Review: British Airways 777 First Class

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While I’ve flown British Airways first class many times before, there were a couple of things that would make my flight from London to Boston unique:

Redeeming miles on British Airways

I managed to book award tickets on the following itinerary:

BA651 Mykonos to London departing 1:45PM arriving 3:45PM [Business]
BA239 London to Boston departing 7:55PM arriving 10:20PM [First]

We booked this using British Airways Avios — the cost was 100,000 Avios per person, plus $341 in taxes, fees, and carrier imposed surcharges.

While British Airways is known for their steep surcharges, they vary greatly depending on where you originate, and these were among the lowest transatlantic fuel surcharges I have ever seen for travel in British Airways first class.

While 100,000 Avios is a lot, in reality I transferred over Avios from Amex last year with a 40% bonus, so I was really paying 72,000 Amex points per person, which I didn’t think was too bad.

See this post for all the best credit cards for earning British Airways Avios.

Our London Heathrow transit

Originally our layover at Heathrow was supposed to be over four hours, but with the delay it ended up being about two hours instead. That’s still plenty of time, and I’m happy we didn’t plan a shorter layover.

We were arriving and departing from Terminal 5, so the transit process was easy. The security line wasn’t bad, and we were airside once again within about 20 minutes, which is very fast by Heathrow standards.

We headed to the British Airways Concorde Room for just under an hour. I’ve reviewed this lounge extensively, so won’t do so again, other than to point out two things that stood out to me:

  • The lack of power outlets in this lounge is infuriating. I just came off a four hour flight with no power outlets and needed to briefly work and charge, and I literally couldn’t find anywhere comfortable to sit that also had a charger. I ended up having to sit literally next to a stranger on a two person couch in order to be able to sit somewhere that I could charge.
  • I don’t know why British Airways bothers with having a spa. For virtually any other lounge that has a spa you can get an appointment within a couple of hours (even in business class), while with British Airways I called the day before to make an appointment, and they didn’t have anything available. I just don’t get it.

Anyway, boarding was scheduled to start at 6:55PM at gate B45, so we headed over there around 6:40PM. This required taking the train to the “B” concourse.

British Airways 777 London Heathrow

I had “SSSS” on my boarding pass, so I had to undergo additional screening. The way this works at Heathrow, they actually let you past the boarding gate, and then you’re asked to take a seat. Then once boarding starts they search your belongings. So while I always try to be first onboard to get pictures, I wasn’t able to do so this time around, since I was being searched.

Boarding started around 7:10PM.

British Airways departure gate Heathrow

British Airways 777 first class review

After having my belongings searched, I headed down the jet bridge.

British Airways 239
London (LHR) – Boston (BOS)
Thursday, August 15
Depart: 7:55PM
Arrive: 10:20PM
Duration: 7hr25min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 2E (First Class)

I boarded through the second door on the left, where I was greeted by the customer service manager, and escorted by another flight attendant into the first class cabin. This was my first time flying British Airways’ 777 first class, and I was surprised by how much I liked the cabin.

There were a total of 14 first class seats — there were four seats on each side along the windows, and then three pairs of seats in the center section. The cabin feels spacious and I like how it takes up the entire space between doors one and two, so it feels like it has a good bit of privacy.


British Airways first class cabin 777-200

British Airways 777-200 first class cabin

To compare this to British Airways’ other planes:

  • On the 747 there’s something nice about being in the nose, though the cabin is also the tightest in the fleet
  • The A380 has an even more spacious cabin, but for some reason I actually preferred the 777 cabin (maybe it’s that I have lower expectations of first class on a 777 than on an A380?)
  • The 787 has the benefit of only having two rows, so that cabin does feel a bit more exclusive

I had assigned us the two center seats in the second row. These are by no means cutting edge first class seats, though there is something nice about being able to sit with your travel companion and easily communicate. This is especially true after we flew ANA first class a few months ago, where the center seats are designed in such a way that you basically can’t communicate with one another.


