Flight review: British Airways B747-400 First

Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

For the outbound leg of this flight, click here.

First impressions I’d checked in online for flight BA286 and arrived at SFO’s International Terminal at around 1600 for the 1850 departure. There was no queue at the First check-in, and no queue at security as well, with the airport impressing with its modern facilities and friendly staff.

The lounge Once through security it was a short walk to the door signposted as British Airways Terraces Lounge. A lift takes you down a level to the lounge. The First lounge is accessed to the right of the corridor of the main Terraces lounge. When we arrived the passengers (Gold card holders and those flying First) were still in the lounge waiting for the other BA departure (BA284) at 1655, and it was reasonably busy, though we found a place to sit. There are floor to ceiling windows which look straight out onto the gates, where in this case, a nose of the B747 was almost pressing against the glass. After half an hour or so the flight was called leaving us almost alone in the lounge. There was a good selection of wine and a smaller selection of snacks including sandwiches. I walked through to the Terraces lounge but the selection was the same. There was a computer terminal, free wifi for computers and a couple of helpful attendants.

Boarding we were called from the lounge and boarded through the terraces lounge which has an exit door at the back in the “library”. Once on board we were quickly seated and offered drinks including Bollinger (see below), with jackets being hung and Anya Hindmarch amenity bags already in place on the ottoman seats.

The seat For more details see a previous review here, and click here for a detailed seat plan We were in row 5. Having sat in row 4E and F only a few days previously, I preferred these seats. They seemed more private with the protection of two seats in front.

The flight As on the outward-bound flight, there were more problems with the in-flight entertainment system. This time the purser said that there was a “number of problems with the IFE system throughout the aircraft in a number of different cabins. Having checked with the outgoing aircraft there seems to be a history of it…” So he shut down the system completely to allow for it to reset. As regular travellers will know, this is not unusual for BA, and indeed we have written about it previously (click here for more details).

Food Starters: Poached lobster and celery root salad, mascarpone risotto with Portobello mushrooms, butternut squash soup, fresh salad leaves with a choice of balsamic vinaigrette or creamy Greek dressing. Mains: French-cut lamb chops with fig rhubarb chutney and spring onion and goat’s cheese mashed potatoes; Moroccan salmon with pearl couscous and paysanne of vegetables; Statler [sic] roast breast of chicken with truffle butter served with mashed red skin potatoes with goat’s cheese, and brussel sprouts with caramelised pancetta or warm crab cakes and apple endive salad served with orange Andalusian aioli. Dessert vanilla panna cotta with mixed berry compote or warm bread pudding with vanilla ice cream.To see the menu click here

Drinks Interestingly, the list was almost identical to that of a few days earlier on the way out. Pol Roger Brut 1999 or a Bollinger La Grande Annee 1999. Whites: Billaud-Simon Chablis Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2006 or a Meursault Narvaux 2006 Domaine Michelot (it was an Albarino on the way out), Weingut Brundlmayer Gruner Veltliner Kamptaler Terrassen 2007 or the Hahn SLH Pinot Gris 2007. Reds: Chateau Batailley 2002 Pauillac, Chateau d’Esclans Rose 2006 Cotes de Provence or Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 2006. Dessert Wine was Chateau Coutet 198 Premier Cru Classe Sauternes-Barsac. I was impressed that the crew remembered that I’d asked for ice for a drink of London Pride which I thought had been served too warm. They told me they had it on ice ready for me. Sadly I fell asleep before having one, and breakfast didn’t seem the right time.

Arrival about 90 minutes before arrival I woke for breakfast, which was a full English along with some healthy fruit and a fruit smoothie, a lovely hot mug of tea and then a pretty good cappuccino. To see the menu click here. We arrived five minutes early at London Heathrow and after catching the shuttle train back to the main terminal, were quickly through immigration. The bags arrived quickly (and for once, First was first off the carousel).

Verdict the dated bed product seems less important when it is reclined as a bed since it is extremely comfortable for night flights, with a good duvet and pillows, and a quiet cabin for sleep. Still very good.

Contact ba.com


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  • Did you change into sleeper suits on your flight? I find it makes a big difference when alighting at the other end to be in somewhat fresh clothing, esp. since BA seems to keep their First cabins way too warm (they claim NASA tells them optimum temps are 23c…way too warm for most everyone but the crew!).

    Also, Statler chicken is a catering cut of chicken – a breast with a small bit of wing bone attached. You see this term often on US menus.

  • My wife and I are flying the same route in 1st during Sept. Also using a combination of BA miles and the Amex companion ticket. We did the same last year to Cape Town and I sometimes fly 1st on business. I agree with StephenLondon, BA have an intensly annoying practice of keeping the cabins way to warm. On the way back from CapeTown I just slept without a douvet and I was still way to hot and kept waking up. Please please BA if you see this – do something. I asked for the temp to be turned down but whilst they said “yes sir” it made no difference. Last week I flew back from Memphis to Ams in NW business and although overall it is not a patch on BA 1st, simply because the cabin was cool I was able to get a good sleep.

  • Thank you for your comments.

    I mentioned in the other review (outbound) that “The temperature in the cabin shortly after take-off first went very cold, then warm, and the stabilised itself. I was glad I was travelling with someone who could confirm these observations, or I might have worried I was falling ill.”

    On the return leg I spoke to one of the FA’s about this and she was aware of the situation, asking my opinion as to whether it was too hot or too cold. She said it was difficult with such a small cabin since they didn’t want people getting cold (obviously) but it was difficult for them to judge if it was too hot, partly because they are in and out of the cabin and also because they are walking around while passengers are not.

  • I can’t believe you drink a fine English ale like London Pride chilled!!!!!
    Great reviews of your SFO trips. I find 1A/K and 2A/K can also be good for 2 pax travelling together, unless you want to hold hands… Still close enough to chat. Row 1 also suffers from having no overhead storage but the wardrobe is available. I usually find most First travellers have only limited hand luggage so the overhead storage is usually ample, even if not directly overhead your seat.

  • British Airways does not employ “FAs” or Flight Attendants. They are Cabin Crew.

    Cabin temperature is a bugbear of mine. The crew like to keep it warm as they are often in cooler parts of the aircraft (like the galley) and as a general rule less well upholstered ladies seem to feel the cold more than the typically proportioned businessman.

    Plus they know heat makes most people more docile.

    My solution to this is to seek out the CSD in their cubby hole (front of F on the 777 and under the stairs on the 747), explain the situation, and watch them reduce the temperature from the control panel. Sometimes crew themselves don’t have the authority/understand how to change the temp and so you request is either ignored or not carried out. Persistence pays!

  • Mach 2.2, thank you for your comments.

    Re: your London Pride comment. That’s what the FA, sorry, Cabin Crew said when I asked for ice to cool the drink, and so I pointed her to the description on the back of the can: “Drink Chilled”

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