I know your first thought was, Ummm, of course First Class! And yes, absolutely, British Airways First Class is better than their Business class any day of the week! But, I wanted to write about whether the benefits of First Class over Business Class make it worth it for the extra money/miles. My short answer is that for most people, BA Business Class is all that you need. So, what are the differences?
Here are my flight details:
BA0174 JFK to LHR 747 – First Class
BA0045 LHR to CPT – Business Class Cabin
First Class had 14 seats. The configuration was window seats in rows 1-5, rows 4 and 5 had a pair of seats in the middle of the plane. The middle seats would be ideal for a couple traveling together. The first class seats are angled; in the case of the window seats they are angled towards the window, which makes them feel very private.
Business Class has roughly 70 seats, the configuration is two seats by the windows, 4 seats in the middle and seats alternate facing forward and backward. This configuration is nice if you’re traveling with someone, but is a little awkward if you’re seated next to a stranger (experienced this on another trip). There is a divider that goes up during the flight, which does give A LOT of privacy, particularly if you are at the window. However, during takeoff and landing, i’s a little weird. The middle of the middle seats both face backward and provide quite a bit of privacy for couples. These would be great for a couple or a parent/child. If you are in a window or middle seats you may have to climb over someone’s legs to get out. There are a few seats where you do not have to, I suggest looking for them on Seatguru.com, but it seemed the last seats in a section were the lucky ones.
While a book can distract you from practically staring at your seat neighbor in Business Class, for privacy as a solo flyer, First Class far outweighs the privacy of Business class. This is less of a concern if you’re traveling with someone. But the real benefit for the privacy would be for a famous person. A max of 14 people and most of them may never even see you. Those are the people who are paying cash for First Class. And just plain old rich people too.
The advantage of the First Class cabin over the Business cabin in terms of seat comfort is: Both have lie flat seats, the first class seats are softer and the Flight Attendants will make the bed with a light mattress pad. The comforter is also nicer. But I’ll be honest, the mattress pad got all messed up from me moving around and so did nothing for me in terms of additional comfort. The softer seat was nicer. But since I sleep ok on a plane I did not think this feature was worth many more miles or dollars.
First Class came with Pajama’s, slippers and a nicer amenity kit. The Pajamas were pretty nice and I’ve used my slippers several times on different trips. None of it is fancy, but when you’re traveling overnight or on long trips, a change of clothes is nice. And well, slippers come in handy when you need to use the bathroom midflight. Maybe I’ll appreciate the rest of the stuff in the amenity kit when I’m older, but I’m ok with one good quality moisturizer and then skip the eye cream.
Food in both cabins is head and shoulders above coach with a wider variety and better quality. I had dinner in the lounge, so I skipped dinner on the plane for my flight in First Class. But I did have a nice breakfast on both flights and certainly it was better than in business class, but with a selection of breads, drinks, hot foods in Business Class there was a wide enough variety for anyone to put together a good sized breakfast.
The bathrooms were the same in Business and First Class. I’ll be honest, this was the most disappointing aspect of First Class, the bathroom really wasn’t much better than in Coach.
In First Class I was served my slippers on a silver platter. So yes, service in First Class was amazing. But do I need things served to be on a silver platter? No, this was way over the top, though it was fun to experience.
Staff was very friendly and helpful in both cabins. With a smaller cabin in First, service was quicker. But then it probably didn’t help that I was in the last seat of Business Class (which was a good seat).
I visited the Galleries at JFK and the Concorde Room at both JFK and LHR. Galleries was much quieter, less crowded and they served very nice hot meals, quickly. The only down side was that the spa and showers were located at the Concorde Room which was a little hike from Galleries. I did find the staff in JFK MUCH friendlier than the staff at LHR, not matter what lounge you were visiting.