Our latest trip to Japan started in Heathrow Airport, with a tasty and much-needed breakfast in British Airways’ Concorde Room. This is the lounge set aside for passengers traveling First Class.
Yes, First Class. But before you jump to any conclusions, I can assure you that our tickets were not full price. We used a combination of avios frequent flyer points, a two-for-one voucher from the British Airways American Express card and the rest (taxes etc) in cash. Some serious saving on the Avios front during the year makes it all possible.
So how did it compare to my recent Finnair experience to Tokyo? Given we were taking a different route and traveling in a different class – with Finnair, I was on a business class ticket – I’m going with my gut, my subjective experience. And, as always. your experience may well differ.
Breakfast in the Concorde Room was very nice and the service was super. Yes, service. There’s no buffet. Instead, you place your order with the staff and they bring you whatever you want. I gave in to my hunger pangs and ordered the full English. Followed, of course, by a glass of champagne.
“Too early”, you say? Well, it was definitely after midday where we were traveling. Plus, I’d consider it a dereliction of my professional traveling duty to turn down the offer of free bubbles… My glass was refilled enthusiastically by the smiling lounge staff.
Ater a brief journey to the c-gates at Terminal 5, we boarded the flight first – one of the perks of going First Class. This gave us more time to get settled. Or as I like to do, explore every nook and cranny of my seat, adjust it multiple times and quickly scan the menu once it’s handed out. And then there was more champagne! Again, being a professional, I could hardly say no.
In terms of greetings, the cabin crew in First Class were really lovely. Super friendly, yet efficient. I settled in, stowing my belongings and had a look at the various ‘goodies’ they’d handed us along with the menu.
This included a nice pair of pyjamas – which I was itching to get into – a lovely amenity kit from Liberty, some slippers and a pashmina. (The latter was never worn).
In terms of food, the choice was nice and the meals were enjoyable. Some hastily taken snaps below, illustrating presentation – but more importantly the food was tasty and was served in style. Proper cutlery, tablecloth – the whole deal.
I’d spent the previous weak battling the flu and still wasn’t over it. So, after take-off it was difficult to lie back without coughing. As a result, I spent most of our twelve-hour flight sat upright, dosing off from time to time. The seat was incredibly comfortable, but I only managed a couple of hours of sleep in total. The dry, recycled air on board really didn’t help.
At one point, I felt so awful that I went to the galley and asked the team to make me a hot whiskey. Complete with honey and lemon, it was just what I needed and I nodded off without coughing shortly after.
Overall, it was a really enjoyable journey. Putting my own illness to one side (and the hot whiskey really did help!), it was comfortable and there was nothing the cabin crew wouldn’t do to help. The food was great and the selection of onboard entertainment was impressive.
All that said, I’m not sure that it’s a significant improvement on my Finnair business class experience. The food was comparable, as was the seat. Finnair don’t hand out the same kind of amenities, but they more than make up for it with their friendliness and service.
If I was paying full price for a First Class ticket – I should say, if I could afford it – I’d be hard pressed to see where my extra money was going. Yes, you board the plane first. But really, my ego isn’t so fragile that I can’t wait a little while. And yes, you can enjoy the very lovely Concorde Room before you take off. The ratio of staff to passengers is lower in First Class, so you get more frequent contact.
But I was never waiting more than a few moments on Finnair. The on-board service was excellent and I slept well in the slightly less plush seat. It’s definitely a more cost-effective way to get to Tokyo than to go First Class.
That said, using frequent flyer points and a two-for-one voucher takes the financial sting out of First Class with BA and so, it will remain an option for me. A very luxurious and completely unnecessary one, but then isn’t that the case with all luxuries? And what a wonderful way to start a holiday.