This is my review of British Airways A380 First Class from Dubai to London Heathrow.
It’s been nine years since we ran a review of First Class on the British Airways A380 fleet. This was back in the days when the airline took advantage of the new-style ovens on these aircraft to offer a tasting menu to passengers. Good luck with that in 2023.
I’ve flown the seat a few times since but never done a fresh review. Since it looks as if the A380 fleet will be with us for a while longer I decided it was time, but this piece will be out of date by 2025. Club Suite and the new First Class suite are due to be installed, and First Class potentially moved upstairs.
Spookily, we got four Avios seats in First Class from Dubai to London Heathrow. I wrote about this particular seat dump back in July. We were travelling to/from Oman with a cash connection on Oman Air.
On a British Airways A380, First Class is situated downstairs. I would say ‘in the nose’ but as the plane does not visibly taper much at the front – unlike First Class on the old 747 fleet – this 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.
One downside of being downstairs is that – looking out of the window – the A380 feels like less of a novelty. When you’re on the upper deck it feels very different before take-off and landing due to the distance from the ground.
Boarding in Dubai is never a classy affair. Boarding, at least for this flight, was done from the front doors. First Class passengers are boarded first and then get to experience the rest of the passengers pushing through the cabin on the way to their seats.
We had 1K, 2K, 3K and 4K, ie the entire right hand side of the cabin. There are 14 seats in all – four down each side and three pairs of two seats in the middle. Refurbished BA Boeing 777 First Class cabins have eight seats and we may see the A380 drop to eight as well in 2025.
If you are sitting near the front the stairs leading to the Upper Deck will dominate your view. The front stairs are redundant, unless they are a safety requirement, and could be removed as passengers do not use them.
This is the view from 1K (note the empty magazine rack!) of the staircase:
Here is a picture of the stairs from the galley in front of Row 1, which is one of the widest you will ever see:
Here is a PR shot of the cabin looking towards the rear – you are looking at Row 4 there – which I could never have taken in real life given the people who were streaming past me during boarding:
The BA A380 First Class seat
The A380 First Class cabin has one clear difference from other aircraft types – it does NOT taper in. Given that the A380 lower deck is exceptionally wide in the first place, it gave the designers a little extra space to work with.
Let’s take a look at 1K. There is a long standing joke – not started by us – that British Airways First Class is ‘the best Business Class seat in the sky’. There is an element of truth here, and to be honest there are multiple ways that the Qatar Airways Qsuite product beats this seat. Even the new British Airways Club Suite beats it in some ways.
The key difference between this seat and a Business Class seat is that your feet are not in a cubby hole. As you can see here:
…. the seat is long enough for you to be able to stretch out without your feet disappearing under the seat in front.
There are some smart touches. On the outside of the seat is a wardrobe:
…. which can take your coat or jacket (there is a coat hanger inside) and, depending on size, your hand baggage.
There is also storage inside the seat, including this flip up unit:
If you were wondering how the middle pairs are arranged, they look like this:
Your head is a decent distance from the head of your seat neighbour, and apart from take-off and landing you can activate the divider between the two seats. I would be fine with this seat if travelling alone and no window seats were left.
The seat is showing its age in places though, such as the IFE remote control:
…. and the flip out TV screen, which as well as not having the definition of a modern TV is also unable to be used for take-off or landing because it’s not fixed.
I do have a soft spot for this dial-based control for the seat which is easy to use:
In general, I’d say that it is a classy First Class seat whilst, at the same time, clearly not looking as if it was launched in 2023. The cream and navy blue scheme follows through into things like the pyjamas, blankets and male amenity kits which brings a level of coherence to the overall look.
BA A380 First Class amenities
In terms of amenities, BA has tried its best. The headphones, from Meridian, come in a smart hard case:
…. and the blankets and pillows are good enough. We were on a relatively short day flight from Dubai so the bed didn’t get any use and I can’t comment on the sleep quality.
Pyjamas were available, even though I didn’t need them on a day flight. BA should get some kudos for this because a lot of airlines now try to hide them away, or even refuse to load them, in premium cabins on day flights.
The current First Class amenity kit is from Temperley London. The female ones are, I have to say, lovely:
The male ones are done in a dull navy blue, with no pattern, and don’t look as smart. Inside you get a surprising amount of stuff – ear plugs, 30ml Elemis shave gel, 10ml Elemis moisturiser, 5ml Elemis eye cream, a comb, a small pack of tissues, eye mask, toothbrush with a larger than usual toothpaste, lip balm, a pen, 10ml facial exfoliator and a 17g deodorant.
What impressed me was that, in the main, the contents are practical. Deodorant is the sort of item that you can definitely use but rarely see in amenity kits, and the handy travel size means it will definitely follow me on a future trip.
Long term readers of this site will know that I’m not a fan of in-flight entertainment and tend to spend my time catching up on my stash on unread magazines from home.
