Trip Report: British Airways (A380-800) First ORD-LHR

The Details

  • Flight: BA294
  • Aircraft: A380-800
  • Class: First
  • Seat: 4K
  • Route: Chicago O’Hare (ORD)-London Heathrow (LHR)
  • Distance: 4,162miles
  • Duration: 7hrs 14min
  • Departure: 17:59
  • Arrival: 07:13 (+1)

The Preflight

My fiance and I were headed to Malta for a week-long vacation in September. After driving from Indianapolis to O’Hare, we parked in Lot G and took a bus over to the newly opened Multi-Modal Facility. From there, a tram took us to the arrivals area of Terminal 5. Check-in was quick despite the First class line being used to check in two families with children. Thanks to TSA Pre-check, we both cleared security within five minutes.

British Airways used to offer a separate First class lounge at O’Hare but it has since been closed permanently. There was a single lounge for First class, Business class, and OneWorld elite passengers.

Upon walking into the lounge, we were greeted by a large scale model of the BA A380-800 and a table-top full of preserved snacks. Behind this snack counter was a variety of sofas and dining tables.

To the right of the snack counter was a small selection of cheeses and fruit.

To the left of the entrance was the bar which was staffed with a lounge attendant. There was also self-serve water and juices. Further along past the door was the main dining room.

The main dining room had a buffet as well as additional tables.

There was a selection of deli meats and cheeses as well as a build-your-own salad bar.

Hot food included a decent taco station with chicken, beef, and fajita veggies. There was also pesto pasta and pork with peas.

For dessert, there was chocolate cake and brie cheese with various chutneys.

At the far end of the buffet was a self-serve drink area with soda, beer, and wine.

A nice addition to the BA lounges introduced during the COVID-19 pandemic was a la carte dining. Each dining table had a QR code to scan which directed you to enter your table number and then you could order from the menu. The drinks were all listed in the online menu as well.

I decided to try the BA Burger which was served with extra-crispy bacon, grilled onions, mushrooms, tomato, and lettuce. This was actually very good and better than the Polaris Burger I had in United’s O’Hare Polaris lounge in Terminal 1.

My fiance had the fettuccine alfredo which was OK. For dessert, we shared both the double chocolate brownie and the cheesecake. I found all of the lounge staff incredibly friendly and nice. Multiple times during our dinner, the chef would come out and ask how the food was and then personally brought out our dessert at the end of the meal. Lounge staff would also constantly move to different tables asking passengers if they needed additional drinks or assistance.

We headed to the gate area 10 minutes prior to the scheduled boarding time of 4:15PM at gate M17. This was in the newly constructed Terminal 5 area as part of the multi-year O’Hare renovation plan. New gate features included biometric scanning and a much higher ceiling compared to the old terminal.

Our aircraft today was a beautiful A380-800, registration G-XLEB, that was delivered brand-new to British Airways in September 2013.

During COVID-19, she was stored from March 2020 until being re-activated in December 2021.

Boarding began 10 minutes late and was done with just two doors.

The Flight

British Airways features a total of 14 First class “suites” on board their A380s arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration on the main deck of the A380. This flight went out with a completely full First class cabin with all 14 seats occupied.

This is the “Prime” first-class seat which was introduced back in 2010 and can be found onboard BA B777s and A380s. Previously, I had flown aboard the BA B747-400s with this same seat in First. I was seated in 4K while my fiance was seated in 3K.

I found this seat design to be very elegant and spacious. Each seat was 22 inches wide between the armrests and 79 inches long.

The seat was well padded and comfortable to both sleep and lounge in.

Due to the width of the A380 fusalage, each seat in First is advertised as having 30% more space than comparable Prime suites on the B777s. There was more than enough space for another passenger to join in the suite without feeling crowded.

The legroom was entirely unrestricted.

A nice feature of this seat is the ability to turn the leg rest into another seat. This seat had its own seatbelt and was also well padded.

The 15.4″ foldable IFE screen was stowed in the wall along the aisle. It was not the best screen as the touch screen function was hit-or-miss and the resolution was average. Club World (business class) seats have an identically sized IFE screen.

Each “Prime” suite also featured two large windows with electronically controlled shades.

Adjacent to the seat was a countertop space where the tray table was stowed. Seat controls were located below. Suite controls included buttons for a reading light, overhead light, the window shade, and a knob to control the seat recline. There was also a headphone jack.

The massive bi-fold tray table was very sturdy.

Behind the armrest was a small storage bin that contained two USB ports, a 110V outlet, IFE remote, and RCA plug. It was a perfect size for storing personal electronics and wallets.

Flanking the seat were two comfortable adjustable leather armrests. Aganist the wall was a small literature pocket.

There was also a small reading light next to the headrest.

