Guest Reviewer: Chris
An avid traveler and obsessive points and miles hound, Chris is my travel buddy extraordinaire. I love him for his enthusiasm, his sense of adventure, and his American Airlines Executive Platinum status benefits. Hope you enjoy his perspective!
In my previous guest post, I reviewed my Lufthansa First Class flight to Europe for Christmas. For the return journey, I found first class award availability with British Airways, and I decided to book it using AAdvantage miles. It cost a fairly reasonable 62,500 miles for the one-way flight, but the fees and taxes of $382 were a bit steep.
British Airways has a separate first class check-in area at Heathrow Terminal 5, so I headed there and was surprised to find a long line of about 15 people. Fortunately there were quite a few check-in desks open, so I only had to wait about 5 minutes to get my boarding pass. I then proceeded to Fast Track security and was airside a few minutes later.
The last time I was at Heathrow Terminal 5, Jen and I tried the Galleries First Lounge, but this time I had access to the Concorde Room, which is only available to first class passengers flying British Airways. Since first class passengers and oneworld Emerald members from other airlines aren’t permitted, the Concorde Room is considered the more exclusive of the two lounges.
The lounge is located immediately to the right after exiting security. I first showed my boarding pass to the lady guarding the door, then once inside I needed to show my boarding pass again. Maybe it’s a British thing, but I didn’t find any of the staff members to be particularly welcoming. In fact, they seemed quite annoyed that I had decided to stop by.
The lounge has both an indoor sitting area and a terrace overlooking the terminal, and seating consists of various kinds of chairs and couches. In the indoor section, there is a full-service bar, but the staff also walk around and take drink orders. There is no buffet, but there is a restaurant area where food can be ordered.
Since I hadn't had breakfast yet, I headed to the dining area and was promptly seated. There were a few British-themed breakfast items on the menu. I opted for the traditional English breakfast, along with an orange juice and a cappuccino. The one thing I couldn’t help but notice was how miserable the wait staff seemed. They all looked incredibly sad and interacted with me as little as possible. Maybe it’s from dealing with overly-entitled passengers all day.
A few minutes after ordering, my breakfast arrived. Sadly, I wasn’t incredibly impressed by the food. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t very good. Let’s just say the best part of my meal was the baked beans, which probably came from a tin. The cappuccino tasted mostly like warm water; I couldn’t tell that it contained any coffee or milk.
After finishing my breakfast, I headed to the terrace area and found a comfortable lounge chair to relax in for an hour or so, then I headed to my gate. Overall I was disappointed by the Concorde Room, and next time I’ll make sure to visit the Galleries First Lounge instead, which I thought was a better lounge.
British Airways #285
London (LHR) – San Francisco (SFO)
Monday, December 29th, 2014
10:50 AM – 1:50 PM : 11 hours, 0 minutes
Boeing 747-400: Seat 3A (First Class)
Shortly after I arrived at the gate, Fast Track boarding began. There was no separate first class boarding, so first, business, and elites all boarded at the same time. Once on board, I was led to my seat, and got a handshake greeting from the purser. The staff were all extremely friendly and courteous, which was a huge contrast to the staff in the Concorde Room.
The cabin was pretty cool-looking - I especially liked that there was subtle blue lighting throughout. However, there were 14 first class seats in the nose of the 747, which made it feel a bit cramped. Luckily, on my flight only eight of the seats were occupied. The seat was comfortable and came with a narrow closet, a lamp, and a fold-out TV screen. The best part was the window, which was huge and had motorized blinds. Although it still had the usual airplane windows behind it, it felt more like the kind of window you’d find on a train than on a plane.
After getting settled, I was offered a drink, and I chose champagne. Like Lufthansa, they were serving Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle, which is supposed to be a pretty good champagne, although I can’t really tell these sorts of things. A few minutes later, a flight attendant came by to give me my amenity kit and pajamas (or sleep suit, as they called it). The amenity kit was high quality and came with everything one would need, and the pajamas were good too. They had the British Airways logo and said “First” on them, in case I were to forget which cabin I belonged to.
After take-off, I was offered a drink and I decided to try a Kir Royale. It was excellent and was served with warm mixed nuts. Then, about an hour into the flight, the meal service began. The menu read as follows:
Scottish langoustines with orange and basil sauce with a pickled shimeji mushroom salad
Warm spicy corn cake with green pepper, tamarillo and tomato salsa
Cream of Romanesco cauliflower and truffle soup
Fresh seasonal salad served with your choice of British rapeseed apple balsamic dressing or honey mustard dressing
Seared fillet of Aberdeen Angus beef and braised beef cheek with parsnip dauphinoise and a red wine, Port and horseradish sauce
Roasted fillet of sustainably sourced North Atlantic cod with a salt cod croquette, pea and mint purée, yellow cauliflower and a warm tartare sauce
Pressed British venison with green peppercorn and red onion marmalade pavé, grand veneur sauce and winter vegetables
Salad of warm Southern-style chicken with black beans, sweetcorn, cherry tomato, shallot, lime and coriander
Pumpkin, oyster mushroom, ginger, cinnamon and sage risotto
Char-grilled chicken, piquillo pepper and mozzarella sandwich with artichoke and mint pesto and sweet potato and smoked chipotle crisps
A selection of biscuits
A selection of cheese and fruit
Chocolate praline profiteroles with chocolate sauce
Strawberry soufflé with strawberry compote and herb tuile
Madagascan vanilla ice cream
Croxton Manor West Country Brie
Le Saint Mont
Chocolates by Lauden
First, was an amuse-bouche consisting of grilled cheese with couscous, which was so-so. This was followed by a soup, which was absolutely delicious. For the main course, I chose venison with potatoes, which was also extremely tasty. Finally, I had profiteroles for dessert, which were a bit disappointing (profiteroles are my all-time favorite dessert, so I was really hoping they’d be good).
Since it was a daytime flight, I decided to stay awake the entire time and just watch TV. A couple hours before landing, the afternoon tea service began, which was one of my favorite parts of the flight. I could choose from a variety of teas and tasty treats. I ended up ordering the English Breakfast Tea with some sweet cakes. The tea menu read:
An individual selection of sandwiches featuring:
Layered crayfish with baby rocket and orange mayonnaise
Butternut squash with cream cheese and baby watercress
British roast beef with piquillo peppers and grain mustard
Severn and Wye smoked salmon with horseradish, tomato and dill
Mozzarella and sun-dried tomato savoury Danish pastry
Buttermilk or fruit scones served warm with clotted cream and strawberry preserves
Teas: English Breakfast, Decaffeinated English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Mint Humbug, Honeycomb Camomile, Red Berry Fool and Jasmine Pearl Green Tea
Coffee: Freshly roasted and ground, decaffeinated, espresso or cappuccino
Soon after that, we were on the ground. Overall I enjoyed my British Airways First experience, but it wasn’t at the same the level of the other products I’ve tried - Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Lufthansa were all much better. Mostly I think it was due to the cabin crowding, but even apart from that it just felt like something was missing for it to be a true first class experience. Maybe caviar. Yep, definitely caviar.
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