We have already compared British Airways Economy vs. Premium Economy and BA First vs. Business, to find out whether it is worth paying for the upgrade. Now we review BA Business Class vs. Premium Economy, the cost, the seat, the food, the check-in, and the airport lounge. Is it worth paying to upgrade your next flight from Premium Economy to Business Class?
In this review, we focus on the worst Premium Economy seat on British Airways and the current and brand new Business Class seat. We discuss whether it’s worth upgrading from Premium Economy to Business, particularly if you are flying on an unrefurbished plane.
Wherever you choose to fly, we reveal the secret to getting the best deal at luxury hotels, once you get to your destination, so that you not only fly but also stay in style.
1. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Price
If the price is your biggest factor when making the decision on which class to fly in, you should probably choose to fly Premium Economy. After all, the entire plane will get to its destination, whichever class you are sitting in.
If you are booked onto an unrefurbished plane, such as the Boeing 747-400, you will most likely be extremely disappointed by both the Premium Economy and Business Class seats. The cabin is shabby, and the seats are tatty.
If your business is paying, then the situation is different. You don’t have to worry so much about the cost and the BA plane. British Airways Premium Economy does have more space and better food than Economy as well as more and better drinks. But Business Class is better. If your business is paying, book Premium, or Business, or First Class!
2. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Why Upgrade?
Following on from my comments about the price, you may wonder whether it’s worth upgrading from Premium Economy to Business Class at all! Well, it is. The biggest reason to upgrade from Premium Economy is to get sleep. Flat seats allow you to sleep. Sleeping upright, even reclined upright, is difficult. Or impossible.
The result of these upright seats is that you can feel pretty grotty after no sleep on a Premium Economy flight when you get to your destination. You would feel much better if you flew in Business Class. This matters if you are potentially ruining the first day of your trip because you’ve not spent the extra on upgrading your flight.
Even if the price is your biggest factor when choosing between Premium Economy and Business Class, Premium Economy can mean that you avoid wasting a day of your holiday, which may ultimately be worth more than the price difference.
3. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Check-in
There is a dedicated British Airways Business Class check-in. Premium Economy passengers have to check-in with Economy passengers. Business Class wins.
4. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Baggage
You get 2 hold suitcases when traveling in Premium Economy, which is a big bonus. But they can’t be very heavy. Travel in World Traveler Plus (Premium Economy), and you get 2 bags at 23kg each. Fly in Club Europe or Business Class, and you can take 2 bags at 32kg each. A major advantage of flying in Business Class.
5. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Lounges
The good news is that if you fly in Business Class, you don’t have to faff around with Priority Passes or Lounge Passes, or credit cards. You just access the lounge with your Business Class ticket. The BA lounges also offered a larger variety of food and drinks than the Priority Pass and paid lounges, which are your only option if you are flying Premium Economy and are not a high-tier member. BA lounges are usually better, so they offer a major advantage if you are flying in Business Class over Premium Economy.
When flying in Business Class or Club World, you get access to the British Airways airline lounges. When flying out of London, there are two Galleries Club Business Class Lounges in Heathrow Terminal 5 or the Galleries Club Lounge in Terminal 3. From Gatwick’s South Terminal, there is an equally excellent Galleries Club Lounge that you will have access to with your Business Class ticket. This lounge is one of the best airport lounges at Gatwick.
These lounges are huge and pleasant, with decent buffet food. Baked potatoes with cheese and beans, salads and coleslaw, bread and toast, usually a chicken curry with rice along with wine, beer, and soft drinks. They have everything you need but can be busy with entire fleets worth of Club World and Club Europe passengers coming and going.
When flying in Premium Economy you don’t get access to any British Airways lounges unless you are a high-tier BA Executive Club member. If you want lounge access at London Gatwick or lounge access at London Heathrow, you can buy or use a Priority Pass to access alternative lounges.
You can access Gatwick South Lounges for free with the free (in the first year) American Express Preferred Rewards Gold card, which comes with two Lounge Club passes that can be immediately used at the Priority Pass lounges to enjoy free drinks and food.
I usually book my flights for free on air miles and American Express Rewards, which convert directly to Avios (along with other airline miles). The free Amex Gold Card is an incredible deal with a huge free bonus of Membership Rewards and even more if you apply through our referral link. You also get limited free airport lounge access with this free card. You can apply for the UK & US card right here.
