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More inconsistency from BA FIRST: short trip report

More inconsistency from BA FIRST: short trip report

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Old Feb 18, 19, 7:43 am
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More inconsistency from BA FIRST: short trip report

We just returned from a week away in South Africa, and flew BA LHR-JNB in F both directions having purchased the 2-4-1 tickets last year. It's been a while since I've flown F on a paid ticket, but my expectations I think were reasonable and informed. So what was the reality?

On the ground:
  • The First Wing is fine but lacks any real wow factor, especially when you have to queue and one lane is closed. Plus why did the lady at BP say, oh silver card, you must be his guest, to my partner, when we were both ticketed in F? (Small thing I know, but hardly rocket science to get it right!)
  • The Concorde Room is definitely improved since my last visit. I remember elusive, unhelpful staff but this time they were delightful and proactive. The food in the dining area was also pretty good.
  • Priority Group 1 boarding was a joke at both LHR and JNB.
  • The First lounge at JNB is beyond bad. I used to be a regular on this route and remember when it was a definite upgrade to the old lounge. Now it is just overcrowded and grim - if you have Priority Pass, go somewhere else.
  • Not directly related, but as is well-known the SLOW lounges in JNB and CPT domestic (access by flying Comair) are amazing; great food, tons of space, wide choice of drinks, delightful staff. I felt very envious that AF/KL passengers get to use this at JNB International departures.
Crew in the air
  • Mixed fleet crew in both directions. I was surprised at this as I thought JNB would be a prime route, ie WW, but it seems I'm out of touch with how it works these days.
  • The CSM on the way down was amazing. He introduced himself to everyone at length, passed through the F cabin regularly, and came at the end of the flight to debrief with everyone personally and thank us for flying F. On the way back she did introduce herself, but wasn't seen again. (Interestingly, both CSMs were more mature whereas I had assumed all MF crew were at the younger end of the age range, again my misperception it seems.)
  • The crew outbound was young and nervous, but proactive and attentive. They were also very slow to serve dinner; the table wasn't set until 1h30m out of LHR, and we didn't finish dessert until 3h+ after take-off. On the way back it was all much quicker, and over by 2h after wheels-up.
  • The crew on the way home was not so good. Fast yes, but sloppy and inattentive. I asked for water with my meal twice before it was brought. I rang the call bell twice to have our table cleared before going to the galley to find the attendant just standing there doing nothing (she said that "it is the same system as Club, so if they don't clear their calls we can't tell"). We both ordered gin and tonics (seated together) and they brought one. We asked for lots of ice; guess what....
  • The attitude of the return crew left a lot to be desired. I don't expect obsequious service (honestly!), but it would be nice to be addressed by name or even as sir rather than rudely interrogated. When I woke up in the morning, for example, no pleasantries whatsoever but she barked "Do you want breakfast?" as she walked past me in the aisle. Whatev.
Onboard experience
  • On both flights, when the CSMs introduced themselves I asked (very nicely) if they could try and make sure the cabin didn't become too hot in the night and both assured me they would. No surprises, on the way down it was perfect, on the return I woke stifling in the middle of the night. (When I went to the bathroom at the front 1R door there was hot air pumping through the vents.) I went and found the night crew who did turn it down, but still.
  • I slept solid 7 hours outbound, but was woken up by the heat and then by breakfast at 2h+ out of London. There seemed to be an unusual amount of banging and footfall during this service, which I just slept through outbound. Hmmm.
  • The food was pretty poor in both directions, but especially JNB-LHR (which I didn't expect because my memory of this route was good return local catering.) The quality was poor as was the cooking - I know, "don't eat the beef", but really the choices are so limited that it was almost the default option.
  • I was very surprised that no SA wines were served in either direction. It was on this route that I first taste Chocolate Block, as well as enjoying some excellent favourite SA reds. Now a passable Saint Emilion, a Chilean Pinot (didn't try) and an Argentinian Malbec which I Googled and retails at US$10 a bottle. I'm sorry, but there is a price point for First quality and that is well below it!
  • Speaking of wines, the nervous crew outbound brought the bottle for presenation and tasting, whereas the homewards crew just presented us with filled glasses.
  • And I don't know what "champagne" they served on the ground in JNB pre-departure (again, bottle not presented) but it left me with acid digestion so I had to forego the LPGS in the air! (Maybe this was a cunning cost-saving manoeuvre?)
So, overall a good experience albeit too slow on the way down, whereas a sub-par result coming home. And on the ground nice enough, but no wow factor. Pretty much in line with my expectations from BA and just grateful to have had one good leg!

Was it worth the £2k each in the 2-4-1 offer? Probably, just. Would I be happy if I'd paid sticker price? LOL.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 8:40 am
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Hmm.

Glad to hear that things went well for you on the way down. But one good leg out of two isn’t exactly a desirable or aspirational ratio. I personally don’t believe it’s remotely acceptable that the First Class experience should be this much of a lottery.

I actually had to double-check that you really were in F when I saw this part of your report, which describes the sort of ‘service’ that frankly wouldn’t come across too well in economy - let alone in the top cabin ...

The attitude of the return crew left a lot to be desired. I don't expect obsequious service (honestly!), but it would be nice to be addressed by name or even as sir rather than rudely interrogated. When I woke up in the morning, for example, no pleasantries whatsoever but she barked "Do you want breakfast?" as she walked past me in the aisle. Whatev.”

I’m going down to SA this September with BA, and had been toying with the idea of a UuA from CW to F. As it happens there is zero redemption availability (not unusual for the route, AFAIK). Perhaps that’s a good thing because, having read your report, I’m now of the view that it could very likely prove a waste of avios, even if a seat were to open up.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:08 am
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I'm headed to JNB on BA F this weekend.
I'm far more excited for December when I fly this route again on EK J.

