Flying International in the British Airways Premium Economy Cabin

British Airlines

Although I’ve never had a bad experience on British Airways, I’ve never been blown away by their service either. They’ve been fine, a conveyance and nothing more. I wrote a comparison post about their Business Class offerings on an A380 flight from Washington-Dulles and I may have been a little harsh in writing it. While their Business Class section isn’t my favorite, it’s fine but knowing my own prejudices with the airline, I was curious what it would be like to travel in their Premium Economy Section. An increasingly popular choice offered by airlines, it’s a nice middle ground between Economy and Business. I recently had that chance on a daytime flight from London back home to BWI airport onboard one of the airline’s Dreamliners, a great aircraft no matter which section you fly in. Since this class of travel is so popular, I thought today I’d share a few of my takeaways after experiencing the services offered in the British Airways Premium Economy cabin.

What is Premium Economy?

More and more longhaul airlines are offering this additional class of service as yet another option to passengers who want to enjoy a little bit more comfort during their flying experience. It’s not Economy and it’s not Business Class, but what truly excellent airlines do is to make sure that Premium Economy cabins are different enough so as to provide real benefit, without encroaching on the benefits of Business or First Class. It’s a fine line but almost always paying a little bit more for this class of service is absolutely worth the investment as was confirmed for me when I flew from London back home to Washington, DC.

Why Choose British Airways Premium Economy

Before your first experience in Premium Economy you were probably like me and wondered whether or not the extra money was worth the investment. I use the word investment purposefully, because that’s really what it is. It’s an investment in your comfort and time and if either of these is important to you, then selecting Premium Economy on many (but not all) carriers is absolutely worthwhile. British Airways chooses to use quirky names for their various cabins which is why Premium Economy is actually known as their World Traveller Plus option. Names aside, there are some very real perks to this class of travel, including:

  • Small and intimate cabins that are separated from others
  • Wider seats, more legroom and improved recline, this is the biggest perk for me in all honesty
  • Enhanced meals with plenty of choices as well as full bar service and welcome drinks
  • Large personal inflight entertainment with tons of options and noise-reducing headphones
  • Larger baggage allowance
  • Amenity kit
  • Individual power supply to keep laptops or other gadgets charged

These are just some of the perks offered on British Airways and you’re probably thinking that this sounds a lot like Business Class, which is sort of the goal. Business Class naturally offers more, but the entire point of Premium Economy is to be just that – premium – and British Airways does a fantastic job in providing an enhanced flying experience.

The Experience

It was the end of a long two-week trip in Europe and I was ready to go home. All I wanted was some time to rest and relax on the flight home and my experience in the World Traveller Plus section did just thought. Welcomed to my larger-than-average seat with a glass of OJ or Champagne, it was the perfect introduction to what would be several hours of decompression. Instantly I was at peace, it was great and a far cry from some other Premium Economy cabin experiences I’ve had where there didn’t seem to be any distinctions at all.

Whether you travel frequently or not, it’s just nice to feel special sometimes. That’s especially true in an age when every other headline seems to demonize the airlines. It was that civility and pleasant atmosphere which I enjoyed most while flying in the British Airways Premium Economy cabin, a sense of well-being that thankfully persisted throughout the flight.

Food is an increasingly important aspect of the travel experience for those in premium cabins and I was happy to see a printed menu presented to everyone in the World Traveller Plus cabin before we even left the ground. With plenty of options, it had the air of exclusivity which folks look for when they fly, not to mention the fact that all of the meal options sounded great. I opted for the steak and from start to finish both the meal experience as well as the snacks and pre-landing light meal all hit the mark. Add in premium options from the full bar and from a food and beverage standpoint, the flight was without fault.

