Back Home in BA First Class

Happy new year everyone!

My girlfriend and I spent Christmas and New Years in the UK where my parents live, and had a great time exploring quaint Costwold villages and staying in a 300 year old house! After new year, we flew back to Minneapolis via Denver, flying BA First Class out of London Heathrow.

We paid for these flights using CX Asia Miles and American Advantage Miles, mainly earned from credit card bonuses. While the taxes were steep ($541 for my Asia Miles ticket and $544 for my girlfriend’s AA ticket), this still was significantly cheaper than a cash ticket, something we could never afford!

Now I know BA First is a far cry from the best ways to cross the Atlantic in luxury, but I was excited to share the experience with my girlfriend, who’s never flown in an international F cabin. We also were very impressed with the Cathay Pacific Lounge at LHR, which I’ll highlight below!

Check In, Formalities, and Security

BA’s flight to Denver departs out of Terminal 3 instead of the more commonly used Terminal 5 at LHR. I was initially disappointed to find this but then I realized it gave us significantly more lounge hopping options than the alternative!

We arrived at around 8am for our 12:15pm flight. I have a great girlfriend who was willing to get up early! BA have a separated area in Terminal 3 for checking in, and after a brief wait we had our boarding passes in hand and bags tagged for Denver.

Fast track was a somewhat slow affair, not sure if that’s typical at LHR or if it was the post-new year rush (we traveled on Jan 2nd). I got a chuckle from the agent who warned the queue ‘if you don’t remove liquids from your bag, it will be inspected which will take 30-45 minutes.‘ Yikes.

Cathay Pacific Lounge

After clearing the formalities, we had a choice of four Oneworld lounges to check out. We decided to head to the Cathay Pacific Lounge, which has a dedicated area for Oneworld First Class and Oneworld Emerald members. Our first order of business: breakfast. The lounge offers an excellent a la carte table-service with an impressive breakfast offering:

The dining area has a good amount of space, and there were two other groups dining when we arrived.

I went for the western set with a side of dim sum, and my girlfriend had the Chinese set with a side of the grilled haloumi toast. All was very tasty and filling, so much so that we couldn’t finish it all. Service was relatively attentive, although I felt it could have been a little more proactive.

Next up, I decided to take a shower. There’s nothing like a shower before a long flight! The Cathay shower rooms were well appointed and had a great ‘rainfall’ type shower with good water pressure!

Following the shower, we checked out the ‘lounge’ area of the first class lounge. We really liked it, especially the comfortable chairs by the windows! There was also a good assortment of buffet style food and a decent alcoholic beverage selection.

Elemis Spa/Lounge Hopping

Following a brief stay in the Cathay Lounge it was time for our spa treatments. BA allow you to book these ahead of time if you are a first class passenger, and we didn’t have any trouble booking them about two weeks out. I went for a scalp massage and my girlfriend had a facial. My treatment also featured a massage chair:

We both had a similar verdict on our treatments: ‘meh’. While it was a relaxing experience, the person conducting our treatments wasn’t particularly friendly, didn’t explain what was going to happen, and overall didn’t show much concern for the overall experience. Maybe its a Terminal 3 vs. Terminal 5 thing, or maybe its just an Elemis thing. Either way, we were thankful for the opportunity but wouldn’t leap to do it again.

While I was waiting for my girlfriend to finish her treatment, I checked out the BA Galleries First Lounge. Compared to the Cathay Lounge it was dark and a little drab. I didn’t check the food offerings out, but it did seem they have a better champagne selection if that’s your thing!

I also went to the new(ish) Qantas Business Lounge. It was an impressive space with a really cool staircase, and what looked like decent food and beverage options (including a barista making coffee drinks for folks). Again, however it was quite dark. I really think Cathay has the edge here, and it was our spot of choice to return to for the remainder of our time in the terminal before boarding. Some shots of the Qantas lounge below:

We passed on the American Airlines lounges after reading and seeing some pretty poor reviews. Before long it was time to head for the gate and board!

