Airlines / Flying / Points Hacks

First Time Flying First Class With British Airways

Thanks to some points pooling between my partner and I, and his savvy use of an Amex companion voucher, we got to fly first class with British Airways when emigrating to Australia in 2014. I anticipated the journey for weeks, dreaming of the elegance and luxury that lay ahead. But, to be entirely honest, my experience didn’t quite live up to our expectations.

fc13For a start we nearly missed the flight! Despite having checked into the Sofitel at Heathrow Terminal 5 the night before we were due to fly, some unexpected delays and lack of announcements in the lounge meant we were the last to board the flight – we were lucky they held the doors for us.

We had planned to spend our morning revelling in the luxury of the Concorde Room, Terminal 5’s lounge for First passengers, but it didn’t quite pan out like that. After queuing to check in (the rest of the airport was relatively quiet but there was a queue at First, ironically) and having an issue with checking our bags through to Sydney, it took us 30 minutes to get to the lounge.

At the Concorde Room the lady on the desk checked our boarding passes and asked if we had been here before. We replied no so she gave us a brief induction to the lounge by pointing at things from her seat. She recommended we confirm our spa appointments first thing.

Prior to arriving at the airport I had confirmed our spa appointments several times via email. This itself had been a fairly painful experience as the first time I emailed I was told I was too early to book, then the second time I was issued an appointment 10 minutes before we were due to fly. When I questioned that this seemed a bit tight (!) the staff agreed and reissued me a new time. Arriving on the day we were told that to be sure we were booked we needed to queue at the Elemis desk and go through the process again. This we did, then queued to show our passes to get back in the lounge, then struggled to find a seat.

We made our way to 2 free seats we spotted on the outside terrace, sat down and were ignored for about 10 minutes while we looked around for a member of staff. When one appears he takes the menus from us and says:

“I’m taking these away now so if you want something you better order now”.

My partner orders an omelette and the server sneers:

“What type?”

He begins to walk off and we call him back and ask if we can possibly have some drinks. Not really the reception or service we were expecting.

I left my partner waiting for his omelette while I went back to the spa for my treatment. I had to wait at the desk despite coming at my allotted time but eventually was shown to a massage chair where a therapist worked on the tension in my neck and shoulders for 20 minutes and the chair (surprisingly forcefully) massaged my back and legs.

After my treatment I returned to the lounge (showing my pass once more) and swapped places with my partner who had to leave his omelette half way through. As our flight time is inching closer he asks for his treatment to be cut in half. I don’t have any time to try the lounge food, despite having salivated over the rave reviews in the weeks prior.

We watch the boards the whole time we are in the lounge as flights are not called out and no staff come to get you. From the time we arrived our flight is listed next to the gate number but there is no message to go to the gate. As soon as it says the flight is boarding we leave the lounge and head towards the transit train. By the time we exit the transit, however, the signs announce the flight is closing. My partner has to run ahead and tell them we are on our way. They hold the door for me and we are the last 2 to board, stressed and sweaty.

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

(Comfort and champagne in First Class cabin)

On board things get better. The seats in First are as you would expect – amazing. We had opted for two seats in the middle of the plane so we could talk during the flight.

Our pods were separated by a window divider, which I could peep my head through, but should you not know the passenger next to you can be closed for complete privacy.

The leg room in the First seat is so generous I cannot touch the footrest from a seated position. The generous sized touch screen TV is far enough in front that I could not reach to touch it either (luckily there is a handset in the seat).

There is a small cupboard to hang jackets in each seat but no drawer for items like laptops or phones.

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

 (Amenity kit by Elemis, including socks, slippers and eye mask)


The cabin manager introduced himself to us once we were on board and we were swiftly served some champagne to celebrate actually making the flight. From that point, however, the service became distinctly hands off. After taking my reading materials from my hand luggage I wandered the aisle looking lost trying to find someone to help me stow it. When a staff member did come back she haltingly told me to help her lift it when she thought I was going to leave her to it.

