British Airways 747 first class cabin

This consists of five rows of single seats along the windows, and then two pairs of seats in the center in the last two rows. Personally I’d avoid those center seats even if traveling with someone, because they really are tight, and you feel like you’re on display for the entire cabin (especially in row four).


British Airways first class cabin 747

I had assigned myself seat 1A. As an aviation geek it’s special to fly in the nose of the 747, though it’s most special to fly in the very front of the nose.

British Airways essentially has reverse herringbone seats in business class. Years ago I called British Airways first class the world’s best business class, and I think that’s not too far off. These seats are more spacious than any business class reverse herringbone seat out there, but not by that much.

British Airways first class seat 747

The seat has an entertainment screen that folds out.


British Airways first class seat 747

There’s also an ottoman, though it’s mostly only useful when you’re trying to sleep, since it’s otherwise too far away for most people to place their feet on.


British Airways first class seat ottoman

The entertainment and seat controls were to the left of the seat. The entertainment controls were ancient. Meanwhile I quite like British Airways’ first class seat controls. There’s a knob you can twist to recline the seat or put it upright, in addition to the standard presets.


British Airways first class seat & entertainment controls

I also find British Airways’ blinds in first class to be chic, especially with the blue lighting. The one downside is that it makes it hard to take pictures out the window, since you can’t get your camera as close.


British Airways first class window blinds

Then to the left of the seat is a console where the tray table can also be folded out from.


British Airways first class seat console

The tray table is really big, and especially long.


British Airways first class seat tray table

Then to the right of the seat is a really narrow closet, really only wide enough to hang a couple of jackets, or something.


British Airways first class closet

Unfortunately British Airways doesn’t have individual air nozzles in first class on their 747s.

Seat 1A has quite a bit of privacy thanks to being in the nose. You’re not that far from the person in 1K, so if traveling with someone I love to secure 1A & 1K, since they’re the best pair in first class, in my opinion.

Nose of the 747

Waiting at my seat was a really thin pillow as well as a light blanket, which isn’t nearly as good as what they have in business class. However, in first class there is more bedding when you request turndown service.


British Airways first class pillow & blanket

A moment after settling in one of the flight attendants came by to offer me an amenity kit and a pre-departure drink.

Much like my Nairobi to London flight, this flight was operated by a mixed fleet crew (these are British Airways’ poorly paid new hire crews, and I find they’re generally enthusiastic but not that polished). While they seemed well intentioned, they didn’t seem like they had received all that much training in first class service.

I ordered a glass of champagne to drink. British Airways serves Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, which I quite like, and which I consider to be one of the aspects of their first class experience that’s actually first class.

British Airways first class champagne & amenity kit

Their first class amenity kits are also nice, with a large selection of items.

British Airways first class amenity kit

I’m also a fan of British Airways’ pajamas, especially with how they display the British Airways logo on the front.


British Airways first class pajamas & slippers

Unfortunately the headphones British Airways offers in first class are the same garbage ones they have in business class. They’re low quality and hurt my ears, and the sound only worked in one ear (I feel like that happens every other flight).


British Airways first class headphones

A few minutes later I was presented with a menu for the flight.


British Airways first class menu

Over the next 15 minutes six other first class passengers boarded, meaning the cabin would be half full.

Seated immediately behind me in 2A & 2K was an older British couple. When I boarded I placed my bag in the overhead bin above seat 2A, because there’s no bin above 1A.

The passenger in 2A found that deeply disturbing, and insisted I should put my bag elsewhere, because that was “his” bin. So I placed it one row behind, where the bin was empty. Sheesh.

British Airways first class 1A

By 10AM boarding was complete, and at that point the first officer made a welcome aboard announcement. I know this is totally avgeeky and random, but I found it a bit odd that the first officer made the announcement, because in my experience on British Airways the captain always makes the pre-flight announcement, and then the first officer does an announcement once airborne if it’s “their” flight.

She informed us that the flight time was 8hr1min, and that we were a bit delayed on departure as we were still waiting on some passengers.

At 10:15AM the customer service manager, Ian, came around to say hi to everyone in first class.

