There are only a handful of airlines that have a true international First Class cabin, and a lot of them have said it isn't worth it anymore and have started to remove this ultra premium cabin. British Airways while not totally removing First Class have been rumoring the reduction of the number of available First Class seats. So when I found a great First Class deal for British Airways First Class I had to jump on it.
While you can book directly with British Airways, the ticket will cost you over £10,000 GRB (or around $12,000 USD). Likewise, if you book with Avios it will cost you 68,000 points. And partner award availability is sparse through American Airlines, however I ended up finding availability on the day that I needed for 85,000 AAdvantage miles which seemed more than reasonable for the almost 9 hour flight. It was a trip that I was splurging myself on so I went all out.
British Airways has a dedicated First Class check-in area called "The First Wing." It is a dedicated area in Terminal 5 for First Class, and certain Elite passengers. It feels very premium and there's a seating area if you don't want to check-in immediately with a small refreshment station serving water.
Just past the check-in area there is private security screening that, because they don't serve many passengers, has almost no line and is very quick. One touch that I found quite nice was a large seating couch just past security so that you can gather up all of your stuff and redress before heading right into the lounge.
I have a full review of the Concorde Room, however the long story short, it was amazing. You have to be careful not to visit the wrong lounge, as First Class passengers have access to a higher tier lounge that is just outside the main lounge. You have to exit the lounge, which is the Business Class lounge, and walk across the hall to the Concorde Room which is the proper lounge for First Class customers.
The staff was very attentive, there was a large selection of seating, there's a dedicated dining room, and even showers with a relaxation room if you need the break. Please check out the full review, it was quite the start to this First Class experience.
Boarding began about 45 minutes behind schedule, at first the crew was late to show up to the airplane, and then they delayed further due to catering being late. The boarding process was pretty chaotic, everyone tried to rush the boarding area after the delayed boarding but the gate agents prevented everyone expect for their boarding zone to get on the aircraft. This caused a lot of elbowing and pushing to try to make it to the front of the group to board with your zone.
Boarding the A380 is always a unique experience, there were three jet bridges attached to the aircraft. One dedicated for First Class passengers, another for lower deck passengers, and one for upper deck passengers. Boarding down the First Class jet bridge felt very posh as there are only 12 passengers max for First Class so you are apart of a very few to board down the first jet bridge.
Onboard the A380, the seating arrangement is in a 1-2-1 configuration for only four rows. There was a dedicated flight attendant in each aisle helping passengers board and offering a per-departure beverage (I went with the Champaign) and a pack of nuts to much on while the rest of the massive aircraft was boarded. And the flight attendants were very liberal early on in the flight for refilling your Champaign while still on the ground and boarding.
The seat was massive, there was just absolutely so much space available to you that I couldn't even reach out and touch the window from the seated position. There's a large storage area to your immediate right and a raised pedestal that has your seat controls on the side as well as a large surface to put things on. The foot well is huge and has enough space to spread out if you're a side sleeper or like to sleep on your back and side. The foot rest area can even collapse for better ergonomic rest of your feet while seated up.
In fully flat position the seat will accommodate even the largest of adults and I had no worries about feeling constrained in the seat (I am 6'2" and fit extremely well in the seat even laying flat). From the pedestal your dining table comes out and is very large, it's twice as deep as a normal table and if you are traveling with a partner you both can have dinner together at the same table. That's how large this suite is.
Service was nothing short of amazing, and absolutely expected if you paid cash for your ticket. I had a dedicated flight attendant and that was the only person that I dealt with for the entire flight, she was very knowledgeable and personable with her interactions.
After takeoff service began promptly with a hot towel and drinks, then was canapes which consisted of bresaola with melon, smoked salmon with cream cheese and cucumber, and lastly fire roasted red pepper roulade with goat's cheese. For starter I chose the Beef Tataki it was perfectly seared and delicious. For mains I decided to go with the recommended choice of lamb rack and braised lamb, both were perfectly cooked and the pomegranate jus was a nice flavor enhancer. And for dessert I had the homemade ice cream which was both perfectly creamy and the chosen toppings was a perfect pair. All of this paired with excellent wines, and a side of bread that the flight attendant was keen to always be replenishing.
After that massive dinner I was tired and I was offered some pajamas as well as turn down service for the bed. However, because this is a west bound flight I stayed up the entire flight to start adjusting my body clock and only slept once I got back to the states. The rest of the flight I watched some movies on my own provided entertainment. During the rest of the flight the crew was up and down the aisle periodically to replenish drinks and offer midnight snacks to anyone who needed anything.
The before landing snack was also delicious, it consisted of a mixed leaf salad and I chose the British beef burger, which for being in an airplane, wasn't overcooked or dried out. My only complaint about the burger was the ratio of bread to beef was skewed more towards bread so it made the proportions feel off.
Overall the service was worthy of being called First Class, all the staff that I interacted with was five stars and they worked hard to make you feel welcome and took care of you on the ground in the lounge and in the sky.
I should mention one hiccup in the trip was the nearly 2 hour delay that we took on the ground to get catering after our boarding delay. This caused a lot of people to miss their connections in Chicago, thankfully I was booked at the airport Hilton overnight or else I would have missed my connection as well. British Airways was proactive however and as we were deboarding had hotel assignments taped to a wall to pickup as we exited the jetbridge.
From the rumors about it sounds like the ground catering for British Airways at Heathrow has issues, and delays like this are common for the carrier. Today however it was particularly bad due to the catering kitchen needing to make up meals and send it all the way from the kitchen to the airplane.
This is always what makes me nervous about booking tight connections and I generally pick the more liberal layover times, especially if I'm booked on two separate tickets and I'm not protected if I misconnect.
Overall I'm quite happy with the experience, it was very much worth the mileage redemption over British Airways' Business Class and having that little splash of posh air travel was quite the event. The lounge was spectacular and amazing all around, and the inflight service was nothing short of luxury.
Besides the nearly two hour delay while waiting for catering the flight went extremely smooth and if I had the chance to take it again I would absolutely do it.