How To Get Unlimited Airport Lounge Access
For unlimited airport lounge access, you will need to apply for the Platinum card right here. With my referral link, you will get more Membership Rewards points.
6. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Unlimited Airport Lounge Access
For unlimited airport lounge access, whether you are flying Economy or Premium Economy, Business or First, you will need to apply for the Platinum American Express card. You then get up to 4 unlimited free airport lounge passes. With my referral link, you will also get bonus points. Contact us via our Luxury Travel Concierge page to get a referral link and the extra 5,000 points (American Express Terms & Conditions apply).
If you have an Amex Platinum card, you have one less reason why flying in Business Class is significantly better than flying in Economy.
7. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Cabin
When flying in the Premium Economy seat, you get a wider seat with additional pitch than in Economy. For me, the extra elbow room in the Premium Economy seats enables me to work more comfortably on my laptop. This means that I can work whether I am flying in Business Class or Premium Economy.
In all honesty, for a transatlantic flight flying New York to London, if I am traveling during the day, Premium Economy does the job almost as well as Business Class. The extra recline also enables me to sleep for a short period if needs be.
The major differentiator comes at night as the Premium Economy seats do not recline to a flatbed. Hence, you are unlikely to achieve any length of sleep in Premium Economy when compared to Business Class.
8. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Old Seat
There are various types of Premium Economy that you can fly on BA. There is quite a difference between the Premium Economy seats within the British Airways fleet. But the difference is greater between the old and new Business Class or Club World seats.
Premium Economy is usually set up in a 2 – 4 – 2 configuration. The seat usually measures 18.5 inches across, with a seat pitch of 38 inches. Waiting for passengers on the seat is a pillow, a set of headphones (not noise canceling!), a blanket, and a small amenity pouch. The amenity pouch contained the very basics – a toothbrush and dental kit, a pair of socks, and earbuds.
You also have the latest touchscreen High Definition TV, a USB power plug, as well as the TV remote control. I would say that British Airways Premium Economy is, however, the bare minimum standard of a Premium Economy plane. The soft skills are definitely lagging compared to Middle Eastern and Asian carriers.
Taking two relatively recent Business Class reviews that we wrote on BA, Business Class London to Vancouver on their A380 and
Business Class, Calgary to Heathrow on the 787-8 Dreamliner, you can see the state of the older Business Class seats.
The older British Airways Business Class seats are arranged in the so-called “ying/yang” layout, where the seat next to you faces the opposite direction affording more privacy and space. This also means that some seats face backward, which I am not keen on. In fact, all the window seats face backward.
The older BA seat simply glides flat, so you can get some sleep, but they are quite narrow. In the older British Airways Club World seats, you run the risk of being in the middle pair of seats. Middle and window seats don’t have direct aisle access, which means that people may need to jump over your feet in the middle of the night. Or you need to jump over them to use the bathrooms.
Conversely, the middle seats in BA Club World are a perfect playground for a pair of children, with the parents sat on either side to keep them in check!
The older Business Class seats aren’t great, but they are significantly better than Premium Economy. The Club World seat is spacious, comfortable with acres of legroom, a memory foam headrest, and, most importantly, the chair converts into a 183cm (6ft) fully flatbed.
This is billed as an environment for sleeping, relaxing, and working, and as such, you are given a quilted blanket. A power supply is available for laptops and other electronic devices, as well as a USB socket.
A laptop-sized storage tray is available by your feet, which helps keep your personal belongings at hand, as there is no seat pocket immediately in front of you as per the traditional setup. Privacy screens can be raised between the seats as soon as you are airborne, limiting the slightly awkward view you have looking directly at each other!
Your personal space is significantly larger and better in Business Class than in Premium Economy. Be it the old or the new Business Class.
British Airways has recently launched a new Club World cabin. If you get to fly in this cabin, this new Business Class is significantly better than the old Business Class and a huge amount better than Premium Economy. If you get to fly in this cabin, the Business Class is excellent, and it’s well worth paying for the upgrade.
9. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: New Seat
The new Club World seat (pictured above) has direct aisle access, although they remain in the current yin-yang layout, which is used fleet-wide. There are also new pillows, duvets, and mattress toppers across the fleet to help you get a night of better sleep.
