A recent complimentary upgrade to BA First saw me testing out a product I’ve always meant to try out. Most of the BA deals to Europe are not out of Dallas so this time I was flying out of Houston. I’ve never actually actively wanted to fly BA First Class because there isn’t anything that special about it. I could also never justify paying more for a seat that isn’t that much better than AA’s reverse herringbone seat or first class service which does nothing to make Heathrow transfers easier.
British Airways flies out of Terminal D at IAH and the airline operates both a First and Business Class Lounge at the airport. When we presented our boarding passes at the Business Class Reception, we were immediately escorted to an enclosed area across from the business class lounge. The first class lounge isn’t a huge space, but it is definitely a step above the business class lounge.
The food/beverage selection in this lounge includes a lot of packaged snacks, a soup, dinner rolls, soft drinks, Texas Beer, and a few cocktails. If you are looking for something more substantial I would recommend the Centurion lounge, which is a few hundred meters away. I ended up not having too much time before my flight so I had to rush through the food area.
British Airways operates two flights a day to Houston and I was on the earlier 4:05pm departure on the Boeing 777. The cabin features only 14 seats and is configured in a reverse herringbone fashion. The ambiance and design of the cabin is definitely one of my favorite features of BA First. The seat is quite comfortable and the electronic window shades are snazzy.
An amenity kit, water bottle, slippers, and pajamas were already at my seat when I arrived. BA had updated its First Class amenity kits, but for some reason on this flight I still received the older amenity kit featuring the not so reusable bag.
This flight perhaps had one of most unwelcoming crews I’ve ever seen on British Airways. There were no welcome drinks offered at departure and hot towels were nowhere to be seen. I am not sure if this is the norm on BA, but it certainly made some of my fellow passengers comment on how disappointed they were after flying Emirates.
Dinner was served approximately 2 hours after departure and started with a salad, which was followed by pasta and an ice cream sundae. The Asian vegetarian meal I had ordered ended up not being available because of the upgrade. The best part of the entire meal was the ice cream sundae at the very end, it really hit the spot given that the rest of the meal was average at best.
I went to bed immediately after dinner with 6 hours left to go and I woke up just 10 minutes before landing in Heathrow. The added privacy in first class and cool cabin temperature certainly helped me sleep through the flight.
After arriving in Heathrow, it was an absolute free for all trying to get off the flight. The middle or second door to the aircraft was being used and that resulted in business class passengers pushing to get in front. One of the FAs tried really hard to allow first class passengers to disembark earlier, but that was to no avail because the others didn’t care enough.
The lines weren’t too long at security so I made it to the Concorde Room in under 30 minutes, which is a record for me as far as Heathrow transfers go. The BA Concorde Room is extremely overrated. The lounge had aged furniture, and slow dining service. I accidentally turned off image stabilization on my phone so I apologize for the shaky pictures. The Concorde Room has since been updated with a facelift which includes hotel lobby furniture according to Lucky.
I did manage to snag a seat for some tea and dessert while I was at the lounge. If you have the time to sit down the breakfast menu is pretty decent. And they do offer a full vegetarian breakfast even though I never ordered it. The menu can be found here at this FlyerTalk thread.
I won’t go over the details of my BA First flight back to Houston, but it was a far improvement over my flight into London. The cabin crew was extremely courteous and my Asian Vegetarian Meal was loaded onto the aircraft this time around. The highlight of that flight though was the tea serve with clotted cream and scones. In my opinion this should become a sort of “signature” feature available on all BA flights like the way Etihad offers Baklava along with its on demand hot beverage services.
We arrived back on time and parked next to a Lufthansa A380 bound for Frankfurt. Luckily disembarking happened through the front door making it easy to get off the aircraft and beat the crowd.
BA First just feels like a business class “plus” product, there really isn’t anything going for it other than the number deals there are offering the product for less than $2200 RT or upgrades from business class. The best parts of the experience continue to be the ambiance of the cabin and the afternoon tea service on flights out of London. The Concorde Room has a decent dining menu, but the slow service coupled with the dated furniture really make it the worst first class lounge in Europe. Let me put it this way: I would never go out of my way to fly BA First using miles or any amount of substantial cash. But I would also never go out of my way to avoid it given their upgrade offers from business and deals which allow me to accrue Alaska miles at an incredible rate.