Executive travel: First class flair to London with British Airways
Even looking through the most rose-tinted glasses, regular travellers have to concede that air travel has gone from a glamorous privilege to a nuisance in the last few years. First-class travel, however, is designed to make us immune from this feeling.
Recently I had the opportunity to put this theory to the test, travelling British Airways First from Dubai to London. Benefiting from a lucky upgrade – had I known this might happen I might have arrived early enough to sample the first-class lounge – sadly that will have to wait.
British Airways has been around long enough to remember a time when travel was luxurious, and it shows. The cabin on board is bright and well-appointed; the first class “suite” has a minimalist feel, but everything is well thought out and in the right place.
The cabin’s seat configuration is 1-2-1 and I was in a window seat. To my left was a small storage “cupboard” with hanging space for a jacket on the outside; on my immediate right was the lighting / seat control and the window space. No drinks are provided in the “suite” unlike Emirates. However, the standard welcome drink was on offer.
While my space was not completely closed off from the rest of the cabin, there was a galley between first and business class with a curtain so it felt very private.
For dining, it was an eat on demand service. For lunch I had a bresaola and fig starter, which was fine, but I was particularly impressed with my very tasty main course dish of freekeh. On the flip side, I was expecting the bread to be warm in first class, but I guess that is what private jets are for.
There were snacks in between but no special touches aside from espresso coffee and chocolate.
One of the reasons that Emirates has been able to charge such premiums in comparison to BA is its ICE entertainment system.
At 15 inches, BA’s screen size in first is good and I found myself jabbing at the screen less often to make it work. But ICE it is not – there were far fewer movies on offer.
q&a worth paying a bit more
Zaid Alrawi explores whether paying to fly first class on British Airways is actually worth it:
How much does it cost to fly BA First?
A BA First return ticket to London will set you back around Dh32,700 including taxes. By comparison, the corresponding Emirates fare costs around Dh37,500 although Emirates does restricted saver seats, which can be bagged for a relatively modest Dh22,900. Emirates first class has private suites and an award-winning ICE system.
How does First on BA compare to Club World?
BA’s business class cabin, Club World, starts from around Dh11,000 although the fares can rise above Dh20,000 depending on availability. If you can stretch your budget, BA First is significantly better than Club World, and might well be worth the difference.
What time did you arrive in London?
Departing from Dubai Terminal 1 at 9:20am, I landed at 2:05pm at Heathrow’s Terminal 5.
Can you work comfortably on board?
Whereas Club World suffers from a lack of “desk space” this issue is alleviated in first class. There is plenty of space to balance notebooks and files alongside your laptop. I was also hugely relieved to see that the electrical power problem, which prevented me from charging my laptop on the last British Airways Boeing 777 I flew on, did not recur.
Would you pay to fly BA First?
Personally, no, but then again, I could say the same about all first-class travel.
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