What is it like in the First Class cabin? Is it truly a world apart from Business Class? What’s so special about the few seats at the front of the plane?
Join me as I share my firsthand experience of flying First Class on British Airways from Tokyo to London – all for less than the cost of an economy ticket!
For 12 hours I enjoyed an experience onboard like no other. Let’s discuss what makes those front seats so amazing, and how to get them.
Booking First Class
There are a few different methods of securing a First Class seat. These typically range from extremely expensive to slightly less expensive.
The easiest route is obviously just shelling out top dollar for the First Class experience. The price of the journey will obviously depend on the route, time of the year, availability, etc.
The cost of the Japan journey for me would’ve been around £15,000 one way. I would love to be able to pay that every trip I take but I’d not be spending anywhere near that on a flight!
If you have the means then this is an easy way of flying First Class.
Booking Business Class and Upgrading
There are two options here. With almost all airlines after booking you can only upgrade by one travelling class. If you book Economy, then Premium Economy will be your option. Premium Economy to Business Class and finally, Business Class to First Class.
If you book Business Class through your preferred airline then you can keep checking their app to look for upgrade options. These upgrade options are significantly cheaper than buying First Class but it does depend on seat availability. There’s no guarantee you’ll get the option. If nothing shows in the app and you really want to check the prices then you can always give your airline a call and ask. Or ask at the check in desk when you arrive at the airport.
The other option is to use airmiles to upgrade from Business Class after booking Business with either cash or airmiles. Most airlines will allow you to upgrade even at the time of booking using airmiles for the jump from Business to First. If you’re airmile rich then this is a great option but you’ll normally need a significant chunk of points.
This is how I managed to get upgraded from Business to First for my flight from Tokyo to London.
I called BA a week or so before my flight and asked them for upgrade options. I managed to pay £511 to upgrade two people to First Class using a British Airways companion voucher (and a fair chunk of Avios).
This was extremely lucky but I have to say it was literally just before the pandemic. I travelled in March 2020 so the availability was much higher than usual. BA wanted to fill their plane and offered a lower upgrade than normal.
Emirates reward scheme Skywards Miles has an auto upgrade system that will automatically upgrade you using your airmiles. It has to be done at least 72 hours ahead of the flight and you’re basically on a waitlist.
Standard Booking Using Airmiles
The option that I would typically go for would be to use Airmiles, and available airline vouchers to travel First Class.
Availability using Avios on British Airways starts 365 days prior to your departure date. For busy routes like London to Sydney, London to Tokyo, etc. booking as early as possible is a must.
If you have a BA Companion voucher then this will halve the number of Avios required.
For most people this would be the most likely way of travelling in First. Sign up for credit cards with airmiles attached and start hoarding points!
Getting a Free Upgrade
Lastly, you could be upgraded by your airline for free. You’d have to be extremely lucky for this one.
Sometimes, for various reasons, the airline needs to move passengers around. I’ve been upgraded from Economy to Business for my flights to Russia in 2018.
I was also upgraded from Economy to Qatar’s Business Class Q Suite on my flight to Thailand in the same year.
I was a frequent traveller with British Airways that year with around 50 flights and relatively high up in their Executive Club. Qatar Airways is also part of the OneWorld alliance so I’m sure both of those helped.
So it does happen from Economy to Business. If you’re Economy you have basically zero chance of getting upgraded to First but you may have a small chance if you had booked into Business and you’re high up on the airline’s frequent flyer programme.
The Exclusive Perks of First Class
Whatever way you end up taking a First Class flight you’ll want to know what sort of benefits you’ll receive.
First up is your seat and the seating area. If you’ve travelled Business before it’s basically an improved version of that.
The seating area is enclosed as your own personal suite with a good amount of space. You’ll also have a 15 inch screen with some decent noise cancelling headphones, that actually work.
There’s also plenty storage space for keeping bits to hand alongside charging points and plugs.
I had a flat bed that went flat at 6 foot 6 inches. The bedding is also nicer and more comfortable than Business class.
You might have airport lounge access through credit cards or you might have frequent traveller status. If you do, you’ll have access to lounges at most airports anyway.
However, when you’re flying in First Class you’ll get access to exclusive lounges depending on your airline. British Airways has the Concorde Room at London Heathrow and the Chelsea Lounge at New York JFK airport.
These lounges have premium champagne, sleep pods, business areas and a la carte dining. They’re much more spacious and not as crammed as the usual lounges too.
Check-In & Boarding
At London Heathrow with British Airways you’ll be boarded directly from the First Class lounge. There’s an exclusive First Wing where you can check-in, go through security and then hit the lounges.
If you’re not at London Heathrow then there will be dedicated First Class check in desks so you don’t have to wait in any queues.
A small perk is you’ll obviously be boarded first. This will give you the opportunity to get comfortable, and sample the champagne while everyone else boards!
Food & Drink
One thing I wasn’t really expecting when I was on the First Class flight was that you could have your inflight meals at any point!
You can just ask for your meals, in any order, at any point. It sounds so simple but I’m used to having food at specific times in Economy or Business.
The food is a cut above even Business. On the British Airways flight I had smoked salmon, baked fillet of pork and a New York cheesecake for the light meal. For the main meal I had spicy carrot and ginger soup, grilled fillet of Wagyu beef and praline ice cream.
You can see the menus below including champagne and wine.
The drinks are obviously all free, including champagne. The selection is usually very similar to Business class but there’s definitely more premium alcohol and champagne. The champagne in First included Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle as an example. More on this champagne in the next staff section…
The staff were absolutely fantastic and much more attentive and friendly than anywhere else on the plane. Nothing was too much for them and they made sure that you always had a drink to hand.
On our First Class flight we only had one other person. That’s three people in the whole First Class cabin of nine available seats.
At dinner, my other half was humming and hawing over having more champagne or moving to wine.
The air stewardess said that she better have more champagne because she didn’t want to pour the rest in the expensive champagne bottle down the sink!
At the end of the flight the air stewardess came over and said it was the easiest First Class flight she’d ever had so she gave us a bottle of Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle sealed in a security friendly bag to take home with us.
This champagne at the time was £125 a bottle. We actually drank it to celebrate our son being born in 2023. At that point it was up to £200 a bottle!
Amazing service that we wouldn’t have got in Economy or Business.
The amenities will differ depending on airline. You can expect luxury pyjamas, free WiFi, slippers, skin and body care bags.
With British Airways I received a Elemis skin care with Temperley London pyjamas. These were nicer than those in Business Class but depending on how prepared you are you might already have yours onboard.
I was also able to enjoy free WiFi throughout the flight but it was a bit hit or miss at times. If you’ve ever used WiFi onboard planes you’ll know what I mean. I’d hate to rely on it to be doing work or anything productive!
Making the Most of First Class
You’ve spent a lot of money, or a lot of points to be in First Class so you want to make the most of it.
I’d recommend getting to the airport a little earlier to enjoy the First Class lounges and the exclusive perks above that this travelling class has to offer.
When you’re in First Class then it gives you the perfect circumstances to be productive. You get your own private suite so have some amazing food, a few drinks and be productive. Or don’t. Just have some amazing food, a few drinks and just chill.
I know which I chose!
First Class is definitely an experience, and if you get the chance to fly First then do it.
It’s an experience that not many people get the chance to do and in my case it was worth the small amount of money alongside my Avios.
Hopefully I’ve covered everything you need to know to see behind the First Class curtain. If you have any questions then feel free to reach out or leave them below.