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