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Trip report: ‘A New First!’, LHR – DEN CW NF mix…8/3/11

Trip report: ‘A New First!’, LHR – DEN CW NF mix…8/3/11

Old Mar 10, 11, 12:12 am
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Trip report: ‘A New First!’, LHR – DEN CW NF mix…8/3/11

Well, a new first for me at least! The LHR to DEN is usually a 3 class 777 so there is no F tickets for sale…however, on occasion the plane rotation brings a 4 class through so you can get lucky and bag a seat in F as was my luck on this trip.

I do not know how the final seat delegation is done but until T-24 I could see there was an F cabin but not select any seats in this cabin (logically), however, at OLCI I noticed that 3K and 4K were available to me…the rest were blocked. I selected 3K and thought ‘let’s see what happens, the worst they can do is put me back where I booked (or worse where I belong ;-) but to start at the beginning…

I checked in using Bag Drop in CW with a very friendly and efficient staff member without any queue, fast track was also quite empty so had a good day and within 5 minutes of arrival at T5 was making my way to the F lounge.

Recently, there have been some complaints about the state of the F lounge on the forum but on this visit (YMMV) everything was in order, I will admit that there were some papers still left on seats (if I hadn’t seen the thread I probably wouldn’t have thought twice about this) but they were at least folded up or not scattered about. I noticed at least two staff members cleaning up, so either this was just lucky, the time of day or maybe things are improving? The lounge was emptier than usual and I could easily get a seat to enjoy the buffet English breakfast. I found the selection and quality quite good and everything was stocked up.

I was told at check-in that the flight would be from a B gate but decided to wait until T-1 before going over to that lounge as I didn’t want to be caught out in case of a gate change…In this case I am glad I did as the B lounge was near full capacity and had very little seating left, although I didn’t have to wait long until boarding started anyway so not a big deal.

The flight must not have been too full as there was not that many people queuing to board and I could walk straight through with no delays.

I was met at the entrance to the plane by the CSM in a uniform that was new to me…Still do not know how mixed fleet works, let alone if the uniforms are different, so can’t say, however, I was a bit disappointed that I was only given a cursory glance and ‘straight across, turn left’ with no welcome aboard Mr. BotB or nice to have you with us again, etc…I have to say that only once on the entire flight did anyone even address me by name and that was when taking my meal choice. My flight certainly wasn’t any worse off because of this but instead of having a ‘good’ flight, small details like this can go a long way to making it a great one and it would be nice to be recognised as a status passenger that is being loyal to the company when strike action looms…

All was forgiven, as after walking through the galley, I could see that to my right was the standard CW cabin with rows 10-15 and to my delight when I turned left I was looking at a New First cabin (not had the pleasure up to this point so was really chuffed at my luck, especially not having to pay for it!)
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Old Mar 10, 11, 12:16 am
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This plane (G-VIIW) has 4 window seats each side (AK) and 3 middle suites (EF?), giving 14 F seats. I was alone at first but later near the end of boarding was joined by another pax in 4K. I can only assume that we were the only two Gold’s on board and so had the ability to snag a seat in this cabin, as I certainly do not have a high CIV score…maybe it was simply whoever takes the seat first at OLCI…All I can say is when flying to DEN make sure you OLCI at T-24 in case you get this option as well.

My first impression of the cabin was it appears far darker than OF due to the darker colour choice and also far more ‘busy’ both in terms of space and aesthetically. I believe the extra middle seats over some OF configurations does make the cabin seem more cluttered as well as the taller ‘walls’ of the middle seat dividers in NF. The sense of quality is definitely present and I also feel that each passenger has a more private space in NF compared to OF. If you like rounded corners and softer lines then the OF is definitely more appealing to the eye, NF seems to be a rectangular design study, I felt the OF has a more sculpted and custom fit with elegance whereas the NF suite seems more brash and chunky. Apologies in advance for the rather poor pictures (combination of 1 MP camera and lack of talent!)

Pics coming! (need to find a site to put them on first)

My impression was that the new white with thin blue line style of wall covering is less posh than the OF wood design. I also found the seat to be far wider throughout the ‘suite’ than the OF seat was. (I can confirm this to some degree as the seat cover for sleeping is still the same OF size and doesn’t quite cover the width of the new seat throughout.)