Then at 10:20AM the door closed, and a minute after that we pushed, at which point the safety video was screened. We started taxiing by 10:30AM.

We had a quick taxi and short wait for takeoff, and by 10:45AM were airborne on runway 27R.

Taking off from Heathrow

View after takeoff from Heathrow

Unfortunately this flight had British Airways’ low definition entertainment system. That’s the same one I had on my flight from Nairobi to London the week prior, while from London to New York I had the updated system.


British Airways entertainment system

Seriously, how low quality is that?

Map enroute to Nairobi


Map enroute to Nairobi

British Airways entertainment selection


British Airways entertainment selection

After browsing the entertainment selection I decided to watch “First Dates,” which was a super awkward British reality show of sorts.


British Airways entertainment selection

After that I watched “Corporate,” which was a funny sitcom.


British Airways entertainment selection

The seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff. A few minutes later the crew passed through the cabin with landing cards for Kenya.

Then 20 minutes after takeoff meal orders were taken. Unfortunately they had run out of my first choice for the main course, which is the second British Airways first class flight in a row where that’s the case. That’s disappointing.

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

About 25 minutes after takeoff warm towels were distributed.

British Airways first class warm towel

Just a minute later the first round of drinks were served. I had more champagne, which was served with candied nuts.

British Airways first class lunch — mixed nuts and champagne

After that I found the service to be really slow. It was nearly an hour until my table was set, which is a long time to wait to start a meal service. At that point I was served an antipasti plate with ham, salami, cheese, olives, and sun-dried tomato. I don’t eat pork products, so I picked around the meat.


British Airways first class lunch — amuse bouche

About five minutes later I was served the starter, for which I chose the Kinglas smoked salmon and pickled Devonshire crab with avocado puree. This was quite good.


British Airways first class lunch — starter

I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and chose the focaccia.


British Airways first class lunch — bread selection

Next up was the Autumn spiced butternut squash soup with chestnuts and pumpkin seeds. This was tasty and spicy.


British Airways first class lunch — soup


British Airways first class lunch — main course

For the main course I had the seared fillet of British beef and salt beef croquette with dauphinoise potato, cep aioli, and caper beurre noisette, which was pretty good for what it was (though I’m not usually a beef guy).


British Airways first class lunch — main course

Then I had a cappuccino.


British Airways first class lunch — cappuccino

Lastly for dessert I had the warm chocolate and nut tart.


British Airways first class lunch — dessert

Overall the meal was quite good, and by the time it was done we were 2hr30min into the flight, meaning we had about 5hr30min remaining to Nairobi.


Map enroute to Nairobi


Map enroute to Nairobi

At this point I asked to have my bed made, since I wanted to get some sleep. I find the British Airways first class bed to be comfortable. It’s not the world’s biggest or most plush bed, but it does the trick. My one constructive criticism of the bedding is that I find the duvet to be way too narrow — it’s not wide enough so I can actually wrap myself in it.

British Airways first class bed


British Airways first class bed

I managed to nap for just over three hours, and woke up with just over two hours remaining to Nairobi.

Map enroute to Nairobi


Map enroute to Nairobi

At this point I checked out the lavatories — there are two lavatories behind first class, and they’re an alright size, but not all that fresh-looking otherwise.

British Airways 747 first class bathroom

About 75 minutes before landing the cabin lights were turned on, and the pre-landing service began. On a majority of longhaul flights, British Airways just serves afternoon tea before landing.

I’m sure they’d claim this is because they’re a British airline, though I suspect this has more to do with cost savings than anything else. I hate to say it, but I actually sort of love their afternoon tea, so I’m totally fine with that.

The afternoon tea menu read as follows:

Afternoon tea consisted of some finger sandwiches (smoked salmon, angus beef, and cheese), as well as some sweets.

British Airways first class afternoon tea

Then there were scones with jam and clotted cream.


British Airways first class afternoon tea

At around 9PM Nairobi time the first officer was back on the PA, informing us that we were about 250 miles from Nairobi, and that we’d be descending in about 10 minutes. Sure enough we started our descent about 10 minutes later, and then about 10 minutes after that the seatbelt sign was turned on.

