BA25 LHR-HKG First Class
This flight was the start of a 4-week long trip around Asia. We chose BA as we had a companion ticket from American Express to use, although with free choice on the route we would have chosen Cathay Pacific. Having already flown First class with Lufthansa, Thai, Qatar and Swiss, we were looking forward to comparing our flag carrier, although given our experiences with Club World, we expected to be underwhelmed.
We love LHR T5. It is so spacious and the architecture really creates a sense of space-age excellence. Shame then that the staff aren't all on the same page. On arrival at the airport, we checked in at the First Class area before proceeding to Fast-track Security. The appearance of the First Class check-in area certainly raises expectations, but the ambience is spoiled by surly, disinterested staff and a queue. The check-in agent was at least friendly.
Why oh why is there no dedicated First Class security check? Having to walk back down to the security South entrance with all the other passengers really makes you feel BA don't understand quality. Once through security, which was quick enough, we proceeded through the 'secret' door to the Concorde Room, the First class lounge at T5.
The Seat - New First 747
The first experience with BA takes a nose dive as soon as you leave the lounge, as there is no escort to the plane. Luckily we didn't have a bus gate, but it would be fantastic if BA could offer the same transfer experience as QR, LH etc and drive first class passengers to the plane.
On arrival at the jet door, we were greeted by name and shown to our seats 4E & 4F. Our first impression was 'how on Earth has BA managed to make a 747 feel cramped?' Similar to Club World, seats in First felt crammed in, with 14 seats in the nose of the Jumbo (compared to other carriers who place just 9-12). In fact, the seats felt more like a good business class cabin, rather than a flag carrier first class. Having said that, the seats were comfortable, especially in the lie-flat position. We are both on the small-to-average side however. Anyone over 5ft 10 would struggle. The TV was of a decent size and quality, although we felt the choices were a little limited (especially for TV comedy/factual programs).
At the seat were a pillow and blanket, and after a few minutes we were offered a welcome drink of champagne, sleepsuit and amenity kit. The pyjamas were of a good quality and the REN toiletries were pleasant, although we would have appreciated a facial cleanser rather than just moisturiser. We were also invited to ask for turn-down service at any point.
The Lounge - Concorde Room
The interior design of the Concorde Room is confused with too many different styles of furniture and the attempt at London gentleman's club conflicting with the aircraft hanger atmosphere. It was surprisingly busy and had quite a stiff feel about the place. In addition, there were nowhere near enough power outlets and many areas of the lounge were dirty. As we arrived at lunch time we decided to proceed to the restaurant for a quick bite to eat. Our choices of prawn wonton soup and caesar salad were delivered quickly, along with a glass of champagne, but after that there was little further service. The wonton soup in particular was very good, very fresh, but the desserts were lacking and had obviously been prepared some time before hand.
After a bit of duty-free shopping we retired to a cabana for a quick shower and a rest. The shower was large and had a number of jets, and was supplied with plentiful Elemis products - just be careful when you turn it on as you may swamp the floor if not careful! The cabanas also contain a desk, a chaise longue and, most impressively, free telephone calls Worldwide. Unfortunately, the quality of the fittings in the cabana was not good and the room felt seedy and cheap, not like a 5* hotel, as we would expect for a first class lounge (smelly drains in the shower didn't help). After a brief nap, it was time to relax in the Elemis Travel Spa (BA offer complementary 15 minute treatments for those flying in First or Business), and we both chose the Flying Feet treatment - unfortunately the service was perfunctory rather than relaxing.
Food and Beverage
In general, at first service, we felt the food was ok, but did not use high enough quality ingredients for first class - there's no caviar served on BA! Mostly, flavours were not strong enough, even taking into account the effect of being in a pressurised tin can on your taste buds.
Service started with an amuse bouche of prawns with pickled vegetables - ok but not great. We then followed with the salmon and trout timbale. It was great to see smoked trout available and this course was quite good. I then followed with the chicken salad (ok but a bit boring), whereas Mr d2t had duck with star anise sauce, which he enjoyed. I finished with a caramel dessert which was cloyingly sweet and after a mouthful I left the rest. Unfortunately, there was no sheep's or goat's cheese available, so we had to pass on the cheese course.
Breakfast was inedible - we aren't sure how BA managed to get scrambled egg so tasteless, mushroom like soggy leather and a very cheap sausage - in all flavourless and of poor quality.
On the other hand, beverages were good with Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle available throughout the flight, and the still wines were also carefully chosen.
In all, what made the flight was the service - we were lucky to have a great and friendly crew. They could have been a little more proactive - they weren't visible during the night when I finished my water but was too tired to go to the galley to get another bottle, but this is a small complaint. The Concorde Room has the makings of being great but falls short - service is stuffy and too slow, and the cabanas like a (very) cheap hotel room. The service of our flag carrier should be perfect - like the Connaught but in an airport. In our opinion, a business class lounge should feel like the lounge of a chain hotel and a first class lounge should be noticeably better. However, the Concorde Room was not as good as many Hyatt lounges we have visited (except in champagne offering). The Elemis Travel Spa is not as good as other airlines offer (such as Thai) and service there was not good. We appreciate that space at LHR is at a premium, but we would rather see BA offer 30 or 45 minute treatments to First Class passengers and none to business than the current arrangement. In addition, even with only 15 minutes the therapists should be able to have a personal approach rather than a factory style one guest in, one guest out. BA's new First class is ok but not leading - considering how new the design it, it's a pity that BA didn't even try to be the best in Europe. With fewer seats and better quality fittings, first class could be high quality without being gimmicky. For us, we would rather fly Singapore Air business class than BA First. Of course, with the BA American Express Companion Ticket, we will fly the airline again, but if we could fly Cathay for the same miles, we would jump at the chance. Our lasting impression was "why would you pay to fly BA?"