British Airways 777 first class seats


British Airways 777 first class cabin

If you’re traveling alone then you’ll of course want to select one of the single seats, which face the windows. British Airways has blinds that can automatically be lowered by the push of a button, which is a nice touch. While the seats aren’t cutting edge, British Airways has done a good job with mood lighting and ambiance.

As you can see, though, British Airways’ first class seats are essentially just glorified reverse herringbone seats.


British Airways 777 first class seats


British Airways first class seats 777

At my seat was an ottoman, which could double as a buddy seat, should you want to dine with someone face-to-face. The personal television folded out from the center section, and had to be stored for takeoff and landing (meaning you can’t watch anything during those phases of flight).


British Airways 777 first class seats


British Airways first class seats 777

I find the placement of the outlet at the seat to be quite annoying, because you can’t access it while sitting down. Rather it’s to the side of the ottoman, so you basically have to get on your knees to plug anything in. While taking a picture of this I also noticed just how bad British Airways’ aircraft cleaning is.


British Airways first class power outlet

While I appreciated the privacy blinds between seats, the below picture shows the extent to which these can be retracted. That’s to say that you can have full privacy, but there’s no way to actually put them all the way back, so that the space between seats is totally open. I’m not sure why they don’t have that.


British Airways first class privacy partition

The glossy tray table folded out from the right side of the seat. It’s massive when fully extended, though you can also just fold it over in half.


British Airways first class tray table

The seat controls are really easy to use, as they’re just to the right of the seat. There’s a knob you can use to recline your seat or put it back up, which I quite like (when the lighting around it is green then you’re good to go for takeoff and landing). You can also control the lighting from here.


British Airways first class seat controls

You could tell just how old school this 777-200 was based on the entertainment controller, located at the back right of the seat. This is also where the USB outlets were.


British Airways first class entertainment controls

Lastly, along the outside of the seat was a small closet where you could hang a coat, or something similar.


British Airways first class closet

While these seats don’t have great privacy, I would note that at least the seats are staggered a bit, so you’re never seated directly next to someone across the aisle.


British Airways first class 777

Waiting at my seat upon boarding was some bedding, including two pillows and a day blanket. While I wouldn’t call this bedding cutting edge, it was much better than the flat-as-a-pancake pillow that British Airways previously had at every seat during boarding.


British Airways first class bedding

Then there were a pair of rather disappointing headphones.


British Airways first class headphones

A few minutes after settling in, the flight attendant taking care of me came by to introduce himself. This flight was operated be one of British Airways’ mixed fleet crews, which are their lower paid flight attendants. There’s a ton of turnover with these flight attendants, though they are generally enthusiastic and well intentioned. That was the case here as well.

First I was asked if I wanted something to drink. I ordered a glass of champagne (British Airways serves Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle, which I quite like).

British Airways greatly improved their glasses, cutlery, and food, and I immediately noticed that. I love their new champagne flutes, and also like that they now serve warm towels on little trays, rather than handing them directly to you.


British Airways first class champagne & nuts

While minor, I’d note:

  • Despite finishing my first glass of champagne well before boarding was done, my glass was just taken when I was finished, rather than being asked if I wanted another one
  • The champagne was brought to me poured, rather than it being poured at my seat, which is how it’s usually done, in my experience

Next I was offered pajamas. British Airways switched up their pajamas recently. British Airways now has pajamas from British fashion brand Temperley London. I thought the pajamas were pretty good, though frankly I also liked British Airways’ old pajamas.


British Airways first class pajamas

Next I was offered a very well stocked amenity kit, with products from Elemis. While Elemis isn’t my favorite brand out there, I thought it was an excellent kit nonetheless.


British Airways first class amenity kit

Interestingly slippers only seem to be available on demand (or at least that was the case on this flight). British Airways’ new slippers are great as well — they’re durable and comfortable.


British Airways first class slippers

About 20 minutes after boarding I was offered the menu for the flight to Boston.


British Airways first class menu

At 7:45PM it was announced that boarding was complete, at which point the first officer came on the PA to add his welcome aboard, and inform us of our flight time of 6hr50min to Boston. He told us we’d be cruising at 36,000 feet, and should be on time.

