It’s been a while since I’ve flown British Airways First Class so when the opportunity arose to redeem my Avios points on Mom’s trip directly home from London to Philadelphia, I figured why not give Mom a First Class finish to our luxury Paris & London trip. I already knew what to expect but seeing Mom’s reaction all day was so much fun. Sadly, many travelers (including me) forget the simple pleasures that airlines do offer as they become hardened road warriors who want, need, expect more from the flying experience. At the end of the day, airlines have a contract with the traveler to transport them from point A to B – how the airline chooses to make that experience special (or not) is what keeps passengers loyal and happy (or not). Below is our experience with British Airways First Class from London to Philadelphia.
British Airways First Check in at Heathrow Terminal 5
If flying BA first from Heathrow and arriving by car/taxi, make sure to tell the driver to go to the end of the terminal road so you don’t need to walk a long way inside (you’d think BA would have a special arrivals lane outside but they don’t). The First Class check in is a private dedicated space at the end of T5 terminal. Staff greeted us at the desk to check our boarding passes before we entered the area to find a check in desk. There’s not much special here other than a wall around the desk area with a welcome desk and a seating area to wait. As we had checked in online already, it was a quick bag drop.
Fast Pass Security at T5
The Fast Pass Security area consists of automated lanes as well as a live person if you can’t figure out the boarding pass scan. Surprisingly, the “fast security” is often slow with only two lanes so be prepared for a queue (sometimes I’ve seen regular security be quicker as they have more lanes to choose from). The two lanes are directed by staff so they do move but the line when you are traveling First Class is a bit annoying if I’m honest. Luckily, we didn’t pay the $5k-10k for our tickets so we could be patient.
The Concorde Room (aka Millionaire’s Door)
Since the fast pass security is at the end of the terminal, you can only turn left to get into the main terminal. If you turn right, you will be met by British Airways staff and you better have a first class boarding pass. If you do, pass GO and collect your welcome glass of champagne in The Concorde Room, like we did (my review of the British Airways Concorde Room at Heathrow).
British Airways First Class Priority Boarding
British Airways likes to greet passengers at the door and if flying First a staff member will personally escort you to your seat. They do this when you are boarding priority, if you choose to wait and board with general boarding, then you are on your own. But you are a big boy/girl and I think you can easily find 2A as I have in the past (although staff did apologize for not escorting me to my seat that time). It’s always a (rare) treat for me to turn left as they say so I led Mom to our seats with the FA following behind us. We were instantly greeted by the cabin crew and offered champagne, juice or water (custom in both First and Club World Business). I should have been surprised but, after two glasses of champagne in the Concorde Room, wasn’t when Mom said “I’ll have champagne”. I chose water as I normally do for boarding. The head of the cabin crew for the flight came by to introduce himself and welcome each passenger to First.
The British Airways First Class Seat
I already knew what to expect but Mom didn’t so that was fun to see her reaction at having the whole window seat to herself – not sitting backwards as she did in Club World we me on the other side of her. She started playing with the knobs and trying to figure out what’s what. The FA came by to happily explain it all to her as Mom was pretty excited with her seat. I told the FA that this was Mom’s first BA First flight as an end to our luxury vacation. The FA was doting on Mom (probably happy to have a newbie onboard) throughout the flight and kept me updated. I expected nothing less of the BA crew as they were fabulous to my niece on our flight years ago.
The BA First Seat is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration with all aisle access. If you choose a window seat, you get two windows and a small (actual) window seat to have someone sit facing you if they visit or want to chat (I’ve never seen this but it’s an option – I’ve thought about it but the tv doesn’t flip to allow me to enjoy the window seat space. During the flight, the window screen covers the windows and changes colors from blue to orange during the flight.
The storage locker has a space for your bags below and includes a hanger to hand a coat or light jacket (in Club World the FA still offer to take your coat). The seats convert to flat beds with the turn of the dial which I like (unlike pressing and holding the various buttons in Club World).
