My First Class British Airways Review
Regular readers may know that I’m a keen (to put it lightly) Avios collector. I recently put these to good use, redeeming a British Airways First Class flight from London to Sao Paulo for both myself and my partner. Now I’m not the biggest spender and the thought of even being able to accumulate enough Avios for a First Class flight on British Airways may seem daunting to some. However, during this BA First Class Review 777 I hope to not only give you a full insight into my trip but also explain how you, too, can accumulate enough Avios points for a complimentary trip!
I have to admit, Sao Paulo wasn’t the first place I wanted to visit (with Peru and Bolivia at the top of the list). However with plenty of availability and an 11 hour 50 minute flight time, it allowed us to maximise the time spent enjoying the many luxuries of British Airways 1st Class.
Let's break this post down...
Booking – BA First Class 777
One thing that you should know is that not all First Class British Airways products are made equal. Whilst nearly all of the older planes have been refurbished, the difference between the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Boeing 777 can be significant. Take a look below.
This review is based around the British Airways 777 First Class product.
I thought it would be useful to quickly explain how Hannah and I managed to accumulate the equivalent of 200,000 Avios points in less than a year through the wonders of credit card sign-up bonuses. Update 20/04/19: Whilst the American Express sign up bonuses have changed since our redemption it’s still possible to earn enough points for 2 First Class flights. The below guide has been updated to reflect the sign up bonus changes.
- American Express Gold Card: See my full review here. When you sign up to the card and spend £3,000 in the first 3 months you get a total of 10,000 points (12,000 if you use this link). These points can be transferred to either BA or Avios at a rate of 1:1. The card is free for the 12 months and you’ll also get 2 free lounge passes (plus additional perks).
- British Airways Premium Plus American Express: See my full review here. Again the BA premium card offers a good sign-up bonus of 25,000 points (or 26,000 if you use this link and scrolling down to the correct card). However the best thing about this card is that you get a 2-4-1 voucher, which means that both you and a companion can travel for the price of one. This reduced the total number of points we needed to collect to 100,000 (down from 200,000!). Note there is charge for this card of £195 per year. Alternatively there is a free BA card (reviewed here) which provides 5,000 Avios when you sign up and a 2-4-1 voucher at £20,000 spend, however I’d strongly recommend the premium version due to the lower spend threshold and the 26,000 Avios which offset the cost of the card.
If you follow the step-by-step process below, you’ll see that it’s actually not quite as difficult to collect 100,000 Avios to redeem on that British Airways First Class flights as you may have initially thought. With recent changes to the American Express sign up bonus rules, make sure you sign up to the Gold card first – learn more about the sign up bonus restrictions and our suggested strategy here.
- Step One: Sign up to the American Express Gold card using this link for 12,000 Avios when you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months.
- Step Two: Persuade your companion to also sign up to an Amex Gold card using the link to receive a further 12,000 Avios points.
- Step Three: Sign up to the British Airways Premium Plus card using this link and scrolling down to the correct card to get 26,000 Avios (ordinarily you’d get 25,000 if you go straight to the website).
- Step Four: Also add your partner or travel companion as a supplementary cardholder on the Premium Plus Card to receive a further 3,000 points.
- Step Five: Assuming each person spends a total of £10,000 in a year and minimum amount to unlock the sign up bonus was spent on the Gold Card (£3,000 earning 3,000 points each) and the remaining £7,000 on the British Airways Premium Plus card earning 1.5 Avios for every £1, between two people a total of 27,000 points will have been earned.
- As such in total you’ll have accumulated:
- Gold Card 1 = 12,000 Avios
- Gold Card 2 = 12,000 Avios
- BA Premium Plus = 26,000 Avios
- BA Supplementary Card = 3,000 Avios
- Points from Spending = 27,000 Avios
- Grand Total = 80,000 Avios
- 80,000 Avios would get you a First Class flight to the likes of New York, Boston, Bermuda, Dubai or even Toronto. Take a look on the rewards redemption section of the BA website for alternative destinations.
- Use the British Airways Household Account to combine Avios points of the two travelers – full review here.
Now let’s get back to booking that BA First Class flight. Some words of wisdom, because there are only 14 First Class seats on the Boeing 777 – these can sell out relatively quickly. If you’re restricted to certain travel times (school holidays, etc.) you may want to book a long way in advance. Flights become available 355 days in advance and can sell out pretty quickly. Alternatively to find availability go to the BA website here and search availability by either month or year using the reward flight finder. See below availability for First Class British Airways flights from London to Dubai for two people:
Using the BA reward flight finder and our 2-4-1 voucher, we booked our British Airways 1st Class flight from London to Sao Paulo, with a return flight from Buenos Aires to London in economy. The total flight package used 140,000 Avios for the two tickets alongside the £365.97 per person taxes. The advertised price for the same British Airways First Class flight was £9,500 per person!
