View Full Version : First class flights

11th Jan 2018, 12:47
Looking for some advice/recommendations regarding first class flights...

Whilst I can still afford it and before I become too old to enjoy/appreciate it I would like to fly first class long-haul on one of the current (modern) types such as A380, B777, B787 and possibly the 747-8 (although there are not many operators of these).

The destination is not that important but I have in mind to go somewhere congenial so I'm thinking along the line of Thai to BKK, SQ to SIN, CX to HKG, Qantas to somewhere ex-London (but not all the way to Oz). I suppose I would consider the ME-based airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar) but this would involve getting off one aeroplane and getting on another, possibly in the middle of the night, which rather defeats the object of having a full night's sleep in one's jim-jams in a full lie-flat bed. I wouldn't go on BA as a matter of principle.

Can the collective offer any suggestions or make comments as to the merits or otherwise of the various first class services on offer from the point of view of comfort, space and service provided?

There are lots of videos on You Tube purporting to show the first class service on various operators but they are often confusing and conflicting in the opinions given so any advice would be welcome.

Thanks in advance.

Jet II
11th Jan 2018, 13:58
Out of the airlines you mention 1st class in SQ is the the best. The middle east airlines are very close but not sure the timing would be correct - although why not fly out during the day and back over night?

11th Jan 2018, 14:35
You might get a better price on SQ if you travel beyond SIN - ie a connecting flight to ... KL or JKT or PER, etc. Airlines tend to charge a premium for non-stop flights to their hubs, but have to be competitive on pricing to beyond points.

PS Don't tell anybody, this is a secret.

Load Toad
12th Jan 2018, 02:08

Or one of the M.Eastern airlines.

Mr Mac
12th Jan 2018, 07:22
I would say SQ / EK /LH - 747 -8 for me.

12th Jan 2018, 14:16
First class is much more expensive on the better airlines listed above.

There is both the inflight product and the on-ground product to consider.

You need to research the ground product (free limo service and super lounges) as well as what kind of enclosed or open suite on the airplane suits your fancy.

As others have stated the cheapest fares will be those that connect through a major city to a less major city

12th Jan 2018, 16:35
You realise that you are looking at 7,000 each way.

Another James
12th Jan 2018, 20:49
Garuda Indonesia is my first choice for long haul and have taken advantages of their promo fares.heathrow to jakarta direct 3,800 return (2017 fares) first class.

Cannot fault Garuda and planning another Jakarta trip in July,roll on July !

13th Jan 2018, 09:10
How about two types? LHR-DXB-CPT on EK

To DXB overnight on the A380, to CPT in the day on the 777-300ER

A few days at the One and Only or Cape Grace

Trip in reverse is overnight back to DXB and then day flight to LHR

Modest time zone transits so you wont feel like a dog when you arrive at either end

Heathrow Harry
13th Jan 2018, 09:23
I've always thought that the great benefit of First is not in the air but on the ground - the absolute grovelling service makes you really start to think they care about you

13th Jan 2018, 11:06
HH, that is almost always the case. However a British airline won’t grovel for a one-off First passenger. You are nothing without status, and even then ...

Heathrow Harry
13th Jan 2018, 11:59
Agreed - but why would you fly on BA for a genuine experience?

Any of the Mid East or Asian airlines have set the standard at all levels of service since the early 80's TBH

19th Jan 2018, 17:47
It does seem a bit of a waste to fly 1st if you are going to sleep all the way. Club will give you a lie flat bed which gives you a reasonable nights sleep and the difference in cost will pay for another trip. Would it not be better to take a day flight and really make the most of the personal service?

20th Jan 2018, 05:18
Top level would be SQ suites, assuming you don't want to pay for Eti-hads residence with private butler. Emirates on the A380 with showers would be most enjoyable as would Qatar with their private terminal.

Premium pricing obviously applies on the top business and high end leisure routes. Best value is on mid level leisure destinations where the pointy end is usually empty except for those burning their FF miles. As the cabin flies anyway the airline may as well get some revenue.

