The Complete Guide to British Airways First Class

Dena Roché
Jan 24, 2023
8 min read
Dena Roché
January 24, 2023
8 min read

British Airways (BA) is a global airline flying to more than 170 destinations in 70 countries. With direct service to London from the United States, British Airways is an appealing way to cross the pond. In 2022, British Airways ranked #9 for first class service in SkyTrax’s World Airline Awards. 

Best routes for British Airways first class

British Airways' main airport is London Heathrow (LHR) and it also maintains a hub at London Gatwick (LGW). New York’s JFK is a focus city for the airline. The most popular route between the United States and the UK is its flight between LHR and JFK, but the airline flies from several other US cities to London and then onward throughout Europe. 

Real deals found by Going in British Airways first class

  • Atlanta to London for $3,572 roundtrip 
  • St. Louis to Zurich for $3,306 roundtrip 
  • Houston to Budapest for $2,970 roundtrip 

The British Airways first class airport experience

British Airways first class check-in

British Airways offers a dedicated first-class check-in desk at most airports. At its homebase of Heathrow, it offers First Wing, a private check-in area for first class fliers, along with those with Executive Club Gold or Oneworld Emerald status. First Wing has two private security lanes and a direct walkway to the Galleries First Lounge and Concord Room. The First Wing service is debuting at New York’s JFK in November 2022 when BA moves to Terminal 8. 

At London Heathrow and Gatwick and JFK fast track security is available, as is Fast Track Arrivals for non-EU passengers arriving at Heathrow. 

With dedicated check-in and priority security screening, it’s possible to be inside the lounge relaxing with a glass of bubbles in about 15-30 minutes after your arrival at the airport.

British Airways first class baggage

First class passengers can check up to three bags each weighing up to 70lbs/32kg. Passengers are also able to carry on one cabin bag and one personal item. Checked luggage receives priority tagging.

The British Airways first class lounge experience

British Airways lounge.

At London Heathrow, British Airways offers the Galleries First Lounge, but the more elevated experience is found in the Concorde Room. The Concorde Room offers waiter-served a la carte dining and $200 a bottle Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle Champagne, and the Forty Winks Nap lounge. 

If the British weather cooperates, the place to relax is in the room’s outdoor terrace. While the Concorde Room itself looks like a typical airport lounge, the terrace has a cabana type layout that reminds me of days spent on the beaches of Nice. 

When BA transitions to Terminal 8 at JFK, first class passengers will be able to enjoy the Concorde Room there as well. 

Leave British Airways main airports and the quality of the lounges varies from airport to airport. For example, its Galleries First lounge at Chicago O’Hare is small and could use the help of an interior decorator stat. The first-class dining room with wait staff, white linens and five courses offered help make up for the general lack of ambiance. 

The British Airways first class experience in the air

British Airways first class suites

British Airways first class seat.

First class passengers have priority boarding, and in some airports can board directly from the lounge. Once onboard the first-class seats depend on the airplane. British Airways' most luxurious experience is on its 787-9, 787-10 and 777-300 ER. These first-class cabins have eight seats instead of BA’s standard 14. The configuration is 1-2-1 reverse herringbone. 

The 777-300 ER offers suites with a door for privacy. 

The 787-10 and 787-9 have seats that are 22 inches wide and 73 inches when fully flat. 

BA flies the 787-9 from London to Atlanta, and occasionally on routes from LHR to Washington DC, Seattle and Boston. The 777-300ER from London to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and JFK and the 787-10 from Chicago, Houston, Newark and Seattle.

The first-class cabin on other long-haul flights has 14 seats in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration. Seats are 22 inches and lie-flat at 78 inches. This cabin is available on the A350-1000, 787-8, 777-200, A380. The A380 is the quietest plane, while the 777-200 the loudest in the long-haul fleet.

British Airways first class benefits

amenity kit on British Airways

Flying in first comes with perks like loungewear designed by Temperley London and bedding including a quilted mattress, cotton duvet, and pillow. Amenity bags are also from Temperley London and include products from luxury skincare brand Elemis. The men’s kit includes; an eye mask, socks, earplugs, dental kit, pen, Elemis facial wipes, shaving gel, moisturizer, lip balm, tissues and cream. The women’s kit is identical, except the shaving gel is replaced with a pocket mirror. 

First-class fliers enjoy complimentary WiFi and an entertainment system complete with a 15-inch screen and noise-canceling headphones.

British Airways first class meals

first class meal on British Airways

First class dining service was revamped using cutlery by Studio William Cutlery from the Cotswolds, William Edwards Ltd. Pottery, and Dartington Crystal. 

The a la carte dining menu lets passengers dine anytime during the flight. The first-class menu gives passengers four to five options to choose from at each course and the meal is served course-by-course. 

Starters may include items like Loch Fyne smoked salmon or a double baked souffle, while mains on offer might be slow cooked lamb shank or chicken tikka masala. The cheese course features four selections, with a focus on British cheese. For dessert opt for the Crepes Suzette or passion fruit and hazelnut tart. The presentation of each dish is surprisingly elevated and better than you’d expect at 30,000 feet. 

Flights will also include a breakfast, light meal or afternoon tea, depending on timing. 

British Airways first class alcohol

According to Business Traveller Magazine, British Airways was ranked as having the third best overall wine cellar in the air. It also won a bronze medal for its Champagne Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle and a bronze for its Chateau Cap de Mourlin Grand Cru Classé Saint Emilion 2012. 