One question that I’ve been asked before is whether there is a BA First Class dress code. Don’t worry, there’s no dress code!
Now one last word of advice, if you’re flying from the UK, I’d strongly recommend flying from Heathrow T5 to have the opportunity to visit the Concorde lounge. No other British Airways lounge comes close – read on to find out more!
Check-in BA First Class
Another great benefit of flying from London Heathrow T5 is the dedicated BA First Class wing. As you walk through the golden gates, you quickly move from the chaotic departures terminal to the strangely tranquil BA First Class check-in area. We were booked on a 22.25 flight and got to the airport for around 6pm to make the most of the many services.
Every time I’ve been through the Heathrow BA First Class wing, there has always been a free BA representative available to check me in, avoiding any possibility of queuing. The First Class check-in area also benefits from a dedicated security area which will take you straight through to the First Class lounge – you can see my full review of the BA first class lounge here.
Now if you have a First Class ticket, I wouldn’t waste your time in the British Airways First Class lounge – head straight over to the Concorde lounge which is situated opposite.
You can find my full review of the Concorde Lounge here. Whilst the Galleries First lounge is completely acceptable, it’s available to British Airways Executive Club Gold cardholders travelling in any class. Although it’s relatively difficult to get to Gold (1,500 tier points) the First Class lounge always seems to be busy, whereas the Concorde lounge is exclusively available to First Class British Airways passengers and Concorde Room pass holders resulting in an uber select group of travellers. British Airways had also made some cosmetic changes to the lounge towards the end of 2017, so don’t get confused by some of the dated reviews out there! Some photographs of the refreshed product are set out below:
Hannah and I had come straight from work and as we knew we were going to be eating a three course meal on the plane we thought we’d try the a la carte restaurant straight away, leaving enough time for us to hopefully get hungry again before our next dinner!
Dinner is served in private booths, with seating for a maximum of two. Champagne was free flowing from the minute we sat down. Hannah opted for the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle (she’s got expensive taste!) whilst I trialled the Henriot Rose NV.
We thought we’d mix up the foods. To start, Pan-Seared scallops with black pudding and apple parfait for me. with Hannah going for Wild Mushrooms and chestnut puree tart. For mains, British Ox Cheek Bourguignon and Pan-Fried Coley. Both good choices! Following cheeses and coffees we made our way outside and sat in one of the cabanas. You can also book private cabanas which feature a private shower and bathroom, daybed, work table and television. First Class passengers are also able to book into the Elemis Spa in advance. Frustratingly the Elemis Spa was fully booked when we visited; make sure you book yourself in 28 days in advance!
Before we knew it (and after one or two espresso martinis!) it was time to board the plane.
Boarding – BA First Class 777
Now boarding was a slight disaster. We made our way over the T5C satellite terminal only to find that there was a problem with the plane. Somehow they’d managed to get the bridge stuck on the side of the plane and the only way to release it was to somehow jack the plane up! As you can imagine this took some time, resulting in a delay of some 45 minutes. With no lounge in T5C this, at the time, seemed like a disaster 🙂
After we finally boarded we were greeted with another glass of champagne and shown the way to our BA 777 First Class seats. When booking I used Seat Guru to take a look at the plane layout and decided that we would go for the centre seats in row 2. The 777-300 has a 1-2-1 layout providing a total of 14 seats (4 down the sides and three rows of 2 in the middle).
The BA 777 First Class seats aren’t quite as new as the BA 787 Dreamliner, but are nevertheless large and comfortable. With 72 inches of pitch and 22 inches of width, these are significantly more comfortable than the equivalent Club World seat (70 inches pitch and 20 inches width).
There are a number of little touches which make this an impressive First Class product. You’ll benefit from your own wardrobe, side table, bespoke lighting, power supply, etc. Unlike Emirates and Etihad there is no ‘at-seat’ mini-bar however the staff are more than attentive so this didn’t seem to matter.
British Airways First Class Amenities
The large 23-inch screen is good, however the BA First Class media selection in comparison to some of the Middle Eastern carriers is somewhat poor. The IFE controller felt dated however as we were on a night flight and making the most of the first-rate food and beverage offering, this didn’t bother us too much.
The BA First Class pyjamas went down very well with Hannah alongside his/hers Liberty’s wash bags. These include eye mask, ear plugs, lip balm, various moisturisers, shaving equipment, hairbrush, socks and a pen. The wash bag itself is actually very nice and a perfect size to keep for international business travel.
