Review: British Airways A380 First Class, with photos

This is Part 2 of my review of British Airways A380 First Class.

Yesterday I ran ahead of myself by showcasing the tasting menu that I had on the British Airways A380 recently in First Class flying out to Los Angeles.  Today I will show you how the cabin looks.

All British Airways A380 flights leave from concourse C in Terminal 5.  As there is no lounge at 5C, you need to stay in the main terminal or use the lounge at 5B if you want to get off the train half-way.

You can still claim £15 of free Starbucks products if flying from Terminal 5C as compensation for the lack of a lounge but, at 9am, I couldn’t be bothered.  The idea of carrying a Starbucks mug or two all the way to Las Vegas and back did not appeal.  In retrospect, I should have got a small bottle of champagne (yes, Starbucks sells champagne in Terminal 5C) and drunk it in the poor Virgin lounge in Los Angeles.

First Class is situated downstairs.  I would say ‘in the nose’ but because the plane does not visibly taper much in at the front – unlike First Class on a 747 – that does not seem like the right phrase.  Club World and World Traveller seating is split between the lower and upper decks whilst World Traveller Plus is only to be found upstairs.

British Airways A380

The first thing I noticed from Seat 2A were the stairs leading up.  Like Emirates, neither passengers nor crew (apart from the Cabin Services Director) are allowed to use the stairs – apparently crew cannot use them because the noise of footsteps disturbs First Class passengers.  Fundamentally, the front stairs are redundant and could be removed.

British Airways A380 First Class

This does leave you feeling a little hemmed in if you are sitting beside the staircase.  Similarly, if you are sitting in the middle rows, you will be looking at the back of the stairs rather than – on a 747 – having a clear view down towards the nose.

You can get a feel for the width of the cabin here:

photo4

The seats are visibly bigger than those on a Boeing 747 or Boeing 777.  This did bring its own problems, though, as I will explain.

The freebies

I have become quite sanguine about airline toiletry bags these days – although the 30cl bottle of Ferragamo EDT I received from Singapore Airlines over the Summer is coming in handy at the moment!  Whilst the current British Airways First bag will hardly become a collectors item, and lacks the charm of the previous Anya Hindmarch bags:

British Airways First Class toiletry bag Aesop

… it WAS pretty good.  The bag does look classy when you see it in the flesh and the Refinery products represent a good choice of ‘modern’ brand with a design ethos that sits with the BA First ‘look’.  More importantly, the range of products inside did appear to be broader than your typical toiletry bag.

I also got my pair of British Airways pyjamas.  There has been a long running joke on Flyertalk about how badly these fit, but I honestly didn’t have any problems with mine.  I didn’t wear them on the plane (it was a daytime flight, leaving London at 9.40am) but I took them with me and wore them in the Four Seasons!

British Airways FIrst Class pyjamas

The seat

Ah, the seat.  The A380 cabin is unlike the 747 First cabin because it does NOT taper in.   Given the additional width of the plane as well, it gave the designers a little extra space to work with.  You get a more spacious first class cabin than on other BA aircraft.

The new First Class seat is certainly classy.  British Airways has not attempted to go down the Emirates route and that makes perfect sense.  I DO like the navy blue look, and for once the colour scheme does follow through in the colours of the pyjamas and the toiletry bags.

There is a cupboard in your seat to hang your jacket ….

British Airways A380 First Class cabin

…. before you sit down:

British Airways A380 First Class seat

British Airways A380 First Class seat

As you can see, your body is angled with your feet nearest the window and your head nearest the aisle.  There was plenty of space for my 6 foot 2 inch frame and, to be honest, I found the seat perfectly comfortable.

Whilst you can’t see it in these pictures, the A380’s do have a decent audio-visual system on board. The TV screen is a fair size – although not in the Emirates league, which is proportionately bigger than many people would have at home! – and the menu system worked surprisingly well.

You can’t complain about lack of content these days with pretty much every airline being able to serve up hundreds of movies and programmes on demand.  (I still remember the days when people would ask on Flyertalk which films BA was showing that month and would consider rebooking if there was nothing on the modest list they liked.)

I had two niggles, and I don’t know if they were personal to my seat or not.  Because the seat is wider than BA’s traditional First Class seat, but your position is still angled, I felt that I was further away from the window than usual.  (Whether this is actually true or not I don’t know!)  This had two side effects – firstly, it was difficult to see out of the window despite having a window seat.  Secondly, the overhead light was not actually above my head or chest, it pointed somewhere inbetween my body and the window.  This meant that it was a little tricky to read.

Overall, this is not a bad product.  Compared to the Singapore Airlines First Class private suite I flew in July it obviously cannot compete.  Neither could the food match what I was served in Lufthansa First Class or Swiss First Class over the last 18 months.  If you stop trying to compare it with the market leaders, though, you are left with a classy, spacious product which I was generally happy to have spent 11 hours sitting in.

