AndrewFlyer - 12/02/2010 12:15 BST
I've just done a quick return to Chicago, and managed to find myself on board BA's new First Class cabin both ways, with the outbound being the inaugural flight for BA's new First Suite.
The wow factor of the cabin is great - it is sleek, contemporary, refined, rich, elegant yet simple and understated. The windows have electronic blinds that make the cabin look exclusive, like a private jet in style (one fellow passenger referred to them as 'Orient Express' in style). The suites are tall and private, and I very much like the use of the three different coloured leathers (navy blue, tan and cream) - the hand stitching is superb, akin to an Aston Martin or Bentley. Old First feels more like a comfortable old Jaguar car.
There is 55% more seating space, which enhances the experience, especially when sleeping - I found much more room in the shoulder area, and more seat width overall, making it possible to sleep on back, side or front comfortably. Indeed, passengers on the return slept like babies (even in a cabin I found to be a bit warm). The buddy seat is very wide, too - I tried it for a while and it was very comfortable, perhaps double the width of the current buddy seat. The base of this seat pulls forward and down, giving you a footrest which will suit customers of any height.
The new suites makes the centre suites on the 777 very attractive as they have work and dining space that is not present in current seating. The squared footprint of the centre suites makes them very much akin to other F products in the market.
The large video screens are perfect viewing size (15 inch screen, I believe), and the split screen map enhancement is more than welcome (you press MAP on the bottom of the screen, the screen splits and the moving map image comes up on the left - nifty for those of us who like to know where we are and how long we have left to fly). I was able to plug my iPod in and watch things I had downloaded.
The mood lighting works well (and compared to the glare of other cabins), and sets a relaxed and comforting tone, especially during night boarding and for morning wake-up. Each seat has a personal cupboard, with enough room to hang trousers, a jacket and there are some mesh pockets which are ideal for books, newspapers, iPods, eyeglasses or other necessities. The mesh is a great idea as you can instantly see if you've left something in a pocket. At the bottom is a shoe-cupboard, which lit up when the door opened, ensuring you didn't leave anything behind when departing. Nice touch.
Like BA's Club World cabin, the new First cabin is a "clear floor" cabin - this is due to decompression vents which must be clear for take-off and landing. Thus, when you board, the cabin looks clean and neat (no duvets, headsets, etc. cluttering up the buddy seats). All baggage must be stowed in the overhead bins, so the cupboards serve as an ideal solution to keep papers or other essentials to hand.
There is ample room to work, with a table that folds out with a blue leather writing pad (which also nicely secures a laptop and keeps it from sliding whilst typing), and then the table opens up for eating (or working) to double in size. It is very sturdy, and more than ample to work and eat at the same time, plus there is a side table for additional space. Three lights - a small shaded lamp, a focus ceiling light and a wider wash light provide additional personal lighting for working or eating. They did not affect the quality of the video screen at all.
I know some people may have expected private suites a la Singapore Airlines and Emirates. Personally, I found the BA suites to be private enough, whilst offering a sense of cabin space and openness that is refreshing. The claustrophobic feeling one can have on the closed-door suites can be intensely irritating, especially on long day-flights. The luxe of the BA First Suite, combined with the contemporary feel of BA new First cabin is a positive and welcome step change that will continue BA's role as a top premium carrier.
The crew showed me their new steam ovens which had been fitted on board - they were super - my "catch of the day" - a seabass, was moist, perfectly cooked, with steamed veggies that were bright and vibrant. Even the bread rolls were good - moist inside, crisp crust and they didn't dry out in the cabin air in less than 10 seconds. A new espresso machine produced rather delicious coffee.
Crews in both directions were excellent, they were excited and enthusiastic about the new product and were eager to spread the word to their colleagues and friends. They were only advised of the new seat being on their flight at their briefing, I understand, but all First crew have had premium training, so service was not any different to old-First on-board service. Perhaps food and beverage will get an upgrade, too, to match this super new product.
Overall verdict: A winning proposition from BA - it will bode them well for the next few years, and will certainly win business - I'm be more than happy to pay for this First product as it is markedly better than Club World, and can be an ideal tool for business, or a welcome bit of luxury for a much-deserved break.
I'm not a frequent poster on these forums, nor am I employed by British Airways (and never have been). I'm a Canary Wharf based consultant who travels frequently for work and for leisure. As this product is so new, I felt it would be a welcome addition to the BT pages.
