I have a long history with British Airways, and it remains one of my top airlines. At age seven, I requested application forms to enter pilot training. Being a pilot was not a career I finally chose, but it was my first interaction with what would later become British Airways.
I have a long history with British Airways, and it remains one of my top airlines. At age seven, I requested application forms for what was then known as the BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) to enter pilot training. Being a pilot was not a career I finally chose, but it was my first interaction with what would later become British Airways.
British Airways was born of the merger of the BOAC and the BEA (British European Airways) in 1974, and is at the time of writing 101 years old. British Airways, as it is now known, flies to 160 destinations from its London hub. British Airways operates out of both Heathrow and Gatwick, but primarily flies out of Terminal 5 at London Heathrow. It is a founding member of the Oneworld Alliance, and its loyalty program is known as the Executive Club.
British Airways operates a current fleet of 277 aircraft in various ranges from the small Airbus A318 to the large Airbus A380 and Boeings 747, 777, and 787 Dreamliners. For the aviation geeks, the British Airways call sign is Speedbird. These days, I often fly from my home base here in Vancouver, Canada to Europe, and then onwards to South Africa. As a society, I believe no one does class quite like the British, and this is also true of their flagship airline British Airways.
British Airways Business Class (Club World)
In business class, also known as Club World, the service is efficient and can vary from crew to crew. Watch out for the old style Club World seat! It can be confusing—while seated side by side, one passenger flies forwards, and the other is rear-facing. This seat is being phased out, yet still appears predominantly in the 747 fleet. The new Club seat on the A350 and select 787 Dreamliners is a huge improvement. Don’t get me wrong, the existing Club seat is good, it was just time for an upgrade and the new Club seat is certainly a step up.
The British Airways business class seat itself is excellent. It folds down to a fully flat bed with a footrest, and the architecture of the seat protects your head and feet from knocks as people walk down the aisle. The straight configuration does leave you with a slight question of where to put your knees if you sleep in a fetal position.
There’s a power supply, albeit in a tricky location. There’s also generous overhead storage, a slide out table with plenty of options, and a fold-out TV screen with world class entertainment. In addition to the space overhead, there’s a small storage drawer next to your seat for storing your laptop, books, and newspapers during the flight. The drawer is quite hard to reach with the table and TV screen out though, and if you overfill it, you may find yourself with problems as you try to make the chair recline.
Served on white tablecloths, the BA Club World comes with the best of English breakfast, plus the choice of an evening meal. Unlike on some other flights, passengers are left to take their time and enjoy the food. And while it may not rank as some of the best food on earth, it certainly ranks amongst some of the best to eat on a plane.
British Airways First Class
Dedicated British Airways Galleries First lounges are available at some airports. The exclusive Concorde Room Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 5 and New York JFK offers pre-flight dining with waiter service and more intimate space. Business lounges are used where these are not available.
Elemis Travel Spa
Traveling via First Class brings with it a number of other benefits, not least of which is your complimentary Elemis Travel Spa treatment, which you should book beforehand. You can book this through the First class concierge team before arriving at the airport, either online or by phone. I recommend doing so at least 24 hours before departure, as the treatment slots are popular. The Elemis Travel Spa is an excellent distraction and is easily found next to the Concorde Room Lounge.
The British Airways First Class In-Flight Experience
First class is offered on Airbus A380, Boeing 747-400, Boeing 777 300ER, and on the Dreamliners. There are fourteen private cabins (eight on the 787) on most of these aircraft, each with a six and a half-inch bed, a 15-inch wide entertainment screen, and in-seat power.
The difference between First Class and Business Class (Club World) becomes apparent as soon as you board. Immediately, you’re welcomed by a friendly steward who introduces themselves and walks you to your seat. And what a seat it is! I think calling it a seat fails to do it any justice. It’s more of a private suite. Stepping in, you immediately feel relaxed and settled, as the suite provides high walls, meaning privacy, and lots of it. Everything is beautifully designed, from the stitching on the extra-wide seat to the stunning table lamps, the vast built-in Media Centre fixed to the far wall of the booth. The food on offer is excellent too. Nothing has gone without careful consideration here.
You have significantly more room than in Club World class. And there are only eight suites in this cabin on the A380, meaning, even more privacy and higher levels of service from your dedicated cabin staff. You also have more step storage than you imagine, ranging from a vanity console, a wardrobe for hanging your finest threads and numerous other cubbyholes. The bed is in another league, and they never run out of pillows or duvets in this cabin. In fact, the turndown service brings with it an actual over-mattress, which the flight attendants carefully lay over the fully flat bed. It’s exceptionally comfortable and provides enough room, even for the biggest bed hogs—useful for those who tend to sleep like a starfish (myself included).
I’ve experienced a number of different British Airways First Class immunity kits over the years, and I really enjoyed the new offering on a 2019 trip to the UK. Both the men and women’s versions contain soft socks, a blue eye mask, a decent toothbrush and toothpaste, a First class branded pen, earplugs, and an Elemis cleansing facial wipe, lip balm, moisturizer, and eye cream. The men’s bag came in a black velvety Temperley bag with funky inner living, and also contained Elemis shave gel and tissues, which the ladies strangely did not get. Also on board are Meridian noise-cancelling headphones, which looked smart and came in a cool First Class-branded case.
Wifi is available on board on a select few aircraft, specifically the A380, and British Airways are in the process of rolling this out across their fleet. This is truly a quintessential British experience, and can often be achieved by surrendering Oneworld Alliance redemption miles, and I promise, is well worth the experience.