Some points that I noticed were that the foot stool has a handle similar to CW and can be lowered from the ‘sleep’ position to a lower position which is nice when reading or watching a movie. I did find it strange that the ‘buddy’ seat seat belt does not hide away more elegantly and although you can shove the strap down the seat and then rest the buckle in the recess the other half is left laying around…I didn’t find it bothered me when sleeping or stretched out but others may. The foot area of the NF bed is longer at the window seats compared to the centre seats (but only by an inch or two) but it looks like the centre seats have a bit more width at the foot as the design of the foot area is different between the two seats.
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Old Mar 10, 11, 12:20 am
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The window seats also have a much smaller ‘shelf’ area that is raised up over the leather and for me this was fine but for those that like to lay out their goods then the centre seats seem to have more raised surface area to do so…(I should mention that there is plenty of leather covered space to place items in front of the shelf at a window)

The new style seat adjustment controller works okay but I would suggest getting to grips with it before you get too tired as the symbols are very small on the buttons and hard to see (even with my glasses on!) There is a button for the headrest which leans it towards your head or away from you, a button to adjust the lumbar support and of course the main knob to twist to extend the seat into a bed or back to a seat. The colour of the LED around the knob changes from green to blue when you move away from the ‘take off and landing’ position so the crew can quickly check if the seat is correctly positioned. The seat moves more smoothly than an OF seat (but this may be because it is still very new!) and the speed at which the seat moves seems to be on an accelerated curve if you hold it for longer than two seconds.

The famous window blind is a button that is near the seat controller (at a window seat) and the blind moves very quickly. The design of the two windows at each seat is quite pleasing but I do miss having three windows personally as I like to look at the clouds.

Below the window blind control is the headphone jack and it is similar to most BA premium cabin plugs with one being a single mini plug for the sound and the other being a noise cancelling connection.

The TV monitor is very large for the seat space and reminds me of being in a house with a whopping big 50 inch over the fireplace screaming ‘look at me’…if that is your thing then you’ll love this. The screen seems to be about 15” and pivots from the main panel out to be in the middle of the seat area. The USB and RCA Video in are below the monitor. I did find my monitor took a large amount of force to secure back against the wall…I had to whack it as the catch mechanism seems to be too far recessed. (you move the knob horizontally to release the monitor) Luckily no one was sitting in front of me so this wasn’t a problem. Mr. 4K didn’t seem to have any problems with his so assume this was only an issue at my seat.

The personal closet is a nice feature and especially in the window seats in my opinion as the door is wider and easier to get to when seated, compared to the middle row seats. The space has a hanger for a jacket and there are two mesh pockets to store small items such as keys, wallet, phone, etc…Below this is a space to store shoes or a laptop. I especially liked this feature over OF as it leaves your area uncluttered and still within easy grasp if needed.

Finally, there are three! (yes, three) lights if you are in a window seat. One is a wide angle (or general light for the seat), one is a narrow focussed beam to read by and quite intense, and finally the fixed ambient light mounted in the suite above the shelf. I think if you are in the centre seats you can alter the one ceiling mounted light per seat to be wide or narrow beam but didn’t try this. On the window seat you get two lamps mounted on the ceiling so you have different lamps for each and can have both on if you wished at the same time.

The table is a folding table instead of the big one piece design I remember from OF on a 747. The new table is also far more stable and can tolerate quite a bit of weight or pressure if needed when working or eating so this is a definite improvement over CW or even OF. The design of the table is a shiny black surface with no lip (soft rounded edges) and an embedded design with white weave. (the opposite is on the shelf that is white with a black weaved pattern). The table slides forward and backwards over quite a range and is accessed by lifting the silver lid on the white shelf area. You no longer have to worry about the TV monitor getting in the way when you want to get or put away the table as was the case in OF.
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Old Mar 10, 11, 12:23 am
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I should mention that something I never considered is they have also refurbished the loo in the F cabin and this is now brighter with a minimalistic look as there is much more white (and no wood) in the WC. I liked the cleaner look but it comes at a cost: the tap is now just like in WT and you need to hold down the cold and separately the hot to get any water…gone is the infra red sensor with the nice convenient temperature adjustment slider. What were they thinking?

All told, I actually prefer the OF cabin as a whole (although I only experienced this on the 747 so the layout probably is a major factor in my view here) as it was truly elegant without being ostentatious. I liken the difference as such; OF is British understatement, NF is more the newly rich Russian crowd. (I would have a go at my fellow Canadians, however, we are neither new or old money!) Nothing wrong with either, just your idea of taste I guess. I like subtle instead of bling. However, in terms of sleeping and the bed itself, I would definitely go with NF as it is wider and longer than OF or CW and is a really stable full bed so that you don’t have the problems of feeling like your seat is going to collapse when you need to get up (at least at my weight and compared to a CW seat).

I was a bit surprised at how ‘used’ the cabin looked already, I realise that the planes are almost always in use and it is getting a good workout…however, for a ‘new’ product there were a worrying amount of scrapes, bangs, and marks that devalued the overall luxury of the cabin at this young age. (by no means is it cheap, rather I just expected NF to be ‘new’ for at least another year…unrealistically).

