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British Airways First Class 747 Los Angeles to London
Earlier in 2019, I booked a couple of roundtrip business class flights on British Airways from Paris to the States. Rates started in the mid $1300s, and since I travel back and forth to Europe quite often, it made since to plan for the future and purchase two. I reviewed my outbound flight from London to LA on the A380, which you can read here, and had been wanting to use British Airways Avios to upgrade the return. Upgrading with Avios is one of their best possible uses, and flying on British Airways First Class 747 from Los Angeles to London in the nose sounded like an outstanding way to burn 25k Avios.
As luck would have it, two award seats released early in December, and I had an idea… My best friend Dave and I love to do weekend trips, and seeing as though I was headed back to London for New Year’s Eve, and two seats were avail in first, I pitched the idea of him coming over with me. He loved it and bada-bing bada-boom we booked them. He used Cathay Asia Miles that he’d been sitting on after a transfer bonus, and I moved a combo of Chase and Amex to shore my Avios account to 25k. Here’s a look at our experience on British Airways First Class 747 from Los Angeles to London.
Check out our video review on YouTube!
- When: December 2019
- Where: Los Angeles to London
- Seat: 4F
- Flight Time: 9h45m
- Aircraft: 747-400
- Cabin: First
- Points used: 25k Avios to upgrade from Club World
- Loyalty: Alaska: MVP Gold
- Points Earned: 19k+/-
Using Avios to book and upgrade
British Airways is one of the more straight forward airline programs when it comes to upgrading with points. If you see an award seat available, and you have a qualifying fare, you can use points to upgrade. The biggest restrictions are you can only move one category ( econ to premium econ, P.E. to Club World, or as I did, Club World to First Class), and as I mentioned you need a qualifying fare. The rule of thumb with fares is if it’s super discount…you can’t upgrade. If you want more information, read here.
The price of an upgrade is going to be the difference between each cabin’s award rate. So in my situation, business class would have been 75k Avios and First was 100k. So I’d owe 25k Avios. You’ll also owe the difference in taxes and fees, but in my case, they were the same.
I set alerts with ExpertFlyer to notify me when space was available
You could also search on a variety of sites: AA, BA, Cathay Pacific, Qantas to find space as well.
As you can see in the image below, they emailed me when the flight became available and I was off to book. If you’re unfamiliar with setting alerts, or just ExpertFlyer in general – read this post where we go into further detail. As you can see this was for 1 seat available, but when I checked inventory, two were listed.
Booking the upgrade
In order to book your upgrade with Avios you need to phone in. Personally I use a “secret” fast number 408-352-9323, but you could also google your country’s number. Once you get a rep, they will check the space and confirm availability. It is at this juncture that you transfer points in as I did. I ended up moving a combination of Amex and Chase over instantaneously. The upgrade was confirmed over the phone and I ran around the room beaming with excitement.
Not every seat is created equal in BA’s 747 by a long shot, and we were chose to sit in arguably the absolute worst seats. Least storage, most open, but, and this is a big but, perhaps the most fun. If you’re sitting in any other seat on the plane, you’re further away from your seat mate. When that seat mate is your best friend of 20 years…who cares if you can’t store anything and people can watch your every move, you’re going to drink the cabin dry of champagne and soak up those 9 hours and 45 minutes. And that’s just what we did.
The other thing is we actually have already flown BA’s First Class in the 747 at the end of 2017 in seats 1A and 1K from Chicago to London. We chose 4E/F as something different and had a blast. You can read that review here
Courtesy of Seat Guru:
As you can see the seats are a good length, decent width, and the cabin curves with the fuselage of the plane.
If you aren’t in our situation, here’s where you should sit:
Best for Singles
Anything on the window is best, except for the nose. In the nose you need to share the closet and have no overhead bin. All of the other seats get their own closet and windows. Personally, I’d go 2A/K because if you’re sitting where I was sitting you’re looking right in on 3A/K, but 2A/K has more privacy. In order of my preference:
- 2A, 2K
- 3A, 3K
- 1A, 1K
- 4A, 4K
- 5A, 5K
Best for Couples
Here’s the decision you need to make for yourself: Do you want a cool experience in the nose, sit closest to eachother, or potentially contend with galley noise? By far the coolest experience in in the nose, and you can even do a buddy style dining situation to have the best of both worlds. You do get the closet, but be warned, others, specifically those in 4E/F will try and use that closet.
- There is nothing like flying in the very front of the plane. No on walks past you, you can dine together, but have time to yourself
- 5E, 5F
- More privacy than 4E, 4F, but you have more galley noise. Personally, I’d take bit more noise and have more privacy
- 4E, 4F
- This is where we sat and you’re basically on a serving platter for the cabin
Because of the limitations on Uber, we planned to arrive at the airport with over 4 hours to spare. Our Uber driver was a rebel, and “doesn’t do the lot on drop-offs” so he broke the rules and dropped us off at TBIT. Funny enough, we actually arrived before check-in started a needed to wait roughly 15 minutes before they checked us in. Once they did, it was swift, we were off to TSA Pre ( thanks to my Global Entry membership), and off to the Qantas First Lounge.
