What are the best seats on a British Airways Boeing 747?

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This is our guide to picking the best seat on the British Airways Boeing 747 aircraft.

This is part of a new series of Head for Points British Airways seat guides.  We will run a new article in this series every few days until we have covered the entire long-haul fleet.  Once all of the articles are live we will go back and cross-reference them.  We welcome your feedback and we will incorporate any relevant comments.  For now, please consider them a ‘work in progress’ which will improve over the next 12 months.

You can find our other British Airways seat maps here (this list will be expanded as future ones are published):

British Airways A350 seat map and ‘best seat’ guide

British Airways A380 seat map and ‘best seat’ guide

Introduction

The Boeing 747 is on its way out across the airline world.  Before coronavirus, British Airways intended to phase out the aircraft from its fleet by 2025.  In the meantime it planned to operate the remaining aircraft on some of its biggest destinations including New York, Cape Town, San Francisco and Miami.  Post coronavirus, all bets are off and it is very possible it will never fly again for the airline.

(Boeing’s attempt to launch a more modern, stretched version – the 747-8i – was not a success, although it has proved more popular as a cargo aircraft.  Lufthansa is the only airline in Europe which bought it.)

You can find out what aircraft is operating your British Airways flight by following the steps in this guide.

We have NOT done seat maps for the Boeing 747.  This is because there are two variants of the aircraft which would have made it rather complex, and with the future of the fleet uncertain it was not necessarily a good financial investment!  Hopefully the descriptions are good enough.  If the airline does return to the sky we may add them in the future.

The photograph below is one of the Boeing 747 aircraft which was repainted in a legacy British Airways livery in 2019 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the airline.  A ‘Landor’ variant was also repainted and is shown further down the page.

How do you select a seat on British Airways?

British Airways permits seat selection from the time of booking.

Some Executive Club members get free seat selection via their Silver or Gold status.  However, for everyone else, you have to pay a fee.  This even includes passengers in Club World or Club Suite business class, which is very unusual.  Most airlines which charge for seat selection only charge in their Economy cabins, but not British Airways.  The only cabin where seat selection is free is First Class.

You can read the British Airways seat selection rules in our article here. This guide will help you choose the best seats on the British Airways Boeing 747.

How do the two Boeing 747 variants differ?

Before we go into a detailed description of the cabins, here is how the two variants of the British Airways Boeing 747 differ:

First Class – no difference, both variants have a 14-seat First cabin on the lower level, in the nose

Club World (upper deck) – no difference, both variants have a 20-seat Club World cabin on the upper deck

Club World (lower deck) – both variants have a 2nd Club World cabin on the lower deck.  One variant has 52 seats placed, oddly, behind World Traveller Plus and in front of World Traveller.  The other variant has the more traditional First / Club World (66 seats) / World Traveller Plus / World Traveller layout.

World Traveller Plus – both variants have World Traveller Plus on the lower level.  One variant has 36 seats behind First Class and in front of Club World (unusually) whilst the other variant has the more traditional First / Club World / Word Traveller Plus (30 seats) / World Traveller layout

World Traveller – both variants have a World Traveller economy cabin at the rear of the lower deck comprising either 145 or 243 seats

Let’s look at each cabin in turn ….

What are the best First Class seats on the British Airways Boeing 747?

Best seats – 1A or 1K, because you can see forward through the windows, or 2A/K or 3A/K for a solo window seat in the middle of the cabin

The First Class cabin features a slightly older version of the seat than you will find on the new Boeing 787-9 and 787-10 fleet.

It is also a larger cabin than is found on the Boeing 787, with 14 seats.  The first three rows are in a 1-1 configuration whilst rows 4 to 5 have a 1-2-1 configuration with a middle pair.

Forget the age of the seat and the size of the cabin though.  First Class on a Boeing 747 has a unique feature that you fill not find on any other airline in the BA fleet.  If you are sat in 1A or 1K you can, because you are sat directly in the nose, see slightly forwards through the window.  This is a genuine novelty which will be sorely missed when the 747 fleet is finally retired – if indeed it ever returns to service after coronavirus.

Unlike BA’s latest business class Club Suite seat upgrade, the First seats do not feature a closing door.  There is a sense of privacy, but the 14-seat cabin is far larger and less exclusive than the 8-seat version found on the new 787 fleet.  On the upside, the larger cabin means that it is more likely that Avios redemption seats will be made available.

Let’s be honest – there are no ‘bad’ seats in the first class cabin, and all seats virtually identical. You may want to factor in your proximity to the galley and lavatory at the rear of the cabin, as these are typically the noisier parts of an aircraft.