British Airways has broadened its IFE selection this year. The Paramount+ content is still available, as is a channel called ‘British Originals’ to tie in to the current ad campaign. My wife found a 3-part Lucy Worsley series on Agatha Christie here which she enjoyed and which we’d somehow missed when it was broadcast. ‘The Traitors’ and ‘Nolly’ were also here.
The ‘New Releases’ film selection included The Little Mermaid, Cocaine Bear, Indiana Jones & The Dial of Destiny and The Super Mario Bros Movie along with quite a few which had passed me by (‘The Pope’s Exorcist’? ‘The Machine’?, ‘Hypnotic’?, ’65’?).
British Airways First Class food and drink
With the demise of the A380 tasting menu, First Class is back to the standard approach to meals.
First up is a canape selection – beef bresaola with parmesan cheese, pan seared curried scallop with green pea mint puree and bocconcini with red pepper coulis. Taste wise, it is the highlight of the meal:
You will read stories about people not getting their initial choice of meals in BA First Class, but being in 1K and with a Gold card I was safe. To be fair, the rest of my family also got their initial choices, albeit my wife is also Gold.
There were five starter options – grilled barbeque prawns, beef bresaola, warm crispy hen’s egg, red pepper soup and a mixed leaf salad. I went for the prawns which didn’t quite deliver despite (or because of) the addition of corn on the cob, pickled cucumber, sweetcorn puree and chipotle sauce.
There were four main options: braised beef short ribs, chicken mandi, pan roasted cod and roasted beetroot and celeriac puree. I went for the chicken, which came with almonds, pine seeds and Mandi rice:
The menu claimed that side dishes (creamy mashed potatoes, grilled mixed vegetables, grilled baby courgette) were available. None were offered – not to me, not to anyone. At the end of the meal I asked the Cabin Services Director – or whatever they are called now – about it and he said ‘oh yeah, I forgot about those’. Welcome to BA First Class.
(I should also mention at this point that, whilst my glass was constantly topped up because I sat opposite the CSD, my wife in Row 4 was not offered additional drinks at any point. To be fair, this was still an improvement on her Virgin Atlantic Upper Class flight in May when the crew totally forgot to bring her appetiser and she was passed over for afternoon tea too.)
I passed on the four cheese plate options and headed into the desserts. The options were orange savarin, warm carrot, almond and walnut cake, vanilla ice cream and fresh fruit. Not exactly pushing the boat out. I went for the orange savarin on the basis that it was the only thing that was actually a proper dish:
The ‘Light Bites’ selection, offered during the flight if you feel peckish, is pitiful. I can’t dress it up. The options are popcorn, a bag of crisps or a mini-box of Lindt truffles.
Afternoon tea was offered nearer to arrival. This is a step up from the Club World version, but is still short of Virgin Atlantic Upper Class which has hot options. You could pick from a sandwich pack, a mini-plate of patisseries, jam and scones or (as this was Dubai) an Arabic mezze plate.
I should say that the William Edwards crockery is as lovely as ever as you can see from the images above. First also features Studio William Cutlery from the Cotswolds and glassware from Dartington Crystal.
First Class drinks
Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle remains on board, easily the most high profile beverage served on any British Airways flight. Lanson Rose is also available, as is the sparkling Hattingley Valley Blanc de Noirs 2018 from Hampshire. It’s a decent selection.
The usual mix of white, red and dessert wines (three white, three red, one dessert wine and one port) were available. The average retail price of the white and red is around £18 – £20 which may be more or less than you would spend to drink at home for a special occasion.
A selection of gin, vodka and whisky cocktails are also available, as well as mocktails. The spirits list includes Johnnie Walker Blue Label and the Dalwhinnie 15-year single malt whisky. Heineken and Heineken 0.0% are also loaded for …. well, I’m not sure …. plus the special British Airways BrewDog Speedbird IPA.
It is worth remembering that British Airways does not attempt to compete with this seat. Emirates charges (based on booking a few months in advance) £7,000 to Dubai in First Class. BA charges under £4,000.
If you’ve flown the new British Airways Club Suite then you may not be impressed by what you see above. On an A380 route, however, you are choosing between this and the old Club World seat – no storage, no privacy, half the seats face backwards.
On that basis, and that basis alone, I still recommend BA A380 First Class. The step up from ‘old’ Club World is substantial.
When using Avios, however, what you need to remember is the gap between British Airways First Class and Club World is nowhere near as the big as the difference between World Traveller and Club World.
If you have a finite Avios balance and two long haul trips planned, 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, even in the old seat.
How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (March 2024)
As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.
You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:
There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.
Run your own business?
We recommend Capital On Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.
You should also consider the British Airways Accelerating Business credit card. This is open to sole traders as well as limited companies and has a 30,000 Avios sign-up bonus.
There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.
Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.