Something I was slightly disappointed in was the bathroom. This was essentially the same as economy with Aromatherapy Associates hand wash and moisturiser, alongside flowers.
Our plane didn’t offer Wi-Fi, which again wasn’t the end of the world for a night flight, however I’d be slightly disappointed if I was on business.
Food and Beverage – British Airways 1st Class
When travelling First Class on British Airways, one of the best things is the selection of drinks and food. Throughout the experience we were offered Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle which is about £110 per bottle. This compares to Dom Perignon 2006 offered by Emirates (roughly £130 per bottle) and Billecart-Salmon served by Etihad (a mere £40 per bottle). British Airways also offers sparkling British wine, Bolney Estate, which both Hannah and I sampled… not bad for an English sparkling wine!
The remainder of the drinks selection is fine although not quite as luxurious as the champagnes. Unlike some providers, British Airways aircraft offer no on-board bar.
Travelling as a couple meant that Hannah and I decided to dine together. We converted the foot stool into a seat, allowing us both to sit facing each other. The dining experience is definitely a step up from Business, with the table laid as if we were in a reasonable London restaurant.
We were initially presented with an antipasti plate featuring Cumbrian air-dried ham, Cumberland salami, Berkswell cheese, olives and sun dried tomatoes.
The food offering was good on our First Class British Airways flight, and for starters we had the choice of:
- Seared scallops with cauliflower couscous and pickled girolle mushroom salad
- Croxton Manor goat curd with verjus-marinated Cheltenham beetroot, candied walnut and onion marinate
- French onion soup with Parmesan and paprika straws
- Fresh seasonal salad served with either blue cheese dressing or Dijon mustard dressing
I went for the French onion soup and Hannah went for the scallops – both good choices. The pictures below don’t do the food justice I’m afraid.
There were five options for main:
- Braised British beef
- Pan-fried hake
- Roasted rump of lamb
- Spinach and ricotta tortellini
- Salad of char-grilled chicken with bacon, potato and Caesar dressing
Again, lighting (and probably the fact we’d tested most wines on the menu!) resulted in the below pictures not doing the food justice.
There were three options for dessert alongside various cheeses, although by now I felt like I’d eaten my fair share to say the least!
By this point it was most certainly time for bed. While we changed into our BA First Class pyjamas the cabin crew very kindly made our beds for what was by far the best sleep I’ve had on an international flight.
The next morning, following nearly 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, we were woken by cabin crew for breakfast. Again we made the most of the food with fruit and smoothies followed by a full English breakfast.
Before we knew it, we were preparing to land and as our First Class British Airways flight was coming to an end our adventure around South America was just about to begin!
British Airways First Class Review – The Conclusion
So was the Boeing 777 First Class BA flight worth the equivalent of 200,000 air miles? Completely and unequivocally yes! This was most definitely worth it. Travelling First Class on British Airways was an incredible experience for someone like me who is just an average Joe. Hopefully anyone reading this British Airways First Class review has gained an insight into the luxury world that upper-tier flying can offer.
I’ll finish this review with a couple of final words of advice for anyone looking to book a British Airways 777 First Class flight. If possible try to fly from Heathrow to gain the benefit of the T5 BA First Class wing and access to the Concorde lounge – trust me when I say that none of the other UK lounges even come close! Book the Elemis Spa 28 days in advance to avoid disappointment.
If you have the choice, perhaps try to fly the British Airways 787 Dreamliner which has a slightly better seat product than the slightly dated British Airways 777 First Class product.
The in-flight entertainment is disappointingly average and the lack of Wi-Fi could either be the end of the world or a godsend depending on how you look at it.
Make the most of the complimentary Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle at £110 per bottle!
Now just a final recap as to how you, too, could take this £9,500 per person flight for just £366 using Avios points.
- Sign up to the American Express Gold card using this link to get 12,000 Avios points when you spend £3,000 in the first 3 months.
- Persuade your companion you’ll also be travelling with to sign up to the Gold card.
- Sign up to the British Airways Premium Plus Amex card to get a further 26,000 Avios using this link (and scrolling down to the correct card) when you spend £3,000 (usually 25,000 without the link). Don’t forget to add your partner as a Supplementary Cardholder for a further 3,000 points.
- Spend £10,000 the card in 12 months to receive your 2-4-1 voucher.
- Use the 80,000 Avios points and 2-4-1 voucher to book the trip of a lifetime in British Airways First Class – check the BA website to see where you can go!
As always I hope you’ve enjoyed this British Airways First Class flight review. Please do not hesitate to get in contact if you’ve got any questions.
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