First passengers receive a warm blanket and Bose headsets to use during the light but they are not to keep just to use in flight. I mention this because on Mom’s first flight to Germany two years ago she kept the blanket in coach because everyone else did too. I told her that these are not takeaway items but that the toiletry kit and the pajamas were hers to keep. The FA kept Mom’s pjs in the plastic.
The British Airways First Class On Board Experience
When you fly BA First, you not only get the option to pre-book your Elemis Spa treatment (28 days in advance) but also the option to pre-order your meal (different from the standing special meal request in my profile). The BA site was easy to use to see the entrée options and I picked the steak for Mom. I was back and forth whether to keep my special meal or try my luck onboard – I chose the onboard steak too.
After the champagne welcome onboard, warm towels are distributed after take off followed by a round of drinks and a bowl of mixed nuts (in Club World you get same but the nuts are in small package not served in dish).
If you have the BA app, you can see in advance the movies and entertainment schedule for the flight to plan accordingly. With a flight time of seven hours and a bit to Philadelphia, you need to keep a good schedule so the flight goes by quickly. For me it is eat/drink, walk around, movie, repeat.
The meal service is in three parts – starter, main, dessert with the bread basket making two appearances. I skipped the starter so was brought my entrée when the service started – no need to wait until everyone finishes their starter. On my past First flight, I brought my own food and the FA kept filling my wine glass and bringing chocolate. For airline food, BA serves good dishes in my opinion. The steak was tender and quite good (red meat in the sky can be tricky). The wine, as always, was outstanding for me.
The FA kept me up to date on Mom who was seated behind me. I forgot she was with me at one point when Mom tapped me on the shoulder to tell me “I had the Pinot Noir with dinner because I heard you order it in Paris” oh boy! I was glad I pre-ordered a wheelchair assist in Philly because Mom was definitely enjoying the free drinks for a woman who generally hits the Diet Coke pretty hard.
The crew was attentive throughout but not overly so or intrusive in any way. They moved about in an orchestrated dance setting up tray tables with white linen, serving drinks and saying “yes”. When I asked about the pre-boarding champagne I missed, the FA brought me a tasting flight of champagne which I paired with the fancy chocolates I bought in London. I was happy we had a car picking us up in Philly because I rarely drink this much on a flight preferring gallons of water.
Sadly, the BA First Experience was over too quickly, funny how the thought of an 8 hour flight is gruesome until you have the freedom to move, eat, sleep at will (Mom did all three in between playing games on her IPad). When we landed in Philly a bit late due to a traffic hold at Heathrow, we were met by a wheelchair assistant (BA had called ahead from the Concorde Room by adding it to Mom’s reservation).
This was the first time using the PHL wheelchair service and we were totally impressed. Our guy pushed Mom from plane to curb, which in Philly is a long walk. There is a wheelchair lane for immigration so that was quick (I didn’t use Global Entry as I was traveling with Mom). This was Mom’s last luxury for the day and the trip – we tipped him $20 because it was such a stress free way to end the journey. We were going back to our real lives but the one day of First Class from beginning to end with British Airways was definitely memorable for Mom. She’s still telling the stories to her friends who are in disbelief – a flat-bed on a plane? Champagne? Steak?
British Airways First Class from Heathrow
So there’s three ways to look at the BA First Class From London to Philadelphia
- Mom’s Perspective – It was Awesome! Free champagne, steak and a bed on a plane!
- My Perspective – It’s a really a nice way to fly home from London with privacy, champagne and service
- Road Warriors/Flight Bloggers – It’s just US Domestic First Class and not as special as x, y, z (usually Emirates, Singapore, etc.)
For this day and this flight Mom’s perspective wins – it was awesome way to end our amazing luxury 10 day trip to Paris & London using my BA Avios points with the Chase BA Travel Together certificate. Now Mom will never go back to coach!