We found an amazing flight deal to fly from London Heathrow Terminal 3 To Cape Town (read our blog on how much should you pay for business class?) so we jumped on the opportunity. We usually let our wallets decide where we go next, and was so excited that Cape Town was part of the British Airways seat sale!
As wine lovers we were very excited about exploring the country. We were also very excited about flying British Airways First class again. We’ve had great experiences travelling in the First cabin, mainly thanks to the crew on board. However, it is sometimes a lottery with the cabin crew, which can make or break you flight experience.
Flight No: BA0059
From/To: London Heathrow to Cape Town
Final destination: Cape Town
Departure time: 21:30
Ticket Class: First
Seat: 2A, 2K
Flight time: 11 hours
OneWorld Tier Points: 240
Check-in & Fast Track
Unlike the prestigious First Class check-in wing at London Heathrow (LHR) terminal 5 (T5) the check-in area at terminal 3 (T3) is a little less ceremonious. There is a dedicated check-in boxed area, offering some level of privacy when you check-in. I’m not too sure if the box was necessary and I’m not certain anyone will needs that level of privacy either. Perhaps if you were a superstar? Well, interestingly we had a celebrity in our cabin and we wondered if he checked-in like we did? Or was he whisked through a private entrance?
Not having a dedicated wing isn’t a problem though as you’re met with the lovely staff to help you check in, but it does change the experience when you compare it to T5. At T5, you are whisked through a dedicated security lane straight into the Concorde room from the First check-in wing. With its grandiose entrance, the dedicated T5 First wing adds something special to the whole travel experience. Now is probably a good time to tell you that there isn’t a Concorde Room at T3 either!
No Concorde Room and no First check-in wing might sounds like a disaster but don’t despair! Travelling from T3 opens up a whole new world of possibilities, as you get the choice of four different Oneworld lounges to make up for it. The options opened to us are:
- British Airways Galleries Lounge (First and Business)
- Cathay Pacific Lounge (First and Business)
- Qantas London Lounge
- American Airlines Admirals Lounge
Departure airlines lounges can be amazing spaces to enjoy. Exploring what different airlines had to offer in one Terminal is a bonus for us. So much so that we got to the airport early (~3 hours before departure time) so that we had enough time to review the different lounges. It’s so easy to get stuck in one lounge, so we would recommend being strategic about where to spend your time as some lounges are better than others! So which lounges are the best? Read our summaries below!
British Airways First class and Club lounges
If you’re travelling British Airways, start at the Galleries First Lounge to make use of the ELEMIS Spa. You can book treatments 28 days in advance of your date of travel. We went for a pre-flight massage, on a mechanical massage chair, which was not great but it did a et us up for the journey. Once we had our “treatment“, we stopped by the First lounge for a glass of champagne ? to recuperate. Unfortunately, they don’t serve the usual Laurent Pierrer Grande Siclè champagne in the lounge. But we were OK with that, as we knew there were plenty on the plane waiting for us. British Airways Lounge is also a good place to go to if you wanted to be completely alone. The lounge was empty when we got there and suspect they were all in other lounges enjoying what’s on offer.
Cathay Pacific First class and Business class lounges
The Cathay Pacific First Class lounge had a superb restaurant with table service. The food was great, so definitely a good place to have your main meal. There is also a canteen style dining area in the Business class portion of the lounge, which served a good selection of Dim Sum and noodles. As we arrived at the airport early we managed to sample both. The First Class Lounge was by far the best lounge to relax. The ambience and decor were wonderful. A great space to get away from the hustle and bustle of T3. We actually spent most of our time in this lounge, leaving to visit others and coming back again.
Qantas London Lounge
The Qantas Airlines London lounge has an excellent gin bar! A great place for delicious cocktails, so we stopped by far a couple. The food was average and it got very busy. Compared to the British Airways, Cathay Pacific and American Airline Lounges, this was definitely the busiest. Perhaps a sign of its popularity with travellers? The lounge is split across two floors.
American Airlines Admiral Lounge
There isn’t much to say about the America Airlines Admirals Lounge apart from the fact that it shuts at 7pm. So visit that first if you want to see what it’s like but don’t spend too much time there. The Admirals arrival lounge on the other hand is amazing, so if you’re flying back into T3 in a premium cabin make sure you drop by for a shower and some food!
Customary on British Airways flights, boarding was done by status and class of travel. The airline has introduced designated queues with clear barriers at the gate, which makes the whole boarding process feel very organised. So if you fancy a couple more glasses of champagne in the lounges, you can easily join the priority lanes and board the flight at your leisure. Just don’t miss your flight!
We received our usual British Airways welcome at the door and was shown to our seats. Boarding was efficient and organised. As soon we were settled, the cabin crew came to introduce themselves and asked if we wanted a pre takeoff beverage. As we’ve been waiting to have the Laurent Pierre Grande Siclè, we asked for champagne.
Before long, we were given our first glass of champagne, PJs and amenity kit. One thing we did find strange was being told that they couldn’t serve us the Laurent Pierre Grande Siecle Champagne until after the door shut and take off and that this was now policy? Fact? Or were they telling us a lie? The cabin crew that told us was a bit aloof. Surprisingly, they didn’t tell us this and we only enquires because the champagne we got tasted different.
He made several remarks throughout the flight that gave us the impression he thought we didn’t belong in the cabin. Good job he wasn’t the only cabin crew serving us that day!
