The Complete Guide to Booking British Airways First Class

British Airways First Class doesn’t get as much attention compared to many other First Class products. Often jokingly described as “the world’s best business class”, British Airways First Class has historically left much to be desired.

That moniker may soon become outdated, though, as the UK flag carrier has taken steps to improve their First Class product in recent years.

In this guide, we’ll dive into those changes and look at everything that is British Airways First Class. We’ll explore what you can expect to find before and during your flight, as well as the routings, aircraft, and the best ways to book British Airways First Class with points.

In This Post

The British Airways First Class Experience

The British Airways First Class experience saw an overhaul to the onboard soft product in 2019, and improvements to the hard product on certain aircraft in 2020.

While the exact experience in British Airways First Class will differ depending on your aircraft type, you’ll always find yourself in a spacious seat that can be converted to a fully lie-flat bed, complete with a quilted mattress, duvet, and your own set of pajamas.

Ground Experience

British Airways First Class passengers have access to a dedicated check-in desks at most airports, as is generally the case when flying First Class. In addition to those dedicated desks, passengers also have access to fast-track security at London Heathrow, London Gatwick, and New York JFK airports.

London Heathrow has the First Wing, which is a dedicated First Class check-in area. Here, you’ll find an exclusive entrance and a dedicated security lane that leads directly to the British Airways Galleries First Lounge and the more exclusive Concorde Room.

British Airways has a First Class Lounge in Terminal 3 at London Heathrow, but their superior First Class offering, the Concorde Room, can be found in Terminal 5, opposite from the British Airways Galleries First Lounge.

British Airways Concorde Room London – Entrance

The Concorde Room is only accessible to British Airways First Class passengers, as well as Gold Executive Club Members with at least 5,000 Tier Points in a single year travelling in any class of service. The Concorde Room has indoor lounge areas, as well as a more open terrace that overlooks the terminal.

You can enjoy à la carte dining in the Concorde Room, including high-quality food and beverage options. A new cocktail menu has recently been introduced, with seven signature cocktails.

British Airways Concorde Room London – Dining area

There are also private cabanas you can book, where you’ll have your own room with a chair, ottoman, TV, and private bathroom. If you’d like to get some sleep, you can nap in one of the new Restworks technology-enhanced nap pods.

British Airways Concorde Lounge London – Nap pods

While it’s not a complete lie-flat bed, these nap pods allow you to get some rest and will wake you up with gentle vibration, light, and sounds.

If you’re flying out of New York JFK as a British Airways First Class passenger, you’ll also have access to the Concorde Room in Terminal 7. Note that British Airways is teaming up with American Airlines to open up three new lounges in Terminal 8 at JFK, including a dedicated First Class lounge that should open up in late 2022.

Seat

The seat on a British Airways First Class flight differs slightly, depending on which aircraft you fly in. Currently, you’ll find three different variations of the First Class seat, which we will explore in detail later on in this guide.

British Airways 2010 First Class Prime
British Airways 2015 First Class Prime
British Airways 2020 First Suite

All First Class products have the option of turning the seat into a lie flat bed that measures 78” long and 22” wide between the armrests. While in the lie-flat position, the seat is designed to line up flush with the arm rest, affording you a bit more room.

Beyond the usual seat controls, British Airways First Class seats are devoid of any fancier technology and gadgets. You’ll find an updated 23” high-definition entertainment screen and a stylish lamp in all First Class seats.

Some of the newer First Class cabins found in the Boeing 777-300ERs have doors, offering additional privacy.

All First Class passengers are given Temperley London amenity bags and loungewear to help make the flight more comfortable.

Food and Drink

British Airways uses a “dine on demand” approach with their First Class food and beverage service. You can order from an à la carte menu whenever you wish during the flight, which includes plenty of gourmet food options.

British Airways First Class – Appetizer
British Airways First Class – Main course

In addition to the main meal service, high-quality Champagne and other beverages are available. Naturally, you can also try a signature afternoon tea service, providing you with a full British experience in the skies.

British Airways First Class – Afternoon tea

If you’re flying with a companion, you can dine together in British Airways First Class. In the same suite, your invitee can join you by sitting on the adjacent ottoman.

British Airways First Class Cabins

The British Airways First Class product comes in three variations: the original First Class Prime seat (introduced in 2010), the updated First Class Prime seat (introduced in 2015), and the First Suite (introduced in 2020).

The oldest version of the three can be found on all Airbus A380s, and on the majority of the Boeing 777s.

Airbus A380 (2010 First Class Prime)

On the behemoth double-decker Airbus A380s, the First Class cabin is on the main deck, where there are a total of 14 First Class seats laid out in a 1-2-1 format.

While the A380 First Class seats are a similar size compared to other aircraft with British Airways First Class, there is around 30% more personal space and 60% more storage space than the same older First Class products found on Boeing 777s.

If you’re flying by yourself in British Airways First Class on the Airbus A380, the best seats will be by the window: Seats 1A, 1K, 2A, 2K, 3A, 3K, 4A, or 4K.

