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 its own) said to me, “Matt, you are first class. You can do whatever you want.” Though I’ve long forgotten 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 fly economy, and first class should always be good, regardless of the airline. I judge airlines mostly on their economy class, since that’s where I and most other travelers usually fly. So I was eager to fly BA 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 BA frequently. I’ve enjoyed them a lot. In fact, I think they’re one of the better partners in the Oneworld Alliance.
However, the downside to BA is that they’re 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’re there, and that’s really all I want out of my flight staff.
The interiors of most BA planes are 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 and has an eye-pleasing interior, comfortable seats, and a decent amount of legroom. Unfortunately, in many of their Airbus planes around Europe, you’ll find that the interior is 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.
Another complaint with BA’s old planes is that even though I had legroom, their seats are still a bit small. I would hate to be a really tall person on their flights. They’re 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 was 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, but not 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’re 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 suggest booking with one of their partner airlines to avoid BA’s high fares and monstrous taxes and fees. They always seem to be a few hundred dollars more expensive than other carriers. But at least you get a comfortable ride.