Row 1, with the semi-forward view, is undoubtedly the best row on the aircraft. It is usually blocked for BA’s most valuable customers – its Executive Club Gold card holders – although you may get lucky and find an empty seat at check-in.  There is a wardrobe between 1A and 1K which gets traffic throughout the flight.

If you can’t get in the first row, seat 2A and 2K are excellent options. Failing this, any of the window seats will get you a window (obviously) and a solo seat with no neighbour.

For people travelling in pairs, the middle seats are the obvious choice. These have a retractable divider which you can keep lowered if you want to have a chat or raise if you are fed up of each other!  However, for those couples who can cope with being a few feet apart for a few hours, you may still prefer two window seats, one behind the other.  Rob says that he and his wife always did this before the kids came along!

Be aware that seat 5F, at the rear of the cabin, is a bassinet seat and is available for people with infants.

Best Club World business class seats on a BA Boeing 747

Best seats – anything on the upper deck, with 64A/K preferred if you want extra privacy

British Airways operates its legacy yin and yang product on its Boeing 747 fleet.  Even if the fleet does fly again, BA will not be refitting the aircraft with its new Club Suite seat as the aircraft are due to be retired in the next few years.

Because Club World is split beween the upper deck and the lower deck, each cabin is of a manageable size.  You don’t get the ‘flying dormitory’ feel that is evident on some variants of the Boeing 777.

It is important to note that half the seats face backwards.  Whilst this may sound like an odd way to fly, it is hardly noticeable and only becomes evident during take-off and landing.  All seats on an aisle face forward.

Not all the seats have direct aisle access.  Whilst all-aisle-access is a common feature on newer business class seats such as Club Suite, in this configuration passengers sat in window or middle seats must step over the legs of another passenger to exit.  This is the single biggest complaint about the legacy Club World seat.

Upper deck

Let’s talk about the upper deck first, which is identical on both variants of the aircraft. The upper deck is an exclusive experience and offers the best seats on the aircraft after First Class.

There are just 20 business class seats in this cabin, in a 2-2 layout, between rows 60 and 64.  It is, to all intents and purposes, equivalent to flying on a 20-person private aircraft.  It is something that you should try to do once in your flying life if you can.

On the upper deck, all window seats also benefit from additional storage much like on the upper deck of the A380.

Both 64A and 64K, in the last row, are window seats with direct aisle access.  These seats are especially prized because having a window usually means you are climbing over another passenger to get out.  These seats also benefit from a little extra space. If you are travelling solo this may appeal to you, although you are closer to the galley.

62A and 62K also offer a little extra room as they are in an Exit Row. You also benefit from direct aisle access.

One warning: the upper deck of the Boeing 747 is not recommended for babies or small children in our view.  This is partly because any excess noise carries more easily in such a small space, and partly because – for children that can walk – the steep stairs down to the main deck could be a hazard.

Lower deck

The configuration on the lower deck varies depending on whether you are on a Boeing 747 with 86 business class seats or the smaller cabin with 52.  If, when you come to choose your seat, row 12 is a business class row then you are on the variant with 86 seats. If it is not you are on the variant with 52 business class seats.

Variant 1:

In the larger variant, Club World is spread across three smaller cabins on the main deck. Seats 14A, 14K, 20A, 20K, 22A and 22K all benefit from being both directly next to a window and having direct aisle access. This is a unique benefit of being at the back of each partition.

Variant 2:

On the variant with fewer business class seats, the Club World cabin is actually behind World Traveller Plus (premium economy).  Seats 20A and 20K are again both window seats with direct aisle access, although the trade off is that you are sitting in the last row and therefore last to be served your meal.

On both variants you may wish to avoid 18A, 18K, 19A and 19K as there are no windows here.  If you look at the photograph above, you will see a windowless area by the wing.

Families or groups of four may prefer the lower deck where they can occupy a group of four centre seats, rather than splitting up along the windows.  Whilst many travellers dislike the Club World middle seats with a passion, they are actually fantastic for families with two young children.  You can take a row of four in the middle block with a parent on each aisle.  The children can share the ‘double bed’ seat pair in the middle and get a lot of floor space between them for toys etc. Whilst this normally requires the middle pair to climb over strangers to get out, this is not the case in the last row of each cabin.

Apart from this, there is no reason why any solo traveller would want the middle pair on the lower deck.  In particular, the middle pair on the lower deck means that you are effectively sharing a double bed with a stranger for the entire flight.  Yes, there is a divider, but in bed mode you are almost certainly going to be closer to your neighbour than you are to your partner in bed at home.

A couple should, instead, consider a pair by a window.  An A/B or J/K pair allows you to face each other and one of you will have a window.  With an E/F pair, neither of you has a window and you are both climbing over strangers to get out.

