British Airways First

ROUTE: Gatwick to Bridgetown, Barbados

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: Understated style and comfort distinguish British Airways new First cabin, unveiled in February last year. The statistics in the BA blurb do not capture the feel of the cabin. BA’s designation of the colour scheme as “quinck blue and cream” does not do it justice either. Former boss Willie Walsh’s view of the cabin as “understated luxury – no gimmicks, no bling” is much closer.

The seat is a beauty - offering just the right support and flattening into what must be the most-comfortable aircraft bed yet. The controls are simple, the old switches replaced by a freshly designed unit. The lighting is as bright or as mellow as one chooses and without intervention will reflect the time of day, while the blinds across each double window lend a subtle intimacy and style.

The space around seats varies, with an individual wardrobe and a ‘buddy seat’ for a dining companion. And the dining is fine, not fussy, with a fish of the day for those who fancy it, menus changing monthly to reflect what is in season, and a Dorchester Hotel-inspired afternoon tea.

BA sought classic design and invested £100 million in pursuit of it. The result feels like money well spent.

THE FACTS: The 14 seats in First are fully flat beds, 60% wider at the shoulder than those they replace. Each comes with a personal wardrobe and window blind, a 15-inch screen and new entertainment system, leather-bound writing table and seat for a colleague. The bed comprises an ‘intelligent’ mattress and cotton-duvet bedding.

WOW: Actress Rachel Weisz says: “It doesn’t get better than BA’s new first cabin”, and she has a point. BA has eschewed the fun and flamboyance of Virgin Atlantic in favour of style. This is a classic Jag of a cabin.

BACKGROUND: BA has been converting its fleet of Boeing 777 and 747s at a rate of two a month since February last year. The £100-million programme is centred on BA’s maintenance plant in Cardiff where the cabins are installed, each aircraft taking about three weeks. The roll-out should be completed early in 2012.

The cabin will be introduced on BA’s daily service from Heathrow to Las Vegas from June 1. It should be available across all aircraft configured in four classes by spring 2012, although BA stresses the new First is not just about the cabin but a new level of service. Until the roll-out is complete, agents are advised to notify BA if a client wants a seat in the new First.

HOW MUCH: Gatwick-Bridgetown from £4,756 return

Britishairways.com

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