If you’re flying in British Airways First Class with a companion, you’ll want to select one of the middle seat pairs – Seats 2E and 2F, 3E and 3F, or 4E and 4F – in order to enjoy the experience together.

Boeing 777-200ER & Boeing 777-300ER (2010 First Class Prime)

The oldest British Airways First Class model found on the Boeing 777-200ERs and Boeing 777-300ERs also has 14 seats in a 1-2-1 layout.

The best seat choices for solo travellers or anyone travelling with a companion are the same as those on the Airbus A380.

Boeing 787-9 & 787-10 Dreamliner (2015 First Class Prime)

The updated 2015 First Class seat can be found on all Boeing 787-9 and Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft.

Both aircraft have eight First Class seats arranged in a 1-2-1 format, with updated and more modern looking finishings.

If you’re flying First Class on a British Airways 787 as a solo passenger, the best seat for you will be along the windows: Seats 1A, 1K, 2A, or 2K.

If you’re flying with a companion, you should choose either Seats 1E and 1F or 2E and 2F.

Boeing 777-300ER (2020 First Class Suite)

The 2020 British Airways First Class update saw some major changes. Although the product is very similar to the 2015 First Class cabin, the largest update came by way of adding two fully closing doors, which provide extra privacy.

Furthermore, these seats have a unique three-point seat belt, which means there is no longer a need for the bulky integrated air bag on the lap belt. The shoulder strap is only required during take off and landing.

This 2020 First Class version can only be found on select Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. On these aircraft, there are eight First Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration across two rows.

If you’re travelling by yourself, Seats 1A, 1K, 2A, or 2K by the windows will be the best choice.

If you‘re travelling with a companion, Seats 1E and 1F or 2E and 2F in the middle will be the best choice.

How can you tell which British Airways First Class cabin is which?

In order to figure out which version of British Airways First Class you’ve booked, you need to look at both the specific aircraft type and the number of First Class seats available in the cabin.

Any First Class seat booked on the Airbus A380 will have the older 2010 First Class Prime seat, and any First Class seat booked on either the Boeing 787-9 or the Boeing 787-10 will have the updated 2015 First Class Prime seat.

Where you need to pay the most attention is with First Class seats on the Boeing 777 models:

  • If you’re flying on a Boeing 777-200ER, you’ll be on the older 2010 First Class Prime product.
  • If you’re flying on a Boeing 777-300ER, it could be either the 2010 First Class Prime or the 2020 First Suite products.
    • In order to tell which Boeing 777-300ER First Class product will be offered on your specific flight, you have to look at how many First Class seats there are. If there are 14 seats, then it will be the 2010 product, and if there are only eight, then it will be on the updated 2020 model with sliding doors.

You can use a tool such as ExpertFlyer to determine the number of First Class seats that are on any particular route.

It’s also important to note that British Airways may switch up the aircraft at the last minute, and you may not be flying the exact First Class product you had originally booked.

There is really no way to avoid this, but you can take comfort in the fact that all British Airways First Class products have the same service and onboard offerings, even if the seats differ slightly.

On ExpertFlyer, you can set up an “Aircraft Change” alert, which will notify you if there has been a change in the aircraft on a particular flight.

British Airways First Class Routes

With First Class cabins on a wide range of aircraft, British Airways offers their most premium cabin on many different routes.

From its hub in London, British Airways offers First Class to the following North American destinations:

Aside from flights to North America, British Airways offers First Class to the following destinations around the world:

Note that First Class availability and aircraft type on any specific route is subject to change. To determine the classes of service available on any particular flight, as well as the specific type of aircraft, be sure to check with British Airways or use a tool such as ExpertFlyer.

How to Redeem Points for British Airways First Class

British Airways is a part of the Oneworld airline alliance, and First Class can be booked with many Oneworld loyalty programs.

British Airways Avios

Using British Airways Avios for British Airways First Class can be a great option, depending on the distance of your trip and whether or not you’re flying during off-peak or peak travel dates.

British Airways uses a distance-based award chart, which is further separated by off-peak and peak pricing. In the search results, you’ll see a red “Off-Peak” logo for dates with off-peak pricing.

Pricing is calculated by individual flight segments. Therefore, if you have multiple flights on a single booking, perhaps from London to Singapore to Sydney, you’ll be required to cumulatively pay Avios for each leg of the journey.

A one-way flight from London to as far as Chicago in North America will cost you 68,000 Avios during off-peak and 80,000 Avios during peak pricing.

A flight between London and western North America will be 85,000 or 100,000 Avios, depending on if you’re flying during off-peak or peak pricing. The below examples are for a flight between London and Seattle.

Luckily, earning enough Avios for a British Airways First Class flight shouldn’t be too difficult, as the loyalty program is a transfer partner with many transferrable points programs, including:

Furthermore, RBC has a co-branded credit card, the RBC British Airways Visa Infinite, so you can earn Avios on your daily spending.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the frequent transfer bonuses from the above programs to Avios. It’s not uncommon to see a transfer bonus of 30–50%, which essentially reduces the cost of a British Airways First Class flight by the same margin.

