Return to the Maldives: London Heathrow – San Francisco, British Airways New First Class

Trip Report Index:

  1. Introducing and Strategy
  2. New York JFK – Abu Dhabi, Etihad First Class
  3. Park Hyatt Dubai
  4. Touring the Burj al Arab
  5. Tea at the Burj al Arab
  6. Abu Dhabi – Male, Etihad Business Class
  7. Male – Kaadedhdhoo, Maldivian and Transfer to the Park Hyatt
  8. Park Hyatt Hadahaa Maldives
  9. Kooddoo-Male-Abu Dhabi, Maldivian and Etihad Business Class
  10. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
  11. Abu Dhabi – Dusseldorf – London, Etihad First Class and British Airways Club Europe
  12. London Heathrow – San Francisco, British Airways New First Class

The transit process – though requiring two buses to make it from a terminal 1 bus gate over to terminal 5 – was pretty straightforward. Once at T5 I had to go through an immigration queue before getting to the security checkpoint. They hadn’t handed out Fast Track cards on the flight from Dusseldorf, but I wasn’t asked for one, my British Airways premium cabin boarding pass was sufficient. There wasn’t any line for immigration, so it was straight through and then up the escalator to security where there was a brief wait.

Once through security I turned right and it’s a direct straight-line walk over to the Concorde Room. They were confused by my Etihad-issued boarding pass at first, but once they realized it was for British Airways first class they let me through.

Once inside I showed my boarding pass again at the inside of the door, and then walked over to the Quintessentially desk as I had pre-booked a Cabana for my time in the lounge.

I had booked these tickets towards the end of 2012, and made the reservation at that time by emailing the folks at YouFirst. The bookings have to be made by hand in the book at the Quintessentially desk, this saved me a phone call but added a potential failure point into the process. So I verified my booking on my previous time through the lounge in January.

I was escorted over to an empty cabana, which is a small room with relaxing chair, television, desk, and shower.

There’s a food menu in the lounge, and they’ll bring you whatever you wish, although of course the food in the Concorde Room isn’t very good (something consistent across all of my visits there) and the internet is gltchy (dropping signals, taking a long time to connect, something unique to my 2013 visits).

Since I was leaving from a remote gate in Terminal 5 I didn’t have all that much time to spend in the Concorde Room – really just enough time for a shower, a snack, and a few minutes fighting with the internet connection. About 45 minutes prior to the flight I departed the lounge to head over to the gate, which meant taking the terminal 5 train over.

Once I got there the lines for boarding the 747 were backed up down the terminal. And that was the ‘fast track’ line, since we had a 747 with over 80 business class seats in addition to first class, and all of the elites not in business or first had access as well, plus turning up as one of the last people at the gate area despite making it to the gate better than 30 minutes to departure.

They weren’t quite ready to board us, either, so we stood around for around 10 minutes, and then the floodgates were opened and pushing and shoving ensued. I thought I was in Italy, and not Britain.

I love the British Airways new first class cabin, which I knew this flight would have once I saw that it was a 747 with the large capacity business class as I understand all of those have been converted. It’s a gorgeous, classy cabin. But I much prefer the feel of their new first class in the 777 for some reason. It’s also important to note that for a couple traveling together, you definitely want the last row in the cabin with two seats together in the center section. The row ahead of it, because of lack of width of the aircraft so close into the nose, doesn’t have any privacy — it’s the same seat but without any structure hiding you on the outside that you use to get in and out — you’d be basically on display to the rest of the cabin, and the seat feels narrower as well.

The row behind is much better, though! And much more like the center seats on the 777s.

Amenity kits were distributed along with pajamas, and I changed into mine prior to takeoff.

