[Click above for the video review.]
This is my report on a flight I took on March 25, 2016 on British Airways (BA) from San Francisco to London Heathrow.
We arrived at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) around 7:30PM, about 2 hours before departure. Since we had checked-in online the night before, and we weren’t checking-in any luggage, we just went straight to the security line and were through in about 5 minutes.
It was a good 3-5 minute walk to the British Airways Terraces Lounge where you go in and take the elevator down to the reception area. Since we were flying in First Class, we had access to the First Class section of the lounge just behind the reception counter (OneWorld Emeralds also have access to the First Class Lounge regardless of which cabin they are flying). The sweet lounge attendant recognized us from our previous flights, and greeted us with a warm welcome back. She mentioned that we were lucky that we caught one of the last BA 747-400 flights out of SFO as it was being replaced by a smaller 777-200. BA has 2 flights to SFO, the other aircraft being the Airbus A380.
The First Class section is on the small side, but comfortable enough to lounge in for an hour or so. There is also a good size business class section further down the hall. The lounge offers cold sandwiches, wraps, cheeses, veggies, and fruits. Cookies, chips (crisps), candies, and other dry snacks were also available. For drinks, they had a selection of various booze and soft drinks. Sadly, the only hot food available was soup (I didn’t check what the soup of the day was). There were only a limited number of seats, so I can imagine the First Class section gets packed when there are a bunch of OneWorld Emeralds flying BA. There was also a lone PC and desk that you could use if you needed to work. We helped ourselves to some champagne and snacks while waiting for our flight.
Soon enough boarding was announced. One of the unique features of the BA Terraces lounge in SFO is that you can board the aircraft directly from the lounge through a dedicated gate. Sadly they were not using the lounge gate this time, so we had to go up the elevators and walk to the boarding gate (but first I had to take the obligatory pictures of the sexy beast taking us to London). There was a separate priority line during boarding and we were through in no time. There was also a dedicated jet bridge for First and Business Class passengers.
Upon boarding, we were greeted by Angie, a senior Flight Attendant which pointed us left to the First Class Cabin. We soon found our way to our seats. I was seated in 2A, and my companion in 1K. We were shocked to find that there were no overhead bins available. The one above 2A was already occupied, and 1K had no overhead bin at all! We were directed by Angie to put our luggage into the closet, but were yelled at when we also put in our personal item (backpack) in there. We obliged and removed the items, but there was virtually no storage to stow our personal items in our seats. The flight attendant eventually found us some bin space behind our seats. I thought to myself: “This is not a good start to our trip!” Once seated, an amenity kit, noise canceling headphones, a light blanket, and menu were waiting for us at our seat. Soon after Angie asked us what we wanted to drink and also offered us a sleeper suit. I responded that I’d like a glass of champagne, and she asked: which one? Sassy… I then responded that I wanted the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle (complete with the French accent). She obliged, and quickly brought me my drink.
The BA 747-400 features a 14-seat First Class cabin which is rather cramped in my opinion compared to other carriers that only has 6-8 seats. Regardless, the cabin itself was beautiful and stylish complete with mood lighting. The seats themselves are beginning to show some wear and tear, but my seat was still functional, and comfortable for the 10 hour journey. The seat is lie-flat and somewhat comparable to the reverse herringbone seats of other airlines. One unique feature of BA First Class is the window shade. They installed a panel on the side of the window where you can lower the shade with a touch of a button. Pretty slick! Directly to the side of the seat are the seat and lighting controls, wired IFE remote, as well as a reading lamp. The in-flight entertainment was surprisingly good. The seat had a 15.4″ swing out IFE touch screen, and USB charging port. The BA High Life Entertainment system featured some new movies, TV programs, and games. The moving map was OK, but not as good as other planes I’ve been on with different map views that you can cycle through. The large fold-out table is hidden in the small counter next to the window. Found towards my feet is the AC Power Outlet.
Soon enough boarding was complete and we were on our way to London. About 10 minutes after takeoff, hot towels were distributed. Angie then came up and asked what I wanted to drink, and also took my meal order. She actually started a conversation with me and asked if we lived in the Bay Area, and where we were going. She warmed up to us after that conversation. I ordered another glass of champagne, which she brought out along with some warm mixed nuts. I also ordered the scallops to start, the fish filet as the main dish, and the mango chocolate cake for dessert.
Right before dinner, I visited the lavatory to freshen up and change into my pajamas. There were 2 First Class lavatories. The first lavatory was old and small, but stocked with Aromatherapy and Associates lotion, and hand wash. There was a changing bench which was convenient when changing into your pajamas. The second lavatory was similarly small, but featured a window. I came back to my seat and Angie offered to hang my clothes for me. I thanked her and told her that I could do it. The First Class seats actually has a small closet with a clothes hanger and shoe storage inside. I put my clothes and shoes in the closet, while I lounged in my BA First pajamas and comfy slippers.
I peeked into the First Class Amenity kit which is pretty extensive. The kit contains toiletries from Refinery which includes a shave gel, eye gel, revitalizing moisturizer, a lip balm, and deodorant stick. Other items found inside the kit is a pen, toothbrush and toothpaste, a comb/brush combo, eye shades, a pair of socks, a razor, and some ear plugs. The pouch itself was actually nice and can be reused as a toiletry bag.
Soon Angie came back and started setting up my table with white linen, plates and silverware. Then she brought out a cheese amuse bouche, then the scallops and chorizo appetizer, both of which were delicious. The main dish soon followed. Angie joked around and said “I hope you’re hungry…” before putting down the plate on my table. It was 2 huge filet of fish with shrimp pasta and veggies. There was no way I was going to be able to finish the dish, but it was decent nonetheless. Dessert soon came after, and the mango chocolate cake was delicious! I paired it with some Baileys and it was a definite winning end to the meal!
After I was done, my table was cleared and Angie came back and asked if I wanted my bed made. I said yes, and took a quick trip to the lavatory to brush my teeth for bedtime. My bed was already made by the time I got back to my seat. The duvet and pillows were very good quality and I was able to sleep for a good 6 hours.
I woke up about 1 hour and 45 minutes before landing and took a trip to the lavatory. When I got back my bed was already cleared and seat put back upright. Then Angie asked if I was ready for breakfast, which I was. My table was set once again. I was brought some fresh fruits to start along with a glass of orange juice, a cup of coffee, and croissant. Then I ordered for the full English breakfast which was very filling, and delicious!
Soon it was time to land in London. Angie went around thanked us for flying BA. We started our descent looping around London a few times, and smoothly touching down at Heathrow Airport. The taxi to Terminal 5 took a few minutes, and soon we disembarked. Our connection was in Terminal 3, so we had to take the flight connections bus which took a good 10 minutes.
Overall, I would give this flight an 8 out of 10. Clearly, the seat, service and food was better in BA First Class than their Business Class product. The flight attendant was a little cold at first, but then warmed up to us during the flight. The food was very good, though not as fancy as other carriers. The turndown service was also a nice touch. Good flight all in all…