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.

Overall

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.

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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. Also follow Matt on Twitter, Facebook and

10 Responses

  1. Norman

    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…well..it’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*.

    Reply
  2. DonnaM

    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.

    Reply
  3. Lynnette

    Does full bar mean you get wine, beer and cocktail options without having to pay extra?

    Reply
  4. Trudie Britton

    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
    Thanks

    Reply
  5. Lewis

    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.

    Reply
  6. 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 .

    Reply
  7. 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.

    Reply
    • Scott

      @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.

      Reply

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