The menu for the flight was as follows:


Timbale of lobster with fresh Devon crab in a light currie mayonnaise with mango and cucumber salad

White and green asparagus with a chervil and truffle sauce

A light cream soup of pea and fresh mint

Fresh seasonal salad with your choice of vinaigrette dressing with golden rapeseed oil or creamy herb dressing


Char-grilled fillet of British beef with Madeira and bearnaise sauce, wild mushrooms, broccoli florets and chunky chips

Roasted fillet of sustainably-sourced Severn and Wye code with plum tomato, caper and thyme sauce, cannelini beans and Mediterranean vegetables.

Braised Buckhurst Estate venison with juniper and rosemary sauce, root vegetables and herb dumplings

Moroccan corn-fed chicken on a quinoa, pomegranate and wild rice salad

Bistro selection

Macaroni with red pepper pesto, chili and basil cream sauce

Warm salted beef and Swiss cheese Manoucher slice with pickled cucumber

A selection of biscuits

A selection of cheese and fruit


White chocolate and mango cannelloni with layered blackcurrant terrine

Pear and thyme tarte Tatin with caramel sauce and cinnamon custard

Ice Cream Sundae
Custom made to your preference of ice cream, sauces, and toppings. Please ask your cabin crew for today’s choices.

Cheese Plate

Mull of Kintyre
Devon Blue

Fresh fruit


I was so tired I simply laid down after my desert was cleared and didn’t even wait to have my bed made.

After spending an entire day awake in Abu Dhabi, heading to the airport for a 2am departure, flying to Europe without a nap and then onward to London, I really wasn’t in the best of sorts and my memory of the flight itself is limited except for one crucial detail that made it great: I slept a solid 6 hours, and woke up just before they began serving afternoon tea about an hour and a half out from San Francisco.

Afternoon Tea


An individual selection of sandwiches featuring smoked salmon, salted beef with horseradish and watercress, hummus with carrot and coriander and egg mayonnaise with mustard cress

Mozzarella and sun-dried tomato savoury Danish pastry


Plain or fruit scones served warm with clotted cream and strawberry preserves

Banana chocolate square, blackcurrant cremeux with pistachio jelly and lim and basil macaroon

Once tea service was done I changed out of my pajamas, read for a bit, and started worrying that I had slept too much that I wouldn’t be able to sleep on arrival once I made it to the airport Hyatt Regency. The next day I had the wedding of MegaDO organizer Tommy Danielsen, and I expected that to go late into the night!

But I made it straight through immigration and out to the hotel’s shuttle, into my room quickly enough, and didn’t really have any problem getting to bed. I did wake up around 3am after another six hours but I caught up on work before grabbing a rental car to drive out to Sacramento. I was immediately returned to my normal sleep patterns after that without any delay. For some reason I find it easier to return to the U.S. and adjust to the time than I do to sleep proper hours immediately on arrival in Asia.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

More articles by Gary Leff »



  1. I think that has much to do with sleep time on flights

    I find that long day flights leave me with jet lag.
    JFK-HKG in CX F leaving 1 AM with 8 hrs sleep is great
    HKG -ORD in CX F starting 1 PM and not sleeping is terrible.

    SFO-SYD at midnight is great for 8 hrs sleep
    SYD-YVR in daytime is terrible for jet lag later

  2. I continue to enjoy your report! Many thanks.

    Can you use the You First service, even an F award ticket?

    Also, I keep going over in my mind the difference of opinion you have with Ben regarding the F seats (i.e. is it ‘the best Business Class in the Sky as Ben says…), and would love to hear if you have any more thoughts on this issue now that you have tried it again.

  3. Gary, what about the first row pair of seats fo a couple traveling together on the 747? Not the closeness of the center pairs, but looks like plenty of privacy, no? Thanks for the report.

  4. @ffi – agree, I love midnight-ish departures for sleeping, I hate 7pm transatlantics from the East Coast that are just too early and too short to sleep, and indeed an 11am or 1pm transpacific I’m mostly awake… but so tired by the end of the trip and they arrive in the evenings I don’t need to stay awake long (as long as i can stay up most of the flight)

  5. @blueline7 – no problem, i have never flown paid F but have used YouFirst. There are some who claim it is only for UK folks but I haven’t found that to be the case.

