New Years in Paris: British Airways “New” First Class, London – Washington Dulles

A trip report in five parts

  1. Air France A380 Business Class, Washington Dulles – Paris
  2. Park Hyatt Vendome
  3. Mostly Eating in Paris
  4. British Airways Paris Orly – London and the Concorde Room
  5. British Airways “New” First Class, London – Washington Dulles

I’ve only ever departed terminal 5 from bus gates. But that took me past the Starbucks, and it was going to be an (admittedly short of a Westbound transatlantic) long flight and I really didn’t want to sleep much, I wanted to arrive in DC tired and fall straight to sleep, adjusting back to my own time right away. Which isn’t to say I wouldn’t allow myself a nap – I was happy to for a couple of hours — but I felt like I could conk right out.

Here’s an interesting thing about those bus gates. You pick up a Starbucks, but if you don’t hide the drink while showing your boarding pass before boarding the bus, you’ll get told you have to dispose of your coffee. It’s not a security liquids it’s “for safety on the bus.” Ummmkay.

Downstairs the gate area prior to boarding the bus was an absolute zoo with little differentiation from the premium boarding lane and general boarding.

Once they starting sending everyone out to the bus, people were pushing and ducking and weaving to get to the front. Anxious to get on the bus, I suppose.

About halfway through the bus tour of Heathrow I began wondering if this was actually the plane and we’d be on it all the way to DC, but we finally pulled up alongside our 777. The flight had been delayed half an hour, apparently late being brought back from maintenance.

Me, I was just a little bit giddy. Because it was going to be the new British Airways first class, which I hadn’t flown yet. Now, Lucky recently did a report and I did review it before my own flight. I was curious how my take would differ. His view was that BA first class offers “a really nice business class product, maybe the best in the world.”

But I’ll get to that shortly. In sum my own estimation couldn’t be far from the truth.

My initial impression walking into the cabin was damn, it’s gorgeous. The seats aren’t as private as the latest suites. They aren’t as spacious as my beloved Cathay seat by any means. But the cabin just look goooood. Although photos don’t do it justice.

The lighting, the color scheme, and then the styling of the seat itself — I really love the lamp at each seat.

The one thing I do have to say about the seat though is that there’s no storage space. Or almost none. There’s a closet. But the closet it narrow, it really is good just for hanging your clothes when you change into pajamas. I couldn’t even fit my laptop bag into the closet, it was too wide. So my laptop bag went under the ottoman and my rollaboard went up into the overhead.

BA didn’t remove the overheads from the cabin, and with the lack of storage space in the cabin that’s crucial. But the cabin does feel a little bit cramped given 14 first class seats in the front of the 777, it’s just a lot. Still, I found it a very comfortable seat if not as wide as I’d like.

The center seats are especially good for couples traveling together, since even though there’s a divider between the seats it can be pulled back and it’s possible to have a conversation in the seats unlike many first class products. On the other hand, the dividers are good enough that you can also have privacy in those seats if the person on the other side isn’t a traveling companion. So the seats in the center I thought were really well designed.

Pajamas and amenity kits were distributed.

Then after takeoff, another beverage service and the menu. The candied nuts, mind you, were delicious.

MENU

Many of our best dishes are greatly loved and have become firm favourites with you. We are delighted to offer some of these for your enjoyment today.

Our special seasonal dishes have been created using locally sourced ingredients wherever possible.

Starters

Citrus-glazed chicken liver parfait with Roscoff onion, plum chutney and roasted brioche

Lightly curried creamed cauliflower with a pine nut, sultana, cauliflower and coriander salad

Butternut squash cream soup with sweet potatoes and ginger

Fresh seasonal salad with your choice of vinaigrette dressing with golden rapeseed oil or blackcurrant and juniper dressing

Main

Braised British beef with red wine and tarragon sauce, pied de mouton mushrooms with parsley, creamed leeks, chives and fondant potatoes

Steamed filet of Loch Fyne salmon with lemon ad mint cream sauce, mustard potato croquette and buttered kale