Thai to Bangkok and possibly on to Phuket would give you the best value. Even business class fares on SQ or Cathay from London to their home base will prove shockingly expensive, let alone first class.

Mr Oleo Strut
11th Feb 2018, 16:00
A very interesting thread, Olympus. I often ponder over what would constitute the perfect long distance flight. For me it would have to be safe, comfortable, quiet and on time with good food and ground facilities. First-class fares are very high and I've not been impressed with some of the very expensive first/business class 'egg-boxes' that I've seen recently - very claustrophobic looking. My best first class experience (some time ago), which satisfied all of my criteria, was Alitalia BKK/SYD on a 747. It was so good I refused to sleep so as not to miss any of the pleasure of it! Another good one was a fairly recent Thai A340 economy LHR to BKK. Impeccable Service and two seats to myself, it's just a pity that LHR is still such a mess, congested and shambolic.

So back to your thread. I would probably try BKK or SiN First or Business direct from AMS leaving plenty of time at the airports (except London) for the enjoyment of their lounges. The new BKK airport I know is fascinating and AMS/SIN look good as well on YouTube. All I need now is a good deal on price and hotel, my leave pass stamped by the management, and off I go!

Heathrow Harry
11th Feb 2018, 17:02
Oleo - I agree

A few years back we did Brisbane Spore Qantas A330 - day time, Business Class - I can remember wafting thru both airports but the flight is a total blank - I know we didn't sleep but otherwise....... perfect!

11th Feb 2018, 18:37
Mr Oleo Strut

I doubt you were on a TG A340 fairly recently as they were removed from the fleet almost 3 years ago. Now a combination of A380, B777 and even A350. Agree their service is V good.

Mr Oleo Strut
11th Feb 2018, 21:23
Turns out that flight was in 2012. How time flies, though very smoothly in that case.

12th Feb 2018, 09:22
There is a programme on Channel 4 tonight (12th Feb) about SQ first class.

12th Feb 2018, 18:12
Only flew international First Class once - back in 1990 I got bumped from business to first on Pan Am from Seattle to London Heathrow. The meal service was incredible - a full seven course dinner, for the salad course they had a 'salad bar trolley' with the ingredients and made your salad to order. One of the main course options was prime rib - again on a trolley, they brought it to your seat and you pointed at the cut you wanted. Seats back then were nothing special compared to today's lie-flat, but it was still pretty nice.
Best business class I ever had was SQ - 2 class 777 from Singapore to Las Vegas (with a stop in Hong Kong) - so pleasant I was actually a little disappointed when we landed.

All that being said, the whole idea of first class is to get you where you're going in relative luxury. Unless you want to go to the destination in question, why bother? If you want a great meal, go to a five star restaurant - the food and service will be even better than the best airline service at a fraction of the cost. If you want to be pampered, go to fancy hotel with a nice spa - again for a faction of the cost. And at a restaurant or hotel/spa, you can leave anytime you wish - hard to do at 39,000 ft.
If you want to experience good first class air travel, pick a luxury destination you'd really like to visit (Hawaii or similar comes to mind), then see who offers a first class product to that destination.

12th Feb 2018, 18:24
PA had, at one time, F meals served in the bubble. The upper deck of the -100s. F seats on main deck. I had a lovely meal with a handful of US travel agent ladies. No revenue pax in F that day. This dining area replaced the piano and lounge.

13th Feb 2018, 07:49
On a good day BA First is hard to beat. However it is difficult to know when it is a good day!

Also remember that it is not just about the on board experience there are a whole lot of extras that come with a Cirst Class ticket.

14th Mar 2018, 22:02
Thanks for all the replies chaps. Flights have now been booked (not without some hassle) for departure later this month.

Stand by for a report on my return.

14th Mar 2018, 22:32
Thanks for that olympus, looking forward to the debriefing. Meanwhile, do have an overall 'first class' trip!

12th Apr 2018, 19:54
Well, I've now returned from my first class round trip so here are a few comments...

In the end I decided to book my flights on Thai as I thought this gave the best combination of destination (who doesn't like Bangkok?), reputation and price, and on an A380.

