My 747-400 Awaiting Departure in Seattle – Photo: Colin Cook
In late 2016, my girlfriend Molly and I began planning a 2017 trip to Europe, with the goal of using points and miles to fly in a premium cabin. After considerable research, we ended up flying on a British Airways 747-400 to London, and on a Virgin Atlantic 787-9 home. This first post will review our British Airways first class experience, and the second will review the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) product.
One of the items on my AvGeek bucket list has been to fly international first class. I’ve had some wonderful experiences flying international business class (Air Canada 767, Lufthansa 747-8, and British Airways 777-300ER), but I’ve never had the chance for the best of the best. That all changed with this trip. I was already excited to be flying in first class, but I also unlocked another AvGeek desire: I was able to make the coveted “left turn” upon boarding the aircraft. When I have flown in a premium cabin previously, I have always boarded from the front left door. Sure, sure, there are benefits to both, but if you’re a passionate flyer, you can probably understand my excitement.
The First Class cabin of a British Airways 747-436 (G-BNLK) – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
The entire reason I ended up in Poland was because my travel thought process doesn’t work like that of a normal person. If I see an enticing airfare, on a new airline or a new product, I tend to book it, then figure out the details later.
In this case, I had discovered that British Airways was offering some reasonable fares in their most recent Prime First product across the Atlantic. Better still, one leg (LHR-ORD) was going to be on a 747. In this case, G-BNLK.
I flew to Heathrow from Seattle aboard a G-VIID, a 777-236ER built in 1997. The only advantages I can point out between it and the 744 are the larger overhead bins and slightly more modern AVOD In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system.
The legs to and from Warsaw were aboard an A320. Club Europe is a bit tight, but the lamb rogan josh was nice. What was not nice was arriving into Terminal 3. The flight arrived early, giving me a two-and-a-half-hour layover. Ample time to change terminals and go to the lounge, right?
Wrong – this is Heathrow! Having to walk half a mile from gate 24 to the transfer bus was the first nuisance. The second was the fifteen minute drive to Terminal 5. This was followed by another aimless walk to the connections desk and finally, Fast Track security. It is “Fast Track” in name only – I was stuck behind at least three passengers who forgot the 3-1-1 rule. Noticing that we were at gate B42, I realized that I would have no time to visit the Concorde Room (British Airways’ first class lounge), which I was really looking forward to.
Boarding was also a little odd. Instead of BA staff looking at IDs, security was inspecting everyone’s travel documents to confirm the ability to enter the United States. Evidently, he was either very suspicious or just slow. I shall stop dwelling on my sub-par airport experience and talk about the aircraft experience, as it was infinitely better.