Qantas First Class Lounge
This is arguably one of the best lounges in the USA, and it’s continuing to hold up. The food was great, we sipped great champagne and enjoyed a virtually empty lounge. In the end, we spent over 2 hours catching up and getting pumped for first.
The Cabin + First Introduction
Every seat has aisle access; however, as you probably learned in the seat selection, not every seat is created equal. As soon as we boarded we were offered some champagneDave and I flew BA First back in 2017, sat in the 1A/1K so we chose 4E/F to try something different. In terms of cool factor – 1A/K can’t be beat, but I have to say…I didn’t mind 4E/F being so exposed because we enjoyed every moment of the experience together. I also had 8 glasses of champagne and a Johnie Walker Blue Label so I probably wasn’t even aware I was exposed 😉
I’ve flown enough International First and Business Class cabins at this point to have a very good basis of comparison. Honestly speaking, it’s a horribly inferior seat. In fact, without even flying BA’s new Club Suite, but having flown its Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seat on other airlines, BA’s first class seat in 4E/F pales in comparison to its best business class. A big thing to note here is the forward facing nature of the seats. When you look at the configuration, you’ll see that the window seats angle in a reverse herringbone nature, head out and feet in. The seats in the middle face straight forward. This means your exposure to the aisle is greater in the middle than if you were on the window. For Club suites, this wouldn’t be the case and the disparity between middle and window would be far less. You’ll see what I’m talking about further down.
Here is a PR photo of BA’s best business class as a point of reference.
The only storage you have in-seat is a coat hook. You can see below that there isn’t even space under the ottoman to store your shoes. Not even a drawer like you have in Club World, so there is no where to put your wallet, glasses, keys, boarding pass, charger, phone, etc. Put it in the overhead, or a pocket. Those are your options. So, I pocketed it.
In flight entertainment, etc
Without bashing the design more, and this is purely on a comparative basis ( we’re still in first class mind you, what can I really complain about ), the IFE controls are terribly difficult to access. Instead of being near the seating controls or integrated anywhere near where your arm would rest, they actually are hidden behind your head between the seat and the center partition. If you have large hands, I’d think you’ll find it difficult merely getting to the release button. This is also where you’ll plug your headphones in, or your phone via the USB port. Below the hatch where the screen clicks in you’ll find a universal charging port. The screen is decent size and the headphones were “noise canceling.”
The bed is certainly long enough. I’m 6′ and 160-165 lbs and found it to have enough room. The biggest complaint is the exposure to the aisle. I wouldn’t be surprised if I was bumped half a dozen times. I think this picture shows the exposure best. From where my shoulders and neck would be in bed mode all the way to my feet are on the aisle I rest in the aisle. If you’re looking to fly in first class…having the majority of your body hang out in the aisle isn’t the things dreams are made of…unless you have some weird fetish, in which case, welcome to heaven.
Compare that to sitting in 1A/K where only the space where you enter the seat is exposed. It’s a big difference especially if you’re wanting to sleep most of the flight. For us…it didn’t matter so much because we were the rowdy dudes having a right ole good time.
Amenities, Dining, & Service
My criticism of the seat is no reflection on the service. Service was excellent and on par with what you’d expect from first class. In fact, I filmed most of our entire flight and the crew were absolutely wonderful – thank you again for putting up with us, lol. Dining is now provided by Do&co, pajamas and amenity kit by Temperley, and bedding by the White Company. These soft improvements were a great move by BA and put them far more on par with the competition.
Classy, great eye mask, filled with Elemis products, and commensurate with what you get on many other First Class airlines. The Pajamas, which I now realize I forgot to photograph can been seen in the video. Very soft, black, and designed by Temperley. I foudn that they really breathed well, but the neck line was quite low. Personal taste.
I’m quite a fan of Grand Siecle so it was a treat to sip that for a while in flight. However, and this was the first time I’ve had this happen in BA first, they ran out. We’d only had a glass or two by that point as well. Probably for the best 😉 You’ll get a far better idea of the dining experience by watching our YouTube video, but the burrata was delicious, but my lobster portion was big on shell and small on meat. Dave had chicken which we said was quite moist and tasty, and roughly 2 hours prior to landing breakfast was served. I had the omelette, topped with carmelized onions, and I’d order it again.
We had a fantastic time. If you haven’t flown BA’s first class I would definitely recommend trying it out, but would point you towards their A380 or 787 variants, and recommend upgrading a discount biz fare rather than paying a grip of extra points. That or do it in combination with a companion certificate. The A380 and 787 variants will offer a bigger, better version of the seat I just reviewed, but if you’re looking for a truly AV Geek worthy experience, flying in the nose of a 747 is on all of our bucket lists. The service was excellent, food was solid, and Dave and I had an absolute blast. Looking to the future, I just wonder what BA will do with First Class. From my understanding it will continue to exist, but their new club suite is one of the very best business class products in the sky. When putting that product, and even BA’s flagship First on the A380, up against that seat…I’m not really sure why anyone would pay the premium.
I don’t really think a comparison to other first class products is even warranted because I think you could imagine where I’d rank it. In fact, I had some pretty big complaints and head scratchers regarding Virgin’s new Upper Class and the lack of storage, but I’d take it over this any day of the week.
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