Review: British Airways First Class B747, Vancouver – London


Review: British Airways First Class, Boeing 747-400, Vancouver – London

The flight boarding was announced in the lounge about 10 minutes after the time printed on the card. We headed down and arrived to the gate and arrived as they were boarding group 2.

Each of our printed boarding cards were stamped with Door 1 / Door 2. Once we were on the jet bridge, I bid good bye to MrsWT73 who was headed for the upper deck of the B747, whereas I was headed for the nose of the plane on the main deck.

British Airways
BA 84 – First Class (Z)
YVR-LHR (Vancouver International Airport – London Heathrow Terminal 3)
Dec 7, 2018
9:20 PM – 2:50 PM + 1
Booked: B747-400
Flown: B747-400

The British Airways First Class Cabin:

Arriving to the door, I was asked to self guide myself to Seat 3K. My first impressions for riding First Class in the Boeing 747 (versus our A380) flight a few months ago was “Wow – is it ever tight in here!”. Indeed, the 14 seats in the nose of the B747 is probably the most compact First Class experience one can have on a wide body plane. At the risk of sounding entitled, it’s a bit of a ghetto experience that was likely state of the art in 1990 and hasn’t matured much despite decorative refreshes.

“British Airways offers a lightly refreshed First Class experience on it’s Boeing 747’s that remains ever compact in its foot print”

I placed my bags into the over head bin. The configuration of the seat on the Boeing 747 does not allow for a rollie to fit into a floor locker. Instead, there is a garment cupboard that doubles with netted pockets for storage. There was also a slipper cupboard at the bottom.

The load was only 9 out of 14 today in First Class. It appeared that there were not many takers for the $1,000 buy up offer from Business Class to First.

I was offered a Pre-departure beverage of Laurent Perrier Grand Sciele, along with the Elemis Spa Amenity kit. The amenity kits contained Refinery products and were presented in a nice case by Liberty of London. I was asked if I wanted a pyjama, and then dropped off if you wanted them.

First Class Menu:

The menus were dropped off while we were on the ground. The flight crew took a drink order (but not a dinner order) until we were airborne.

I don’t know what’s happened with the First Class menu but tonight’s options were downright uninspiring and it was a choice between the best of the worst items as none really appealed to me. As an example, “corn fed chicken with pomegranate jus and vegetables” isn’t super inspiring for a First Class menu. At least the wine menus were interesting and engaging. . .

Equally uninspiring was the low resolution television monitor that met with the dated age of this aircraft.

As we got underway, we had a smooth climb out on Runway 08 R, which is a long taxi away from the international wing.

Shortly after we climbed to altitude, the purser came by to introduce herself. Having my wife on board, and recognizing the usual protocol of going down a class to visit, but recognizing that the tight business class coffins on 8 across British Airways don’t have buddy seat belts and First Class does, I asked about the visit protocol for two passengers in First and Business. I fully expected the purser to head down to business. Surprisingly, likely since the cabin was of a light load and contained 2 children, she approved a visit in First as long as no one was sleeping. It was a generous offer on her part. I actually never got the opportunity to take her up on it… more on this later.

Food and Beverage:

It was 10 PM by the time that we got to cruising altitude and I was asked if I wanted dinner now or later? My plan for the flight was to have the full dinner and head straight to bed afterwards.

With that, the dinner table was set and we were off, starting with a pre-appetizer of parma ham, cherry tomato and black olive tapenade and courgetti cannelloni with whipped herbed feta.

I followed this with parsnip cream soup with vanilla foam and brown butter ficelle. This was presented well, but it ended up all melting together and was surprisingly watery and quite tasteless.

As a main course, I went with the pan seared pacific halibut with minted pea coulis, goji berry butter and turmeric fingerling potatoes. I was thinking that I would go for something light and not all too heavy. I certainly got something light, but it also didn’t have too much taste or enjoyment to it. The fish, despite being well cooked and soft, wasn’t all to exciting, and the potatoes were downright boring. The presentation wasn’t all that fancy either. . . it looked like something you’d get at a homestyle restaurant.

I ended with the cheese plate of cheddar, Danish blue and triple cream brie. Although nicely presented with crackers, and jam, the cheeses were not to exotic and nowhere near the world class cheese cart Lufthansa offers. It was a pretty ho hum in the end.

A designer chocolate service was also offered to close out the meal.

I stuck with the Chablis 1er cru Fourchaume 2015, Maison Albert Bichot from Burgundy, French all through the meal. The wine was quite solid and easy to drink. This was probably the highlight of the whole meal.

“Tonight’s food offering was quite forgettable compared to Lufthansa’s First Class menus, whereas the British Airways First Class wine list was the real star of the flight”

After dinner, I went with a glass of Johnny Walker Blue and headed upstairs to the business class deck to check on MrsWT73. She had already gone to sleep without me. As a result, there was no first class visit to be had. I ended up back at my seat where I finished Johnny on my own.

Bedding:

Around Hudson’s Bay, I asked the flight crew to make up my bed. They were able to do so with a light mattress pad and sheet. We were passing Hudson’s Bay by the time dinner service was over several hours into the flight.

I slept with some difficulty for about 4.5 hours. The small width of the chair on the British Airways seat made for harder side sleeping. My knees kept banging the wall and I would try to comfort myself around the garment closet without much success. Ultimately, I think that the seat is too narrow for my tastes, which affected overall comfort.

Second Meal Service:

I woke up to the sound of clattering crockery as people started to get up and have breakfast. Before long, the staff were by to take a breakfast order. Our flight was nearing the coast of Ireland before long. The table was also set promptly.

I started with plain yoghurt with orange marmalade, along with a croissant that actually flaked when you broke it apart. This was accompanied by a Union Hand Roasted Americano Coffee which was among one of the better coffee’s I’ve ever had on a plane.

I then had a traditional English Breakfast of scrambled eggs, pork sausage, peameal bacon, mushroom, potato cakes and tomato. The ability to have a breakfast up front on a carrier that is not served as omelette was a completely refreshing change of pace for once. The breakfast was super tasty.

We had a quick approach into Heathrow. On the short final, we passed by the retired British Airways Concorde at London Heathrow.

After we landed, we pulled off the taxi way. The stand we were supposed to park at was occupied by another plane. This led to a negotiation by the pilots for another stand, followed by a long taxi over to the opposite side of the building. This added another 20 minutes sitting on the plane on the ground after we had landed. British Airways was apologetic but this circumstance ended up eating into a great deal of our lounge time. Instead, I was able to look at a parked Qantas A380 that was being turned around.

Conclusion:

In summary, I was a bit nonplussed by this British Airways experience. The First Class experience on the B747 lacked the lustre of the Airbus A380. The older First Class on the Boeing 747-400 is years past its prime; maybe even by a decade. I found the configuration to be cramped and the food menu was far from aspirational for first class. On the bright side, the crews were ever so pleasant and entertaining. The breakfast and coffee were among the best basic breakfasts I’d had on a plane. The wines were of reasonable quality, which made up for the less than exciting food. I guess First Class is better than Business. The new British Airways aircraft can’t come soon enough.

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