Best World Traveller Plus (premium economy) seats on a BA Boeing 747

The two seating variants of the 747 put the premium economy cabin in slightly different places on the aircraft.  Seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 layout.

Each seat has a 38″ seat pitch (the gap between the back of the seat in front and yours) and comes with a 10-12″ screen in the seatback in front of you and USB charging.

Couples are likely to enjoy the window seats where you can have two seats together.  It makes no sense to take two seats in the middle block.  You might be tempted to pay for a seat reservation in order to guarantee a window pair.

Variant 1:

If the World Traveller Plus cabin starts in row 11, then you are on the aircraft where the premium economy cabin is oddly sandwiched between First Class and Club World (business class).

On this variant, seats on the right hand side of the aircraft (ie. seats J and K) are likely to be slightly less busier and therefore quieter, since all the lavatories are on the left hand side.

Seats 11J and K as well as 12A, B, D, E, F and G are likely to have extra legroom as there is nobody sitting in front. Be aware that your in-flight entertainment screen and tray table are stored in the armrest and cannot be used during takeoff and landing.

Variant 2:

If you are on the variant where World Traveller Plus starts in row 33, the best seats are undoubtedly at the front of the cabin. Seats in row 33 benefit from greater legroom thanks to being at the front of the cabin, as well as the first to be served during meal times. You are also far away from noiser parts of the cabin such as galleys and lavatories.

Best World Traveller (economy) seats on a BA Boeing 747

There are some general rules for better seats in World Traveller.

The first row of World Traveller typically gets additional legroom. Be aware, however, that the in flight entertainment screen and tray table are stored in the armrest and therefore cannot be used during take-off and landing.

Passengers at the front of the economy cabin also typically get their first choice of meal and are first to disembark the plane, which may be an important consideration.

You may also wish to avoid areas around galleys and lavatories at the rear of the aircraft as these are likely to be noisier.

Variant 1:

If you are on the variant where the World Traveller cabins start in row 39 then the best seats are 40A-G and 39H, 39J and 39K as these have more legroom. There is only one lavatory at the front of the cabin but this is behind a cabin monument and should therefore be fairly quiet, although you will have to contend with galleys.

Variant 2:

If you are on the variant where the World Traveller cabin starts in row 28 then the best seats are undoubtedly in this first row. There are no galleys or lavatories between the front of the economy cabin and the rear of the business class cabin so it should be fairly quiet. Crucially, you will be the first economy passengers to disembark.

Row 39, 40A-G and 39H, 39J and 39K also have more legroom. However these are in the middle of the cabin with a lavatory and the galley, so may be a little noisier than row 28.

On both variants, the final three rows on the window side become rows of two rather than three seats as the fuselage narrows. There is a lot of extra floorspace where the third seat would have been, although you are right at the back of the cabin.

Conclusion

The Boeing 747 was arguably the most iconic aircraft of the 20th century and British Airways had one of the largest fleets, but its days are numbered. 

Whilst undoubtedly attractive to look it, it has four fuel guzzling engines and is not made of lightweight composites.  You don’t get the larger windows and improved cabin pressure found on modern aircraft.  It is also fair to say that the interiors are not in great condition compared to the new A350 and Boeing 787 fleets.

It is very possible that the Boeing 747 will never fly again for British Airways and this article will turn out to be wasted.  If you do get the chance to fly it in a premium cabin, try to take advantage.

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Comments

  1. The Original David says:

    You have bits of the First section from another article I think – there are no “forward toilets” or a galley at the front of a 747 F cabin, just the wardrobe…

  2. Zumodenaranja says:

    Did I not read somewhere that all BA’s 747s are for the chop?

    • Gregor says:

      I live in Stroud and occasionally take a bike ride out to near Kemble Airport, which is primarily a storage and breakers’ airfield for airliners. There are 4 or 5 BA Jumbos sitting there, which strongly suggests they are indeed, literally, for the chop, and spotter sites I’ve perused confirm this.

  3. Hi Rob and team. I think I have done my fair share of Fiying the 747 in club and first given I lived and worked in Cape Town and São Paulo for 10 years travelling back and forth. I think your article is spot on. The o oh thing I would say is that we ALWAYS Went upstairs with small kids and babies and took 64a&k and when we also had to buy seats after they turned 2 b&j as well. So much easier to look after a family with the extra space and side drawers next to the windows. Also the extra service that you receive by having 2 dedicated cabin crew for 20 (quicker meal and drinks service) made it easier to manage as well. Something for other families to consider if they get the chance to fly this awesome aircraft again.

    • Mr IO says:

      Totally agree. Upper floor for family is the best space by far. Personally I felt the upper deck was better than first class.

