Flight Review: British Airways BA First Class London Heathrow to Beijing (BA39)

Flight Review: British Airways BA First Class London Heathrow to Beijing (BA39)

  • $125 bottle of champagne? I'll take that.
  • Many say the layout 'lacks privacy'. True, or just fussy?
  • Take a peek inside my favourite amenity kit ever.

4.88 out of 5
  • Amenities & IFE
  • Cabin & seat
  • Food & drink
  • Service

If ever there were a trip that tested my cortisol levels – it was this one. Stress levels aside, this flight was bliss. I have only flown first class once, but this trip was most certainly a huge step up from business class. Let's take a peek...

9h 45mins of quintessential British luxury, at 35,000ft.


Disclaimer: I started my trip in Dublin and attempted to check my bags through to my final destination, Sydney. Now, this is where things got interesting. I was told my bags couldn't be sent to Sydney without me collecting them in Beijing. Normally this isn't an issue, but it was today. The British Airways check-in staff member said: "There's an error code that won't let me give you your boarding pass for the Beijing to Sydney flight". 

This didn't worry me. But then she said: "Do you have a visa for China?". Erm, visa? Apparently, without a boarding pass, you cannot get a transit visa in China, which you need to claim your luggage whilst checking in for your next flight. Long story short, I had to ask for a manager who then had to frantically call Qantas and British Airway's HQ to come up with a solution to this problem. 

Be warned – if you book Qantas Rewards Seats with a stopover in China, you will need to collect your baggage and check-in again. Always ensure your layover is 2+ hours long as this is the second time it has happened to me. Trust me, you'll need the time! 

Sometimes multi-stopover flights via China don't go as smoothly as planned. Be warned!
British Airways Heathrow Concorde Room First Class Lounge
Flying from Heathrow? You need to pop into the Concorde Room.

Sadly, I didn't have much time to enjoy this fantastic lounge. I've never been in a dedicated First Class lounge, and it did not disappoint. Think marble table-tops, crystal chandeliers and a baby grand piano. It feels less like a lounge and more like a 5-star hotel lobby.

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Now, that's a first-class seat.

The Seat

I waltzed onto the plane ready for my second First Class experience – it did not disappoint. The staff knew me by name and there was an undeniable touch of British luxury to my welcome. I don't know about you, but the Brits really nail luxury service. Anyway, what's next? Champagne, of course. British Airways certainly don't skimp on the good stuff! I was offered glass (after glass) of Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle – a $125 bottle of French bubbly. Très bien! 

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Bucketloads of space, including a large HD screen for all 9h+ hours of entertainment.

As you can see, the cabin is spacious with a 1-2-1 layout. Unlike Business Class in airlines like Singapore Airlines, there's a private partition between the two middle aisle seats. It's a great touch, but it's nowhere near as private (or luxurious) as Qatar's suite experience. I don't mind not having a suite to myself, but if you're a seasoned first-class flyer this mightn't sit well with you.

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Just me, myself and 4 other passengers. I can deal with that!

Words can't describe how much I loved being passed glass after glass of champagne. It's as if the steward preempted my thirst for the next glass before I even finished the one I was sipping. Also, the generous serving of roasted nuts went down a treat! 

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Goodbye buttons, hello dial. Tech-savvy, but a little confusing at times. I just wanted to recline my seat.

Without sounding like an OAP, I found the cool dial button a little confusing. On most airlines, seats in First or Business Classes are controlled using buttons. Onboard First Class in British Airways, you'll get this funky thing. It works fine, but sometimes got a little confusing. Especially after a few glasses of champagne.

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
A window seat will snag you not one, but two windows to peek out of.

What about the entertainment?

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Non-stop wifi. Hallelujah!

Given I work remotely, being able to access high-speed wifi for the whole of my long-haul flight was incredible. There's no better way to crank out some work than at 35,000ft with no distractions! Let me be honest. Between my workload and 5-hour nap, I watched no TV. I mean, not one minute of a movie. Yep – for real. That itself is a testament to how awesome the flight was! However, I still had a large HD screen loaded full of the latest movies. Next time..