Its white wine selection is anchored by a Vincent Girardin Pouilly-Fuissé 2017. If you like dessert wines opt for the La Chapelle de Lafaurie-Peyraguey Sauternes 2014. 

The bar also offers a full complement of popular spirits, cocktails and mocktails. British Airways exclusive BrewDog Jet Stream beer is its featured beer. 

British Airways first class vs. business class

How do fliers make the decision to pick first class vs. business class? In all honesty, for most people it comes down to the cost of the ticket or the amount of frequent flier miles needed to book. The price difference between the two cabins traveling from LHR to JFK is usually about $5,000, but can be as high as $10,000.

So, what do you get for the extra money? Not a lot for the dollar difference, especially as more British Airways planes are fitted with the new Club World Suites in business class. First class passengers can check three bags instead of two, and have access to a higher level airport lounge, including the ultra-premium Concorde Rooms at London Heathrow and New York’s JFK. Both first and business class fliers enjoy priority boarding, although at some airports first class passengers can board directly from the lounge.

In the air the first-class cabin has personal suites similar to the new Club World Suites the business class cabins are being replaced with. The amenities offered in first are a step above those in business with an upgraded amenity kit and loungewear.

While business class passengers enjoy an elevated three-course main meal, dining in first class is more like a high-end restaurant. The a la carte dining menu lets passengers dine anytime during the flight. The menu gives passengers more options to choose from at each course and the meal is served course-by-course, as opposed to all on one tray in business class. There is also attention paid to aesthetics, with an emphasis on pretty plating,  cutlery by Studio William Cutlery from the Cotswolds, William Edwards Ltd. Pottery, and Dartington Crystal. 

How to book British Airways first class

British Airways first class.

How much is a first class flight on British Airways?

Prices vary greatly based on route and dates of travel but are generally at least $5,000 for a long-haul first class flight from the US to Europe. Going often finds its members fares under $3,000. 

How to upgrade to first class on British Airways for free

The phrase, “you can’t get something for nothing” applies to anyone hoping to get a free upgrade to first class. The only times British Airways will move passengers from one class of service to another is when there was a change of planes or if the flight is overbooked.

How much does it cost to upgrade to first class on British Airways?

While some airlines offer fliers the chance to bid on upgrades, British Airways focuses on promotions tailored to each flier. It’s important to note that you can only upgrade one cabin class, so if you’re hoping to upgrade to first, you must originally be booked in business class. Promo offers can be found under “manage my booking” online and in app. Fliers can upgrade prior to the flight or at the airport.  

How to use miles to upgrade to first on British Airways

Paying for an upgrade is an expensive proposition. The better way to secure a seat in first class is to upgrade using British Airways Avios points, which you get by flying or doing business with BA partners. How many Avios points a seat in first will cost varies depending on the cost for reward flights in business and first class and if your flight is at a peak or off-peak time.

The formula to figure out how many Avios points an upgrade will cost is: Avios for the cabin you wish to upgrade to - Avios for the cabin you make your booking in = Avios required to upgrade one way. For example, London to New York or vice versa is 68,000 Avios one way off peak in first class and 50,000 points in business so an upgrade from business to first would require 18,000 Avios (68,000-50,000).

What is the British Airways first class cancellation policy?

It’s unfortunate that the liberal change and cancellation policies airlines offered during COVID are going back to normal now that the pandemic is over. For first class passengers on British Airlines flights can still be canceled at any time, but a cancellation fee may apply depending on the fare rule. Time and date changes are permitted at any time, but subject to the difference in fare. 

Summary

With a ranking in the top 10 of global airlines for its first-class service, coupled with the many direct routes it has from the United States to London, British Airways should be at the top of the list for first-class fliers looking to cross the pond quickly and in luxury.

Read more about first and business class

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Frequently asked questions about British Airways first class

What does British Airways first class include?

British Airways first class includes a dedicated check-in line at the airport and, in some cases, a private check-in wing and fast-track security. At the airport, passengers are treated to the top lounges BA offers, including the Concorde Rooms at London Heathrow and New York’s JFK. First class passengers enjoy priority boarding and a first-class suite that features a lie-flat bed, amenity kit, loungewear, and upgraded bedding. Meals are served on-demand and à la carte, and feature premium wines and spirits.

Do you get lounge access with British Airways first class?

Yes, British Airways first class passengers enjoy the highest class of lounges available.

Do seats in British Airways first class lie flat?

Yes, all British Airways first class suites include lie-flat seats.

Is food served in first class on British Airways?

Yes, British Airways offers an on-demand à la carte food program in its first class cabin.

How many checked bags do you get in British Airways first class?

British Airways first class passengers enjoy three checked bags each weighing up to 70 lbs (32 kg).

What are the best seats in British Airways first class?

Seats are always a matter of personal preference. Couples traveling together will likely want to book the two suites together in the center, while solo travelers will prefer those single seats on the windows. For people seeking quiet, avoid seats near the galley or lavatory.

Last Updated 
January 24, 2023
Dena Roché

Dena Roché is an experienced travel journalist published in United Hemispheres, American Way, BBC, Forbes and more. She also develops content for major brands in the travel industry. She's slowly making her way around the world having visited over 70 countries on six continents.

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