As this was officially a CW 3 class flight there was no PJ’s or wash bags and the food was CW fare. It seemed quite strange to get the CW food and drink in F! (Hence a new first).

The timings of the drinks and food service were fine and on time and done in an efficient, pleasant manner and the cabin crew came around several times to offer extras or more drinks…(maybe because the CW cabin was only 1/3 full but nevertheless a good job). I did get the feeling that they served the main CW cabin before coming to do the two of us in F (but I wasn’t complaining!) this could have been my imagination.

The food was hot and good. I chose the onion and thyme biscuit with carrot on the side as my starter which was nice. The side salad has changed and is now a mixed green leaf salad instead of the (mainly) rocket leaf salad in the past. As a main I had Chicken Tikka Masala which was fine. I choose the cheese as a dessert (so as to extend my enjoyment of the wine you see!).

So, overall, a great trip, with decent crew and food, with the superb added bonus of nearly 10 hours in NF and only one other pax to have to share it with. I think overall people will be happier with NF as it gives a more private space and a better bed which is longer and wider. I am not sure if I would ever pay full whack to fly NF over CW, even if I could afford it regularly, however, with a much smaller and more intimate cabin, first class service, CCR visit and the usual PJ’s and wash bag in a forward facing window seat...well, let’s see what this Friday’s lotto draw brings ;-)

Comments and questions always welcome!

Last edited by BotB; Mar 10, 11 at 12:38 am Reason: grammar
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Old Mar 10, 11, 12:34 am
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BotB - thanks for the detailed and interesting decription of NF.

I note the balanced and objective way you mention NFvs OF.

As I have yet to experience it when flying in F, it was great you had the chance to enjoy it on a flight 'without' F!
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Old Mar 10, 11, 1:17 am
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pictures to accompany trip report on Flickr

Anyone interested in seeing pictures of the NF cabin can see them here

Sorry about the quality hope they are still of use and interest.
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Old Mar 10, 11, 1:26 am
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I've flown five F sectors since NF was launched and not had it once (mix of 747 and 777). Similar state of affairs with colleagues, who have clocked up many more and still not seen the NF cabin in the flesh.

But BA rosters a NF aircraft on a route with no F... Seems mad!

You lucky sod!
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Old Mar 10, 11, 1:38 am
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Originally Posted by 747_not_777 View Post
I've flown five F sectors since NF was launched and not had it once (mix of 747 and 777). Similar state of affairs with colleagues, who have clocked up many more and still not seen the NF cabin in the flesh.

But BA rosters a NF aircraft on a route with no F... Seems mad!

You lucky sod!
I know, crazy but true...according to FT dashboard the chances are now 20 percent on the 218 and 219 flights...the aircraft must do a sector afterwards or before that does require it.

But to make it up to you, I'll buy you a drink in the lounge next time if you want
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Old Mar 10, 11, 3:14 am
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I actually quite like new F. What has left a sour taste in my mouth though is CX adopting the same seat for it's new business class. It no longer feels F, but an expensive J when flying BA.
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Old Mar 27, 11, 11:33 am
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Return leg DEN -LHR CW but seated in NF 777 G-YMMK (again!)

My return flight from DEN had the same seat map in MMB as I had coming out and I could see that there was a F cabin but no seats available until T-24 when to my delight all the seats were selectable. Decided to try 1A for the return leg. No other F seats were taken at that stage and I had only counted 30 J pax (on a 48 J config) up to that stage, so thought it might be quiet coming back...

At the airport, check in was open already at T-4 (thanks BA!) so used CW (no F at DEN) check in desk which had no queue. Friendly staff and efficient, within 2 minutes was on my way to the terrible security areas at DEN. I did overhear another GCH checking in (he was also in CW) asking if he could get a seat in F cabin which he could see online but not select…interesting…wonder what BA criteria allowed me to select a seat of my choice and him not too…they said yes and he was moved to F with a wink and a nod...

If you are flying a premimum cabin you can use the 'fast track' which is not well sign posted on the air bridge (the easiest path to the BA AA lounge, instead of going downstairs through the main security area). You have to walk to the extreme right over the air bridge (the wrong side of the display cabinets) to get to the security fast track area…if you stay on the left of the cabinets then you are in the standard queue and these can be very long.

