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British Airways upgrades First Class ‘soft product’ and service

British Airways has announced some improvements to its First Class offering in its 'centenary year'

787 Seat

The UK’s biggest and most well known full service airline British Airways announced a revamp of its First Class product earlier this week. Before you get too excited, this isn’t a new seat (which is badly needed, given the current product has been consistently compared to other Business Class offerings for close to a decade).

This refresh is to the onboard product and service, including pyjamas, amenity kits, bedding, tableware, glassware and catering. In other words – almost all the things an airline can improve without changing the seat itself.

When is it changing?

The initial flights with these new products will commence on 31st March 2019, with system-wide rollout promised within a week – by 7th April 2019.

Changes: Amenity Kit & Pyjamas

First Class passengers will receive a new amenity kit, replacing the current one by Liberty London. The bag is made by Temperley London in a “Star” design with the contents by British skincare brand, ELEMIS, in common with the Spa inside the T5 Heathrow lounge.

Currently, cosmetics are by Aromatherapy Associates.

PJs 2
New amenity kit and pyjamas. (Photo: British Airways)

Pyjamas will also be by Temperley, with the airline promising a “super-soft, sophisticated” new range including male and female versions.

PJs
Temperley pyjamas. (Photo: British Airways)

The ELEMIS selection will include products from the Ultra smart pro-collagen range, bespoke skincare products designed to adapt to individual needs for younger looking skin. This is expensive stuff – Google it if you don’t believe me!

Male amenity bags contain:

  • Ultra smart pro-collagen eye cream
  • Ultra smart pro-collagen matrix moisturiser
  • Cleansing micellar facial wipe
  • Skin soothe shave gel
  • Fortitude deodorant
  • Hydra-nourish lip balm
Elemis Products
The new amenity kit contains ELEMIS products. (Photo: British Airways)

Female amenity bags contain:

  • Cleansing micellar facial wipe
  • Soothing apricot facial wipe
  • Pro-collagen rose mist
  • Ultra smart pro-collagen matrix moisturiser
  • Ultra smart pro-collagen eye cream
  • Hydra-nourish lip balm
  • Sea lavender and samphire hand cream
  • Fortitude deodorant

Changes: Catering

As part of the changes British Airways has also designed new à la carte menus that “focus on fresh seasonal ingredients of British provenance”. It will be interesting to see how different these dishes are to the current First Class dining options, which already rely heavily on British ingredients.

New Dining
First Class catering gets a new menu, though BA is a little vague on exactly what will change. (Photo: British Airways)

The tableware gets an update too, with new bone china crockery designed exclusively for the airline by high-end British designer William Edwards. The new tableware will be accompanied by contemporary cutlery from Studio William.

The airline will also be introducing a new signature afternoon tea service, “showcasing the great British tradition of high tea“.

Afternoon Tea 2
Afternoon tea will be included. (Photo: British Airways)

The menu will include a selection of sandwiches, pastries and scones, as well as a wide range of tea infusions.

Afternoon Tea
Afternoon tea service. (Photo: British Airways)

Changes: Glassware

Drinks aren’t forgotten in the upgrade, and while the wine and Champagne offerings aren’t expected to change they will be served in new stemware from Dartington Crystal.

Soft drinks and spirits will be served from “elegant cut-glass tumblers” from the same company.

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New cut-glass tumblers are part of the glassware upgrade. (Photo: British Airways)

Changes: Bedding

A better sleeping experience is promised in First Class with the introduction of 400-thread count bedding and a foam fibre mattress topper.

787 Bed
New First Class bedding. (Photo: British Airways)

Customers will also receive a new day blanket and bolster cushion.

Pillows
The new bolster cushion. (Photo: British Airways)

Changes: In-flight entertainment

While the IFE system itself is not being updated (this varies from quite poor on BA’s older 747s to quite good on the newer planes), BA is replacing the headphones in First Class with high performance models by British company Meridian Audio.

Tea Service
BA’s Boeing 787 First Class seat. (Photo: British Airways)

The (non-)centenary

For the AvGeeks out there, British Airways is also painting some of their fleet in a series of ‘retro liveries’, in celebration of its ‘centenary year’. So far three aircraft have been painted, two 747-400s in BOAC livery and the ‘Landor’ livery from the 80s and 90s, and an A319 in the old BEA livery.

It’s nice to see an airline nodding to its history and this will certainly keep the AvGeeks on Instagram happy, but it’s a bit of a cheat in all honesty. BA is claiming to trace its heritage back to the first international flight operated by Aircraft Transport and Travel (AT&T) from London to Paris.

By some convoluted process, through at least four other airlines along the way, AT&T eventually became part of what is now British Airways, which itself was only established in 1974 (45 years ago) from the merger between BOAC and BEA.

A more accurate predecessor to British Airways was actually Imperial Airways, formed in 1924, which later became BOAC. It was at Imperial the Speedbird logo (still used as the ‘Speedmarque’) was first used.

We can only suppose that with KLM celebrating its centenary this year and Qantas next year (both from their original names and as the same companies), BA felt a bit left out and didn’t fancy waiting another 55 years to celebrate its true centenary (or 5 more years to celebrate it’s more defensible one), so plucked back into the archives to find something that fitted.

AT&T, by the way, was formed and started flying in 1916, so it seems BA missed the centenary somewhat! Choosing the first international flight as the formation date seems like cherry picking to us!

Our review

We flew BA’s existing First Class, prior to these soft product enhancements, on the Boeing 747-400 last year from London to Washington. We wrote a full review of the experience.

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Click here to read our full review of British Airways First Class

Essentially, a very good Business Class experience. No matter how they tinker with the ‘soft product’, unfortunately the seat is what lets it down (don’t even get us started on ‘Club World’). Until that’s improved, BA deserves its ‘Best Business Class’ reputation in this cabin more than ever, with enclosed suites becoming the industry mainstay in this cabin.

British Airways in Singapore

British Airways offers 28 First Class seats per day from Singapore to London and a further 14 per day from Singapore to Sydney. Additionally eight of the airline’s newest First Class seats on the Boeing 787-9 fly each day from Kuala Lumpur to London.

Seats are bookable using the airline’s Avios frequent flyer program, Cathay Pacific’s Asia Miles or using other oneworld frequent flyer points. Alaska miles can also be used to book BA First Class on flights operating between Europe and the USA, Canada and Mexico.

BA also operates its own dedicated lounge facility at Changi airport, the British Airways Singapore Lounge. Later this year First Class passengers departing Changi on British Airways flights will also have access to the Qantas First Lounge.

Summary

British Airways really needs a new seat in its ageing ‘Club World’ Business Class and First Class cabins.

Thankfully these should be announced soon with the arrival of the airline’s first Airbus A350-1000 in June featuring the new ‘Club World’ product. Later this year a pair of the airline’s 777-300ERs will also be refitted with these new seats and an upgraded First Class, though the latter is thought to be based on the existing 787 seat, so “evolution, not revolution”.

That should result in at least some flights passing through Singapore featuring the new products towards the end of 2019 (namely the BA15/16 service which also flies from Singapore to Sydney).

Meanwhile an imminent improvement in the soft product elements of the cabin including the catering, bedding and accessories is welcome, even if it’s not really BA’s 100th birthday this year!

(Cover Photo: British Airways)

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