A trip report in five parts
- Air France A380 Business Class, Washington Dulles – Paris
- Park Hyatt Vendome
- Mostly Eating in Paris
- British Airways Paris Orly – London and the Concorde Room
- 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.
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.
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
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
Fresh pastawith creamy tomato, shallot, wild mushroom and herb sauce
Classic club sandwich
A selection of biscuits
A selection of cheese and fruit
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
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
A soft, mould-ripened, cows’ milk cheese with a white, bloomy ring and a soft, creamy texture
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.
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
Caramelia mousse, cheese cake and carrot cake
And since it’s a frequent request, here’s the wine list:
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle
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
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
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.