What is the most important aspect of any flight, and why so many of us choose to upgrade, is of course comfort in flight. I’m 6’2” and even exit row seats in Economy are uncomfortable so for me the seat itself is crucial on any flight longer than a few hours. In my experience that is where some other Premium Economy products on other airlines have faltered, but true to form that big chair onboard my BA flight was as comfy as promised. Airline aficionados talk a lot about seat width and pitch, but for many folks these numbers don’t mean a lot out of context. Width is easy enough to understand and here it means that you have more room to relax without rubbing elbows with the guy next to you. Pitch is the distance between the same points between chairs, and determines whether or not my knees will be crushed. In a slightly inaccurate, but easier to understand term it’s legroom essentially. The pitch in World Traveller is more than generous and it’s that number that determined my happiness (or not) on the 8-hour flight.

Other little perks included inseat laptop power, which is great for folks like me who like to work on flights, as well as the inflight entertainment system that offers hundreds of hours of entertainment options. More importantly, the system was easy to use which oddly enough is also not common on all airlines.


The Premium Economy experience on British Airways was great, as you can probably surmise from the tone of this post so far. I also do think though that it’s a fantastic option for many people who want some of the perks of Business Class without the Business Class price tag. Unlike some other airlines, BA does a fantastic job at making their premium guests feel premium and the entire experience is as pleasant as you could hope for on a Trans-Atlantic flight. So if you’re waffling between whether or not to upgrade to that premium cabin, I say go for it and see what you think. What I do know is that your overall flying experience will be much more positive and relaxing than it would otherwise be, allowing you to arrive looking and feeling more human than most of us are used to after a long flight.

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

16 thoughts on “Flying International in the British Airways Premium Economy Cabin”

  1. Hm…I am still unsure what to think of Premium Economy. In a way, I really love the idea of airlines slowly but steadily skipping first class and evening things out for the regular folks. It just makes so much sense from a business point of view, where the super rich take their private yet anyhow.

    But as I am thankfully not the biggest guy, the additional freedom I get, is sort of wasted. It’s more or less still the same seats, same entertainment and the food…’s still crappy airline food (which is actually still true for first class, lol).

    I noticed premiums for long-haul flights are getting higher as well…so it actually looks a bit like a scam trying to trick economy class flyers into paying more *shrug*.

    1. We fly British Airways First class at least once a year. I have to say the food in first class is fantastic, as is the service. I love BA.

      1. I’m glad you had a good experience. For us, the flight from London to LA in business class was a nightmare. How anybody is willing to pay the price for BA business class is beyond me. We were offered upgrade from economy plus. What a nightmare! First, we were not seated together. My husband had a seat in the middle with a stranger and I received a seat next to the kitchen. Luckily the women who was seated was just as uncomfortable as my husband and asked to switch with me.the middle seats are so tight and uncomfortable, had to literally climb over the persons feet any time I had to use the rest room. Then, we could not see the appetizers wagon therefore, never got any of it.
        Service was very unfriendly. In the past, we always flew economy plus which I find much much more comfortable. Due to our last experience, we think twice before we fly BA again.

    2. Sort of agree with the above comments. In our opinion not a lot of difference between this cabin and economy but a lot of cost difference. Was it value for money, probably not as we paid £250 each one way for the upgrades. Looking forward to seeing the new dining options and better seats.

  2. I flew premium economy on Lufthansa in October 2015 and I must say it was worth te extra I spent to upgrade. I am not a frequent flyer so had to pay the full cost, but my partner and I were celebrating a 30th anniversary so it was a splurge! I would spend the extra money again on premium economy for a log flight.