  4. David Faichney says:

    Quote at the bottom

    “It is very possible that the Boeing 747 will never fly again for British Airways and this article will turn out to be wasted. If you do get the chance to fly it in a premium cabin, try to take advantage”

  5. Genghis says:

    62A/K also direct aisle access, 63 too if you’re skinny.

    • NvT1115 says:

      I actually prefer 62k to 64k having tried both – really is unlimited leg room as exit row

    • Doug M says:

      I’m a 62A/K fan. Being by the door means it’s a lot cooler which I much prefer.

  6. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve used seat 64A on the upper deck, over decades, mostly to and from BOS, when working in the States. It’s like being in your own cocoon and I had no issue with it being rear facing.

  7. Chrisasaurus says:

    Yes unless they’re very small and I’ve just never noticed them there definitely just the rear galley/toilets in first!

    Ref children upstairs there is a bassinet in 64a is there not? There was when we flew upstairs the one time we got seats (and the only reason we did) and for the record while not winning any awards for safety the stairs provided entertainment for a 1 year old for a good hour!

    • Doug M says:

      Yes 64A is the bassinet seat upstairs. You won’t be able to allocate it, even with status, until I think T-72.

  8. Steve says:

    Regarding direct aisle access article has a error? States that “This is the single biggest complaint about Club Suite” : surely this is the single biggest complaint “pre” club suite?

  9. If we ignore the more modern trend towards First suites, I would argue that 1 A & K on a 747 were the best seats in the industry. Had the pleasure of flying them numerous times on ANZ between LHR and LAX, once on Thai to BKK, and frequently on Thai between BKK and HKT where you could have them for about £65 at the time 🙂 I found upper deck in LH First was a bit weird as a solo traveller as the seats when reclined fully made you feel like you were in a double bed with a stranger. It was a case of sleep on your side facing the window or facing the aisle, preferably not on your back and never on your side face to face.

  10. Charlie says:

    Our very first CW redemption was to Moscow and we had the entire upper deck of the 747 to ourselves. It was very strange, but really cool. As we sat opposite each other we needed a crew member each to show us the exit routes, etc. pre-takeoff 🙂.

    We did arrive quite tipsy though as there was nobody else to finish the champagne. A brilliant experience, from 2013, which wouldn’t have been possible without HFP.

    Fast forward to 2017 and we managed to pinch 1A and 1K on the way back from San Diego. Dining together and the lovely ambience (and a souvenir bottle of Laurent Perrier as it was our first time) made it oh so memorable.

    Thank you HFP – were not at all frequent flyers. Just collect Avios and vouchers and use when we can.

    Thanks again Rob.

    • Secret Squirrel says:

      When Seats are discussed on BA, it might be good to indicate the estimated costs to select if not Status holders. I know that upper deck seats as an example are an outrageous price to select.

      • Doug M says:

        Dynamic pricing so it’s hard to pin down. I know it’s been covered a lot, but BA price seats to not sell, they want the best ones available to status holders. In the long term that’s better for them than the £80 the seat will sell for. This was a situation primarily of the CW layout, with very different seats for those that understood the layout. The CS will mean that they’ll be much less demand for particular seats. I know they’ll always be those seeking to choose a particular seat, or concerned they won’t be able to sit together. But in the long term it’s hard to see the CS seats as saleable the way CW ones are.

        • Secret Squirrel says:

          At the prices charged for upper deck CW seats I would agree with your statement – not priced to sell. However, IMO if an article covers BA seats i do think some indication of seat reservation fees should be included, even a lowest rate to highest rate.
          I checked out seat reservation fees for upper deck CW once and was shocked to see charges per seat up at £200 + each, each way.

      • Charlie says:

        I have no status so picked 24 hours before when check-in opens. On both the above occasions the UD and 1A/1K were available! No gold members to kick us out surprised me a lot.

  11. Andrew says:

    I was due to be sitting in 1A next Saturday to JFK for my 40th, very sad that I’ll likely never sit in 1A again. I think the “traffic throughout the flight” to the wardrobe is somewhat of an over statement – I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone go in there after take off until preparing for landing. What would be a more important downside of row 1 to note is the lack of overhead bins and the need to share with row 2 or use the wardrobe. Probably best a review is written by someone who has actually flown in the cabin.

    • Agree. Having flown in row 1 and row 2, we actually prefer row 2 because of the overhead lockers. The wardrobe in between row 1 always seems to have a broken and you have to stack your stuff on top of each other so not so quick/ easy to get at your stuff if you need to during the flight.
      Also I don’t get the “looking forward” in row 1, didn’t seem like you were really looking forward as everyone makes out.

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