We landed in Nairobi at 9:40PM, and from there had a 10 minute taxi to our arrival stand.

What’s interesting about Nairobi Airport is that we actually arrived at a gate, but we didn’t use the jet bridge. I believe this is because they only use the jet bridge on departure, since they don’t have a way to let people exit there without entering the main terminal, rather than the immigration facility.

So while that’s an annoying design, I sorta didn’t mind getting to walk right next to the queen of the skies…

British Airways 747 upon arrival in Nairobi


British Airways 747 upon arrival in Nairobi


British Airways 747 upon arrival in Nairobi


British Airways 747 upon arrival in Nairobi

Now, there was one major issue. They deplaned every through the second door. Obviously premium economy was ahead of us, and they didn’t hold back people from business class either, so I imagine somewhere around 150 passengers deplaned before me.

This meant that I had to wait over 45 minutes at immigration. Usually an advantage of first class is priority disembarking, but obviously that’s not the case here. In fairness, without access to a second door, I’m not sure what else they could have done.

British Airways first class bottom line

I paid 22,500 Avios to upgrade this segment from business class to first class, and I’d say that’s just about what British Airways first class is worth to me.

British Airways has come a long way improving their business class product, with better bedding, amenities, and food.

Meanwhile nothing has really changed with first class.

I love sitting in the nose of the 747, the first class seats are a bit more spacious than the business class seats, and the food and champagne are a step up.

I’d say service was just alright, and I didn’t notice a difference between service in business class on the upper deck of the 747, and in first class. I think that largely comes down to mixed fleet flight attendants largely just not being trained in first class service, or perhaps it’s a lack of experience, since most of them have only been flying for a few years at most.

So yeah, I’d fly British Airways first class again, and given the reasonable upgrade costs from business to first class, it’s a good deal. But that’s about it, as this isn’t really a competitive first class product otherwise.

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Comments
  1. BA use the old entertainment system planes for routes to Africa to set the scene. You could easily say they localize the inflight experience before landing which as far as I can tell you love on other airlines 😉

    Thanks for another well-balanced BA review I can’t help but feel that somehow you’ve become a real fanboy lately.

  2. “The World’s best Business Class” says it all…on par with most good business class seats.

  3. I flew to JFK in August on a mid-J jumbo, they are so old and dirty, though some are being refurbished now with better IFE. I had the same issue on arrival too, in that the crew made no effort to deplane First ahead of PE (only door 2 was used for disembarkation), so by the time I arrived at immigration there was a queue already ahead of me. Not very ‘first.’

    The guy in seat 2A sounds like a d-bag, but in row 1 on a 747 I think the crew recommend you use the closet.

  4. They use the same old entertainment system to go to Las Vegas most of the time… are they setting the scene there too? 😉

  5. Lucky,
    Thanks as always for the great review! One question though, how come you don’t eat pork or pig products? I know it’s a personal choice, but I’m curious why and you seem to mention it a lot so I figure it’s fair game to ask about. Thanks and keep up the great work!

  6. Lucky, for future flights, you can always choose your meal in advance on BA in First through their website. It’s annoying they don’t cater enough meals in F but I always reserve mine now to avoid the problem.

    They seriously need to speed up the refurbs on those mid-J 747s, those and the older 772s are now the planes to avoid in their fleet.

  7. @eponymous coward

    A friend of mine who works for BA said they use their oldest jumbos on the Las Vegas flights as the flights tend to get pretty rowdy.

  8. My dad is currently working with BA to advise them on how they can improve the customer experience, so, Ben, and anyone else reading this, what is the ONE thing that you would ask him to pass on to the chief executive of BA regarding improving the customer experience for passengers travelling in premium cabins?

  9. Row 1 is reserved for BAEC Gold and oneWorld Emerald…so how in god’s name had they run out of your first choice food order…did they take your order last?

  10. I flew this route in first in both October and then again a couple weeks ago. Interestingly, the plane was a 777 both ways to and from NBO in December. Not sure if it’s a seasonal or permanent equipment change. The layout is a bit different on the 777 (three pairs of seats run down the whole middle), but seats otherwise seemed the same.