Throughout the flight we were always supplied with anything we asked for but were never offered things like drinks and snacks as you would expect. Only the cabin manager came past to see if we were ok. Everyone else responded if we rang the bell but it felt rather diva-ish, it would have been nicer to have someone check on you.

The food was sublime though and superbly presented. Similarly to Club World the food is served in courses on a white tablecloth. The meals are one step up though in terms of quality and the service is opened with a tasty amuse bouche.

The Aberdeen Angus steak I opted for was particularly tasty and my custard tart had an arty topping you don’t expect to see in the sky. The menu stated that cheese, fruit and chocolates also came with the dinner service but they never arrived nor were they offered to us. (When peckish during the night I went sniffing around the business class cabin which had snacks laid out as ours didn’t but I couldn’t get past the curtain!)

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

(Dining in First Class)

Once ready for bed we rang our bells and staff made them up while we changed into the First PJs. (I much enjoyed posing for selfies in these.)

The bathrooms in First are the same size as the rest of the plane so getting changed was a bit tight. The beds were incredibly comfy though. Completely flat and adequately wide they came with under padding, a soft duvet and decent sized pillow. I slept well for a few hours but was woken by noise in the cabin (spoons seemed to clink against cups all night long – the downside of having real cutlery in premiere cabins perhaps?). There were no ear plugs in the amenity bags but the Elemis lip balm provided came in handy.

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

(Snug as a bug in my plane pjs and flat bed)

At breakfast time the pancakes I had my eye on were unfortunately not available. (I was told the plane was catered with 1 pancake breakfast and there were 10 First passengers on board. Apparently the man in front of me had requested them the previous night – he must have done this before!) I opted for some granola instead which was really good and went some way towards masking my pancake disappointment.

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

 (Tasty breakfast granola and smoothie)

Flight Review: British Airways First Class - London to Tokyo

(Electric blinds let the sunshine in)

Although I had very high hopes for my First Class BA experience I can’t say I was wowed. From my experience I couldn’t see enough difference between the service and food in business (read my review of Club World on BA) to justify the extra spend (or points redemption) to fly First.

The seat was superb and flying long haul is made much easier with this comfort, but in terms of service and overall experience we had a much better time in the business class on Japan Airlines, which we took for the second leg of our journey. I’m very grateful we got to have this experience and it was worth the redemption for the all the luggage we needed to bring (you can check in 3 x 23kg bags on First) but it wasn’t what I expected a first class experience would be like at all.

After reading more frequent flyer blogs I’ve seen some say that BA First is like other airlines business and having now flown business class with Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines Suites I have to agree.

More Info

My partner and I paid £350 each to fly First Class (one way) from London to Tokyo using 90,000 air miles and an American Express companion voucher.

Have you flown first with other airlines? How do they compare?

About Author

I'm a full time blogger with a passion for travel and interiors. A travel blogger for 12+ years, I took a course on interior styling during the pandemic when travel was not an option. I now run 2 Instagram accounts - @jayneytravels, which covers authentic, affordable luxury escapes and @ourtravelhome which is all about decorating our new build home with a modern rustic style.


  • Zoe @ Tales from over the Horizon
    June 25, 2014 at 4:39 am

    That does look very cool, despite a couple of grumpy attendants. The seats were huge! I’d love to fly fist class once. I totally aim to at some point.

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 6:52 am

      The seats were awesome! I am definitely spoilt now I know what they are like – will be tough to fly in economy again as I usually do. Hopefully you can build up your air miles and give it a go!

