Trip Report: British Airways Business Class San Diego to London

BA business class seat on the 747 upper deckBA business class seat on the 747 upper deck

When we arrived at the gate, we found it just a tiny bit crazy. I don’t think gates at SAN are designed to have seating for 747 loads of people, so some people were just standing around, while others were sitting in other gate areas. Not long after we arrived, the gate agents began boarding with first class and Oneworld elite passengers, and then business class. It seemed like everyone rushed the gate, causing the gate agents to repeatedly make announcements that they were only boarding Fast Track passengers at this time and that everyone else would have to wait their turn. The line cleared out, and we got our boarding passes scanned and we headed down the jetway.

It was a super long walk, but it provided some awesome opportunities to get photos of our aircraft. Of all the things I thought I thought might be coming to SAN, the Queen of the Skies wasn’t one of them.

BA 747 at SAN

BA 747 at SAN

Staredown!

Staredown!

We boarded through the jetbridge for premium passengers, which lead us to the stairs to the upper deck.

British Airways Flight 272
San Diego to London
Seat 63A, Business Class
Boeing 747-400

I initially took my assigned seat in seat 64A, though within a couple minutes I switched so a man and his wife could sit together– and it just so happened that the man had the window seat next to my dad, which I happily took.

The seats on the BA 747 are either rearfacing or front facing. On the main deck, window and middle seats are rearfacing, while aisle seats face forward. On the upper deck, windows are forwardfacing and aisles are rearfacing. I like the window seats on the upper deck, which are always rear facing. Grant it, it is a little odd to be pushed out of your seat instead of back into it during takeoff, but it didn’t bother me much.

But how and why did we get seats on the upper deck? Well, their are a mere 24 seats on the upper deck, and their are no middle seats. In the middle seats on the main deck, you are barely separated from the person sitting next to you. While the main deck window and aisle seats are still perfectly nice, they are often louder and less private than the seats on the upper deck. In short, the upper deck gives you more space, more privacy, a quieter atmosphere, extra storage (in storage bins next to your seat), and takes away the chance of being in a middle seat.

How did we get these seats? Well, BA has a somewhat absurd rule that you can’t reserve seats for free until the day before departure, even in business class (first class passengers can chose seats for free). Only people with elite status with BA can chose seats early for free when travelling in business– and that means you don’t know how many of the good seats, like window seats or seats on the upper deck, are going to be left by the time you can get to them. However, we lucked out, and found four seats on the upper deck.

I like BA’s business class window seats quite a bit, especially on the upper deck. On the upper deck of the 747, there are storage compartments next to your seat. There is plenty of privacy, except for when the divider has to be lowered during takeoff and landing.

BA business class seat on the 747 upper deck

BA business class seat on the 747 upper deck

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As we sat at the gate waiting to push back, the FA’s came around with pre-departure beverages. You had the choice between the standard water, orange juice, and champagne. Given that I’m underaged and didn’t feel like water, I chose the orange juice.

BA business class pre-departure beverage

BA business class pre-departure beverage

Soon enough, we pushed back from out gate and headed out towards the runway. We spent a good amount of time just sitting on the taxiway, I must mention.

View on SAN taxiway

View on SAN taxiway

View on SAN taxiway

View on SAN taxiway

Soon enough, however, at about 9:45, we lined up on runway 27 and began our takeoff roll.

San Diego as viewed from the SAN runway.

San Diego as viewed from the SAN runway.

I have never flown on an aircraft as big as a 747 out of SAN– I’m almost always on a 737 or A320/A321. The fully loaded 747, far bigger than anything else at SAN, took up a big stretch of the runway for its takeoff role.

View on takeoff from SAN

View on takeoff from SAN

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We flew out of the ocean, turned east, and leveled off. At that point, the dinner service began. On most airlines, my strategy with ordering food is go with what I know will be good. Even on British Airways, I know that not much can go wrong with a good ol’ plate of beef, while tons of stuff could go wrong if I were to order, say, a smoked salmon (which I ended up doing for the appetizer, but it was small and the other choice was something even worse in my opinion, as it included mushrooms, which I despise). Being conservative, I went with the beef.

The appetizer was served on one plate with the salad. I didn’t like the appetizer much– the salmon was kind of overly fishy (I know I sound like an idiot, but fish shouldn’t taste as fishy as this one did), and there was quinoa everywhere, which I didn’t like. However, the salad was good.

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The first course was also served with a chocolate.

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A short while after, the main course came out. The beef was good though not great, and the I enjoyed the side of mashed potatoes quite a bit. However, I didn’t really like the vegetables which came along with it, though that’s more because I didn’t like the vegetables that were used and not because it was of poor quality.

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Since it was well after ten o’clock at that point, I passed on the dessert and decided to lay down and try to sleep for a while. I slept for a solid seven hours, and woke up about an hour out of London.

One of the flight attendants came by to ask if there was anything I would like. I passed on breakfast, since I would be eating in the lounge, but did take the FA up on his offer of a strawberry smoothie.

This is important, as you will see later.

FA: Would you like something to drink? Juice? Strawberry smoothie?

Me: A strawberry smoothie would be nice, thank you.

Given that I was very specific, I was kind of surprised when the FA came back with a blood orange and vanilla smoothie, which is pretty different from a strawberry smoothie. It tasted pretty bad but, being kind of tired and not wanting to make a scene, just drank most of it anyway.

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Apparently this FA confused other people’s orders as well– my mom asked for coffee, and he gave her tea. Given that BA seems to have a pretty rigorous flight attendant training program, I wonder how you could get away with not knowing/caring about the difference between various items on the menu. Or maybe he just got wasted at one of our fine San Diego drinking establishments.

Soon, we began our descent into LHR. We did lots of loops over the English countryside, presumably in a holding pattern. The views were pretty great!

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As we neared LHR, I spotted an Air India 787 on approach right under us, and, remarkably, was able to get a good photo.

Air India 787 over London

Air India 787 over London

On final approach, we passed over downtown London and then got closer to the airport.IMG_2312

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We made a short taxi to Heathrow Terminal 5, where most longhaul BA flights dock. We parked next to a British Airways 747.

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All in all, it was a super pleasant flight. A lot of people like to hate on BA business class, but I think BA offers a perfectly nice product, especially when you consider that the service and food is often better than what you would get on could expect on a US airline (even if your FA doesn’t know/care about the difference between blood orange and strawberry). Reserving a seat on the upper deck is certainly a good idea– you get extra quiet and added privacy. While I do find BA’s 24-hours-before-departure seat selection system a tiny bit frustrating for those who booked pretty far out from departure, given that you have to wait a while not knowing what seats you can get, the system might benefit those who booked late, given that all the good seats won’t be gone by the time they can get to them. But we got the seats wanted in the end, so it ended up working out. The seat was pretty comfortable, and the food was good. And, given that we paid an enormously discounted rate, the flight was a great value.

 

 

About the Author

Alex
I'm Alex, and I am an enthusiast in all things travel: miles and points, airplanes, airline products, and more. On this blog, you can read my take on recent travel/ commercial aviation news, trip reports, ramblings, rants, and opinions, and I'll even share some of my aviation photography from time to time. Hope you enjoy reading, and happy travels!