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Trip Report: My first BA and First First Experience

Trip Report: My first BA and First First Experience

Old Sep 8, 19, 3:36 pm
  #1  
mhy
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Join Date: Feb 2013
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Trip Report: My first BA and First First Experience

Just got back from my super quick one-day trip from New York to London. It was purely a mileage run & I had found a decent fare in BA First on the LHR-JFK leg so I booked it without much hesitation. I arrived in London in the morning, stayed overnight at the Sofitel in LHR and headed back to NYC the next morning.

I will preface this by saying this was my first ever flight on BA and my first time in international F. I'd flown J in several airlines before but never F.

BA116 JFK-LHR
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 (Super Hi-J)
Seat: 35J (World Traveller Plus)


I arrived at JFK Terminal 7 around 5pm for the 8:10pm departure. Due to my Sapphire status, I was able to use the Business Class checkin desk and fast-track security even though I was traveling in WTP. I asked whether a Club World cash upgrade was available and was told that there wasn't room at the moment but that I should inform the lounge staff so they can notify me if space did become available. The upgrade cost was quoted as $599 but ultimately, it was a full flight and I didn't get the opportunity to upgrade.

BA Club Lounge, Terminal 7

I only took one picture of the lounge, but it was pretty nice and spacious. There is a rather limited selection of hot/cold food items, and a lot of beverage choices. Most Club World passengers appeared to be eating in the preflight dining area (which was guarded by a lounge agent, who was checking the boarding passes of anyone trying to enter). I had about 12 wings plus a salad in the lounge for dinner. Service was good - lounge staff proactively walked around clearing plates and glasses, and it was very new and clean.


British Airways Club Lounge, JFK Terminal 7

The lounge was initially crowded with many ANA passengers waiting to board NH109, and remained quite busy as wave after wave of BA passengers arrived and departed for BA112, BA174, and BA176. Finally BA116 was called to board, and I boarded in Group 2. I heard the BA002 Baby Bus flight to LCY being called, and swore to myself that I would try it out in the near future.

The World Traveller Plus cabin on the 747-400 (super hi-J) was quite intimate and small, with just 30 seats in four rows of 2-4-2 seating (3 rows on the rightmost side due to the lavatory directly behind seats 35J/K).
Seat was well-padded, the legroom was good, not much else to say. I didn't use the IFE much as I tried to sleep as much as possible. I skipped both meals and caught a 3 hour nap on the short flight east across the Atlantic. Flight time was somewhere around 5 hours 45 minutes.



Upon arrival in London I used the e-gates (first time!) which made immigration a breeze, I was through in 30 seconds. This is a big improvement. When I went through LHR earlier this year on a business trip (arriving on AA J) I made the mistake of using the 'fast track' immigration line which was nothing but. I will always be using the e-gates from now on!



Beautiful B747 upon arrival in Heathrow

After putting my backpack in the hotel, I took the Heathrow Express to Paddington. I had purchased an advanced 'Business First' ticket, for the price of 16.5 which I think is very reasonable. There was only one other passenger in the car and I arrived in Paddington Station.

Last edited by mhy; Sep 8, 19 at 4:27 pm
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Old Sep 8, 19, 3:37 pm
  #2  
mhy
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From Paddington I took the Bakerloo Line tube to London Waterloo, where I picked up my ticket to Weybridge, where I would be visiting the Brooklands Museum.
I had purchased a 'first class' ticket but this turned out to be a bit of a joke. The legroom in the twin seat section was probably something like 26 inches, I could almost not sit down without turning sideways (I am 6'0).


"First Class" on South Western Railways

Weybridge Station

Brooklands Museum is located about a 20-minute walk from the train station, which made for good exercise after a transatlantic flight.
The centerpiece of the museum is the Concorde G-BBDG, which was used in the 1970s by BA as test aircraft. I was very excited to have the opportunity to get a quick tour of the aircraft. They also have longer events (including some featuring actual Concorde pilots and cabin crew), events oriented toward adults, and events for children.

The tour, costing 5, was led by a gentleman who was very enthusiastic about the aircraft and its history. Very enjoyable 40-minute tour, the highlight of which was being able to board the aircraft and see the cabin, flight deck, galleys, and of course, the toilet.


Concorde G-BBDG




The toilet

Tiny windows!


G-BBDG Flight Deck



G-BBDG had its final flight in December 1981, subsequently being stored at Filton Airport. It was acquired by Brooklands Museum in 2003 and painstakingly taken apart for transport to the museum and restored on-site.

The museum also has a large number of classic cars and several other aircraft, including a privately-owned Harrier jump jet.


Last edited by mhy; Sep 8, 19 at 4:08 pm
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Old Sep 8, 19, 3:38 pm
  #3  
mhy
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Here is one of the classic Bentleys. I know close to nothing about cars, but it was very beautiful!


There was also a Bus museum, featuring historical buses and other vehicles used in London. There was also a BOAC bus.