  3. I am flying BA premium economy to Barbados in March. I have been told that drinks and food snacks etc is included in the price, is this the case please

  4. My company has an office in London and I’ve traveled there three times so far. The first two times I flew a red-eye flight from Dulles (which is much harder to get to than BWI) on United in their regular coach seats. Those were long flights and I have pretty short legs yet I was still pretty stiff when I arrived. My most recent trip was on a BA red-eye flight out of BWI and I had gotten Economy Plus through my company’s travel portal but didn’t realize it until I found my seat on one of their new Dreamliners. I cannot say enough about the difference in the experience. While I’m not very tall I have broad shoulders and I was able to let my shoulders fully relax without making contact with my seat mates. I completely agree with Matt’s assessment of the food, the pre-flight drinks and the comfort touches like the the amenity kit, the headphones and the foot rest that actually came out of the front of the seat. It was by far the most comfortable airline seat I’ve been in. My only complaint was that the free-alcohol policy should be better managed by the flight crew. A man in my row but across the aisle from me consumed a total of seven of those little bottles of wine within 90 minutes and (surprise surprise) became loud and belligerent. He actually was warned verbally by the flight attendant and was told the next step was physical restraint in his seat. Needless to say this made for a tense flight home and I think it could have been avoided if BA had just kept some count on how much wine they had given to this passenger. Even with that experience, I am sold on BA economy plus.

  5. James Alexander Nairn.

    I always listen to other peoples comments about BA with contempt , because I have been flying with BA since BOAC days and have never felt that I had to complain ever , the service has always been excellent , well done BA . By the way Premium Economy from Australia to LHR is very comfortable , Well done once again BA , just one other thing , I always feel very safe .

  6. Sandra Thomson

    World Traveller plus was a total waste of money for me. I am 5’2, medium frame and had most uncomfortable flight to Singapore as the man in front reclined his seat at take off and it was like that for 12 hours. At breakfast asked for the seat to be put up. It felt like he was on my knee all the flight. I had difficulty getting out to go to the toilet. I should have stayed in the toilet had more space! BA refuse to refund me half of my money and say I got what I paid for. I did not pay for someone to sit on my knee. BA will not reply to my emails now. A stands for awful and you can imagine my version of B.

    1. @Sandra Thompson, what a ridiculous reason to complain about BA. Why WOULDN’T anyone recline their seat on a 12 hour flight?! He obviously wanted to get some sleep. I fly long-haul frequently, and everybody reclines their seats. If you had reclined yours, it would have been fine.

  7. BA……what does it actually stand for? Prepare yourself for a semi missive or move onto the next review.
    Having never travelled with BA before we thought we would give them a go, travelling from NZ to UK return and for the first time ever, travelling Premium Economy. Forking out some NZ$4500+ each, some 2.5/3 times the cost of cattle class, yeah we have the privilege of paying a premium because of living on the edge of the known world. I thought I would be able to book seats in advance, yes I could but had to fork out more money unless I tried the Internet 24 hrs beforehand, 24hrs to go and seats were up for grabs…. I went ahead but was promptly told there would be a fee, like wise 23.5hrs and 23hrs. I tried later on but the site was magically inaccessible… deep joy. No Boarding privileges for premium economy, we had to wait our turn, privileges only apply to Business and First Class. As it happened the seats were good Auckland to Hong Kong, Cathay Pacific awesome, Hong Kong to Heathrow BA, not so comfortable seats for the long haul but at least we were together, aisle and adjacent but such a poor ride. Incredibly noisy flight, smaller TV screens and less choice, food was adequate. For the first 90 minutes or so it was akin to sitting in a freezing wind tunnel, even the crew kept saying how cold it was and that without any prompting. Generous seat reclining but totally killed movement (going to the WC) to anyone behind the full recline, actually worse than cattle class. Before going further, Cathays travel pack, socks, mask, plugs and the rest just left BAs offering dead in the water, quality in comparison simply no competition. Did this warrant the extra cost…. Read on.