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Using Alaska miles to book British Airways First Class flights is much more straightforward than with Avios. For flights between any North American airport and London, the flight will cost you 70,000 Alaska miles per direction.

Depending on where in North America you’re flying to or from, and in which season you’re flying, this could wind up being a lot cheaper than using Avios.

Earning Alaska miles is quite easy through credit card welcome bonuses. For example, the MBNA Alaska Airlines Mastercard gives a welcome bonus of 30,000 Alaska miles upon spending $1,000 in the first three months, and also earns you one Alaska mile per dollar spent on your purchases.

Furthermore, you can transfer Marriott Bonvoy points to Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan at the optimal ratio of 60,000 Bonvoy points = 25,000 Alaska miles. Below this, the transfer ratio is 3:1, but transferring in chunks of 60,000 yields a bonus of 5,000 miles.

Note that there are some more compelling uses for Alaska miles where you won’t incur a large sum of taxes and fees. Consider saving your Alaska miles for redemptions on Japan Airlines First Class or Cathay Pacific First Class instead.

American Airlines AAdvantage

Using AAdvantage miles to fly British Airways First Class is also fairly simple, as it requires 85,000 miles to book a flight to or from any airport in North America and London.

American Airlines AAdvantage is a transfer partner of RBC Avion, albeit at a less-than-ideal ratio of 1:0.7. Furthermore, you can earn AAdvantage miles by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points at the optimal ratio of 60,000 Bonvoy points = 25,000 AAdvantage miles.  

If you have access to American credit cards, there are a number of co-branded credit cards from Citi. You can earn AAdvantage miles quickly through welcome bonuses and daily spending.

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

Similar to British Airways Executive Club, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank also uses a distance-based award chart when booking partner airline flights.

Using JAL miles, you’d need 65,000 miles for a British Airways First Class flight between eastern North America and London, and 90,000 miles between western North America and London.

Unfortunately, Japan Airlines Mileage Bank miles are quite difficult to come by in North America. Your best bet is to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at the optimal ratio of 60,000 Bonvoy points = 25,000 JAL Mileage Bank miles.

Taxes, Fees, and Surcharges

While using points to book British Airways First Class flights can save you a lot of money, you’ll still be responsible for paying taxes and fees. With British Airways, these can indeed be quite hefty, regardless of which program you book through.

A one-way First Class flight with British Airways has surcharges of anywhere from $700–1,200 (CAD) for flights to and from North America. In addition, if you’re departing from the UK, you’ll have to pay a further fee for the UK Air Passenger Duty (APD), which is over $300 (CAD).

In total, expect to pay at least $500+ (CAD) in surcharges for a British Airways First Class flight, unless you originate from a country that imposes regulations on fuel surcharges.

British Airways First Class Award Availability

In order to secure a British Airways First Class seat, you’ll want to search as far in advance as possible. Despite the hefty amount of taxes and fees, passengers who prioritize direct routings over cost can often snatch up First Class award seats quickly.

Expect to find more availability on less popular routes, and less availability between London and major airport hubs with large populations. 

You’re more likely to find a single First Class award seat available with British Airways, but it’s also not uncommon to see two, three, or sometimes even four seats available. Should you require multiple seats, broaden your search to other cities where British Airways First Class is offered, and look for connecting flights with partner airlines.

Tips & Tricks for British Airways First Class

While a majority of the extra fees and surcharges can’t be avoided, if you book a British Airways First Class flight originating from somewhere outside of London, you’ll at least be able to save on the UK APD.

If you’re booking with British Airways Avios, you’ll want to plan to book during the off-peak pricing, if possible, as the Avios amount can be significantly cheaper.

Lastly, if you’re using Alaska miles, you can add in a free stopover if you’re flying on the same carrier. So, if you’ve managed to find availability, you could fly from North America to London, have a stopover in London, and then carry onward to Asia or the Middle East for a nominal amount of additional miles.

Conclusion

British Airways First Class is certainly a step up from business class, but it doesn’t quite have the same glowing reputation as First Class cabins on competing airlines. 

Of course, you’ll still enjoy a refined ground experience, with access to the flagship Concorde Room lounges in London and New York, as well as elevated dining at your leisure throughout the flight.

You can leverage the power of Miles & Points to experience British Airways First Class at a steep discount, although you should be aware that this is the one aspirational product for which you’ll almost always have to pay a hefty chunk of carrier-imposed surcharges when redeeming points.

3 Comments
  1. Sonny

    Hi Ricky…
    I don’t find any sense to pay those taxes. It’s a ridiculous price.
    Do you know if those new First Class lounges in JFK will be Birtish or AA branded lounges?
    Regards

  2. Chris

    Great article! I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with all of my Executive Club Avios points but the surcharges are a real deterrent. Is there any way to book partner airlines to avoid these fees?

    1. Ricky YVR

      Yes, Oneworld partners are the best way to redeem Avios and avoid fees. They’ll show up in the search results if your route is operated by a partner airline, so I’d recommend looking up which partners fly where first, and then searching on the Avios website.

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