The service

I believe that this is a mixed fleet route, staffed by the (generally) younger crew members who have been hired in recent years under newer, less generous contracts.  Whilst I have had many good experiences of mixed fleet routes, I am still not convinced that you can run the best First Class service this way.

There is no doubt that the mixed fleet crew members were keen to help, polite and enthusiastic.  To be honest, it was a bit of a relief after recent Emirates flights where the multi-national, multi-lingual crew can often lead to confusion and misunderstandings.  However, and I would be the first to admit that we are heavily in the world of ‘first world problems’ here, the cumulative effect of:

forgetting to bring around the US customs forms

trying to serve me a frozen scone and, more interestingly,

three attempts to bring me the correct Sauternes dessert wine with the last part of the tasting menu

did add up.  The dessert wine one was, I think, typical.  Dessert wine is typically orangey-yellow in colour and comes in a very small bottle.  However, I was first brought a class of red.  I said I thought it wasn’t the right one.  It was taken away and a different, darker glass of red wine brought to replace it!  On my 3rd attempt – after explaining what they should look for – it was found and served.  It really shouldn’t take two crew members and three goes to get the wine which is officially paired with your dessert.

Overall, I enjoyed my flight.  I was travelling alone, and the ability to get a private seat in First Class is, for me, part of the appeal.  If a couple want to sit side by side in First Class, you need to sit in the middle block – in Club World you can both sit by a window, albeit facing each other.

What you need to remember is the gap between British Airways First and Club World is nowhere near as the big as the difference between World Traveller Plus and Club World.  If you had 200,000 Avios and needed to fly to California twice, you would be crazy to do one trip in First Class and other trip in World Traveller – it would be far more sensible, more enjoyable and more relaxing to do both trips in Club World.

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Comments

  1. Sam wardill says:

    Surprised you didn’t mention the loos. They are tiny. I did use the stairs (didn’t realise it wasn’t allowed) to use the huge upstairs loos in club

  2. Very interesting and your comments about the difference between First/Club/WTP are well taken – we have a trip to New York early in the new year with BA (points and 241 redemption) and I cant decide if we should do First or Club – any thoughts/recommendations? Done lots of travels to Asia in Singapore/Malaysia/Quantas, but not done US flights with BA so not sure what to expect?

    • I’m in a similar position, but going to Kuala Lumpur next year with my 2 for 1. I just cannot decide whether to go Club or First #FirstWorldProblem

      • I think this one is quite simple. The 60000 avios you’d save by going CW could be used for another trip. Would you prefer one trip in F, or one trip in CW + something else? Or can you get more avios so easily that it doesn’t matter, in which case F.

      • Really depends on how much you value the Avios. It is possible to acquire them for 0.4p each via Tesco Club card, for example by cashing out £50/year Top Cash back to club card points. If you’re able to obtain enough at that as an average price, the extra 40,000 to New York ‘costs’ £160 or extra 70,000 to KL will set you back £280 – on a 2for1 that is for two seats.

        Bear in mind that if you don’t have status, advance seat selection is £60+ per person each way in Club, whereas it is free in F.

        • Also depends on availability. For my route, first seems easier to get, though I’d choose Club from a value proposition if I had the choice.

        • Though advance seat selection for club is only really worth it if you can get one of the ‘aisle + window’ seats – there’s only a few of those on a 747, don’t know what the situation is on an A380

        • Sam Wardill says:

          Raffles often uses a 1p per Avios yardstick. On this basis, with a 2F1 voucher, the price to Tokyo would be £669 in WT, £927 in WTP, £1160 in CW & £1460 in F. I paid £300 pp for the First product over CW on this route and I have no regrets (I am neither cash nor Avios rich). I don’t know whether I could justify £600pp (without 2F1 voucher) to get First over CW. I note that Tokyo is not A380 route (I did also fly A380 First this year too but out of availability necessity rather than because of any value consideration).

          • Raffles can speak for himself but ISTR he doesn’t really accept 1 Avios = 1p for him, personally.

            I am coming around to this point of view myself – it has taken a while 😉 – but I think 0.8p is fairer, and maybe 0.6p would give a useful sense of proportion…

          • I have been getting about 1.1p since I started tracking it 18 months ago but I still prefer to use 0.75p, especially when considering any deal which involves spending money to get points.

            However, 2 people can value the same redemption differently. I tend to use £1250 as my valuation of CW flights to Dubai for eg because I would be willing to pay this for cash (and indeed did last Easter). Without a 241 that is a touch under 1p. If you would never pay £1250 for such a flight your valuation is lower, if you would pay more it is higher.

  3. It’s a shame they didn’t put in those double sized blue window blinds they have on the 747s – they do make the cabin look quite unique.

