After a wonderful holiday on Big Island, Hawaii it was time to head home. We had booked a rather complicated trip that involved starting our itinerary in London travelling LCY-DUB-LHR-PHL-LAX-HNL-ITO, KOA-HNL-LAX-LHR-DUB-LCY. This report relates to the LAX-LHR section.
For this leg we were booked in Club World but when we arrived at the gate we discovered we had been upgraded to First. If this excitement wasn't enough it was on the A380-800. I have flown First once before on the 747-400 but the soft product on the Whalejet was far superior - A lot more space and comfort, not to mention the superior menu offered!
As this was an upgrade I spent the whole flight being grateful for whoever decided to put my partner and I in first so it's a bit rich of me to criticise anything. However, the mixed-fleet crew were not as experienced as their worldwide fleet colleagues but we didn't mind too much. They were cordial and looked after us well, despite the odd bit of oversight.
After spending a few hours spotting at the In-N-Out Burger by runway 24R, we dropped our car off at the Hertz station off the airfield, which involved a short yet time-consuming shuttle bus trip to the TBIT. The traffic at LAX is horrendous! I guess that is what happens when you do not have adequate public transport options. Buses and cars everywhere! We made it with plenty of time to spare, mind.
When we arrived at the TBIT (International Terminal) we went straight to the BA Club World check-in, dropped our cases off and headed up to security. As we were booked in business we had priority screening, which was great and although there was a bit of a wait, it was nothing compared to the chaos in the normal queue.
At this point we still thought we were travelling in Business so we went to the International Business Lounge, which is essentially the One World lounge but operated by Qantas. The lounge is incredible… The drinks were free-flowing and the bar man would make you any cocktail in his repertoire (I had several Magaritas!). The food selection was also extensive and the bathroom and shower facilities were also very nice. We also arrived just in time for tacos! They set up a stand in the lounge every evening where a chef constructs tacos for the lounge guests' pleasure. They were scrummy! If only we had a bit more time at the lounge…
The boarding at the newly rebuilt TBIT was interesting. Esentially next to each gate is a big open gap with several machines for scanning boarding passes and numerous agents. There was no queuing system or anything like that although they were strict when it came to boarding by class and seat row. When it was our turn to board, my boarding pass wouldn't scan. I showed the agent who looked me up on the computer and confirmed that I had been upgraded! I was ecstatic, but what about my partner? Luckily when he scanned his boarding pass, the same thing happened and we were seated together. I guess they would never just upgrade one person on the same booking would they?
After thanking the agent about 100 times we continued to the boarding bridge (or jetty in BA terminology). Still in disbelief that we were upgraded to First Class on the A380 (!!!) we walked along the first bridge… For those not in the know, BA's first class is on the lower deck of the A380 where you can find 14 very spacious open suites.
When we got to the door, it was shut!! So we had to wait for a member of crew to come and open it for us. It seems a little extravagant to have a whole bridge dedicated to just 14 passengers, but heyho. The member of crew was incredibly apologetic and there was no harm done!
My first impression of the cabin was that it was so spacious, light and airy! The seating area was HUGE compared to the 747-400 with much more space for personal belongings. The personal cupboard at each seat barely has room for a coat on the 747 but in the A380 you can fit most if not all of your belongings no problem. In fact I didn't have to use the overhead locker at all.
On the seat were two pillows and a light day blanket. We were also presented with an amenity kit, pj's and slippers. There was also a menu for the evening flight. We were also offered a pre-departure drink and I of course went for the bubbles (Laurent-Perrier Grand Siècle to be precise). My rule is: never say no to bubbles, darling. As I was already half-cut, it went down like a dream and before I knew it it was time for departure.
Shortly after take-off the seatbelt signs were turned off and service resumed. I have to say here that the girls working in First Class were lovely but were new and pretty in-experienced. This was evidenced in the fact that I was offered a post-departure drink and warm nuts within a couple of minutes of the seatbelt sign being turned off, however my partner who was sitting on the other aisle wasn't offered a drink for at least 20 minutes. Considering we were travelling together it wasn't particularly great.
Our orders were also taken for dinner and I (of course) went for the Tasting Menu with paired wines, which is unique to the A380. My partner had something from the a la carte as he isn't particularly into fish, which was on the Tasting Menu.
As you can see from the photos the food is nicely presented and the crew are given very detailed instructions as to how to present the food on the plate before giving it to the customers. The girls did a great job here, I think. However, there was a bit of a problem in that the courses were delivered a bit too fast. I would have prepared to have finished the glass of wine that came with the previous course before being served the next one. I ended up with two or three glasses on the table, forgetting which was which! Disclaimer: total #FirstWorldProblem. Anyway, here was the Tasting Menu for dinner:
Amuse bouche (can't remember exactly what this was but it was some pate thing on bread)
Gargouillou of Vegetables
Pan-roasted seabass with hummus and nduja-fennel ragout (my favourite!)
Long Island breast of duck with mostarda di cremona and duck fat potatoes
Salted caramel and walnut sponge
After this I was very full and decided to change into my stylish pjs and slippers and asked the crew to convert my seat into a bed. I felt bad as the stewardess was in the middle of her dinner and a natter with her colleagues.
On my return the bed was laid out all lovely and I decided to lie down and watch a bit of TV before going to sleep. I have to say that the seat on the A380 is a vast improvement compared to the 747. It was one of the best night sleeps I had had in a while after hard hotel beds in Hawaii and LA. The duvet was super comfy, as was the mattress cover and pillows. I slept for at least 6 hours of the 10 hour flight.
The next morning (or afternoon local time) we were awoken for breakfast. Many of my fellow passengers prefered to sleep but not wanting to miss out and being a complete pig I decided to indulge. The menu wasn't very extensive so I decided to go for the Full English. These things never look great on a plane, including in First Class but unlike in Club and Y+/Y at least it was edible. I was still slightly full from the night before so found it difficult to finish.
Shortly after breakfast I changed back into my normal gear and the cabin was prepared for landing into LHR. I took the opporunity to take a few pictures of my seat area, including how private the suites are compared to the 747. Unless you physically move quite far around, you cannot see anyone else apart from the person next to you in the centre seats (if the screen is down).
Arrival & Concorde Room
After landing, we taxied the relatively short distance to Terminal 5C where all A380s arrive to and depart from. From here we took the shuttle to Terminal 5A. As we were transferring on to Dublin, we had to go through passport control (as Ireland and the UK have a Common Travel Area) and then security. From here we proceeded to the lounge area. Here it occured to us that as we had arrived in First Class we may be able to use the Concorde Room if we present our boarding passes. It turns out we were right and were allowed in! Here we indulged in yet more champagne and champagne related cocktails, a light snack of scallops and a visit to the cabanas for a shower before it was time for our next flight. I won't go into too much detail as the Concorde Room has been done to death and instead will let the photos talk for themselves.
Incredible. 10/10! We never in our wildest dreams thought we would be upgraded and the experience was amazing. The First Class product on the A380 is far superior to any other aircraft in the BA fleet and although the crew were young and inexperienced, they were polite and apologetic when they didn't get things just right. We all have to start somewhere and the poor things were thrown into the deep end by having to work in First!
The Los Angeles Business Lounge (oneworld) - TBIT
Los Angeles - LAX
London - LHR
A wonderful experience travelling on British Airways' A380-800 from LAX to LHR in First Class. A 10/10 experience!
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