The first time I flew British Airways (BA), I used 100,000 miles I received from signing up for their credit card, redeemed the points for a first class ticket, and enjoyed serious luxury on the way to New York City from London. I remember asking if I could go walk around the plane to see what the other cabins were like, and our flight attendant (first class has their own) said to me, “Matt, you are first class. You can do whatever you want.” Though I long forgot his name, I’ll never forget that line.
Flying in first class was an experience I hope to someday repeat. But I hate judging airlines by their first class service since most people never fly first class and that level of class should always be good. I judge airlines mostly on their economy class, since I and most other travelers usually fly in the back. So I was eager to fly British Airways again and see how the conditions were in the back of the plane.
While in Europe the past few months, I’ve had a chance to fly British Airways frequently. I’ve enjoyed them a lot. In fact, I think they are one of the better partners in the Oneworld Alliance.
However, the downside to BA is that they are very expensive. Their ticket prices are never cheap, and there always seem to be a lot of taxes and fees added on. Moreover, when you book a rewards ticket with them, you still have to pay those hefty fees. My first class ticket wasn’t actually free, despite the miles I used. I still had to pay about $275 USD in fees and taxes.
However, I’ve always enjoyed the service on their planes and on the ground. The staff is no more or less friendly than on any other airline. BA flight attendants tend to get a bad rap because they always seem to be striking, but my experience with them has always been positive. They aren’t the super duper jump-in-your-face friendly staff of most Asian carriers, but they aren’t the rude staff of U.S. Airways, either. When you need something, they are there, and that’s really all I want out of my flight staff.
The interior of most British Airways planes is generally comfortable and spacious. Last year, they redesigned their first class section, and I was lucky enough to be on one of those new planes. It was amazing. But even in economy class, I found the interiors much more modern and comfortable than many other airlines. Their new Embraer 170/190 is only few years old with the interior appeasing to the eye, the seats comfortable, and a decent amount of legroom. Unfortunately, in many of their Airbus planes around Europe, you’ll find the interior old and shabby. They still have a lot of work to do in modernizing their fleet. On their larger long haul jets, it’s pretty hit or miss but at least you get a personal TV, which is something you don’t get on most American carriers.
My one complaint is that with their old planes, even though I had room, their seats are still a bit small. I would hate to be a really tall person on their flights. They are upgrading their 777 fleet soon, though, so hopefully that will improve the legroom.
As for the food? Well, in first class, it was pretty delicious, and the endless glasses of wine made for a really enjoyable flight to New York. However, on the economy class flights I took, I can’t say I am overly impressed. I haven’t had any of their food on a long haul international flight but the food on their short haul flights around Europe consisted of a very mini can of coke and a sandwich I don’t think even 7-11 would sell.
Overall, British Airways is a good airline but not a great airline. I wouldn’t go through hoops to fly them like I would Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, or a lot of other airlines. But I wouldn’t skip them either. In fact, since American Airlines lacks personal TV screens in economy class, I’m now only flying British Airways across the Atlantic. Compared to other European airlines, I think they are better than KLM, Finn Air, Olympic, Aegean, and TAP.
So would I recommend British Airways? Yes, but given how many airlines they partner with, I would suggest booking with one of their partner airlines to avoid paying the high fare and monstrous amount of taxes and fees they charge. They always seem to be a few hundred dollars more expensive than other carriers. But at least you get a comfortable ride.