Ps. Yes, like my laptop screen says, we help you earn points – so you can book flights like this!

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
When in Rome, or somewhere 35,000ft over China.

Let's talk food

As I expected, the typography and layout of the menu was as beautiful as the food. I'm a vegetarian, so I don't expect the bells and whistles of a restaurant standard meal. But honestly, this was my favourite culinary experience in the sky. And that says a lot! Plus, the drinks menu was fantastic. 

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
The mind boggles. I enjoyed a bottle $125 bottle of champagne onboard, but only paid $565 in taxes for 2 Business Class flights and this First Class flight. Value!
British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
A trio of delicious canapés kickstarted mealtime.
British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Grilled Asparagus with Herbed Goat Cheese Salad.

What a beautiful starter. If you read my last review, you'll know I'm a huge advocate for cheese (who isn't?). This starter was melt in your mouth delicious. Simple and delicious – it vanished in minutes! It was followed by an incredible Vegetable Ravioli with a Creamy Mushroom Sauce. I wolfed it down, so alas, there's no picture. 

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Continental breakfast time with all the trimmings served on English Fine Bone China.

The All-important Amenity Kit

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Each passenger received a Temperley London Amenity Kit.

Look, I'm a huge advocate for a great amenity kit. You never know when you'll need (another) eye mask or earplugs! But British Airways knocked it out of the park with this kit. Inside the beautiful Temperley London for British Airways bag lies lots of Elemis products. They feel lovely on the skin and their full-size counterparts cost an arm and a leg. 

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Finally! Freebies worth using after the flight.

I should mention, each passenger receives a pair of Temperley London silk-trimmed pyjamas. I won't lie, I forgot to take a picture as I quickly pulled them on and now enjoy wearing them around my house.

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Not as snazzy as Emirates First Class, but still, you'll enjoy lovely The White Company amenities in the toilets.

Things I loved

The service. Gosh, it was fantastic. Don't get me wrong – I've flown with some wonderful airlines, but at the end of this flight, I genuinely wanted to stay on board. Back in the day I used to collect Avios and was a lloyal British Airways customer, and this fantastic flight reminded me of why I did (and still) do love them so much. 

Other than that, I loved the food and drinks served. The wifi was a fantastic touch that really helped me get ahead of my workload and would be wonderful for anyone travelling for business purposes or wriggly kids growing bored of the free entertainment. When all is said and done, the main selling point (for me) was the undeniable feeling of luxury. I'd happily squirrel my points away and save them for another British Airways first class flight!

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Happy is an understatement!
British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Space. So much space!

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Things I didn't love

It isn't a dealbreaker for me, but I can see how this first-class cabin isn't as luxurious as Qatar's suites or Emirates first class. I've not flown first on any of those 'big league' airlines, so I had nothing to compare my experience to. If you held a gun to my head and asked me to find another flaw (dramatic yes), it'd be the toilets. They were clean, but lacked space or a few luxurious touches other airlines do so well. 

Like I said, neither of the above were (or are) dealbreakers for me.

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
Good morning, Beijing!

Overall experience

The check-in experience was stressful. I mean, borderline tears stressful. If you ever complete a Qantas Rewards Seats booking with multi-city stopovers in China and are told there's an issue, hold your ground and ask to speak to a senior member of staff. The likelihood of your situation being solved quickly is high, but if you don't ask you'll be left in a tricky situation ie. they may try to change your flights.

My golden rule of thumb: if Qantas let me book it (in one ticket), they should let me fly it.

Other than that, I had an amazing trip. I'll sing British Airways praises and can't recommend first class enough. Whether you've points to spend on a business trip, a long-haul vacation or honeymoon – it's worth churning frequent flyer credit cards!

Until next time BA.

British Airways First Class London Beijing 777 BA139
欢迎来到北京 – Welcome to Beijing!