  11. Row 1 uses the closet in the nose. That might be why the folks behind didn’t want you using “their” overhead bins.

  12. ba should rebrand their first class as business, business as premium economy, premium economy as main cabin extra. this would make them much more competitive in hard products without a major refresh.

  13. @C – stay tuned for another exciting Marriott/Sheraton review!

    *spoiler* it will be like all the other Marriott/Sheratons!

  14. “Their” overhead bins, lmao. Seriously, what is wrong with people? Were they planning on having “their” dinner in them?

  15. A few years ago I was in row 1 on VS and the flight attendant came to me as I was opening the bin over row 2 and said “lets put your bag in the closet. Some people get really upset about you using ‘their’ bin space.” She then tutted her annoyance in a very British way, making it clear that she thought it was stupid and that she didn’t need drama, all with one irritated noise. I thought it was funny, but it is a thing. I’ve run into it since as well.

    Also, while BA F isn’t awesome I do love it. Maybe because it’s what we flew when I took my wife to Italy for her 50th birthday and there are many fond memories of that trip. The version that Lucky flew on this trip was brand new at that time. I also love their PJs… the best airline PJs of all. i think I have four pairs at the moment!

  16. You have to start giving us other types of reviews than BA F and BA J. More premium eco please. If you have to keep evolving.

  17. I imagine with 5 main course choices they’d only load 2 at most 3 of each choice onto the plane with just 8 first class passengers? I can’t imagine many people would be going for the pie or the salad in F so inevitably people filer through to the other choices, and they ran out!

    They might as well only offer 3 – 4 choices of main course and load more of each onto the plane.

  18. @Alex

    I took a mixed AA and BA flights to Dallas from Dubai via Heathrow in Business. Jumped off a 747 from the first leg and boarded an AA 777 from London to Dallas which was at pair with some First Classes with other carriers. So one could notice the difference. BA was one of the first that had flat beds in J class but then it has not changed ever since (I have hear that it is now doing so gradually). For instance in my seat in both flights the seat in front which becomes a leg rest was loose. Not the end of the world but doesn’t look nice.

  19. Lucky, I’d be very interested to know how you eat so much during travel, considering the relative scarcity of proper bathroom and shower facilities. Usually, you have a bite at some lounge before boarding and then several large courses inflight too. How do you manage this?

  20. Ben. As always, loved the detailed review and it’s this that makes me enjoy OMAAT so much. Maybe think about an end of year review and a looking forward to 2019 for your readers to tell us what are your plans for 2019. Maybe the elusive Kuwait airways final first class review……..? Keep up the good work and thanks for keeping me entertained in 2018.

  21. I am constantly seeing negative reviews here for BA first class, and maybe it is deserved. Out of curiosity however how many airlines fly first to Nairobi? It may not be the best product out there but it seems like BA flies the most first class routes and seems to have the best first class award availability and the easiest to book. They consistently offer cheap first upgrades using points, I feel like they deserve some serious credit for that given other airlines don’t make the elite experience as easily and widely available.

    Just my two cents worth anyways. I am someone who has never flown first class or even business internationally but will get it finally try first thanks to BA being one of the few airlines that flies first to Seattle.

  22. And there’s the picture of your used towel, I always look forward to those disgusting pictures, thanks for sharing

  23. Saw on FlyerTalk last week that BA have been trying new first products on LHR-SJC route. Will be flying this route in first in July

  24. I’d love you to do a ranking of best first class incorporating price and availability. For example, while BA don’t have the best first seat I’ve always seen great paid prices for it at their planes (which have a first cabin) have at least a minimum of 8 seats, compared to Air France first class which is expensive and hard to come by and only have 4 seats on their 777s.

  25. Kevin, you are in for a great time. BA First was also my first overseas premium cabin flight. It isn’t as over the top luxurious as many options are today (no closing doors, in flight showers, or caviar), but it is still laughably amazing if you haven’t done anything like it. And you will have something more to aspire too in the future! Plus transit lounges in London are nice.

