- Lounge Review: British Airways Lounge San Francisco Lounge
- Flight Review: British Airways First Class – Airbus A380 San Francisco (SFO) to London (LHR)
- Lounge Review: British Airways Concorde Room London Heathrow Terminal 5
- Hotel Review: Le Méridien Stuttgart, Germany
- Flight Review: British Airways First Class – Boeing 747 London (LHR) to San Francisco (SFO)
I was already waiting in front of the airplane door to get off as quickly as possible to make my connection. While I was waiting for the jetway to be connected to the plane, the flight attendant told me that there are already agents waiting for me at the top of the ramp to take me to my flight to San Francisco. As the door opened I walked off the plane and saw two agents holding an iPad with my name on it. They introduced themselves as Sarah and Bill and did a quick boarding pass and passport check and took me out a separate exit down to a Mercedes Van, which would transfer me to another part of the Terminal to get through security. While driving we had a nice chat about planes and aviation and it was just such a special treatment and even great company.
In Europe, there is no such thing as TSA PreCheck. The London Heathrow Airport has dedicated lanes for passengers with short connection times and traveling in Premium Cabins. Thanks to the great service of British Airways by picking me up right at the gate of my inbound flight, they drove me with their Mercedes Van to another part of Terminal 5 where I had to clear security really quickly. I was the only one at that security checkpoint and it’s just another regular checkpoint where all the rules apply. After I gathered all my belongings again we walked out another door and back hopped on the same Mercedes Van again. The driver repositioned himself there, while I was going through security. From there we drove straight up to the plane where I was able to walk up a set of stairs directly into the jetway.
As boarding had already commenced shortly after my inbound plane landed at LHR, there was already a long line in the jetway. Thanks to Sara and Bill (the British Airways Agents) I was able to cut the line by following them down the side of the jetway straight up to the airplane door. What an unbelievable experience and service of British Airways. I am sure without that service, I wouldn’t have made it in time to the gate before the plane would depart. Because of the rushed transfer, I didn’t get chances to take photos. However, I was able to snap that pic of my plane just before walking up the stairs to the jetway.
Once aboard the plane, my British Airways escort introduced me to one of the flight attendants working First Class and he guided me to my seat.
First Class Cabin
British Airways has three different configurations of its Boeing 747-400 fleet. All of the three versions come with 14 open suites in First Class. My plane had five open suits on either side of the plane and four additional once in the middle. First Class is located on the main deck of the 747 and you don’t get to sit upstairs. The upper deck holds 20 Club World seats in either configuration of the plane. First Class is configured in a staggered 1-2-1 layout. All the window seats have 2 windows and the window shade is controlled with a button at the seat. There is only one shade for both windows.
At the very front of the first-class cabin, the nose of the plane is a big closet. This is very much needed as the overhead locker bins are very small and they are only above the window seats. There are none over the four seats in the center of the plane. The bins are so small, that I wasn’t able to put my carry-on and camera backpack in the same bin. I had to use another bin and shared the rest of my available space with other passengers smaller items. As they ran out of overhead space in First, as the cabin was sold out on this flight, they placed the remaining bags in the closet at the front of the plane.
There are two lavatories for First Class which are located on the left side of the plane, just behind the front boarding door, next to the galley. Sizewise I would call them “standard”. Not much space to change in the provided pajama. I would do that as soon as you can before it gets nasty inside the lavatories. Yes, that even happens in First Class.
British Airways calls this seat an open suite. I disagree a little bit on that term, as for being a suite it has too much opening into the aisle. It’s not a bad thing, you still have your privacy from your seat neighbor as the seats on the window and aisle are offset a little bit. The rows 1 and 2 don’t have any “middle” seats. The 4 seats in the middle of the plane have a sliding curtain for privacy between the two seats.
Each seat comes with a small closet. It comes with a hanger to hang a jacket and your clothes after changing into the pajama. Inside are some mesh pockets for smaller items like wallet, cell phone, passport,…and a big opening at the bottom where you can store your shoes. If you wear bigger boots, they might not fit in there. For most of the seats, the closet is reachable from the seat itself and the doof folds open towards the aisle. It’s different for the four seats in the middle of the plane and the further most seats.
The seat is comfortable and wide and has good upholstery. Opposite of the seat is an ottoman with its own seatbelt. If you have another person sitting with you to talk, the person can now stay with you when the seatbelt sign turns on during the flight. Of course, everybody has to be in their own seats for take-off and landing and securely strapped in. Below the ottoman is some extra space for storage.
On the window side of the seat, is a tray that has a lid from where the tray table pops out. Once the tray table is out, it folds open to a very big table and is sturdy enough to use it even with a laptop.
Right next to the seat are all the controls for your open suite. A control knob is used to adjust your seat position. This is actually ingenious. It’s very easy to adjust your seat up or down. I used to adjust the back and footrest of the seat separately on other seats to get it in the perfect position. While adjusting the seat, I was always in a good position and never actually wanted to adjust a part of the seat separately. There is a lighted ring around the control knob. If the ring is green it’s the right position for take-off and landing, while it is lit blue-ish in all other positions. The button immediately below the control knob will always bring your seat in the take-off position. Just press and hold it and the seat will stop automatically once in the right position. With the two buttons below that, you can adjust your headrest and lumbar support.
Above the control knob are the controls for the lights. You can turn on the overhead reading lights separately and there is a wall-mounted light fixture next to your seat towards the window. The brightness of this light fixture can be adjusted as well with the two buttons next to it. Just next to the control knob for the seat is a separate button that opens and closes the window shades, USB outlet, and the headphone jack. The light fixture turned out to be a great spot to hang my headset.