VintageKrug - 12/02/2010 12:25 BST
Lovely review of www.ba.com/first
How exciting to be on the inaugural flight!
Have they renovated the loos, as well?
Just a quick note to posters in general - occasionally the forum software does not recognise paragraph breaks in posts (this can happen if posts have been pasted in from Word documents). However you can go back into your post and edit once it has been published if you so wish.
AndrewFlyer - 12/02/2010 12:35 BST
The lavatories have been refreshed, so they are clean and bright, but they have not been changed - they are still in the same location and same size...
sorry about the paragraph issue - I did cut and paste this from my laptop...
Tim2sms - 12/02/2010 12:43 BST
- 12/02/2010 17:33 BST
Thanks Andrew !
Your report sounds promising and positive; it doesn't differ from my assumption of demure and down-to-earth. It really shows my picture of the new F class. Hope to try the new product myself and get lucky to have the new product in my next BA flight.
Bullfrog - 18/02/2010 18:46 BST
Is the new F cabin fixed on the Chicago route ? .. and if so, which one ?
SimpleDXB - 18/02/2010 19:06 BST
Vintage Krug, what exactly is your job at BA? I find your pro BA posts quite irritating.
SimlpleDXB, what is irritating in VK's comment?
AndrewFlyer, thank you for your trip report. I do find it informative it will help my future travel decision.
VintageKrug - 18/02/2010 20:45 BST
Simple is as simple does.
I have never worked for BA.
MarcusUK - 18/02/2010 23:12 BST
VK works for BT, but promotes all BA spin for them through here.
It is rather laborious & desperate that BA need this, & a rather dodgy arrangement for BT to condone it or facilitate it, probably breaching press regulations & their independence...
i would have thought that BA should be investing in updating their superb club world product. here is a product that beats most first class products in terms of comfort. Especially in night flights, if your are on a flat bed and asleep, does it really matter whether you are in first or club world. The food in First is magnificant, but in club world it is still supeb. The biggest joke about First though is the number of free upgrades - you can always tell who has been upgraded beacuse they are not handed menus, they are given the choice of the left overs. BA get a lot of stick, but th eonly critisism in this piece is that First is unecerssary when club world is available. Well done BA on club world, dont waste you money trying to impress staff of other airlines with free upgrades.
- 19/02/2010 01:03 BST
Hi eveyone !
Mark-- frequent users here now what you have commented. I won't get thoroughly about it. They are straightforward. Just be aware that BT ( and who ever this person is ) could delete your comment as it feels when it is offending for VK. Unfortunately the "bias taste" regarding VK and BT as well as BA won't just get off ! How come ?
Coming back to Martyn's comment---you are right--BA's C product is a good one. Well, they invested in enhancing the C product ( see BA's pages over the new improved C cabin ). It is interesting to read--does it matters if you fly first or club world? Well, it does matter, if you pay your F ticket and not been upgraded or sponsored. As I have mentioned before--it is nice to experience upgrades---but being treated as obviously as an "Upgrader" in F cabin and other pax can obviously see it--is in my opinion a bad service quality. NO F pax should be treated differently than the others in the same cabin. Not handing out menus and receiving only the rest of the paying pax--is in my eyes a dismal and insulting. It may be BA's policy and surely a priority for paying pax. But I personally would not take such kind of upgrades where I only get the left overs and the crews and/or the situation actually give me the feeling of being "tolerated" and apparently taking advantage of something which I am not entitled of. Such is undignified !
I would rather decline an upgrade in such circumstances and sit in club world-- receive fairly a menu and a proper choice of the meals. And most of all--not to have the feelings of gratefulness on the side of the airlines for being bumped on a better class --but the dignity of paying your own ticket and therefore being objective to situations on board which you don't like and especially those cutting your rights as a paying pax.
I've been upgraded to First on several occasions with BA, and the cabin was full every time. Other than being seated in rows 3, 4 or 5, as opposed to 1 or 2, I'm not aware of the service levels being any different to those that I've enjoyed when I have been booked from the outset into that cabin.
I certainly received menus and all other amenities and, though I appreciate that I may have been lucky then (or amnesial now), I'm sure that I also enjoyed my first choices from the dishes offered on each occasion.
