Mixed Review of the New British Airways Premium Economy (Trip Report)

When British Airways asked me if I wanted to go to the Olympics, I didn’t really have to think twice. But just wanting to go to the Olympics alone isn’t enough for me to take a trip. After all, I write about airlines and I would need something new to write about. Fortunately, British Airways was open to suggestions. [This trip was paid for by British Airways.]

World Traveller Plus Exit Row

After batting around a couple ideas, I came up with a winner. The early flight from LA to London this summer is on one of BA’s new 777-300ERs. That was not only a new aircraft type for me, but it also included the airline’s new World Traveller Plus premium economy seats. I’m probably the only person who would ask for such a downgrade since they would have put me in Club World otherwise, but BA kindly obliged… and more. When I received my confirmation, they had bumped me up to First Class for the return. That report will come later this week. Today, let’s talk World Traveller Plus.

The first thing I did was go online to get seat assignments. In World Traveller Plus, it was going to cost me GBP32. With plenty of seats on the seat map, I opted to wait until check in. At exactly 24 hours prior to departure, I went to check in and it didn’t work. A quick shift from Chrome over to Internet Explorer solved the problem, and I found that I had already been placed in the exit row window.

With my boarding pass in hand, I didn’t bother to go to the airport early. World Traveller Plus has no lounge access, so I would just be sitting around. I walked into the airport 70 minutes before departure and found we would be leaving from gate 138. Ugh, the dreaded bus gates at Bradley.

Our Bus Boarding Gate

It took me awhile but I pulled up into the loft over the bus gates and surveyed the scene. I hadn’t flown to Europe during the summer for quite awhile, and I quickly remembered what I’d been missing. Down below was a sea of teenagers, most heading back to Italy in a group. They had clearly had a great time in the US and just about every single one had a designer Dodgers and Lakers hat. (Our economy thanks you, but your economy might need it more . . .)


July 31, 2012
British Airways 278 Lv Los Angeles 340p Arr London/Heathrow 10a
Los Angeles (LAX): Gate 138, Runway 24L, Depart 12m Late
London/Heathrow (LHR): Gate C?, Runway 9L, Arrive 8m Early
G-STBC, Boeing 777-36NER, BA Flag colors, ~99% Full
Seat 22K
Flight Time 9h33m

The gate agents started preboarding and then allowed First and Club World passengers to board. At that point, they started to board by rows from the back. That means World Traveller Plus is the last one on, but when you’re using buses, that’s the best position you can have.

They called my name to the podium to scan my passport since I checked in from home. I’m surprised they don’t just do that while boarding but maybe that slows things down too much. After that, I got on the bus and we were soon at the airplane.

Crammed on a Bus to Board

After walking through First Class and Club World, I found my seat. My first thought? Major disappointment. Yes, it was an exit row window … without the window. And I love my window. (SeatGuru failed big time here.)

The exit row is actually pretty awkward. Where the window should be is instead my “seatback pocket” with safety cards, barf bags, magazines, etc. These are also for the person on the aisle so it can get a little uncomfortable with people reaching over. The closest I could get to an actual window was to lean forward and look out the half window that was in the exit door. At least I had legroom for miles, even though I’m not that tall so it didn’t really matter.

Big New Screen

As is always the case with exit rows, I had to put all my stuff up above in the bin but there was plenty of room. The first thing that jumped out at me once I sat down was the impressive inflight entertainment system. The new Thales system called High Life by BA has a big, clear screen with an awesome moving map that lets you control what you and from what angle. I found out later that this particular aircraft is the first one to have received the new moving map software – the others will follow.

The armrests are certainly wide enough so nobody has to fight and there is a little mini-table for a drink in between the seats. The seat itself was pretty comfortable with wings as a pillow and an exit row-only mini leg/footrest that I figured I’d try once in the air. Each seat had a functional blanket, a pillow, and a little amenity kit with the basics.

Simple World Traveller Plus Amenity Kit

We pushed back late but the reason wasn’t entirely clear to me why. We got into the air and I realized quickly we were going a different way. We turned right, and that meant we started heading straight up the Central Valley in California, finally cutting over the Sierra and making our way north through Idaho.