Passport check went quick but thereafter everything is mixed again and so you just join the rather long queue's to clear the x-ray and metal detectors. Interestingly, I 'beeped' going through the detector (even though I am very careful to take off all metal items) so got the pat down and a swab on the explosives check…well, didn't the [email protected] thing go 'red' and indicate explosives present!…that made for a tense moment I can tell you…so I got taken off to a private room for another pat down and check and more swabs which came back as safe (thank goodness!)…No idea what set the detector off but hope I never have to go through that again! I had just filled up my rental car with petrol before handing it back in but that shouldn't have set this off...

After this it was only a short walk to the new combined AA BA lounge (see separate thread for details) which was okay but I liked the older BA lounge better if I could choose. Definitely look for the quiet area behind the reception desks as the majority of pax are AA users and quite noisy in the lounge in general. They do announce when ready to board so you don't have to keep checking the monitors. I had a couple of glasses of the red stuff to calm the nerves after the 'screening incident'.

When boarding was announced went to the gate and was greeted by a friendly MF crew on board. I was surprised to see the entire F cabin quickly become full with pax (compared to my flight out). The cabin crew in the F cabin was very attentive and friendly and we had a few good chats during the flight. I was never addressed by name and no status greeting during the flight but still they were always willing to help and constantly going through the cabin to ensure all went smooth.

The 777 I flew back on was G-YMMK and had the same 14F config with NF. 1A is very nice with (in my opinion) more privacy and has converted me to a NF fan. Maybe it is simply that I did not see anyone else in front of me and even to the side the privacy is decent unless you lean forward (no better or worse then OF though). The views are less disrupting and you don't see the very 'busy' design of the cabin that I mentioned above when seated in 3K. The one caveat is that the personal locker doesn't have the mesh pockets like 2,3 and 4 AK would so small items do need to go elsewhere, however, the space for a jacket is much wider so you can get a bigger winter coat in if needed. (the locker is diagonal instead of perpendicular to the seat (due to the fact that no seat back available to use for the locker like in 2,3 4AK).



This time the crew were smarter and because the flight was only officially CW we also only had CW blankets in the F cabin placed on the seats when we boarded. I actually found this better as the blanket is not as thick and therefore cooler which helped greatly to keep a decent body temperature in the warmish cabin. I actually could sleep for around 6 hours coming back which is pretty much a record for me…The NF seat when made into a bed is fantastic and my favourite in any cabin (wide, long, stable and solid).

Some last points; the blue ambient lights under the foot rest area remain blue no matter what light scheme the cabin crew select for the other areas. The lights above the overhead storage area along with the large wall lamp at the front middle of the cabin in F and the window blinds can be changed from blue to orange by cabin crew if desired at least on the 777's. (typically blue at night and orange for morning arrival). I managed a picture of the orange light on the window blind below.



Food was quite good CW fare and I can definitely recommend the salmon / asparagus starter which was nothing short of brilliant (would have taken it again as a main if I could have and had known about it before, not sure if it was better because they could use the steam oven's in F or if it would have been this good in normal CW cabin as well).

I was quite amused to see that not only was the F cabin full but also the CW cabin was full so BA must have sold quiet a few check in upgrades to max. both cabins out…well done if you ask me, hope this is possible more often in future instead of leaving the seats empty.

So finally, rather chuffed with myself for not only getting some skiing in during a work trip to the area but also snagging New First seats on both legs for a WT+ fare then MFU'd with miles!

Definitely worth considering DEN as a hub if you are travelling to North America in CW…

Last edited by BotB; Mar 27, 11 at 3:50 pm Reason: Learned how to insert photos finally!
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Old Mar 27, 11, 10:47 pm
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Originally Posted by 747_not_777 View Post
I've flown five F sectors since NF was launched and not had it once (mix of 747 and 777). Similar state of affairs with colleagues, who have clocked up many more and still not seen the NF cabin in the flesh.

But BA rosters a NF aircraft on a route with no F... Seems mad!

You lucky sod!
I wonder if they use non-F routes to "break in" newly reconfigured planes, in case something isn't quite perfect yet. Much easier to deal with pax who got a freebie in F that wasn't quite up to snuff vs. those who paid for it.
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Old Mar 28, 11, 1:11 am
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Great trips reports and comparison of OF (which I've flown) with NF (which I haven't). Thanks!
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Old Jun 26, 11, 12:49 pm
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Originally Posted by VC10 Boy View Post
I actually quite like new F. What has left a sour taste in my mouth though is CX adopting the same seat for it's new business class. It no longer feels F, but an expensive J when flying BA.
Well that sucks

Good on Cathay though for keeping pushing the boundaries though, I always felt their current J class was a bit poor and not up to the standard Cathay is famous for.
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Old Jun 26, 11, 1:07 pm
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Please continue in the Trip Reports forum. Thanks, Petrus.
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