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Old Feb 12, 10, 8:45 am   #1
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BA First Suite Inaugural Review

I did a quick return to Chicago out on Wednesday, returning to LHR on Thursday, 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. I've put a few comments together that I hope you'll find of interest.

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 or small 6 or 8 seat F cabins 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 fresh, 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, along with a few ground fixes that are much needed.

Lavatories have been refreshed, but not upgraded at all. They seemed a bit bland to me, and lacked face cloths or any amenities other than soap and lotion.

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.
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Old Feb 12, 10, 8:48 am   #2
  
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FAB thanks for the review - makes me excited just thinking about getting on a flight with the NF
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Old Feb 12, 10, 8:58 am   #3
  
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Thanks for posting - I have turned green.

Did you notice if anything has been done about the lack of overhead bins for 1A and 1K or do the occupants have to still use the wardrobe ?
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:00 am   #4
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A couple of pictures in this post which look v.nice.
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:06 am   #5
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Originally Posted by OPebble View Post
Thanks for posting - I have turned green.

Did you notice if anything has been done about the lack of overhead bins for 1A and 1K or do the occupants have to still use the wardrobe ?
There was plenty of overhead space in row 1...the lady coming back in 1A put her handbag in a small overhead bin, and a very large wheelie in the next one...plus you have personal wardrobes at each seat, and they still have the closets (1A had a fur coat stowed) by 1A/1E and 4F/4K...
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:06 am   #6
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Originally Posted by OPebble View Post
Did you notice if anything has been done about the lack of overhead bins for 1A and 1K or do the occupants have to still use the wardrobe ?
There is no lack of bins for 1AK, never was.
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:16 am   #7
  
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Originally Posted by AndyFlyer View Post
and they still have the closets (1A had a fur coat stowed) by 1A/1E and 4F/4K...
That's a shame - I wish they would remove the cupboard at the front of the 747 F cabin.
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:20 am   #8
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Well I think this sounds great. I always found the old seat very comfortable and nicely private and although there are several obvious things BA is (at least in relative terms) poor at with F (ground handling *COUGH*), I never had many issues with the seat or bed itself except it getting a bit old and tired these days. This evolution now sounds most welcome, and the overall re-design sounds exactly like the kind of cabin I'd really like spending several hours in. Can't wait to get a chance to fly it, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Thanks for the report, AndyFlyer Lucky so and so

In the current climate it's also really pleasing to see BA pushing on with improvements and innovations - this coming not that long after Club World London City for example.
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:24 am   #9
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Originally Posted by G-BOAC View Post
There is no lack of bins for 1AK, never was.
Atleast not on a 777.
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:26 am   #10
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Atleast not on a 777.
Exactly
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:26 am   #11
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Thanks for the report AndyFlyer.

I will look forward to giving it a try when it comes on the 747s to DOH.
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:35 am   #12
  
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Thanks for the report, I look forward to try it soon!
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:40 am   #13
  
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No offense AndyFlyer, but you do get around

http://www.businesstraveller.com/dis...t-Class-Review
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Old Feb 12, 10, 9:42 am   #14
  
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Thanks for the report! Sounds good, much better than what we have heard and seen so far (perhaps we are all a little jaded?). Sounds like a fantastic evolutionary step, and I am also glad they did not go the way of SQ with the suites.

What are decompression vents? I always thought they were vents throughout the length of the cabin that allowed compressed (and air conditioned) are into the cabin. What do they have to do with the seats just in F?
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Old Feb 12, 10, 10:02 am   #15
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Like others, encouraged to hear this. The increase in seat space is most welcome. I still worry the cabin may look a little bland but will reserve judgement until I actually see it! Thanks for the report.
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