British Airways trials new fast-track services for first class flyers

By David Flynn, May 25 2018
British Airways trials new fast-track services for first class flyers

British Airways wants to put its first class flyers in the fast lane – in fact, an even faster fast lane than what they should already enjoy as the airline's highest-paying passengers.

Flying at the pointy end of the plane sees first class travellers as the first to leave the aircraft, but this loses its lustre if the arriving jet is docked at a remote stand rather than a conventional gate, and then everybody piles onto the same transfer bus: something which BA says happens to 1 in 10 of its flights at busy Heathrow Airport.

As part of a trial dubbed 'First off First', BA has a number of coaches dedicated to ferrying only first class passengers from remote bays to the terminal while other buses wait for the hoi polloi.

British Airways has set a lofty goal of getting first class flyers on their way to the terminal "within 90 seconds of leaving their seat," reports our UK counterpart Business Traveller.

The airline also says that early days of the trial show the first-only bus can get those premium passengers to the terminal "up to ten minutes quicker than before."

Another measure being tested to provide added voom for those VIPs is smarter handling of first class luggage, although there appears to be no rocket science around this.

On flights from New York JFK, Los Angeles, Dubai and Johannesburg, the bags of first class passengers are placed into containers which are given reserved space closest to the cargo hold doors so that the bags, like their owners, can be first off the plane.

At the baggage reclaim area they're then placed into a dedicated area marked First. In theory, a first class traveller can stroll into the arrivals hall, pick up their bag from the roped-off area and be on their way with barely breaking their stride.

It's not known if this service also covers the bags of top-tier frequent flyers – such as BA Executive Club Gold, Qantas Platinum and other Oneworld Emerald status-holders – which are generally tagged as first class-grade 'priority' at checkin.


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.


01 Jun 2016

Total posts 28

great idea. I wish they offer that to all top-tier FF. This could be replicated by all airlines. The biggest benefit would be that many 1st and top tier FF passengers would check their bags in rather than carry it on the plane.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1195

In theory you can offer the luggage benefits to top tier FFs but you can't offer the dedicated buses. If they are flying in J or Y, there is no way they can get off at the same time as First pax so waiting for them would mean the whole 90 second target would fail.

05 May 2016

Total posts 631

In theory QF already gives priority baggage for First Class and top tier FF but in practice it far too often proves that those priority tags don't help the bags arrive any sooner than non-priority bags.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1378

If they get loaded in the wrong container, or container gets loaded in the wrong order.. then it all goes down

Air New Zealand - Airpoints

12 Feb 2016

Total posts 22

I find the tags work maybe 70% of the time for a direct flight but hardly ever work if you have had to transfer

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jul 2015

Total posts 220

Just back from LHR via HK. In PE on both BA and CX. My bags at Sydney were amongst the first to arrive. Nice idea but I have the feeling that baggage handlers really do not care whether it's a F or Y bag...

24 Apr 2018

Total posts 8

Not sure this is a revolution, though it will be for BA as many other things appear to be. Remote stands served by busses with QR and UL, business passengers get their own bus to and from such stands and are first to leave of course. No first class on UL and I have yet to experience first on QR so can't comment on that, but one would imagine similar, or a limo.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Feb 2016

Total posts 14

The separate bus service is what I experienced on EgyptAir business flights. (Luggage on the other hand.....)

24 Apr 2018

Total posts 13

They lose the F luggage faster

Ha! Bus sounds great. But the luggage is just an admittance that BA waste money putting tags on bags for priority today and just ignore them after that. The answer the the bags come out mixed is always “we can’t control how third parties at airports unload the bags” - then don’t bother with priority tags! Will believe that bit when I see it.

07 Jun 2016

Total posts 29

I agree with this being a large part of problem.

Assuming bags could be prioritised consistently according to their priority tag level at LHR one could spin this idea even further. Take all F and OW Emerald bags and deliver them to a dedicated premium luggage belt which would be the one closest to the escalators down from immigration and closest to the customs exit channels. Would save a tedious walk the length of the terminal to a luggage belt at the far ends and coupled with consistently speedier delivery would be a crowd pleaser. Oh, and make sure some luggage carts are kept handy right to that priority belt.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 207

I fly in and out of LHR with BA very regularly as a QF P1 my bags are tagged with First priority tags and they have consistently been among the first 20-25 bags to appear on the conveyor belt at LHR whether I've flown in in Business or First. The same has been true arriving into DXB, HKG and NRT. Different story at other airports, particularly LAX, SFO and JFK, where there is never any rhyme or reason as to the order or timing of when priority tagged bags appear (mind you, that's a problem that affects every carrier I've arrived on at these particular airports, so its probably a ramp and baggage handling issue). The dedicated bus for First pax will be a definite improvement.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Jun 2016

Total posts 15

QR bus waiting at bottom of stairs in Doha last year just for J pax. QF remote stand in SYD from SIN a long way from terminal and all schlepped into the same bus. The two flights in J could not have been more different!

Qatar Airways

06 Jul 2016

Total posts 48

The bussing will be welcome. The bags delivery should already prioritise premium pax, but in my experience, Heathrow never delivers on this, no matter which airline I fly. They need to manage their subcontractors better, to deliver all premium bags first, rather than focus on a special trial for F pax.

13 Aug 2015

Total posts 41

I had this ‘new’ luggage service in F form LAX to LHR last week. F luggage container was offloaded first.. then what do they do? Offload all other containers and put them in front of the F container, meaning 1.5 hour wait for F luggage at to 2m square F waiting area at he carousel while every other bag from the A380 comes out first. Even the two gents working the F area of the carousel were embarrassed and told us what had happened after they went back-of-house to find out where the F bags were.

I just don’t understand how priority baggage is rocket science...

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Dec 2014

Total posts 5

We arrived at LHR from JFK and were waiting, waiting, waiting for our luggage to come around on the carousel when a steward recognised us and told us that First Class bags were "over there at a special First Class section", already having been taken off the carousel. I wish someone had informed us on the plane. Another steward told me that they don't even load enough ice in First Class anymore to keep the wine and Champagne cold and it'd been warm all the way to New York (and back). BA = Bloody Awful.

23 Jan 2014

Total posts 11

Hardly revolutionary. Few years ago I was whisked away on a business class bus from a B738 at CGK having arrived from PER. Hardly a flagship flight. And I think there were about a total of 6 pax in J and 30 in Y on that flight. Could easily have done one bus

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2012

Total posts 4

Anything to improve premium pax handling at LHR would be great improvement. My single and last BA F experience was the worst - all to do with my experience on the ground.

Remote bus pickup. (i question that 1 in 10 stat they are quoting)
No premium lanes in immigration, and then the lines for security re-entry for premium pax was down around the corner out of the hall.
I bailed and used regular security lane. (rudest security i have experienced).
Late arrival combined with excessive pax processing time meant i missed first lounge and spa and ran to connecting flight.
Have'nt flow BA nor to LHR since.

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