    Not to beat a dead horse, but yes the closets in the nose are for row 1 passengers. The guy in row 2 may sound like a jerk, but the overhead box is really about the only place each seat behind the first row has to stow anything larger than an iPad, so it is kind of important to have access to it. Also seconding that the ottoman does work for shorter passengers if you pull on the latch (it sort of scissors toward you and slightly down). My wife is 5’2″ and was able to use it fine when adjusted.

    I hope when they refresh these planes they keep premium economy right where it is. I flew it many years ago and it was nice, it had J flight attendants, and we used the J lavs, by virtue of its location, which is a nice upgrade over many Y+ products.

  26. @ Lucky (Ben), I’m a long time reader and love that you DON’T review PE…

    I like that the blog is differentiated from TPG and others. The best thing is that you have passion for flying and passion for airplanes !! The mile games and credit cards came after your passion for airplanes. Other bloggers started out this hobby from liking to travel in style etc but some of them can’t even tell the difference between A330 and 767 etc by looking the curvature or partial exterior shapes.

    Readers who are beginners in this hobby but have passions for airplanes and also need helps for flying F/J can learn a lot from this blog, but people who just want the advices for PE (or who has better PE/Y) because they want incremental better comfort but don’t put more effort (and *passion*) to go further up to F/J can go read TPG or else.

  27. You have a habit of taking pictures of the hot towel. Before using it is one thing, but often there is a closeup of it after you have used it.. somewhat eww and totally unnecessary….

  28. @Daniel from Finland: Generally, “Mixed Fleet” (MF) crews are much younger. Think early-to-mid-20s. “Worldwide” (WW) crews tend to run in their late-30s-to-late-50s. That’s the easiest way to tell by looking solely at the crew makeup. This FT post has a list of routes worked by MF: https://www.flyertalk.com/forum/british-airways-executive-club/1600711-mixed-fleet-vs-non-mixed-fleet-routes.html

    @Alex Conway: As Lucky notes, I would posit that MF crew need a bit more “polish” on service etiquette in F and J. While cheeky can be fun, I’ve noticed that MF crew tend to be too overly familiar for my tastes. There should be consistent addressing of passengers by Mr/Miss Lastname (whatever’s on the boarding pass). Joviality is fine if the pax is being engaging in that manner; jocularity should not be initiated by cabin crew. These are things that should be covered in training on the ground, along with service flow, food plating, etc.

  29. For the record, ALL my hot towel pics are taken before using them (since this is apparently a point of concern for some). 😉

  30. Kevin,

    Yes, for all the bashing of BA premium products, BA gets very good load factors on most of their flights in J and F. And award seats get snapped up quickly which is why BA gets away with high fees.

    HiAperture,

    It’s a convention that Row 1 pax get the nose closet but it not a rule. I was in Row 2 recently and the flight attendant told me to put my bag in the nose closet because it would not fit in the overhead. The passengers in Row 1 who arrived later just had to make do.

  31. I haven’t traveled in Club World in a while, but last time I remember the sandwiches for afternoon tea were relatively full size.
    This past week in F LHR-IAD, I thought the afternoon tea sandwiches were pathetic. Tiny pieces of salmon or beef, and I do mean tiny, on mini bagel type of things. Not even finger sandwiches. These shouldn’t have even ranked as Y sandwiches. Otherwise I thought the senior crew LHR-IAD was delightful and the service in the Concorde room good as well.

  32. LOL… who cares if the towel has been used. What do you think @Lucky is doing with it other than wiping his hands and maybe his face?

    Also, @Lucky, I agree about the afternoon tea. I have a weakness for the sandwiches and scones. I was very upset when they said they were going to substitute lunch and am glad when they stuck with Tea.

  33. I actually had ANA flight attendants escort me (and other first class passengers) through the business class cabin upon arrival at SFO since there was only one door for deplaning. I was first off the plane, though honestly felt a little awkward being escorted through. (I was to the curb for pickup, with a checked bag and immigration in only 18 minutes – a record I’ll probably never beat!)

  34. Lucky, I don’t understand why you didn’t use the facility to pre-book your choice of food.

    Also, sorry but I’m with the guy in row 2 here. It’s our mindset to expect what is assigned to where we are to be what we use.

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