I booked the flights on Opodo after searching on Skyscanner. Opodo weren't quite the cheapest but I thought it made sense to book with a company I'd heard of. Big mistake. The actual online booking process was seamless. ie they took my money promptly and confirmed the flights within minutes.

No problem so far. The problems arose when Thai altered the schedules and put a B777 (C & Y only, no F) on the midday flight (which I had booked), with an A380 now operating the evening service (normally a B777). Opodo informed me of this by sending me an email copy of the Amadeus booking but without any explanation or mention of any fare adjustment because of C instead of F or offer of a change of flight. This meant phoning Opodo to seek clarification. Initial contact was promising-a well-modulated female voice assured me that my call was important to them and press 1 for this, 2 for that etc. At this point things started to go pear-shaped. The agent I finally got through to was in Hyderabad or somewhere similar and seemed barely to understand English and certainly couldn't grasp what my call was about. When he finally got the gist of the problem and put me through to the right department their system crashed and I was told to call back. Several attempts later I finally got through to someone who understood the problem but whose advice was to 'call Thai, they will help'! This I thought would lead to a roundabout of calls with neither taking responsibility. Thankfully, I was mistaken and I ended up speaking to a most helpful agent at Thai who changed my booking to the later 380 flight, offered me a choice of meals and confirmed my preferred seat (2K as recommended by SeatGuru). As an aside, Opodo stiffed me for two fees to select seats on both legs. Not much in the scheme of things but Thai would have allocated the seats without further charge, so won't be using Opodo again.

Thai flights depart from a shopping centre near Hounslow aka Terminal 2. My recollection of T2 is of the old Queens Building but this new T2 is nothing like it. For me an architectural nightmare which you enter via a series of crowded elevators and consisting of two separate buildings. The TG flights, needless to say, departing from the furthest building.

Thai is apparently part of Star Alliance and the check-in and passenger handling is dealt with by Star Alliance-uniformed personnel. My check-in was with a morose Eastern European woman who seemed determined to ensure that my first class experience didn't start with her. In fact, the whole Heathrow experience was rather disappointing; a fact that I put down to poor staffing levels as much as anything. For instance the buggy which should have conveyed me to the departure lounge (I was using the SQ lounge) was nowhere to be seen. The SQ buggy with driver was there but 'sorry not Singapore, you Thai' meant I had to walk. It is a LONG way! There are travelators but there is also a sign saying something like '17 minutes to departure gates'. A further observation - I didn't speak to a native English speaker (other than a fellow passenger) from arriving at T2 to boarding the aircraft.

The SQ first class lounge was excellent with a generous menu of hot food available (didn't partake) plus the usual snacks and choice of drinks but it wasn't until boarding the A380 that the first class experience really started. Greeted by name from the outset, nothing was too much trouble for the two dedicated F class cabin attendants. The menu was great (I really enjoyed the caviar), vast choice of movies on the entertainment system and a comfortable, secluded seat with all amenities close to hand so no need to talk to your fellow pax unless you (and they) want to. (There are a number of videos on Youtube showing the accommodation and menus etc). There are twelve F seats on a Thai A380 and they were all occupied on both legs of my trip. Once fed, watered and entertained, the cabin staff offer a pack of 'leisure wear' (pyjamas) and make up the seat into a bed whilst you change in the extremely spacious forward loo. If I'm honest, I found the bed rather hard and 'under-pillowed' but it is a genuine 'lie-flat' and full length. I'm 6' 2" and fitted in with room to spare. I did manage to sleep and the 11 hour flight passed very quickly.

The first class experience continued on the ground at Suvarnabhumi with ground staff meeting disembarking F passengers and conveying them on buggies to the fast-track immigration counters (and it's a long way!). Once through immigration more ground staff are waiting to accompany you to the baggage claim and push the trolley with one's bags through customs to the waiting driver. (The driver was from my local contacts, not provided by Thai). OAT on arrival in BKK was 36 degrees C!