A very full First class cabin
There are 14 seats in the First cabin on the 747s, which is a large cabin when compared to other J classes out there. By comparison a Qatar Airways A380 aircraft has 8 First class seats, and Cathay Pacific only has 6 in its 777 aircrafts. Even though the First cabin was full the onboard experience was attentive, the crew tried very hard to get the job done. So kudos to them.
And the famous celebrity I mentioned earlier? It was Sir Ridley Scott. He was sitting two seats behind us on his way to direct a new film in South Africa! We wondered what he thought about the service and flight.
Aircraft type: Boeing 747-900
Number of classes: 4
Number of seats in flying class: 14
Position: 2 rows from the front of the aircraft
Visit the SeatGuru page for the configuration by clicking the link here.
The amenity kit we got before British Airways 100 year celebration was a lovely collaboration with Liberty’s of London.
The male washbag features Refinery’s revitalising moisturiser, lip balm, deodorant stick and shave gel as well as a razor, brush and comb, toothbrush/toothpaste, eye mask, socks, ear plugs and pen.
The ladies’ kit includes Aromatherapy Associates triple rose renewing moisturiser, hydrating hand lotion, renewing cleanser and deodorant stick, along with a lip balm, cotton wool pads, toothbrush/toothpaste, hairbrush and pen.
Everything you needed for a 12 hour flight.
Customary on British Airways First cabins, especially the older birds like the 747… it was dirty. In general we have found the premium cabins (same in Club World) on British Airways flight to be filled with crumbs and generally not well cleaned. We often find ourselves using our welcome towel as a cleaning cloth, perhaps we should follow Naomi Campell’s lead and bring our own antibacterial wipes?
Regardless of the cleanliness, the seats were spacious and comfortable. We will be trying the 787 First cabin, which recently have had a overhaul, so perhaps they are much cleaner. Also in the works are upgrades to the First product, that is currently being planned. If Club Suites are anything to go by then we might be in for a pleasant surprise. Although comfortable the the seats aren’t very private. Unless you’re in seated in 1A and 1K, which is like your own little cocoon. This is only available for Gold members.
For us, the best thing about travelling on the 747 in British Airways in First Class is seated at the nose of the aircraft, which makes the cabin very quiet! It’s a shame that British Airways will be decommissioning the Queen of the Skies by 2022, as we love these aircrafts.
The In-flight Entertainment system on the flight was a large, fairly responsive touch-screen display that had to be folded away during take-off and landing. To be honest, the hardware was in need of an upgrade, however this doesn’t change any of the contents as it has a fairly exhaustive list of entertainment.
You can’t beat a delicious glass of the Laurent Perrier Grande Siècle (LPGS), enhanced by a great selection of wines. British Airways First serving the LPGS champagne differentiates the cabin from other First and Business Class products.
There were three white wines and three red wines on offer in British Airways First Class drinks service. There is an extensive list of beverages, we weren’t too worried about not having our first choice. We found the service to be a bit forced on the flight, and think this was down to a mixture of young and mature cabin crew. The older crew’s experience showed but came across as surly, while the younger ones were spritely but lacked a bit of tact!
Dinner was served after take-off and what we would describe as adequate. The choice is extensive and you get the choice of having 4 courses if you please. Service was attentive, kudos to the cabin crew to keep on top of all the passenger’s needs. It’s always hard to serve a full cabin, but they were doing it because they had to, and was keen on completing the task. No time for small chat.
The cheese course was enough to feed a family of 4 but delicious if you paired it with the rich burgundy.
With no arrival lounge or fast track immigration lanes, there is nothing special about arrival in Cape Town airport. Even Sir Ridley Scott had to queue like all of us to wait for passport control. Passport control was quick and efficient so we didn’t have to wait long before our holiday started.
Overall travelling in the British Airways First Class cabin is a pleasure. You get the fanfare of all pre-flight additions of premium class travel (priority check-in/boarding, use of the lounge, ELEMIS Spa). However, with the cabin larger than most First products (14 seats!), feels very busy and full. Coupled this with the unpredicability of service you’ll get from the cabin crew, it’s hard to justify paying the premium that British Airways First commands.
Stiff competition and inconsistent service in British Airways First Class?
In all honesty, when Qatar Airways uses the slogan “First in Business” it really is a true reflection of their cabins. British Airways First class is comparable (maybe a little worse) than Qatar Airways Business Class product. The only saving grace is the champagne and wine selection, and the option of travelling non-stop without a stop in Doha.
British Airways is responding though to what the competition is offering, but are they moving quickly enough? With the new Club Suites launched, we wait to see what tricks they have up their sleeves for First Class. The cleanliness is a massive issue for us. Regardless of whether you’re Naomi Campbell or Sir Ridley Scott, we all expect a clean cabin without the crumbs left from previous passengers.
The service in the cabin can sometimes be a lottery. How attentive the cabin crew are depends on who you get and their mood. We get the feeling that the older crew members are waiting for their retirement and the younger ones are unhappy with their pay, perhaps thinking about their next strike because the benefits are so terrible! Either way, consistency in customer service is lacking.
But it’s not all bad news! The impressive lounges, comfortable seats, food, wine and champagne selection, always makes for a very enjoyable journey. We love travelling First class, but would reconsider paying the premium of travelling in British Airways First unless there is a seat sale.
Don’t despair if your flight isn’t flying out from T5 as you’ll have four different lounges to explore at T3. If you were going to spend money on a First Class flight, we would recommend exploring other options to see if other Oneworld partners offer better deals. We think the best way to travel in British Airways First cabin is by collecting Avios and finding yourself a reward flight! Read our blog for ways of boosting your Avios.