In flight: Taking Speedbird for a hop across the pond


By the time we got to London we had been on the go roughly 34 hours. Sure, a decent amount of that time was spent in the glorious confines of Emirates‘ A380 First Class Suites but we were still pretty beat. The last flight of our vacation was all that remained – British Airways from Heathrow to JFK – in first class on the 747-400. When booking the flights I did my best to ensure that we would have the new first class product so as to hopefully experience the best that BA has to offer. When we got home I actually had to go back and double check to make sure that the product we saw was the new one; the experience itself wasn’t defining enough that I knew.

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Yes, I had just come off of Emirates and their Suite so I’m sure that my point of reference is somewhat skewed. And I’m a bit disappointed that we couldn’t get a spa treatment in the Concorde Room lounge, though that is in part due to our short connection and my not pre-booking because of uncertainty with the connection times. But the seat itself was not particularly impressive, especially not for a first class product.

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There is no doubt that the seat is good on privacy, but it isn’t particularly large. And, unlike other first class seats I’ve flown in, the British Airways seat tapers somewhat dramatically at the foot. Not enough to be uncomfortable to fly in, but I’m also not nearly the tallest or widest passenger they’re going to be dealing with; I’m actually probably smaller than average for the F cabin.

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On the plus side, the soft product on board was incredibly good. I slept nearly the entire flight in the quite comfy PJs I was offered so I didn’t really eat or drink much, but the bits I had were very tasty. At the top of my list was one of the appetizers, a seafood dish that was delicious and also quite nicely presented.

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I’ll give a bit of a pass on the lounge bit as missing the spa treatment was at least partially my fault. That said, the quality of the food served was, well, British. Not bad, but also not particularly awesome or inspired. And the soft product was very, very nice, definitely first class. But the hard product on board – the seat – really was a bit of a let down. I understand that the new seat – particularly the iFE options are better than the old one. To me that’s more a comment on how bad the old one was than an endorsement of the new product.

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At this point I’d say that there are a number of business class products that I’d probably take over the BA first option, unless BA is pricing first at the business class price. In this case it was more or less free as an add-on to the Emirates fare home from Sri Lanka so I’m not really upset about it, but I was definitely expecting better from BA. I literally had to check after the flight to figure out if I really was on the new product. That’s probably not the impression they’re trying to leave with customers.

On the plus side, snagging seat 1K and getting to look out the front of the plane was pretty awesome.

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Seth Miller

I'm Seth, also known as the Wandering Aramean. I was bit by the travel bug 30 years ago and there's no sign of a cure. I fly ~200,000 miles annually; these are my stories. You can connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

4 Comments

  1. How would you compare the F seat to UA’s F seat?

    And which C products would you take over BA F?

    1. I haven’t had the chance to try the UA F seat yet, Josh, so I don’t have a frame of reference there.

      As for better business products, I really enjoyed the new Swiss business seat, though it is certainly a bit more cramped when in bed mode than the BA seat. I actually thing the legacy CO BusinessFirst seat is pretty good, too, especially if you can get a bulkhead with the wider foot well. And I’ve heard nothing but raves about the new US Envoy seats on the 330s. Not that those are necessarily absolutely better than BA F, but assuming there is a price penalty to pay for the BA F seat, I’m not sure it is worth paying. I’m not counting food (though LX and, to a lesser extent CO) aren’t too far behind nor lounges, but for the hard product in the air, I’d definitely consider those as viable.

  2. Flying XXX-EWR, would you to XXX-ZRH-EWR (LX A333 C, LX 738 all Biz) or would you do XXX-PHL (US Envoy), and then US or CO regional flight?

    1. I would skip the PrivatAir flight, though I also believe they’re killing that service and replacing it with a 3-cabin plane. And I’d probably avoid the connection on the PHL side.

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