Moroccan quail tajin with saffron, sultana cousous, almonds and yoghurt sauce

Warn seared lemon and garlic tiger prawns on a Greek salad

Bistro selection

Fresh pastawith creamy tomato, shallot, wild mushroom and herb sauce

Classic club sandwich

A selection of biscuits

A selection of cheese and fruit

Dessert

Chocolate and orange cylinder with kumquat sauce

Spiced fruit pudding with classic custard

Ice Cream Sundae
Custom made to your preference of ice cream, sauces and toppings
Please ask your cabin crew for today’s choices

Cheese Plate

Taleggio
Italian cheese with a mild flavor and a fruity tang

Thomas Hoe Red Leicester
Named for its reddish orange rind, this firm yet crumbly cow’s milk cheese complements fruit and pasta

Cropwell Bishop Stilton
Stilton is an English, cow’s milk, semi-hard, blue, unpressed cheese with a natural brushed rind

Somerset Camembert
A soft, mould-ripened, cows’ milk cheese with a white, bloomy ring and a soft, creamy texture

Fresh fruit

Chocolates

There was also a snack menu, albeit not an especially extensive one (though that’s fine for a sub-8 hour flight. Although since there’s no scheduled second service and I was going to want not to be hungry when I arrived home so I could go straight to sleep, I was going to be interested in what they were offering.

Refreshments

Snacks

An individual selection of sandwiches featuring cucumber with cumin cream cheese, ham hock with piccalilli, Emmenthal and pastrami with mustard mayonnaise and roasted chicken with mustard mayonnaise

Patisserie
Caramelia mousse, cheese cake and carrot cake

And since it’s a frequent request, here’s the wine list:

Champagne:
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle

White:
Chablis Grand Cru Bourgros 2010, Jean-Marc Brocard, Burgundy, France
Laurenz V, Charming Gruner Veitliner 2009, Kamptal, Austria
Sancerre Les Chasseignes 2010, Domanie Fouassier, Loire, France

Red:
Chateau De Fieuzal 2006, Grand Cru Classe’ Pessac-Leognan, Bordeaux, France
Morgan Twelve Clones Pinot Noir 2010, Santa Lucia Highlands, California, USA
Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve Syrah 2007, Santa Barbara County, California USA

Dessert
Goldackerl Trockenbeerenauslese 2004, Will Opitz, Burgenland, Austria
Warre’s 1992 Colheita Tawny Port

They began with an amuse bouche, and I opted for the Citrus-glazed chicken liver parfait and the braised beef.

I decided to wait a bit on dessert, and after the meal I changed into my pajamas and the crew offered to make my bed. They also drew down the shades of the unoccupied seats (the cabin was full to 7/14). Another just gorgeous feature of the cabin, those shades.

Once thoroughly tucked in, I decided to watch some television on my laptop and accompany it with that dessert I had skipped. What’s better than ice cream in bed? And a few bits of anything described as chocolate and orange I just cannot resist.

I let myself nap for a couple of hours, and soon enough we were about two hours outside DC. I remembered that I wanted to have eaten something before getting home, so that I wouldn’t be hungry and would go straight to sleep. So I asked to try the snacks.

The flight attendant encouraged me to try the refreshment desserts as well, though mind you I didn’t finish all of this.

I got up and changed back into my street clothes, and we were quickly on- the ground at Dulles. I was thoroughly pleased with the flight and with my redemption (using Avios). We were first out of the aircraft and quickly through immigration, and on my way home at the very end of New Year’s Day.

Ultimately my view of the seat is that it could be slightly wider, there ought to be storage, and it could have a little more privacy. But it’s still a good comfortable first class seat.

This is not a business class product. Contra Ben I do like the seat better than Cathay’s business seat, although I can see if you’re comparing most first class products to Cathay’s new business class on the 777 especially if you have the mini-cabin behind first class.

There’s no caviar or Krug but the food is good. It’s a better first class than United’s and American’s for sure, better than the old Lufthansa first (albeit Lufthansa has better ground service at their German hubs). It’s at least on par with and probably better than the first class that Qantas is flying around with still in their 747s. It’s a better seat than Asiana’s 2008 – 2011 generation first class although without the level of food and service. So to me this is squarely a first class product. And saying that Cathay Pacific has a business class that measures up to it doesn’t make it a business class product.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community Milepoint.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary ┬╗

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Comments

  1. Nice detailed review.

    It is interesting how everyone is different. You mention that “it could have a little more privacy”

    In my view, the reason I try to avoid New First, and get flights that will likely have the old is that there is too much privacy. When I travel with a companion, I find it difficult to have a good conversation as there is more plastic wall between seats even when you open up the divider. As well I find the increased plastic shell takes up more space and even in the 747 the New First feels more cramped then the old.