Flight: BA 219
Date & Time: Jan 2nd, 2019, 12:15pm
Aircraft: G-CIVB Boeing 747-400
Seats: 1A and 1K

Boarding was efficient and we were among the first few to board. We were super excited to grab seats 1A and 1K in the nose of the 747 (although it took an email to BA’s ‘You First’ email helpdesk as they weren’t selectable at online check in). While some say these seats are cramped and too close to a closet, we found them to be extremely private, quiet, and almost as if we were on a private jet!

Upon boarding, we were offered a drink of choice. I went with Champagne, a tasty glass of Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle (yum!). Amenity kits and pajamas were also provided.

Its super cool to look ‘forward’ in the nose of the 747!
The sight of a happy girlfriend!

This was probably by fourth of fifth flight in BA F, but it was my girlfriend’s first. It was a lot more fun to be able to share the experience with her, and share the results of my points and miles semi-obsession 🙂

BA’s First seat isn’t industry leading, but I found it to be comfortable as usual and spacious enough. The small closet built into the seat was big enough for my shoes and a shirt but not much more, however the large closet between our seats fit our bags and went unused by the rest of the cabin.

We were taxiing after a warm welcome from the captain, and departed to the west a few minutes later.

A great view of a relatively rare aircraft – a Qatar ‘Amiri Flight’ 747-8, which if I understand correctly is used by the royal family and VIPs.

I’m always impressed by how quickly non-US airlines turn off the seatbelt sign – it was literally four of five minutes after takeoff! I visited the lavatory and felt like I was climbing a mountain as the aircraft continued to climb!

Before long, the cabin crew came around with warm nuts and a drink from the bar. I went for a Kir Royale, and also tried the English Sparkling Wine, which was good but not as good as LPGS ;)!

I promise nuts were provided, I just got a little too hungry and ate them before I realized I didn’t take a photo! #newbietripreporter

Service on our flight was good, provided by two friendly cabin crew. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but the crew were attentive during the meal service and proactive at things like making up beds, refilling glasses, etc.

Which brings us to lunch. We took advantage of pre-selecting our meals ahead of the flight, which I love as it guarantees your choice. I forgot to take a photo of the menu, but I had duck a l’orange and my girlfriend had a fillet of beef. We opted to ‘dine together’ as its something I’ve always wanted to do at least once but not had the chance. Its certainly a bit cramped, but the novelty was worth it! Here’s some pictures of the meal:

Table set, ready for business!
Amuse-bouche consisting of cheese, a sun-dried tomato, an olive, and some cured meats. Tasty!
I went for the ‘Rabbit and ham hock terrine with quince and carrot chutney and mustard spiced celeriac puree’. It was good, and tasted better than it looked.
My main: ‘Gressingham duck a l’orange with braised chicory and crumbled Blue Monday cheese’. Very tasty, filling, and a good assortment of flavors, although the chicory was awfully bitter.
My girlfriend’s ‘Seared fillet of British beef with Cafe de Paris butter, grilled portobello mushroom, slow-roasted tomato and roasted Charlotte potatoes’. She said it was well cooked, not dry, and a good portion.
We asked for a photo. I know I know, its probably against etiquette but we wanted to mark the occasion! The cabin crew didn’t seem to mind and was happy to help 🙂
We both had excellent desserts. For my girlfriend, a fruit crumble which was delicious. For me, a fantastic cheese selection. For both, generous glasses of Warre’s 2000 Colheita Tawny Port (yum!).

We were both pretty tired following lunch, and the friendly cabin crew proactively offered to make our beds. I watched a movie and then slept for a couple of hours. My only complaint here was that the cabin got incredibly hot two or three hours after dinner service. Maybe it was the wine ;).

Following my nap, I requested a pot of tea, which was provided in short order.

About 90 minutes prior to landing, afternoon tea was provided. This is something I do wish BA offered more options with. I’ve never been a fan of cakes and scones, but if you remove those you’re left with three small (but tasty) sandwiches. I suppose maybe I could’ve asked for some more of the savory items, but it would be great if there was another snack or meal available.

All in all, an excellent flight and a good use of miles. We had some great views heading in to Denver, landing 30 minutes early and coming to the gate shortly thereafter.

The cabin crew allowed the First cabin to deplane first, which was a welcome benefit and allowed us to clear immigration quickly before heading to our hotel for the night. We continued to Minneapolis the next day via Delta.

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you enjoyed my first trip report, and I look forward to posting more in the future!

Elliott