The return trip (a midday departure) was pretty much the same but in reverse; dedicated F check-in where one sits in an armchair with a drink whilst a ground staff member checks in for you, buggy to the Thai F lounge (splendid), superb personal service on board, another set of pyjamas and another snooze meant the 12 hour flight passed quickly. Once at Heathrow one is dealt a dose of depressing British reality. Sure, there was a buggy meeting F passengers but only one (a five seater) so this meant a wait while this one buggy took its first load to immigration and then returned to pick up those of us who didn't fancy the very long walk to arrivals. Thai's responsibility I know, but typically British poor service.

We were all given cards directing us to the fast-track immigration; unfortunately so were the F and C pax from the Eva Air flight (also from BKK), the ET flight from ADD, an AI flight from the sub-continent and several others) so there was a very long queue. Bags were already waiting on arrival at the carousel so through customs and into the British evening with a temperature of 6 degrees.

All-in-all an enjoyable experience; would I do it again? Yes, definitely if I had the spare cash available

ExXB thought it would be very expensive:-

You realise that you are looking at 7,000 each way.In fact it cost me less than half that for the round trip.

12th Apr 2018, 21:28
Thanks for that Olympus, your very comprehensive follow-up was worth my patient wait! Amongst various other airlines and routings, many years ago I used to fly Thai (F/C/Y) to the Far East and Australia quite frequently, from their DC-8 days, then onto DC-10s and latterly 747s. (A memorable but unplanned trip on a LOT-Polish IL-62 BKK/DXB/WAW - detained overnight - and then WAW/LHR the next day is another story!)

Needless to say, on most airlines onboard service in F & C has generally become more opulent since then, and it's good to note that Thai are maintaining their excellent standards - and inflation considered, probably at a lower cost than previously!

As you describe, things have now obviously changed - except of course, the down-to-Earth realities of the inimitable ''Heathrow ambience'', as one transits LHR!

Meanwhile, I'm still getting my head round long-haul flights from T2! Olympus, thanks again for your superb ''voyage report'', much appreciated.

13th Apr 2018, 08:35
Can I ask why you booked through Opodo and not direct with Thai?
AFAIK there is no benefit in booking through a third party, with lots of downsides and hidden costs if flights are altered, as you found to your cost

Heathrow Harry
13th Apr 2018, 10:33
Sometimes you get it cheaper but if you are looking at the experience of a life time I would stick with the airlines

13th Apr 2018, 11:47
wowzz and HH

With hindsight I tend to agree with you but there was a difference of some 250 between Opodo and Thai direct (and a slightly greater difference between the cheapest quote and the Thai price).

Heathrow Harry
13th Apr 2018, 15:20
I've done well with Trip Advisor & a couple of the others on shorthaul but long haul is too big an investment in cash and TIME to add to the risks TBH

By the way thanks for reporting back - sad that the UK is now like the USA - places were however good the airline the surface experience is so awful it detracts from the whole trip.........

When you compare it with Dubai, Changi, Hong Kong etc etc it is so depressing............

Mr Mac
13th Apr 2018, 16:53
Olympus/ Heathrow Harry
Have to agree with you about the ground services but not just LHR it seems to have seeped into all British airports. Came into MAN this morning and we were back in the world of none working lifts etc and surly staff. I sometimes wonder why I bother coming back to UK especially with the lousy weather we have suffered with this long winter. Olympus I am so glad you had a good trip and enjoyed the First Class and 380 experience. I get to fly on EK 380,s a lot, and the poor plane takes a lot of stick on the Mid East web site if you look, but it is very popular with those that fly in it, rather than fly it or count the beans.

Kind regards
Mr Mac

13th Apr 2018, 19:22
Thanks Olympus, most helpful. We used to have a lot of trip reports here but not now. So a good run down is great.

13th Apr 2018, 22:01
I didn't speak to a native English speaker (other than a fellow passenger) from arriving at T2 to boarding the aircraft.

Brexit will have that sorted soon enough ;)

Mr Mac
14th Apr 2018, 05:13
Many trip reports may have moved to You Tube. I came across a gentleman 18 months ago doing a video of service on Lufthansa . He was not in my cabin, so I spoke to cabin crew who said they had also noted this before, so maybe that is where these things are now posted.

Kind regards
Mr Mac