    PS how do you take such good photos in low light? What camera/lens combo do you use?

  2. @Greg indeed, since I compare it primarily to things like Cathay first I find BA first has less privacy but can see where you’re coming from. Thanks for the compliment on the photos, I just use a Canon powershot s95. In automatic mode.

  3. Gary, not that this really matters, but were you alone or traveling with a companion this trip? You’ve used both “I” and “we” in these reports and I couldn’t ever tell for certain.

  4. One of my biggest beefs with flying BA FIRST from LHR to the USA is that the gates are a trek from the Concorde room…it feels like over the river and through the woods to get there…

    FDW

  5. In your picture where you are sipping your drink in the PJs looks like a very happy person who is trying F for the first time, even though you have flown probably hundreds of thousand miles in F. I am glad you had a great flight, nothing beats that kind of “high”!

    BTW, how much did BA chew out of your wallet for taxes and fuel surcharge? As I can redeem AS miles for BA F, I am going to wait until we can redeem one way awards on partners before even considering BA F. I really want to do LA J, EK F, QF F on A380 (if I can find r/t space), and CX F again to JNB… Been building an Mt. Everest of miles but only redeemed twice ­čÖü

  6. I thought BA first class offered an official tea service (sandwiches, scones, and cakes) as the second meal before landing…

  7. @golfingboy .. I’m actually not in my PJs in that photo, just a black shirt sipping my predeparture beverage. I have indeed flown hundreds of thousands of miles in international first class. But I was getting to try a new product!! ­čÖé

    Taxes/fees were about $375 for the segment. No APD/premium cabin departure tax since I originated in France not the UK and the fuel surcharges to the East Coast are lower than the West Coast..

  8. Ive flown the product on both 777 and 747 and recently just got off a Cathay new business service on a 330. I squarely agree with you. the BA cabin and service are definitely differrentiated vs the Cathay business product. I think the cathay first hard product could be polished but also agree that it’s more of a complete suite, and I prefer that. Service wise, BA was definitely better in f than cathay was in c. Definitely a first product, though not my favorite use of miles given the fees…

  9. I never cease to find it hilarious how they built a new terminal in LHR only to continue taking you by bus. What a dump!

  10. I guess I find it a LOT too narrow, to the point I couldn’t rest well. When watching the IFE, my arm felt pinned against the wall. No storage other than overhead was a pain.

    And I feel that the front pair of center seats have absolutely no privacy from seats in front of them (on the side).

    Service was great, but I actually like the seat on AA better because of the space.

    Also, IFE had a very weird red tinge to it (this was New First) and poor picture quality. Given the cost in APD and fuel surcharges from the west coast, it was a disappoinment, especially vs. Cathay F

  11. @Gary I always appreciate your thorough reviews. I feel like I have been on the flight or in the hotel you are reviewing.

    I also believe I have high standards but I think your standards are higher than my standards. Sometimes the things you identify as negatives or things that you think potentially deserve compensation would not register on my radar as a significant shortcoming. This gives me comfort because if I can live the negatives you identify I am assured of a great flight or hotel stay.

    I appreciate your writing. Please keep it up.

  12. Interesting that no scones were on the menu for the second meal. Presumably due to the late arrival time, but the rest of the offerings look identical to the afternoon tea service, so no real differentiation other than one less option.

  13. ‘Once thoroughly tucked in, I decided to watch some television on my laptop and accompany it with that dessert I had skipped. >>>WhatÔÇÖs better than ice cream in bed?<<< And a few bits of anything described as chocolate and orange I just cannot resist".
    Methinks you've been spending too much time on the road, err, in the air. You need a bit of quality time away from travel and blogging.

  14. “About halfway through the bus tour of Heathrow I began wondering if this was actually the plane and weÔÇÖd be on it all the way to DC”

    LOL!

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