Just above the seat controls is a panel that you can flip open. That panel covers the remote control for the in-flight entertainment system. It’s pretty nice and at first, I missed that you can open the panel and was wondering where the remote is. On the side of the seat, towards the window, is a small gap between the tray table and the back wall of the suite area. In there is a little storage space that holds the in-flight magazine, safety card and has some little extra space to store something like another magazine or book. Unfortunately, that’s it if it comes to storage space around the seat. It’s rather limited in comparison to the A380 I flew on a few weeks earlier.
There is a power outlet but in a very weird position. It’s just above the ground on the side panel between the seat and the ottoman. Not easy to reach and you have to be careful once you fold your seat to a bed, that you don’t pull your cable back out or pinch it.
A blanket and noise-canceling headsets were already waiting for me when I arrived at my seat. They were placed on the ottoman. After stowing my bags, a crew member came through the cabin and asked who wants pajamas and/or slippers. I ordered both which were brought over just a few moments later followed by the amenity kits for this flight. While the plane was still boarding the flight attendant working my area of the plane came by and asked for my selection of pre-departure drink. Champagne is always a good way to go. While enjoying my champagne, my flight attendant brought me a hot towel and a bowl of nuts. The nuts were actually quite tasty. A little snack makes the waiting time during boarding go by even faster. While boarding, I asked one of the flight attendants if I could get a tour of the aircraft. I got this idea from Bill who escorted me during my transfer from one plane to another in LHR. As the crew was quite busy during boarding, we decided to do the small tour right after take-off when the seatbelt sign goes off. The tour was quite interesting, we walked the whole airplane done on one side and upon the other while also visiting the upper deck and chatting with a few of the crew members. I should have done that during my A380 trip as well. Next time!
We pushed on time with no delays. While taxing to our take-off runway at LHR, crew members came through the cabin and double-checked seatbelts and picked up any remaining service items.
During the taxing process, flight attendants handed out the menu to the passengers. After we reached cruising altitude, the flight crew was working on getting the meals prepared. In the mean time tables at the seats were set up as well.
In-flight meal service started shortly after take-off and I really liked the food choices offered on this flight. The food was good and tasty. Just the ice cream for dessert already started melting when it came to my seat. I finished it quickly while watching movies on the in-flight entertainment screen.
After the meal service was completed, the flight attendants walked through the First Class cabin and offered Chocolates by Lauden.
Allosky VR Headset
Between Canapés and Starters of the meal service, the crew came through the aisle and asked if we wanted to try a new in-flight experience – a VR headset. Of course, I opted in to try it out. I got handed a small bag with the VR-glasses, headset, cables, and instructions on how to use them.
Setting up the headset after reading the instructions was straight forward. But I had one big issue, which I would find out later during watching a movie. I wasn’t able to get the picture focused and sharp around the corners. You can focus the lenses and everything in the center of the picture was crystal clear but if I looked at parts around the corner of the screen, it was rather blurry. Also, I first had to pair the included Bluetooth headset with the VR googles because they didn’t sync up automatically. I was able to figure out how to do it myself, as there was nothing in the instructions on how to do it.
The headset only requires you to plug in one audio cable to the headphone jack at your seat. This is to receive announcements over the PA system of the airplane. Everything else as wireless, except the one time when I needed to charge the headset after leaving it on during the whole time even while eating and sleeping. I watched Shazam on the VR headset and it was a pretty nice experience. You can rest your head however you want. They had some demo-content on the glasses and Wonder Woman was a 3D movie that looked actually really good in 3D. Shazam was only a 2D movie but still nice to watch via the googles.
After the meal service and watching a movie on the In-flight entertainment system. I requested turndown service to have my bed made. I went to the restroom before heading to sleep and when I got back, my bed was ready to go. I actually used the VR googles and Bluetooth headset while sleeping. I just unplugged the audio cord to not damage it. I slept for a few hours and I slept really well. After waking up, I watched more movies on the IFE, because they just had a bigger selection of movies I haven’t seen before.
About 2 hours before landing, the crew came through and asked if anybody wants a light meal before landing. I ordered the Tiger prawn linguine but a few moments later I got told that they are out of that option and I could choose the second option from the dining menu or he could check what’s available in Club World. I actually went with the second choice on the menu – Gnudi. It turned out to be really really good and was actually happy that I got that.
The service was fantastic during this flight. The crew really took care of me. They came through over and over and asked if I wanted anything to drink and offered their services if I need anything else. I really felt special during that flight and that’s how it should be. This flight was one of my best experiences.
Landing and Arrival
It was a beautiful sunny day in San Francisco during our approach. We touched down and rolled to the gate at the international terminal. As I got ready to take my bags out of one of the overhead lockers, I had to call a crew member as one side of the locker was stuck and wouldn’t release. I also didn’t want to pull like crazy on it and eventually damaging the locker. The flight attendant tried a few times too and it was still stuck but all of a sudden at one of the tries unlocked and I was able to get my bag. I didn’t lose much time, as the passengers still waited for the jetbridge to be connected. We actually arrived early at the airport.
After disembarking I rushed to immigration to avoid getting stuck in long lanes. Thanks to Global Entry, it was this time super easy to get in. I filled out my customs form at the machine and waited in line for an officer. He checked my receipt from the Global Entry machine and collected it, as I was good to go. Immigration took me not even 5 minutes but waiting for my bags took quite a bit. After that, it was a quick and easy walk out to the terminal.
I think this was my second time overall in a 747. The first time was in the very last row of the coach cabin. This time I was almost at the very first row of the plane. It’s a huge difference even tho the planes were from two different airlines. But sitting at the front is just the best way of flying. The only better spot would be in the flight deck itself as you get to see what’s in front of you and not just on either side. Again a great thanks to Sarah and Bill from the LHR team getting me so quick to my connecting flight and the whole crew of the 747. I hope I meet you guys again soon.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.