A few minutes later the door closed (with 13 of the 14 first class seats taken), at which point the customer service manager made his welcome aboard announcement.

At 7:55PM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video was screened. British Airways’ safety video is pretty funny the first or second time you see it, but after that it’s a bit… much.

At 8:05PM we started our taxi, which was pretty quick. By 8:25PM we were cleared for takeoff.

As we climbed out I went through British Airways’ entertainment selection. This flight had British Airways’ oldest entertainment system. While the selection was alright, I found the screen to be low quality. British Airways has updated screens on quite a few planes, though not on this one, I guess.


British Airways first class entertainment selection

The selection itself was fairly decent — not industry-leading, but you won’t be bored either.


British Airways first class entertainment selection


British Airways first class entertainment selection

I also checked out the airshow for our flight to Boston.


British Airways map enroute to Boston


British Airways map enroute to Boston

British Airways offers wifi on a majority of their long haul aircraft now, including this one. They have two speed options, and three packages for each.

For the “Browse” package (described as being for basic web browsing), pricing is as follows:

  • 1 hour: $6
  • 4 hours: $13
  • Full flight: $18


British Airways wifi pricing

Then for the “Stream” package (described as being for high-speed web browsing and video streaming), pricing is as follows:

  • 1 hour: $10
  • 4 hours: $23
  • Full flight: $30


British Airways wifi pricing

I ended up buying the “Stream” package for the whole flight. While not cheap, the speeds were excellent, and it’s nice to have no data caps.

The seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff. A few minutes after that the customer service manager came through the cabin to welcome each passenger onboard. The service started fairly quickly after that. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Two thoughts:

  • I guess they just use generic menus for all their flights to the US, but the main meal on a 7:55PM flight shouldn’t be “lunch”
  • “Even though greatest care has been taken due to the nature of the product there is a small risk of shot pellets in the product” — hah

Just 20 minutes after takeoff I was offered my first drink along with the canapés. I love when airlines get you your first drink so quickly after takeoff. British Airways has completely redesigned their first class meal service, and I’m very impressed.

I love the new glasses (as mentioned above), and also love the way canapés are displayed. I had another glass of champagne, and then the canapés consisted of:

  • Devonshire crab with Oscietra caviar and pumpernickel
  • Duck confit with caramelised hazelnut and orange ginger compote
  • Feta cheese with lovage pesto and smoked tomato

British Airways first class dinner — champagne & canapés

Ford had the “classic mule” to drink, which he enjoyed.


British Airways first class dinner — classic mule

Once we were served drinks our dinner orders were taken. I was delighted that for once they hadn’t run out of anything, which is a novel experience for me in British Airways first class, so yay for that.

After the first round of drinks it was a while before the meal service began. About 65 minutes after takeoff my table was set.

British Airways first class dinner — table setting

A few minutes later I was brought the starter. For this I ordered the Loch Fyne smoked salmon tartare, with smoked mayonnaise, seeded cracker, and quail egg. It was excellent, in terms of taste and presentation.


British Airways first class dinner — starter

Ford had the wild boar tortellini with arrabbiata sauce, which he enjoyed. Again, the presentation was excellent.


British Airways first class dinner — starter

Next up I had the cream of asparagus soup with summer truffle, poached Burford Browns’ egg. I was impressed that I was brought the bowl with the egg and truffle, and then the liquid part of the soup was poured into the bowl at my seat. Is this really British Airways?!?


British Airways first class dinner — soup

For my main course I had the fillet of halibut with roasted cucumber, girolle mushrooms, and salad cream. The dish was excellent — the fish itself was great, as were the accompaniments.


British Airways first class dinner — main course

You can order from a selection of sides, and I had the cauliflower florets, served in a separate bowl.


British Airways first class dinner — side

Ford had the seared fillet of aged Herefordshire beef with Cafe de Paris butter and red wine jus, which he enjoyed.