  4. mike sanders says:

    One point worth making, on the 747 the best seats were considered to be 1K and 2K for the privacy they offered. On the 380 these are no longer the sought after seats because of the claustrophobic effect of the staircase and the toilet, suggest you select 2A or 2K which provide the most privacy and the most space if not in square inches at least in “feel”.

  5. The seat are visibly bigger. Hmmmm are you sure? I thought it was the same seat as other aircraft ibut the foot print is bigger? The seat itself (ie) the bit you sit in is no bigger, wider or longer than any other new first seat. The Demi cabin may be much bigger but it’s not usable space. CX have a first seat where 2 adults could sit side by side in the seat. You can’t do that in club world plus !
    If travelling on 241 it’s fine but you would pay for this. As for the crew, well am sorry but enthusiastic amateurs are really not what I want in First. Again it’s fine if your on redemptions or an upgrade but if paying I want slick, stylish,polished, highly professional crew who know when to chat and when to not!.
    That’s how it used to be and how BA got its reputation. The product of 30 years ago may not have been a flat bed and your travel partner rubbed shoulders with you and 17 others! But the beef was carved at you seat, the food was superb, the wine cellar excellent and the crew world class.
    Sadly it’s not like that today and the soft product at least a shadow of what it once was.

    • The product should be the same for everyone travelling in first, whether you’ve paid full price, discount, redemption or been upgraded.
      However, I take your point, if you have paid full price you would have a lot more reason to be unhappy with the product because at full price it is overpriced for what you receive. I don’t think many travellers actually pay full price though and if they do it’s because they had to be on that flight, so they’ve actually paid for the flexibility which can be expensive or they aren’t paying themselves.

    • You are correct, when I wrote seat I meant footprint, ie the whole physical seat rather than the bit you sit on.

  6. A fair description of the 380 first cabin, I fly the LA route often and the service sadly lacks consistency, if BA could somehow create a more dedicated team to serve First, with bespoke training, they could easily make a very good service, excellent.
    A little correction, the main stair at the front is as you say , not for use by the crew apart from the CSD, but first class passengers are allowed to use it , as it gives them access to the much larger washroom in Club on the upper deck ( makes changing into your lovely PJ’s much easier!)

  7. To back up Godfrey, I recently travelled to LA in F on the A380 and was told that because the upstairs washrooms are so much larger, the new official line is that F passengers are allowed to ascend the stairs and use the larger toilet. However, the (mixed-fleet) crew member told me that not all crew are aware of this. After all, it’s a little unfair that Club pax have toilets the size of a football pitch whereas the F passengers do not!

  8. I thought male wash bag products were The Refinery, not Aesop?

  9. I would definitely agree with your comments on the varied service in BA First, which I posted about yesterday on your tasting menu piece. Unfortunately, unless you are very well trained and/or have life experience of, as in your example, the basics, such as what a dessert wine looks like, it will never match other carriers. This is where BA really need to improve.

  10. where2travel says:

    This pretty much sums up my take on a recent LHR-LAX flight in F too. I was pretty surprised by the amateurish crew and getting quite a few basic things wrong. Hopefully that’ll improve, although Mixed Fleet has been around for a while now.

    I still think BA’s IFE offers a small and dismal selection, better than their other aircraft but very weak compared to any other carrier I’ve flown in premium cabins. As you say, these days they can incorporate huge amounts of material into the system.

    All in all Qantas in F on the A380 was leaps ahead in pretty much every aspect (but that’s the only other carrier I’ve flown F on an A380 so limited comparison).

  11. My daughter received a 40k points refund today due to iffy service from the F crew on the return on this route. Crumbs and debris left all over her seat and table. A rather surly quick wipe was the response. Plus 40k when she complained.

    • I’ve always found BA quite good at compensating, with avios, if the service in First hasn’t been up to standard. My wife didn’t have a duvet available on a night flight( although she had blankets)20k Avios. My entertainment system wasn’t working properly( same flight was going to sleep anyway) 20k Avios 🙂

  12. What's The Point says:

    We flew this route and aircraft in March this year in WTP. It was offered as a £100 upgrade p.p one way – from the WT tickets we had booked at point of online check in.
    Considering the decent size of the WTP seat on this aircraft and length of time in the air I thought it was a reasonable upgrade.
    On the return flight, the plane was delayed significantly so they offered us seats back on Virgin Economy (which we took). In hindsight it was a massive mistake, as the VA flight back was terrible and the BA flight landed over 3 hours late (kerrching for those that chose to stick with it!)

  13. “If you had 200,000 Avios and needed to fly to California twice, you would be crazy to do one trip in First Class and other trip in World Traveller Plus”

    In addition to being ‘crazy’, you’d also be pretty useless at maths and, as a result, 25,000 Avios short. 150,000 + 75,000 = 225,000

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  1. […] always have less ‘skin in the game’ than if I had paid hard cash for them.  Take my review of British Airways First Class on the A380 last month – someone who paid £13,500 of their own money for that flight – which is the fully […]