  • Janice Stringer
    June 25, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Hi Jayne,
    I hope BA reads this. I’ve only ever flown economy with BA and Quantas to Australia – although I’d prefer the seats in first – the service from what you are saying sounds better in economy.
    I think if you are paying first class ticket prices then the Stewards should be discreet but should act as if they are one step ahead of the customers needs. In my opinion. I’m sure being in the land of Oz makes up for the journey now 🙂

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 9:07 am

      Hi Janice, the journey was great compared to when I have done it in economy so it was definitely a treat in that respect. Just not really what I imagined it would be. Being in Oz sure is good though 🙂

  • Rebecca
    June 25, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Wow, how disappointing! I flew earlier this year business class on air NZ from Auckland to Brisbane and it was the best thing ever! Constant attention, almost too much! I would highly recommend Air NZ if you get the chance!

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 9:05 am

      Thank you, I haven’t flown with them before. Sounds like a good excuse to head to NZ 🙂

  • A Lady in London
    June 25, 2014 at 7:58 am

    I’ve had a similar experience with First. The champagne is better, but the overall experience isn’t very different from Club World. I love the Concorde Room, though!

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 9:04 am

      O yes the champagne was good! I loved my Club experience so maybe I was hoping for too much by thinking First could top it!

  • David Kirkness
    June 25, 2014 at 8:14 am

    try Qatar biz class. classy, understated, quietly efficient. Emirates too blingy. Cathay and Singapore if you’re heading Far East. BA is just Bloody Awful, as bad as SAA.

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 9:03 am

      Hahahaha thanks for the tips! Wasn’t sure if it was me having too high expectations but it seems a lot of people agree

  • Laura
    June 25, 2014 at 10:02 am

    I read this groggy-eyed warm in my bed at 6:30 this morning, remembering the sheer level of discomfort flying long haul in economy! Shame about the service though. You’d expect a certain level of attention for an overdraft-inducing ticket, and the lounge debacle is unexcusable really. Still, definitely an experience I’m sure you won’t forget!

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 11:38 pm

      O for sure. Was a once in a lifetime thing. I’ll be jealous of all those first class passengers next time I fly home in economy!

  • Katy Notwedordead
    June 25, 2014 at 10:44 am

    That’s rubbish when you get your hopes up for what many say is an amazing experience and it falls flat. It looks so comfortable but maybe the staff need better training especially before you boarded the flight, I would have been so stressed by that experience! Hope you are loving your new home. Been really enjoying your weekly video diaries too!

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 11:34 pm

      Ah thank you! We are loving Sydney and it did help to come here in comfort if not the level of luxury we imagined 😉

  • Anna Parker
    June 25, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    What a shame that the whole experience didn’t come together for you, when it does it really is good – thankfully we have never had an issue

    I would say, if you ever have the misfortune to fly virgin upper it will reconfirm any doubt in the the ba business and first class product!!!

    Hope you get to fly first again soon

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 11:35 pm

      Hahaha maybe better luck next time 🙂

  • Julia
    June 25, 2014 at 4:33 pm

    It’s very interesting reading this having just watched the 3 part BA documentary on the Beeb about how they train their staff to have exceptional service no matter what class! And also now knowing how much people pay full fare for these flights, I would be pissed if the cheese and chocolates weren’t offered! It’s funny because I flew business class with American once and from your description the service you received here was of a lower quality for a higher class. Sad, because people really look forward to being pampered and having a special experience.

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 11:30 pm

      I watched that documentary too and noticed that a lot of the staff didn’t meet the uniform appearance they went on about! It is a shame because I think BA strive to be better than what their customers are experiencing on the ground.

  • Beverley | Pack Your Passport
    June 25, 2014 at 10:52 pm

    Hmmm, see I’m the same; I wouldn’t want to be a completely princess asking for things and pressing the bell and generally feeling like I’m making a nuisance of myself (even if I wasn’t). But at the same time, you’ve paid/saved miles for First Class and, like you say, I feel like the experience you got here was more business class.

    Still looks lovely though 🙂 Being able to lay down to sleep on a flight would be a dream for me!

    • Jayne
      June 25, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      It was bizarre (but brilliant) to have a bed on a flight. Didn’t really feel like flying to be honest (in a good way!)