British Airways first class dinner — main course

Lastly, for dessert I ordered the milk chocolate and amaretto tart with salted caramel. Yum!


British Airways first class dinner — dessert

The meal was done about 2hr20min into the flight, and I was impressed. I love their new presentation, and the food quality was excellent as well. I didn’t tell Ford that British Airways made any improvements, but he independently pointed out to me that he was so impressed by the meal.

So just as British Airways has made huge improvements to their business class catering, I’m happy to see they’ve made similar changes in first class.

As far as the service goes, the crew was friendly and reasonably attentive. They weren’t quite as polished as some of the more “senior” flight attendants British Airways has in their “worldwide” fleet (though they’re also a mixed bag — some are awesome, some are pretty bad). But overall I was pleased with the service.

At the conclusion of the meal I was asked if I wanted my bed made, which I agreed to. I headed to the front of the cabin to use the lavatory while that was being taken care of. There were two lavatories at the front of the cabin for first class, though both were pretty bare-bones.


British Airways 777 first class lavatory


British Airways 777 first class lavatory amenities

British Airways’ new bedding does seem to be a step up from their old bedding. My one complaint is that the duvet isn’t terribly wide. I like to wrap myself in a duvet like a burrito, while that’s not possible here.

British Airways first class bed


British Airways first class bed

When I went to sleep there were about 4hr30min remaining. I fell asleep almost immediately, given that it had been a long day.


Map enroute to Boston

I woke up about 90 minutes before arrival. This is probably a good time to mention that I think this was my latest ever departure from the UK to the US, and I sort of loved leaving so late at night. I got a solid three hours of sleep.

You’d think that would get in the way of sleeping at night, though when I got to my hotel I wouldn’t have been able to sleep. However, I got to bed by 1AM and woke up at 6AM, so I basically got a full night of sleep and had no jetlag.

Map enroute to Boston

As I woke up they were just starting the “afternoon tea” service (though in reality at this point it was either 2AM or 9PM, depending on the timezone you prefer). The menu read as follows:

I selected the sandwiches and scones. British Airways’ new afternoon tea setup is beautiful. I had:

  • A plain scone
  • Sandwiches, including cucumber with cream cheese, dill and chives on white bread, prawn Marie Rose on a bridge roll, roast beef with horseradish on malt bread
  • Pastries, including Victoria sandwich, Dundee fruit wedge, chocolate raspberry cremeux
  • Chamomile tea

British Airways first class afternoon tea

At 9:35PM Boston time the first officer announced that we’d be descending shortly, and that we’d be landing at 10:15PM. A few minutes later we began our descent, at which point the crew collected pillows and blankets (British Airways has a rule where you can’t use pillows or blankets during takeoff or landing).

Sure enough we landed in Boston at 10:15PM, and from there had a 15 minute taxi to our arrival gate, where we arrived at 10:30PM.

British Airways first class mood lighting

It’s a nice touch that on British Airways the pilot always makes an announcement once you get to the gate. We quickly made it through immigration, and then headed to the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor, where we were spending the night before returning to Florida the next morning (which I’ll review in the next installment).

British Airways 777 first class bottom line

British Airways is investing in their premium product, and it’s noticeable. Based on this experience I’d say British Airways has made a significant improvement to their first class soft product. Their glassware and china was beautiful, and the food excellent.

Furthermore, I quite liked the 777 first class cabin, and appreciate that British Airways is increasingly offering wifi on their long haul planes.

All that being said, British Airways doesn’t offer a cutting edge first class product, and it will likely never rank anywhere close to being a top product. However:

  • British Airways first class is the only first class transatlantic product that you can consistently book with miles at the saver level in advance, including with partner miles
  • In this case the carrier imposed surcharges were reasonable, which made me feel all the better about the experience; our surcharges on the one-way ticket from Mykonos to Boston were $228, while the surcharges on a one-way Miami to London ticket would have been $800 (they’re much cheaper leaving Europe, and in particular when leaving from select destinations in Europe)

If you’ve experienced British Airways’ new first class soft product, what was your experience like?

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