    On the way home, UK to NZ, Terminal 5 at Heathrow felt congested and little claustrophobic, no seating, but that aside this is where the fun started. Off loading our luggage in readiness for our boarding passes only to find out that we have separate seats without either being an aisle seat. We need an aisle seat because we are an older couple and need to visit more often if you know what I mean. The boarding guy tried his utmost (bless him)to get adjoining seats but to no avail and then to add salt to the wounds the system would only print one boarding pass for the second leg from Hong Kong to Auckland. We were told we would have to sort it out ourselves in Hong Kong!!!!! We were also asked if we had gone on the Internet 24hrs beforehand to check our seating, I explained the problem I had when in NZ and didn’t check. Travelling nowadays seems to be geared up for the younger person, not for the older person and technically is a form of segregation, we know what to do but you don’t. Is this the standard Premium Economy protocol for BA? On with the saga. We were just about to board the plane only to find out there had been a bit of juggling, we had ended up with adjoining seats and an aisle seat, it was the rear seats which seemed to sit in the Economy section, like no mans land. Fair enough at least we were together. Again yet another noisy, cooler not so comfortable ride….. Hong Kong, huge airport and absolutely no idea where to go to sort out our boarding pass for the final leg. Some 15/20 minutes later we were at the end of a queue and another 45 waiting minutes down the line we were sorted, it took all of about 3/4 minutes to sort. Why could not BA Heathrow do this???? This was quite traumatic not knowing what was going to happen at each stage. Cathay Pacifics final leg was comfortable and incident free.

    Summary, I think you will have worked it out, for the money it was all a bit of farce. Premium Economy with BA for us was a total waste of time and money and they appear to have no idea how to organise travel for the older couple. Will I travel Premium Economy again, yes, but it won’t be with BA and I’ll leave it to you to work out what the BA stands for. Thanks for your time.

  8. Flew World Traveller Plus from London Heathrow to Tokyo and returned Hong Kong to Heathrow. Outward flight reasonable, despite difficulties in getting a seat together and eventually managing to swop one seat with an agreeable passenger. Disgusted to find that in order to book seats in advance of twenty four hours before the flight, BA charge a further £40 per seat! WTP seats are precisely one inch wider than BA economy seats, but do have more leg room and a better recline. On our inward flight we found our flight attendant to be nothing short of rude and objectionable. No service with a smile, in fact not very much service at all from her. When we boarded we were offered orange juice or water! What happened to the ‘champagne’ we were supposed to receive. Ok, it’s probably sparkling wine, but at least we received it on the outward flight. Full bar service, forget it, our flight attendant came round once during the 12 hour flight to offer drinks. Otherwise drinks were served at meal times only. When my husband tried to summon help using his buzzer/light he was ignored for over an hour, and then his light went out!
    The food is not good. Not sure how Matt Long managed to have a good selection of food, but on both flights we were offered a choice of two dishes, and I’m pretty certain they were not any different to the economy dishes. Outward flight was a better offering and at least edible, salad starter (not good on either flight) then steak or chicken, chocolate pudding, and then cheeses and biscuits. Inward flight offering was dire, inedible haddock, or duck, also inedible according to my husband. Then chocolate cake, what else!?!? And absolutely nothing else, no cheese and biscuits.
    Breakfast on both flights was inedible, full English which consisted of a piece of fat purporting to be bacon, an anemic looking sausage, and something that resembled an egg, or omelette. That sounded ok but when opened was discovered to be smothered in baked beans, which for me at least, rendered the meal inedible. All of this in a premium economy cabin.
    We shared the toilets with economy, they smelt bad from the outset on the return journey, and to boot also ran out of hand towels and tissues half way through the flight. The toilets were clearly not checked as this had to be pointed out to the attendant, who responded quite rudely that this happens all the time on night flights. Well if they know this happens, why did it need to be pointed out to them, was it beyond their wit to check and refill? They are flight attendants, that is their job!
    Will I fly BA premium economy again? Not if I can help it, and if I am unfortunate enough to travel BA again, I think I’ll just save my money for something more worthwhile and fly economy.

  9. Premium economy is nothing more than the airlines turning you upside down and shaking you for every penny they can get.

    You forgot to mention that BA ontop of the charges for the “upgraded class”
    they then charge you to pick your seat, just as they do in business class.

Comments are closed.

I help you experience the best the world has to offer!

Please enter a valid email address.
Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.