I was surprised to learn that the Brooklands site was Britain's largest, and one of Europe's largest, aircraft factories during the WW1 to WW2 eras. Many, many aircraft (18,000+!) were built here. British Aircraft Corporation built 30% of the airframe of all BA & AF Concordes at Brooklands.

This museum was like an avgeek's dream come true. I'm so happy to have gone! Highly recommended, especially if you can snag a spot at one of the exclusive Concorde events.
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Last edited by mhy; Sep 8, 19 at 4:11 pm
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Old Sep 8, 19, 3:38 pm
  #4  
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After the visit to Brooklands it was time to head back to London for dinner.


I had a quick dinner at a ramen restaurant near Tottenham Court Road, and walked around Trafalgar Square. It was completely full of tourists.




Passed by possibly the fanciest Shake Shack in the world.



There was heavy security on Downing Street, men with assault rifles were turning away tourists.



Beautiful Westminster Abbey.



The Houses of Parliament are unfortunately undergoing a major renovation.



Classic London telephone box

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Last edited by mhy; Sep 8, 19 at 4:19 pm
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Old Sep 8, 19, 3:39 pm
  #5  
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I was very tired at this point so I headed back to Heathrow to rest at the Sofitel. Remember, I had just landed in London the same morning with 3 hours of sleep!



I bought a guilty snack at Paddington Station.


Krispy Kreme!

Sofitel London Heathrow, Terminal 5

The Sofitel is connected directly to the arrivals and departures levels at Heathrow Terminal 5. It is about a 5-minute quick walk from the terminal proper and was very nice overall. The staff were very courteous and the room was nice and spacious. I paid about $190, or 150, for which I redeemed Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Unfortunately this was the only picture I took of the hotel. This is the escalators leading down to the hotel lobby, after the transit walkway from T5.


I caught about 6 hours of sleep and then was up at 5AM to begin the BA First experience!
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Last edited by mhy; Sep 8, 19 at 4:26 pm
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Old Sep 8, 19, 3:40 pm
  #6  
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I was certainly feeling excited making my way to the LHR T5 First Wing. The terminal was fairly busy even though it was still 5AM in the morning! The First Wing was virtually empty, being this early in the morning. The staff were very courteous, and I got a paper boarding pass as a memento of my first international F. The check-in agent wished me a good flight.

Security was very quick and I was through to the Galleries First lounge in a matter of 2-3 minutes.





Once in Galleries First, I headed for the Concorde Room that is talked about so often in these forums.
I took a seat for a bit to relax, and surprisingly there were a few people already in the lounge, ahead of me! This was around 5:15am.



I took a seat and someone came by to ask if I wanted to order anything. I ordered the Full English with orange juice.



The breakfast was very good, I think this was my first time ever trying black pudding and was pleasantly surprised. I'm not sure I will eat it too often though.

Once I was done eating, I headed out to the Terrace and got myself one of the day beds (the surface was harder than I expected). This was truly a serene area, tucked above the main terminal and overlooking the A gates. The terminal's ambient sound really made the atmosphere feel special.



Watching the early morning heavy arrivals come in was a Zen event in itself. The sun slowly started rising higher as I sat in the terrace.


Am I in heaven!?


Overlooking the A gates from the CCR

The sunlight and lounge colors really complement each other well.


Beautiful space

I rarely drink, and almost never in the early morning, but I had to make an exception for this occasion. What better idea than to sip a BA175 cocktail while waiting to board BA175?!



There were some quirky things in the CCR. I think they make the lounge feel a little more special and playful.

Last edited by mhy; Sep 8, 19 at 4:48 pm
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Old Sep 8, 19, 3:54 pm
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Great start to the TR, I eagerly await more.

Out of interest, what was the cost of your trip?
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Old Sep 8, 19, 5:20 pm
  #8  
mhy
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Overall I really liked the First checkin experience and especially the Concorde Room. It was very private and quiet and never got very crowded. Staff were courteous and the service was efficient. The Terrace was by far my favorite section, and I spent the majority of my approximately 3 hours there. I initially had a foot massage booked, but I decided to cancel it since sitting in the Terrace was so pleasant.

Around 8:15am, I made my way to the exit. I saw a piano with headphones marked 'Play Me' so I indulged a bit.

Following the advice of FT threads, I headed down to the walkway between T5A and B/C gates. I arrived at my gate right on time, and it was another 10 minutes before they started boarding. Group 1 was called and the elderly couple in front of me wouldn't step forward so I pulled a mini-DYKWIA and asked them "Are you group 1 or group 2?" to which they replied "group 2". I simply walked past them, since I was in Group 1. (To be fair, they were lined up in the 'Group 1' lane, not the 'Group 2' lane)

I was the first onboard the aircraft (never happened to me ever before!) and got the chance to snap a photo of the in my opinion very chic and classy First cabin on the 747 - BA really make it look good, yes it's a dense cabin with 14 seats but you have to admit, it looks sexy.