Outside of each suite was a large locker that could fit a standard-sized carry-on bag. There was also a clothes hanger and rack for coats and jackets. I appreciate the fact that BA did not install overhead lockers in the center of the cabin which made the aircraft feel airier and less crowded.

Waiting for us at our seats was a small throw blanket and headphones.

The headphones were not the best quality nor the most comfortable compared to my Bose headphones.

A small lounge pillow was also provided. I found the throw blanket to be a good weight.

Within three minutes of my fiance and I taking our seats, the cabin crew serving our row came to introduce herself. She was incredibly friendly, almost bubbly, and offered us a pre-departure beverage. I went with a glass of champagne that was served with a bag of nuts.

Fifteen minutes later, our cabin crew member came back to ask us our pajama sizes and provided us both with a pair of Temperly branded pajamas. We each also got a well-padded and snug pair of slippers.

Next came the amenity kit, of which there was both a male and female version. Contents included a toothbrush, toothpaste, ear plugs tissues, pen, eye shades, socks, Elemis branded eye cream, facial cream, shaving gel, deodarent, lip balm, and facial wipe.

The food and beverage menu was distributed soon afterward.

At 4:50PM, the cabin purser came by to introduce himself. He also took our diner orders and asked if we would like to be woken up for breakfast. Hot towellets were distributed as well.

We were scheduled to push back at 5:05PM but at 5:10PM, the captain came over the intercom to announce that our departure was delayed due to a passenger having left their medications at the TSA checkpoint. Eventually, 20 minutes after our scheduled departure time, we pushed back.

The taxi to runway 27C took almost 30 minutes. At 5:58PM, we took off with a beautiful sunset over the Chicago area.

Service was a bit slow to start with canapes and drinks served forty minutes after departure. I had a glass of the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle which paired nicely with the canapes. There was a marinated prawn with horseradish, seared beef tataki with ponzu, and goat cheese wrapped in zucchini. All were delicious.

Our excellent cabin crew never left my champagne glass empty.

I decided to join my fiance in 3K for dinner with me sitting in the leg rest seat. Our table was set an hour after departure with the cutlery nicely arranged. I do believe they ran out of tablecloths as the flight attendant used two business class tablecloths to cover the table. A bread basket was also offered with nice warmed pretzel bread.

It took a bit over 20 minutes for our starters to arrive after the table was set. I went with the “olive oil marinated king prawns” which had no taste at all. It was served with raw mushrooms and slices of lettuce…

My fiance had the antipasti plate with “burrata, prosciutto, olive oil roasted artichokes, green olives, and tomatoes”. The prosciutto was dry and the entire plate also lacked any flavor.

We shared the cream of broccoli soup which was very tasty and one of the better soups I’ve had on a flight.

By this point, I had had more than a few glasses of the Grand Sciele, so the flight attendant offered to leave the bottle at our table.

Thirty minutes after our starters arrived, the main courses were served. I had the fillet of beef which was horrible. It was served with room temperature bok choi, bland sweet potatoes, a cold eggplant, and a lone soggy onion ring.

The beef was cooked incredibly well-done. Terrible.

My fiance went with the “homemade tagliolini” which was equally terrible. The pasta came cold and in the shape of the container in which it was likely stored prior to service. The lemon sauce was congealed and overly salty.

To finish I had the cheese plate with a decent selection of cheeses including manchego, goat, blue, and cow’s milk.

My fiance had the decadent crispy dark chocolate and hazelnut mousse which she loved.

At the conclusion of the rather disappointing dinner service, I went to the First class lavatories at the front of the cabin. There were a total of two lavatories dedicated to First class passengers at the base of the staircase that leads up to the business class cabin.

The lavatory itself was smaller than the business class lavatories upstairs and narrow.

There were a few Elemis-branded toiletries as well as a sanitizer.

In First class, British Airways does offer a turn-down service and I return to my newly made bed. There was a very comfortable mattress topper, comforter, and plush pillow.

The bedding was some of the best I’ve had in the sky. Once in bed, I fell asleep fairly quickly with three hours and fifty minutes until our arrival.

The British Airways bedding is so comfortable that I slept uninterrupted for almost three hours until breakfast was served. Despite being full from dinner still, I decided to give the “Full Breakfast” a try. It was as terrible as dinner was. The eggs came overcooked and in the shape of a tin. Accompanying the eggs was a slice of bacon, pork sausage, potato rosti, roasted mushrooms, and a half-cooked tomato. I tried the “energizing smoothie” of green apple, ginger, and mint which was good. My request for a coffee was forgotten.

The cabin was prepped for landing with 40 minutes until touchdown at London Heathrow.

The weather got cloudier and cloudier as we approached LHR. We touched down at 7:12AM on runway 9L with the typical rain of London.

The taxi to Terminal 5C took about 10 minutes and we arrived at gate C17 at 7:22. Thanks for the ride!

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