No matter, I do agree that one can enjoy a good sleep in many of the horizontal business class beds that are flying around these days, including Club World but, for me, the additional space, the higher ratio of crew to passengers and the generally quieter cabin all add up to a significant enough differentiator for me to value First.
wanula1 - 19/02/2010 05:46 BST
I agree with continentalclub. I have booked and been up graded into first on a number of carriers and I have never experience a different level of service as part of an up grade.
I personally think the new BA First looks smart and I'm looking forward to my first flight with the new cabin.
First still has a place with premium carriers even though you can on most carriers these day have a fully flat bed business bed. Its about choice and it gives airlines an opportunity to treat those true frequent flyers.
On a different note could BT please remove any posts on these forums that are used to personally attack others, I and most other posters on here really don't want to read them
RoadKing - 19/02/2010 06:51 BST
I have had the pleasure to be upgraded to First, and I did in no way experience that I was given a different level of service.
I don't know what it is with some of you guys and this constant harrasment to BA and the staff there. Perhaps you have to get out try some other stuff, to see how bad and rude it can possibly be.
At any rate, criticizing companies and company policy is one thing, staff is a bad target.
Have you considered that those you attack cannot defend themselves? Is that fair? Next time you complain, take into consideration this fact, imagine it was yourself being attacked. Try be a bit humble and realize that there may be more to a story than what you know.
BA is not my natural choice, geographical. But they have been for the last years. This is because they have competitive prices, they have the schedules, a fine product and not at least; I think I get great service. This is worth a couple of hours in the air for me.
Why, if you are so displeased, why don't you just let your feet do what your mouth is running over with. Travel with another airline. that hurts BA. Ignorant impolite ranting doesn't hurt them, in fact most of this outburst is so violent that it will not be taken serious.
VK may be exaggerating a bit in supporting BA, but I don't consider him affiliated with BA. I used myself to be very found of SK and used any occassion to mention them. I myself have more often than not found his contributions informative. Granted, I have thought to myself sometimes "this is a bit repetitive", but then, what harm does it do? I as well as anyone else can just skim through the post, even skip it, and go to the next. You know, you don't have to read everything.
I think this forum should be to share experiences, not to rant off. The subtle, but essential difference of the two being that the former is informative as the latter at best is entertaining.
For those of you that go way and beyond in characerizing other people and companies, you should know that this behavior is in fact turning back on to you. Your competence, experience and respect drop in the eyes of others. Just think about the bully in the school yard, he might win the fights, but he was no more liked for it, rather the opposite.
Tim2sms - 19/02/2010 08:09 BST
I agree with wanula1 - Any personal attacks should be removed from the forum.
May I also suggest that contributors be required to declare their interest if discussing an organisation to which they are affiliated in any way.
SimpleDXB - 19/02/2010 09:21 BST
A number of points here.
Firstly, my post suggesting that VK's posts irritated me was not necessarily a comment directed just at this thread, but rather the proliferation of posts made by VK across the whole of the BT forum which all read shamelessly like BA press pieces rather than expressions of opinion, which is what I thought forums like these were more about.
Secondly, given this is a forum on business travel, one assumes that I like everyone else has the right to express an opinion, and I did just that. For anyone who is truly a frequent flyer (and not someone who just works for / is sponsored by BA / only travels with BA and still has romantic notions about the BOAC days), VK's pieces are as flimsy as the now second rate service and product (both on the ground and in the air) that BA offer. Most if not all Asian carriers offer a far superior travel experience, and often for a fraction of the price.
Thirdly, call me crazy but I too still have a romantic notion of BA being 'the World's favourite airline', but new first class or not, they are just not that good. And anyone having the pleasure of flying in the first suites on SQ / EY / EK etc will read the details of BA's new first product comfortable in the knowledge that they still have no reason to switch their choice of carrier.
RoadKing - 19/02/2010 09:29 BST
My comment on the attacks on VK was on a general basis, not for this thread in particular.
As for the right to express an opinion, I do absolutely agree with you, the point is just how one express the opinion.
SK doesn't have, and to my knowledge never have had a First product.
But their Biz class did in its time revolutionize biz travelling.
I agree that middle east and asian carriers have a First product superior to what is found in Europe and certainly the US. I believe this to be a cultural phenomena. In the western hemisphere, such thing as First is kind of old fashion, "We're all equal". You don't find the same attitude in ME/Asia.
Personally I would never purchase a First, I can do pts upgrades, but I don't see it is worth, not for me, nor my company to pay a lot of money to be a "star".