Soon after takeoff, I started to explore. First, I tried the seat out as best I could. It does not recline into itself so you do need to be mindful of people behind you. But the seat itself was really quite comfortable.

World Traveller Plus Row

I quickly learned, however, that the legrest and footrest were just about useless for me since I’m taller than 4’10”. The only way to really get any value is if you kick your feet up and then you can use your lap as a flat surface. It’s not helpful for sleeping by any stretch. This setup is unique to the exit row. The other seats in the cabin have no legrest but instead have a footrest that comes down from the seat in front. These appeared to be better positioned than the ones in the exit row.

Dinner in World Traveller Plus

Paper menus were handed out with our food choices (beef or risotto). Club World has four meal choices, and two of those are picked to offer to World Traveller Plus as well.

I started playing with the inflight entertainment system. That new software upgrade I talked about also included seat to seat chat, something I’ve always found uninteresting. But I thought I’d try it. There was one chat room with anyone in it. I went in and the first thing I saw was “bieber.” And so ended my great experiment with the chat room. But there were all kinds of movies, music, podcasts, games, etc. I only watched one movie but I could have been happy for days.

Food came and it was served all on one tray with the foil still on top. There was a small green salad along with a tasty beef filet and some overdone potatoes. There was desert as well, but I passed. My hope was to get some sleep since I needed to be functioning when I arrived. That didn’t happen very quickly.

Our trays were left in front of us for a long time, well after everyone was done. I assume this was because they were serving the entire economy section but it was rather annoying for those of us who needed sleep. Finally, when my tray was cleared, I went to get ready to sleep.

Even though there was a bathroom right in front of me, I wasn’t allowed to use it because that was for Club World. I had to go back through the first economy cabin to find a bathroom and it was a madhouse back there. Kids were just hanging out in the aisles talking to each other loudly. Just getting through the cabin was a massive effort. Ready to go, I came back and put my BA-provided socks on, slipped on the eyemask, and turned on some music. Oh, and I popped an Ambien. It didn’t work.

Sleeping the Best I Could

It didn’t help that the crew left the cabin lights on for quite some time. At least I had an eye mask. But more than an hour went by before I could get comfortable enough to fall asleep and I did find myself in a lot of different positions. At one point, I had my head covered by the blanket, leaning forward resting on my TV screen (faithfully recreated above). Another time, I had slipped all the way down where my body was basically hanging off the end of the seat into the exit row area. At some point, sleep finally took hold, and I’d say I got a solid 4 hours with an extra hour or two on either side that was at least close to something resembling sleep.

World Traveller Plus Breakfast

About an hour and 15 minutes before arrival, they brought us a box breakfast that included a pound cake and a probiotic yogurt. As a bacon sandwich connoisseur, I was bummed to find that while dinner is the Club World meal, breakfast is the coach meal. No bacon sandwich for me.

What was particularly strange about the service was that there was no drink service. We were just given the boxes and that was it. The woman next to me pressed her call button but nobody came. Finally, she grabbed a flight attendant who was passing by and got us our tea. In fact, there was very little service in general on the flight with just a couple of passes the entire time.

Soon it was time to land, and despite the captain’s assurance that there were no delays, we did have to circle a little as expected. We landed and parked at the new T5C concourse. I realized I hadn’t been given a landing card so I asked. The flight attendant told me they had already handed them out. (No they hadn’t, as my seat neighbor confirmed.) How annoying.

It was time to prepare for the big immigration nightmare that had been talked about for weeks. It didn’t exist. There were a ton of immigration podiums staffed and just about no line at all. Piece of cake. I sailed through and, without any lounge access, made my way to an out of the way bathroom to freshen up for the day.

I’ll have my review of the stellar return flight soon.

[See more photos from my trip to the Olympics]

Get Posts via Email When They Go Live or in a Weekly Digest

Leave a Reply

82 Comments on "Mixed Review of the New British Airways Premium Economy (Trip Report)"

avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Oliver
Guest

So what’s the price difference between premium economy and regular economy… And would you pay it if you were to fly again next month?

Lihos
Guest

In my experience World Traveller Plus is about 1.5X to 1.75X of World Tarveller fare and 0.5X of Club World. definately worth the price and great option for family holidays.

David SF eastbay
Member

A meal in a box, that’s so McDonald’s!

FRANK
Guest

….That’s so cost savings. why wake up everyone for a breakfast alot of people dont want?

Bobber
Guest

Exactly, Frank – breakfast (in Y, at least) on transatlantic flights a total waste of airlines’ money.

FRANK
Guest
Our trays were left in front of us for a long time, well after everyone was done. I assume this was because they were serving the entire economy section but it was rather annoying for those of us who needed sleep ==================================================== of course your tray sat there for a long time. You were the first row to be served in your section. http://www.seatguru.com/airlines/British_Airways/British_Airways_Boeing_777_300.php Look at ALL THOSE PAX to be served……..BEHIND YOU. If you were on an american flight, that would mean ?11 TOTAL F/A’S. 3 in first class, 3 in b/c, 5 in COACH. Alot of work.
Hunter
Guest

For an extra $900USD for that seat, I guess I’d expect them to come clear the trays from premium before they finished serving economy.

FRANK
Guest

NEWSFLASH: Other people exist!! That attitude exists all the time. I serve a few rows in coach and hear a bell go off 10 rows up. I go answer it and hear, ”Gimme another scotch and soda”. My reply, “Sure, as soon I serve the people BEHIND YOU who havent gotten their FIRST drink yet”.

Kyle
Guest

I’ll give CF credit for not walking his tray to the galley and setting it on the counter. That’s MY BIGGEST peeve.

FRANK
Guest

Easy solution: He should of placed it on the floor, right there at the exit. And, gone to sleep. If he was still awake when they came by to take up trays. Reach down, pick it up and say, “Here, thanks”.

Hunter
Guest

I never insinuated other people don’t exist. My point is…if you’re paying an additional fee for enhanced service, then it’s fair to expect that enhanced service. As CF pointed out, it’s not really about the seat, but the improved service experience…at least that’s the product that’s marketed. Deliver on what you sell (and what others buy from you) and we can all be happy.

Fred
Guest

Also, there should be enough flight attendants and carts that they can clear meals for premium economy while other flight attendants serve or clear from other passengers behind.

FRANK
Guest

Here’s what you’re paying for: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/world-traveller-plus-seating/public/en_us

…….serving that many people on a plane, dinner service is time consuming. PLEASE EXPLAIN HOW THIS WOULD BE DONE, Hunter: I guess I?d expect them to come clear the trays from premium before they finished serving economy. (with FIVE F/A’s).

FRANK
Guest

Fred, where have you been? 20 years ago, I’d work an aircraft that had SIX FLIGHT ATTENDANTS on it. Nowadays, it’s down to FOUR total. Labor costs, Fred, labor costs. all my fault!!

Fred
Guest

On a 777-300, there would probably be about 12-15 cabin crew, based on what sort of numbers other airlines use (we aren’t talking about a domestic 737 here)

FRANK
Guest

Fred, again, read my remarks: AMERICAN AIRLINES TRIPLE 7 HAS A TOTAL OF: 11 TOTAL F/A?S. 3 in first class, 3 in b/c, 5 in COACH.

Fred
Guest

We are talking about British Airways here, not American Airlines, and American only flies 777-200s right now, which are a good 20% smaller than the 777-300 here. BA probably has something like 2-3 in first, 3-4 business, and 6-7 coach.

FRANK
Guest

I dont know BA’s crew compliment on their triple 7, just using AA as an example.

longtimeobserver
Member

Crew compliment doesn’t matter. Perceived lack of service does, which may be by design (insufficient crew compliment for intended service delivery) or implementation (poor training, motivation, attitude).

Hunter
Guest
Frank, you seem to keep pointing to lack of staffing to support the service that is sold. As a consumer, that’s not my problem…that’s the service provider’s failure. The point is, if a premium for this class of service is charged, and it’s sold as enhanced service, then that is what needs to be delivered. It’s not up to the consumer to figure out how to make it work; it’s up to the seller. When I bring this up, all I get from you is a “yeah but how is that possible with only X number of FAs?” Well, maybe… Read more »
longtimeobserver
Member

Bingo. Make the finance wonks who cram down the manning perform these services. You’ll have 1970s crew compliments in the next bid package. And newly-minted finance wonks to replace the old…

FRANK
Guest
Airboss and Hunter. Your perception of what service you get in your class of service may be to BLAME. You want FIRST CLASS SERVICE in a class of service that only has a few flight attendants. So do passengers in coach. Hunter, bitterness? LOL, dont make it personal. I’m still flying. Have so, for almost 30 years. Just because you dont like my answer, doesnt make it, bitter. Cranky’s question on why the tray took a long time to be removed was answered. One number, his location during the service. Number two, the amount of flight attendants IN THAT CABIN.… Read more »
longtimeobserver
Member

Frank, airlines set themselves up for this by promoting service that can’t possibly be delivered as pitched and as funded. $900 for drinks, swag, knee room and a better grade of mystery meal? (Hold the needles, please.) I’ll go to a nice dinner at Le Bernadin instead, thanks. Airlines really need to stop promoting bait and switch service.

Hunter
Guest
Frank, BA promotes the plus seating as an enhanced class; therefore, perhaps they need dedicated FAs for that class, just as they do for Business and First. The point is they charge a premium and highlight the enhanced service aspect (in addition to the amenities aspect…there is a difference). They also charge (in some cases) a hefty premium for the enhanced service AND amenities. The bottom line is the customer perception of value and whether it’s “worth it” trumps the argument of a staffing model any day. If CF is not unique in being annoyed about the perceived lack of… Read more »
FRANK
Guest

Written by Hunter on August 8, 2012.
Frank, BA promotes the plus seating as an enhanced class; therefore, perhaps they need dedicated FAs for that class, just as they do for Business and First.
============================================

Yes, you are correct. It’s an enchanced class of economy. In OTHER WORDS, that’s called, COACH. (in America).

Hunter
Guest

That statement is counterintuitive to how it’s marketed. Again, you don’t seem to be getting that this is an issue of what you’re selling, how you’re selling it and how you’re executing it. You’ll notice below someone posted that on the 744 they actually have a dedicated FA for WT+. So…why the disparity?

But, I’m done screaming at the wind…thanks for the workout.

FRANK
Guest

That statement is counterintuitive to how it?s marketed. you don?t seem to be getting that this is an issue of what you?re selling, how you?re selling it

I showed you how it’s marketed: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/world-traveller-plus-seating/public/en_us

it’s an ENHANCED service of COACH. GET THAT? COACH. Guess what? they offer it in the United States too: http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/products/travelproducts/Pages/TravelStore.aspx

and you wont be getting a meal. And, people PURCHASE IT.

FRANK
Guest

That statement is counterintuitive to how it?s marketed. you don?t seem to be getting that this is an issue of what you?re selling, how you?re selling it
==============================================

I showed you how it?s marketed: http://www.britishairways.com/travel/world-traveller-plus-seating/public/en_us

it?s an ENHANCED service of COACH. GET THAT? COACH. Guess what? they offer it in the United States too: http://www.united.com/CMS/en-US/products/travelproducts/Pages/TravelStore.aspx

and you wont be getting a meal. And, people PURCHASE IT (for the legroom).

longtimeobserver
Member

As marketed: “World Traveller Plus is a private dedicated cabin with a maximum of six rows…”

As served: Yebbut, with NO PRIVATE DEDICATED STAFFING.

As marketed: “In-flight service – Let our team of experts take care of you throughout the flight.”

As served: HUH? WHAT team of experts? Those slaving away in the COACH cabin?

Hey, can I get a tray removed here?

Hunter
Guest

AirBoss…you get the prize for best response. I can’t even come up with something to say to someone who thinks UA’s E+ is the equivalent of BA’s WT+ or that it’s even being sold in the same manner.

FRANK
Guest
As marketed: ?World Traveller Plus is a private dedicated cabin with a maximum of six rows?? As served: Yebbut, with NO PRIVATE DEDICATED STAFFING. As marketed: ?In-flight service ? Let our team of experts take care of you throughout the flight.? As served: HUH? WHAT team of experts? Those slaving away in the COACH cabin? ================================================== YAWN. Nice try. Cranky got what was offered in HIS class of service. That his tray sat for awhile is a personal issue. Was he not in a private cabin? Was he not given a drink, a meal, amentity kit, anything he asked for???… Read more »
FRANK
Guest

900 USD EXTRA?????…………….YOU were robbed.

World Traveller Plus Class: SEAT PITCH: 38.0″ WIDTH: 18.5″

Stephan
Guest

Sounds like piss-poor service on this flight. Pretty sad experience for BA and hopefully uncharacteristic…

CP
Guest

I get so tired of the all caps — aka “shouting.”

Hunter
Guest

I actually read a study once that said it’s a sign of psychosis. After this thread, I sort of put more stock in that.

Nick Barnard
Member

Sigh, flight attendants with psychosis… Just what we need.

Andrew
Guest

How was the recline relative to a standard Economy seat?

longtimeobserver
Member

Worth what you paid for it. Not much more.

Sanjeev M
Guest
Yes WT+ is more akin to E+ United. BA have tried to do some stuff with the Club World meals and premium check-in (whatever that means) but seems the meal was more of an economy presentation. I think they should throw in lounge access (at least to BA-operated lounges) to people in WT+. The current product is good for free upgrades for elites (and upgrades for anyone who wants legroom). Although at several hundred dollars more than WT it may be worth just getting Economy Comfort on DL/KL instead. How does AF Premium Voyageur compare to BA WT+? I’ve had… Read more »
Henry Harteveldt
Guest

Seems like BA emphasizes the “economy” portion more than “premium.” Disappointing to see that the premium economy service flow wasn’t better organized.

longtimeobserver
Member

Service design by BA finance types…

bob
Member

Objectivity is impossible when flying courtesy of the airline…especially so after being upgraded to first class

jaybru
Member

A window seat without a window. This is absolutely, positively inexcusable. Airlines should be required, under threat of severe penalty, to give notice the same as they do for exit rows, or “flight operated by.”

I’d sure let your travel agent hear about this. Oh, OK! Enjoyed your report in any event.

Nick Barnard
Member

That gets to the point of being comically unworkable. How do you manage it if you have two different seating configurations in the same plane type, and you need to warn people before a specific airplane configuration is assigned to that plane?

longtimeobserver
Member

No more expectations-crushing than those airlines that blather on in slick, expensively produced videos about configurations and features that they may have on only one or two aircraft out of a fleet anticipated to be refreshed within the next decade, assuming, etc., etc. “SAFE HARBOR”, etc., etc.

Hunter
Guest

I kind of think JayB was working toward satire on that one.

jaybru
Member

Hunter, Thank you.

nquick
Member
I recently flew WT+ on a trip LHR-SEA. Airplane was a 747-400, where WT+ is between First and Business. I was quite happy with the service. There was one flight attendant dedicated to the cabin, which meant fairly prompt, personal service. In fact, I’ve flown BA in every class, and the service has always been good to excellent. I think you had an isolated instance of poor service. I’ve never had service that poor on BA, even when flying Coach. I look forward to reading the trip report from your return. Flying First on BA was an amazing experience for… Read more »
FRANK
Guest

thanks, nathan. Great post. I looked up their Boeing 747 verus their 777 and can immediately see why there was a difference in service effiency. There’s galley’s in the middle of the aircraft on the 747. Multiple areas! NOT EVERYTHING comes from the back of the aircraft, you can tailor your service differently because of that.
Bother way, every class of service has flight attendants assigned to that section, so the remark, a dedicated flight attendant, to me, is funny. Galley LOCATION is everything!

Simon
Guest

What did you think of the Olympics? Looking at the photos you got taken to some high demand sessions…
(Also, if you hear from BA that they have any spare tickets for the next few days, I am available to help use them!)

Omar
Guest

One thing you haven’t pointed out is that in World Traveller Plus you get double the luggage allowance (2 x 23kg) which can be extremely useful. Also the premium for World Traveller plus can vary. Often I’ve managed to upgrade for as little as $200 usd per leg in which case it’s probably worth the extra outlay. Other times its been circa $1000 which I’ve not been willing to pay.

rich
Guest

Brett,

Thanks for the report. Is there a site with photos that compares the various BA first class seats (744,763, etc.)? I see that the following site http://ftdashboard.net/dest/index.htm displays which aircraft usually flies to each destination from LHR but I’m just not familiar with the differences in the seats.

Thanks
Rich

CP
Guest

The seat looks about the same as the Qantas Premium Economy seat — as in, similar enough that I think it’s the same manufacturer. I’ve always found that seat pretty comfortable.

In each of my PE journeys on Qantas, however (~10), service has been way better than you described, and the meal tray was presented in a far more pleasing way.

Bobber
Guest

Not that I’m bitter Brett (much!) but I can’t BELIEVE you got tickets for the aquatic centre AND the velodrome – I can’t get a single feckin’ ticket for my family (yet will enjoy knowing my taxes will be elevated for the next 20 years to pay for it!).

Still, not all bad – it’s joyous beating the crap out of the Aussies in the Medal Table:)

A
Guest

How would you say the seat/service compares to domestic first class? Flying across the pond is where I would truly pay for a wider seat and more legroom, but everything these days is crazy lie flat super posh, which I don’t need nor can justify the expense on an under 8 hour flight. A normal domestic F seat would do me just fine to London. If the upgrade is reasonable priced in cash or miles I’d bite.

Dan
Guest
Good question, and thanks for asking that for me. As an east coast traveler, Europe is only 8 hours, and I can’t imagine paying much for than a few hundred $ for a little more leg room. Back in the day I was plat on NW, and they would give us access to any coach seat at time of booking. I would always select the bulkhead on the A330, and TBH, I was A-OK for a DTW-Europe flight. These days, when not traveling on miles, I’ll choose the carrier that will let me get extra leg room for a few… Read more »
jenny
Guest
Just because you were given a free ride you can sing praises. I had flown british airways and it was either business class or first class. AND WOW ARE THEY RUDE. THEY HAVE A CHIP ON THEIR SHOULDER. I STOPPED FLYING WITH THEM 2O YEARS BACK AND HAVE NO REGRETS. THE LAST ONE WAS WHEN WE WERE travelling first class and the ground crew was rude to my father wanting a wheel chair. THAT DID IT. That crew is there because passengers like us pay their salary. We dont need to take crap from them
Hunter
Guest

Not sure which post you read, but I didn’t see anything even remotely close to praises being sung in this one. I thought it was a pretty balanced and objective look at a newer product offering.

longtimeobserver
Member

One must understand that the new industry philosophy, embraced by an increasing number of carriers, is to do you a favor by simply dispatching the flight you have paid for, reasonably on-time. Beyond that, good luck. Any prior representations about service elements, quality or schedule are unenforceable. Fly it and grieve it… They’re not happy until you’re not happy. Aloha.

Tyler M
Guest

I flew british airways over the spring from canada and I have to say that I thought the staff were incredibly friendly and we had a great trip! Don’t know why there are so many complaints from people about them. But one trip is perhaps not enough to really know.

Gordon Brown
Guest

Well, just goes to show that BA have not changed at all. I stopped flying them some 14 years ago because of atrocious service and you have just shown that it is still the same. The ‘we have already given them out’ landing card comment is rubbish, the crew could have quite simply said ‘I will get you one’ and that would have solved the issue. Thank you for the report, my money will go somewhere else for definite for a good few more years yet.

trackback

[…] Tuesday, I wrote about my experience flying in World Traveller Plus premium economy to London. The way home was a completely different kind of experience. British Airways put me in First Class. […]

trackback

[…] See how the BA Premium Economy Seats Looks Like Brett from Cranky Flier has also just experienced sitting in the British Airways premium economy seats and shares his thoughts on it. […]

patrick cosgrove
Guest

Got to say BA does vary a bit depending on the crew. I like the WT+ section and the seats are pretty good- you also get slightly less noise and kids here usually. The CX class is more expensive but I am frequent flyer so get lounge access…
Id pay extra for a child free section! And I am teacher!!

Ex-BA Travller
Guest
British Airways service is a joke. They are abhorrent people who simply don’t care about their customers. I flew in Club World as a treat and it ended up being the worst flight experience I’ve had. Economy in Emirates is better served than BA can manage in business class! They don’t bother to come around a few times and offer drinks or snacks. They serve you a meal once and disappear! Out of no choice I’ve had to book with BA premium economy and if my seats are closer to the club world toilets I’m going to use them. What… Read more »
wpDiscuz