BA175 LHR-JFK
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400 (Super Hi-J)
Seat: 2K (First)



Fantastic-looking F cabin


Seat 2K

The excitement of being in the nose of the 747, for the first time ever, was almost overwhelming. It was truly a kid-in-a-candy-store moment. I was escorted to my seat by a friendly crew member, where I stowed my jacket in the seat wardrobe and the backpack in the overhead. I noticed the overhead bins being quite narrow, I have another F trip scheduled in a few months so wonder how I'm going to put my luggage away when I actually have a carry-on rollaboard...

A pre-departure beverage was served and of course I chose the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, which was served with warm nuts. I'm no champagne connoisseur, but it was outstanding. This would be my first and last alcoholic drink on the flight as I was actually quite buzzed already by the BA175 from earlier, which was strong.


LPGS and warm nuts

Afterward, I was given my amenity kit and pajamas (which I took home). The CSD came around to greet me and mentioned that he would be in New York for an extra day due to the pilot strike. It turned out that he'd be working the CW cabin on my flight later this week!


The nose of the 747!

Do they REALLY need an entire separate magazine for First?

Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of the main meal. I had a starter of lobster caesar salad, followed by a main dish of grilled monkfish. Both were excellent. I skipped the dessert as I had had a lot to eat in the lounge.

The crew were great overall. I think I had a WW crew and they clearly knew what they were doing. I had to ask someone to put my seat in bed mode rather than having it done proactively but that was a minor point. Everyone was truly a pleasure to talk to and very happy to be there. The FA who brought me my meals told me the 747 was her favorite aircraft and she would truly miss it once it finally retires.

After the meal service I asked my bed to be made and changed into my pajamas. They were very comfortable although I wish they had the 'First' logo on them like the previous generation, which I never had a chance to try.

The bed was fantastic - better than any J product I'd been on before, including JAL, AA, United, and LATAM. I guess that goes without saying!

The White Company bedding was also very comfortable and I caught a solid 3 hour nap.

After I woke up it was time for the Afternoon Tea service. I chose the scones, which were absolutely delicious.



Before long, we were on final approach to JFK and landed about 10 minutes after scheduled arrival. Once the jetbridge was connected and the door opened, the crew held the Club World passengers in the aisle to let the F passengers get off first. I thought that was a nice touch. I said goodbye and thank you to the F crew as I left the aircraft.

Overall I think this was an excellent experience, from the First Wing to the CCR to the onboard product both soft and hard. It helped that I had realistic expectations after reading so many Trip Reports and watching so many YouTube videos. Onboard, I had an excellent crew which made it that much more special. I am very happy to have ticked off flying in the nose of the 747 from my bucket list. I already have another F trip booked in several months, where I will be able to try the JFK CCR. I won't hesitate to fly BA F in the future if it makes sense financially / schedule-wise! I am booked into the 747 Upper Deck for a business trip soon, and I'll be sure to review that too.
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Old Sep 8, 19, 7:24 pm
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mhy glad you enjoyed your first first. Nice to relive that experience. Thanks.
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Old Sep 8, 19, 7:44 pm
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You seem to have had a very rewarding first First, overnight visit to London, and TP run. Well done!
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Old Sep 8, 19, 8:56 pm
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Glad that you liked the classic Bentley at Brooklands. That was the car that James Bond drove in the original Ian Fleming books( he had a special supercharger fitted for extra performance).
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Old Sep 8, 19, 9:44 pm
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Originally Posted by OldVines View Post
Glad that you liked the classic Bentley at Brooklands. That was the car that James Bond drove in the original Ian Fleming books( he had a special supercharger fitted for extra performance).
It reminds me of this Brockbank cartoon https://citroencarclub.org.uk/about-the-club/
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Old Sep 9, 19, 12:00 am
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Interestingly, it looks like you booked it on AA codeshare numbers. Was that really the case?
Really enjoyed your trip report. Must make it down to that museum some time.
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Old Sep 9, 19, 1:45 am
  #14  
mhy
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Originally Posted by Concerto View Post
Interestingly, it looks like you booked it on AA codeshare numbers. Was that really the case?
Really enjoyed your trip report. Must make it down to that museum some time.
Yes - I booked it through AA - it was more than $300 cheaper! It actually saved me in a way, because I got an email from BA saying the inbound F flight was canceled - but I couldn't actually do anything because it was sold by AA and AA didn't have a waiver out yet. Eventually it ended up being reinstated a la BA "sorry your flight will be operating as planned" email. If I had bought directly from BA, I could/would have rebooked unnecessarily!

Last edited by mhy; Sep 9, 19 at 7:34 am
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Old Sep 9, 19, 1:55 am
  #15  
 
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Thanks for the trip report, it sounds like you had a great time, I love the picture of your afternoon tea in F with a picture of economy service on the screen behind it . I've often seen the Concorde from the train on my Waterloo-Portsmouth journeys and wondered what it was... now I know and I'll definitely be paying a visit to Brooklands.
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