You will currently find the airline’s sophisticated and newly-branded ‘Club Suite’ with its direct-aisle access, a suite door for greater privacy, and a luxurious flatbed on its A350 aircraft. These seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration and boast 40 percent more storage, including a vanity unit and mirror, Wi-Fi, enviable 18.5-inch inflight entertainment screens, high-definition gate-to-gate programming, and PC / USB power; every aspect of British Airways’ Club Suite has been designed for today’s customer.
The A350 aircraft itself will also promote a feeling of well-being, space, and calm due to its reduced noise levels, high ceilings, and ambient lighting, which is intended to complement the time of day and outside light. Customers will leave their flight feeling rested thanks to higher levels of humidity and refreshed air as the cabin pressure is equivalent to an altitude of just 6,000 feet. There are also environmental benefits to flying on the state-of-the-art A350, as 25 percent lower fuel burn significantly reduces CO2 emissions.
As well as a new 56-seat Club World cabin, the three-cabin A350 will feature the latest World Traveller Plus cabin (56 seats) with new furnishings, including a plush new pillow, warm quilt, new amenity kits, an enhanced service, and improved dining experience. TSo, this is the plane to pick (if you have the choice) whether you fly in Business or Premium Economy.
Customers will also benefit from high-speed Wi-Fi on these planes, allowing travelers to browse the internet on their personal electronic devices.
10. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Food & Drink
A big bonus for traveling on BA in Premium Economy is that you get Club World 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 length of the flight, 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).
On my last daytime flight, I got lunch. The starters were eggs and asparagus. The main course options were braised beef, chicken curry, or rigatoni pasta. I opted for the chicken curry option, which was surprisingly decent. The dessert was some cheese and cake. It was all very tasty.
Of course, in Business Class, you get more choices and better snacks or second meals after the main service! On my last Business Class flight from London to Vancouver, upon boarding, I was offered the choice between a glass of Champagne, water, or orange juice. I choose the latter since drinking alcohol on a plane gives me headaches.
Shortly after takeoff, I received a refreshing hot towel. I was also served a soft drink and a small bag containing an assortment of cold salted and roasted nuts.
Soon thereafter, lunch was offered, all served on a single tray. BA Business Class food can be a hit and a miss, IMHO, and this time the food was bad.
There was only one starter, a poor-looking salad of tomato, mozzarella, avocado, tomato sponge, and basil dressing accompanied by a fresh seasonal salad served with vinaigrette.
I had the classic macaroni and cheese with (2 pieces of) cauliflower and (3 pieces of) smoked sun-dried tomatoes.
I choose the strawberry and mascarpone crémeux torte with strawberry compote, which tasted excellent.
90 minutes prior to landing, I was served afternoon tea. I am not a big fan of BA’s afternoon tea and snacks concept (especially not of the sandwiches served in a plastic container), and it was not different this time. The afternoon tea comprised the following:
- Sandwiches featuring sliced pastrami with American-style mustard, mayonnaise, and spinach, North Atlantic prawns with lemon and dill mayonnaise and apollo lettuce, free-range egg with rich seasoned mayonnaise, and baby spinach
- A mozzarella and sun-dried tomato savory Danish pastry
- Lemon drizzle and chocolate and cassis Opéra cake
You definitely get more and a better choice of food when traveling in Business vs. Premium Economy.
11. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Old vs. New
If you can, avoid flight BA178, the morning flight departing New York at 7:55 am and scheduled to arrive at London Heathrow Airport at 7:45 pm. The Boeing 747-400 I experienced on this route was old, with a cabin that had seen better days. Both the old Business Class and the old Premium Economy are fairly awful on this plane. Go for the A350 if you can.
11. Premium Economy vs. Business Class: Conclusion
British Airways Premium Economy is a very average product but worth paying the extra from Economy if you can afford it. The difference is significant when you upgrade to the next level, Business Class. British Airways Business Class is significantly more expensive, but for an overnight flight, it gives you the chance to sleep.
While I would not pay to upgrade from Premium Economy to Business Class on a transatlantic daytime flight, particularly on the short ones from London to New York, for overnight flights, the flatbed makes all the difference.
For me, the advantages of traveling in Business are:
- Access to the British Airways airline lounges
- Better seats and exclusivity – There are fewer seats and a calmer cabin atmosphere
- Seat space and lie-flat – Business seats are bigger
- Better food and more choice
- More luggage
- Amenity kit, which includes Elemis skincare products and various travel accessories
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