Keeping my fingers crossed that BA will be ok, whereas with EK I don't feel like luck will come into it...
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:20 am
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Originally Posted by Jermyn View Post

Keeping my fingers crossed that BA will be ok, whereas with EK I don't feel like luck will come into it...
EK food used to be a banker bet even in Y never mind J...always enjoyed my flights with them. However I've heard all isn't hunky dory at EK at the mo so I would keep your fingers crossed when flying with them as well.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:21 am
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I had similar experiences on my recent F flights to and from Cape Town, although the crew on the return were more attentive than on the outbound, we were in 1AK and seemed to get forgotten about quite a bit - eg they didn't bother to take my food order, they started with the person in 2A and just worked backwards, so i had to ask someone if they would take it when i went to the loo. I enjoyed the food on the way out, but inbound it was very poor - avoid the lamb if you are flying in Feb - a minute portion of meat surrounded (although surrounded by a lot of fat) which was seriously over-cooked, the cheese was also very poor compared to that served from LHR. I too thought it was a shame that there was no South African wine served.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:23 am
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Sounds like BA First class = Business class on other airlines, at best.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:32 am
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Originally Posted by cosmo74 View Post
I enjoyed the food on the way out, but inbound it was very poor - avoid the lamb if you are flying in Feb - a minute portion of meat surrounded (although surrounded by a lot of fat) which was seriously over-cooked, the cheese was also very poor compared to that served from LHR. I too thought it was a shame that there was no South African wine served.
I thought about that lamb, but thought better as I guessed that they would ruin the cooking and overdone lamb is worse than beef. And yes, the description of cheeses was Cheddar and Camembert. Full stop. (Plus SA cheese is pretty horrid!)
On the menu, there are now basically two starters (plus a salad option); three mains (plus a salad option); and two desserts (plus cheese). It doesn't really make you feel spoiled for choice when you know that they are going to ruin anything meaty and that everything else is going to leave you hungry!
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:40 am
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Sad to see so many similar threas here lately. I still got atleast five BA F legs coming up this year and donít really hold my hopes up anymore as from the last three only one was truly nice and one of them like Y level of service.

I know itís useles to compare but none of my LH/LX/EK/CX F flown earlier this year have had any issues whatsoever on the soft product and to me being able to expect somewhat of a faultless experience when flying F is the reason I end up booking it. Hopefully BA improves here so burning GUFs/Jokers doesnít become the only reason to fly them in F.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:49 am
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I had a recent LHR CPT LHR in F with some issues (summary here). 20k avios service recovery.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 10:57 am
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You paid £2k return for a direct LHR-JNB flight, which is very keen pricing for J class, let alone F. BA appears to be increasingly willing to price F in line with the quality of the product so that they can sell it rather than having seats go out empty / filled up with redemptions, which makes perfect sense and I can only believe will continue as the new CW is eventually rolled out. The flip side of that is you can't expect the wine list and catering to be the same quality as F on carriers that never reduce their F class pricing below twice what BA charges.

The service issues are sad and having experienced the same in the past, I sympathise. The lounge also I will not attempt to defend.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 11:18 am
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Well, I’m pleased to report the 9 First sectors I’ve flown since the start of 2019 have all been good to excellent. I’ve not flown to JNB/CPT but I have travelled to and/or from LAS, LAX, SIN, HKG with flights crewed by either WW or MF and I have absolutely nothing to complain about. I’m expecting a similar service when I return to the UK tomorrow.
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Old Feb 18, 19, 11:22 am
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Originally Posted by aristoph View Post
I thought about that lamb, but thought better as I guessed that they would ruin the cooking and overdone lamb is worse than beef. And yes, the description of cheeses was Cheddar and Camembert. Full stop. (Plus SA cheese is pretty horrid!)
On the menu, there are now basically two starters (plus a salad option); three mains (plus a salad option); and two desserts (plus cheese). It doesn't really make you feel spoiled for choice when you know that they are going to ruin anything meaty and that everything else is going to leave you hungry!
For what itís worth, the catering ex-ZA has always been poor - which is surprising considering the abundance of quality produce available here.

Otherwise, sounds like a normal BA F experience to me, i.e. fine for the price. Might have been worse, though: you could have been in Club 😁
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Old Feb 18, 19, 11:57 am
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Originally Posted by BA235 View Post


Otherwise, sounds like a normal BA F experience to me, i.e. fine for the price. Might have been worse, though: you could have been in Club 😁
That's exactly what we thought - we could be in J!

In 3 weeks I fly Norwegian PE to the US, and BA CW home. Is it wrong that I'm more excited about the outbound?
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Old Feb 18, 19, 12:17 pm
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Originally Posted by BA235 View Post


For what itís worth, the catering ex-ZA has always been poor - which is surprising considering the abundance of quality produce available here.

Otherwise, sounds like a normal BA F experience to me, i.e. fine for the price. Might have been worse, though: you could have been in Club 😁
D'you what though ? CW, when done properly, is actually pretty good. We have just had a lovely sector back from PVG... engaged cabin crew making an extra effort, decent food, IFE working, drink flowing...

Worthy of 4 Golden Tickets (gave 1 each to 2 separate crew).

I have precisely 1 trip in BA F this year and no plans for any more - possibly ever
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Old Feb 18, 19, 12:21 pm
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Originally Posted by Fitch View Post
D'you what though ? CW, when done properly, is actually pretty good. We have just had a lovely sector back from PVG... engaged cabin crew making an extra effort, decent food, IFE working, drink flowing...
I agree. Though better poor BA service in a First seat that poor BA service in a CW one.
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