I set out for Seattle and SeaTac airport the day before my British Airways First Class flight. Although my flight was leaving late the next day, it is a trek from my hometown of Port Townsend, Washington to the airport, and any number of things can get in the way of a smooth journey. So, for international flights I always choose to go over the day before.
Using Hilton Honors points to stay at either of the Hilton properties within a few blocks of the airport, I ask for a late check out and arrive at SeaTac the next day stress free and rested. That is a good way to start your trip when you are facing nineteen hours of travel from the time you arrive at SeaTac airport until you walk into the lobby of the hotel at your final destination in Lisbon, Portugal.
Traveling light with one roll aboard under 22” and one backpack that meets the legal size requirements for “additional luggage like a purse or computer case”, means I am able to go straight to security instead of first checking in with British Airways.
Spoilt to using the TSA precheck line, I had to remember to take out my computer and one quart bag of small liquid containers before going through the line. International carriers do not accept TSA precheck status. Of course, my suitcase was pulled for a random drug check. A quick swipe of paper that tested clean and I was on my way to the departure lounge.
I have not flown BA (British Airways) first class before and was looking forward to checking out the lounge and amenities. I was cordially welcomed, after showing my required boarding pass, and told that I was the first passenger to arrive. I was joined within a few minutes by another passenger. Only six first class passengers in all took advantage of the first class lounge before boarding. The lounge was small but comfortable.
There were the usual cold and hot beverages, cold sandwiches, wraps, chips and fresh fruit available.
In addition, there was a selection of three different cheeses, each paired with the appropriate cracker and jam to accompany them. I took a little of each and decided to be daring and randomly mixed whatever jam I wanted with whatever cheese and cracker.
After I had been seated for about ten minutes a waitress came in and offered a choice of soup or a Mediterranean platter from the kitchen. Never one to pass up hummus, capers or caper berries, I ordered the platter which was quite tasty.
The waitress also offered to serve mixed drinks, champagne or wine from the bar next door in the Club Lounge. Not being much of an alcohol drinker I stuck with water, ever conscious of the importance of staying hydrated on long flights.
One last bit about the offerings in the lounge, there was also a selection of cookies (unappealing choice of three varieties all similar looking to bagged Chips Ahoy). Near the door were glass jars filled with M&Ms, mixed salted nuts, dried fruit and biscotti.
A quick look inside the Club Lounge next door showed a much larger space serving similar food and beverages to the First Class Lounge.
Soon they were announcing that it was time to board our flight (the aircraft was a Boeing 777) and we all proceeded to the gate area which was immediately below the lounge via one flight of stairs or an elevator.
The First Class flight attendants guided each of us to our pod and once we were settled into place distributed glasses of chilled orange juice. The first class area appeared to be about half occupied.
While waiting for takeoff I did a quick survey of the area where I would be spending the next ten hours. It was comfy with all of the controls for my area located conveniently on a large panel to my left.
In my particular space the one thing that was lacking was any place to set items down. I peeked in the unoccupied first class seats and found that some had shelf space next to their control panel. The configuration of my seat area did not allow for that.
One of the appealing things for me was electric blinds on the window that I could control. I really dislike having the curtains closed on airplane windows when it is light outside. I never sleep on planes so I have no need for complete darkness. On a long overnight flight I occasionally dose off for ten minutes of so while reading, but I never lay back and sleep.
Before takeoff the attendant came around to take my meal order for dinner. There was an extensive choice of items that included starters, entrees, desserts, cheese plates and lighter “Bistro” items. More about the food later.
Another attendant came around with headsets, pillows, blankets, and amenities kits. Pajamas were distributed a little later to all passengers who wanted to change before sleeping.
The amenities kit included; toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste, socks, hairbrush with mirror attached, hand lotion, lip moisturizer, small deodorant, and sleep mask.
Once we started taxiing for takeoff I used the opportunity to get better acquainted with my space and to read about what entertainment was offered via the large monitor.
There was an extensive selection of current movies plus some oldies but goodies. A wide variety of TV episodes was also available, as was a variety of genres of music. I found the selection of games to be disappointing. Years ago, BA offered a much better selection of games in economy than they currently offer in First Class.
After takeoff I was offered a choice of beverage and a small dish of warm mixed salted nuts while the attendants prepared our meals. The descriptions on the menu sounded much more interesting than the actual food. I ate only a few bites of the two courses that I ordered, not that the food was bad. It was all right, but not really being hungry, there was nothing that I would have kept eating because it was too good to pass up.
Once meal service was over the flight attendants helped anyone who was ready for sleep to convert their seat to a bed. After people were settled in for the night the attendants pretty much disappeared until breakfast service a few hours later. They were certainly only a call button away if anything was needed and there were two quick checks up and down the aisles during that time.
A couple of hours out of London attendants started offering breakfast to people as they woke up. Since I had never actually gone to sleep I was the first served. I ordered just a fruit smoothie and a breakfast pastry. There was much more available to me; juices, fresh fruit, a selection of yogurts and/or cereals, breakfast pastries and rolls, eggs prepared a few different ways and breakfast meats, along with a selection of teas and coffee.
After breakfast it was time to prepare for landing. There were no gates open, so we taxied to a very large airplane parking lot where we disembarked via a long flight of metal stairs to four awaiting busses. Then we took a ten minute ride down what seemed to be a highway to Terminal 5 our arrival terminal.
One of the first class passenger benefits is an arrival lounge in Terminal 5 with food, showers and massages. Unfortunately for me once we arrived at Terminal 5 and took the long escalator up to the arrival floor I almost immediately took another long escalator down to an area to catch yet another bus to take me to Terminal 3 for a four hour layover before continuing my journey on a BA flight to Lisbon.
First Class is a relaxing way to travel on such a long flight. However, if I had not been traveling on BA Avios I would not have been willing to pay the price of a first class ticket. With the taxes and fees that are applied to British Airways into London, I paid the equivalent of an economy fare in addition to using Avios for my ticket.
For people who take advantage of making their pod into a bed and getting a night’s sleep the first class fare might be worthwhile. I want to try out business class on my next 9+ hour flight from the west coast of the U.S. across the states and then the Atlantic and see how it compares for someone who enjoys the quiet and extra space of an upgraded fare but does not need the bed.
When you get to London, check out our guide for discovering London by foot.