  • Nicole
    June 27, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Hrm… I’ve flown First with BA three times now and never had as poor experience as you! That’s so frustrating, though a good thing you didn’t fork out full price!

    I am really shocked by your treatment onboard…
    I understand the hosties not coming around too often, but if you’re awake I’d expect them to check on you ever two-hours or so with offers of snacks and drinks.
    Also, surprising they took the ear plugs out the amenities kit. I had the same problem with the cutlery rattling – woke me up and waking up prematurely makes me grumpy. Haha. Did you ask for any onboard?

    Glad you enjoyed the JAL business. Used their lounge but not flown with them – really interested to know how they compare to other Asian airlines. Look forward to the next post. =)

    • Jayne
      June 28, 2014 at 1:36 am

      The JAL lounge was really cool. Free massages and excellent shower rooms with hot water bursting from all sides – loved it.

      I didn’t ask for earplugs as there was no one around to ask so I just got on with it. It was by no means a bad flight, just expected more really.

  • Victoria
    June 27, 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Very interesting! Gutted that they didn’t treat you like a celeb – on that note, were there any on board? Sure you would’ve mentioned it actually. Well, I might just stick to my Ryanair cheap as possible flights then, as it seems like the dream of first class is better than the reality.

    • Jayne
      June 28, 2014 at 1:33 am

      There weren’t many people on board – some kind Japanese businessmen who took our photo for us and a member of BA staff. No celebs sadly!

  • Mr Heyes
    June 29, 2014 at 9:47 am

    Ha! We just posted about the very same topic a day apart…

    At least you didn’t get champagne in your crotch… 🙂

    • Jayne
      June 29, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Haha luckily there was no spillage on our flight.

      Just read your review and it sounds like you made the most of the flight. Am thinking I should have milked the champers and wine situation a bit more!

  • Andrea
    July 2, 2014 at 7:09 pm

    I didn’t have a great First Class experience with BA either. The flight attendants were great but there was no difference between first and business class in my opinion. I found business class on Qatar to be way better than BA First. I always fly with Qantas points so I’m a little restricted with airlines but I’ll always avoid flying BA if possible.

    • Jayne
      July 3, 2014 at 12:05 am

      That’s so interesting Andrea. As I was based in the UK I ended up building air miles with BA but like you I’ve had better experiences in Business on Malaysia and JAL for example. Think it might be time to build loyalty with someone else 🙂

  • Richard
    January 3, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Hi Jayne. I found this as we are doing the same route as you next year, using the same combination of Avios and a companionship voucher. If anyone’s interested there is a website that specialises in showing you how to build up enough Avios so we can all take advantage of this. It’s easier than you think to do this and we manage to get a long distant First flight every year through a canny combination of Tesco points and the BA Amex, along with a few other methods. I hope you find this site useful. The beginners guide at the top is a good place to start .

    • Jayne Gorman
      January 4, 2015 at 10:57 pm

      Thanks Richard, this is really useful. I have been meaning to get my partner to write a post on how we came to save the points (as it was his research and savviness that got us there) but we haven’t had the chance to work on it. That beginners guide is a great place to start.

  • […] My partner and I were a bit crafty and saved a LOT of air miles to fly here First Class. We were allowed to bring 4 suitcases each so had pretty much all that we needed straightaway. We […]

  • Kate
    January 6, 2016 at 4:25 pm

    Hi Jayne
    I will be flying BA Business in the near future for the first time, only because I found very good fare. I do not like the seating arrangement in their Business class so on top of our fare I spent over 300 GBP to assign seats for two of us to make sure that we are not jumping over anybodies feet.
    I flew Emirates, Etihad, Malaysian, Virgin and other airlines in Business class and as my husband says, you cannot say that BA are bad, until you try them 🙂 so I am hoping that we will be having as good trip as you had with them.
    I also collect points with BA Amex and when I will be spending them, I will try to get flights on either Cathay Pacific of Qatar as their Business class seating is nearly the same as BA First.


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