    As for CX business vs BA first class… well I’m not sure that’s even a fair comparison or that meaningful since you aren’t flying them on the same routes other than Europe-Asia. For someone in North America they serve entirely different purposes. Fair enough, the CX seat is great and has more storage oddly enough than BA F. I still like the overall BA F cabin feel, and certainly BA F food and amenities over CX business — so I do think BA First is better than CX business but not by much. That says more about the new CX business product (in the mini cabin of the 777) than anything else, it doesn’t diminish BA F — though I do wish BA F could be spruced up a bit and the Concorde Room food and service improved!

  6. @Dan – there’s something special about the nose of he 747, it doesn’t really fit for traveling “together” but you’re not that far apart. You can’t open up a divider and talk to each other. But if that’s not important then go for it!

  7. I always found the burger and the cheese plate in the Concorde room to be very good.

    As far as the seat, I felt crowded at my shoulders when lounging, they really squeezed in the seats (this was NF on the 777).

    Any wine list comments on this flight or the prior ones on your return?

  8. Just changed my return seats to 5E&5F and reserved the cabana based on your notes……YouFirst contact info came up as part of the reservation details on my Avios page and it is evidently available to all FC even companion miles tickets. The Cabana can be reserved far in advance but the Spa requires 30 days or less…….thanks for the informational post.
    Also decided to overnight in the Sofitel coming back as it appeared the only hotel that allowed a “walk” from room to terminal…..any experience with that property?

  9. @RJ Brown – I stayed at the Sofitel last month, it is the only one attached to T5. It’s a nice enough hotel. Pricey for what it is and don’t expect much out of Accor elite status, but it’s the best hotel at Heathrow for sure. (The Hilton at T4 is decent, and then there’s all the stuff on Bath Rd via the Hotel Hoppa which isn’t free and takes awhile.. another alternative is the Paddington Station Hilton which is frankly just as convenient as the Bath Rd hotels like the Sheratons)

  10. Also, the Paddington Hotel Indigo is another option for those with Priority Club — stayed there and taking the Heathrow Express was MORE convenient than the Hoppa bus business…

  11. Just talked to You First. The cabanas are only available for outbound F, which is a shame as I would have loved to relax there after the overnight from the US and before my European transfer which is in business only. They can be reserved up to a year in advance. Spa treatments, however, can only be reserved up to 28 days prior. The UK version of the You First site does state that it is a service for UK residents, but the US version does not, so it is available to all F, regardless of residence, as long as you leave Heathrow in F.
    (Gary, thanks for your reports, I really enjoy them.)

  12. My wife and I were able to get 1A and 1K and found it close enough to have a conversation and very private. Unless you have high level status, I believe you can’t get at those seats until 72 hours out.

  13. Nice report, it brings back fond memories of the same flight a year ago (alas in the old F cabin). My only complaint is with the mid-flight “snack” sandwiches – I have yet to find an airline that does not pre-slather my bread with mayo or butter. Why is it so hard to serve plain sandwiches with small fast food style condiment packs on the side?

  14. Gary, I’m always able to learn so much from your posts – thanks!

    The missus & I are traveling to Edinburgh via London at the end of the month. I’ve just spoken to a very helpful gentleman at You First (thank you, Aristotle!), who was able to book us a Cabana and Spa Treatments before we continue on to Edinburgh.

    So looking forward to this, thanks again for your guidance!

  15. Based on DougB’s successful booking of a cabana for their arrival to Heathrow in F (and departing in Domestic), I called You First back and tried to book the cabana again. This time they told me that they could not book it because my connecting flight was leaving from T3 (and not T5 where I was arriving to). So now you need to be leaving from T5 to get it, apparently…. Oh, well.

  16. I spent a few hours in a cabana once. I found it was cheap, worn and flimsy – not to mention dirty. I can’t imagine why anyone would want one unless you were desperate to sleep. In that case slip on your noise-cancelling headphones as it’s also noisy in there.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *