When flying British Airways, is it worth paying to upgrade to World Traveller Plus, the BA Premium Economy seats from Economy seats on long-haul flights?
1. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Price
If the price is your biggest factor when making the decision on which class to fly in, you should probably choose to fly Economy. After all, the entire plane will get to its destination, whichever class you are sitting in.
Having said that, particularly for overnight flights, being stuffed in a sardine-tin, with little space to move and next-to-no recline, means that sleep is difficult. Certainly, when I have flown in Economy, I find, if I do manage to nod off, the fact that my head then drops to one side because of the lack of seat recline means that I almost always wake myself up.
The result is that you can feel pretty grotty after an Economy flight when you get to your destination. This means that you are potentially ruining the first day of your trip because you have not spent the extra on upgrading your flight.
So even if the price IS your biggest factor, Premium Economy can mean that you avoid wasting a day of your holiday, which may ultimately be worth more than the price difference.
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2. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat Selection
While competitors like Virgin enable you to select your Premium Economy seat for free, this is a feature that British Airways reserves for its Gold and Silver tier members only. The situation is similar if you fly in Business Class. If you are not a Gold or Silver tier member, you can only select your Business Class seat 24 hours before departure. Gold and Silver tiers can select before “normal” Blue passengers, even if the standard member is paying a full Business Class fare, which means that normal infrequent flyers can often be left with seats apart from their family or partner. A nightmare on a long-haul flight.
If you book with a competitor like Virgin, you can book your seat in advance, which means you can sit where you want in the cabin (within reason), and crucially, you can sit with your family or partner.
3. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Check-in
There is not a dedicated British Airways Premium Economy check-in, so you have to check-in with all the Economy passengers.
4. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Baggage
You get 2 hold suitcases when traveling in Premium Economy, which is a big bonus.
5. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Lounges
When flying in Premium Economy, you do not get access to any British Airways lounges, but if you are flying out of London Heathrow, you can use your Priority Pass or pay to access to the Aspire Lounge In Heathrow Terminal 5 or the Aspire Lounge in Terminal 3. There is no advantage to flying Premium Economy in this respect.
6. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Boarding
Virgin offers priority boarding all over the world for Premium Economy passengers. By comparison, BA only offers priority boarding out of Heathrow. So yes, this is an advantage when you fly out of the UK, but not when you fly from any other airport.
7. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat Dimensions
When you book British Airways Premium Economy, check the specific aircraft you will be flying on as BA offers two versions of their World Traveller Plus product.
The old Premium Economy seats look tired and worn with a poor in-flight entertainment system and can be found on some Boeing 767 and 777-200 aircraft.
The British Airways Premium Economy seats are on their Airbus A380, Boeing 787/777-300ER, and retrofitted Boeing 767/777-200 aircraft and offer increased recline, personal in-seat power, and a 60% larger IFE monitor.
Taking the Boeing 777-200s as an example, the dedicated Premium Economy cabin has 40 recliner seats in a 2-4-2 layout. Dimensions are 18.5 inches in width and 38 inches in pitch. That’s an upgrade over the Economy seats with 17.5 inches of width and 31 inches in pitch. Still, neither Economy nor Premium Economy offers a leg rest, so if this is a deal-breaker, choose another airline.
This does not look good when compared with one of their main competitors, Virgin’s Premium Economy, which has seat dimensions are 18-21 inches seat width, 38 inches legroom. In comparison, Virgin’s Economy offers a “generous” width of up to 17 inches, with seat pitch or legroom of up to 31 inches, almost identical to BA.
So purely on seat dimensions, Virgin’s Premium Economy gives you much more room than Premium Economy or “World Traveller Plus” on BA, even though Virgin’s Premium Economy seat pitch is particularly average.
For me, the extra elbow room in the Premium Economy seats enables me to work more comfortably on my laptop, making the width worth paying for and making Virgin Premium Economy a better choice than BA’s Premium Economy when flying out of Heathrow or Gatwick. Equally, BA’s Premium Economy wins over Economy when directly compared as I can type better in Premium!
8. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat Recline
While Virgin’s Premium Economy seat seats have 7-8 inches of recline vs. Virgin’s Economy and Economy Delight recline of 4-6 inches, it is much harder to work out the seat recline on British Airways without getting out your tape measure onboard.
The Premium Economy seats recline more than the Economy seats, so for seat recline, Premium Economy wins. BA’s Premium Economy gives you more room to recline your seat, which will make it easier to sleep as your head is less likely to drop to one side because the seat is more horizontal. This recline is a huge advantage when compared to the seats in Economy, and the seats on newer planes, on their Airbus A380, Boeing 787/777-300ER, and retrofitted Boeing 767/777-200 aircraft offer increased recline, over the older Boeing 767 and 777-200 aircraft. So if recline is a dealbreaker, make sure you don’t book onto the 767 and 777-200.
9. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Amenities
As part of Premium Economy, you get an oversized pillow, a blanket, a small amenity kit, and a large pair of headphones. The amenity kit contains just the essentials: a toothbrush and toothpaste, an eye mask, a pair of socks, earbuds, and a pen. The blanket is plush but not too thick. The headphones were the noise-canceling type that would normally be distributed in business class and above, so that is a real advantage if you are choosing between flying in Economy vs. Premium Economy.
10. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Food & Drink
A big bonus traveling on BA in Premium Economy is that you get ClubWorld standard meals (with fewer choices) served on proper crockery with a real napkin. You also usually get a welcome drink and another round of drinks with the meal, along with tea and coffee during/after the meal.
Depending on the flight length, if it is overnight, you sometimes get breakfast served, although I believe that this is the same as in Economy. On shorter flights, you just get a drink and a mars bar (or similar).
I would say that the British Airways Premium Economy is a good product and worth paying the extra if you can afford it. I have flown in Premium Economy and would not hesitate to fly it again.
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