Worth The Upgrade? British Airways Premium Economy Vs Economy


We have already briefly compared British Airways Economy vs. Premium Economy to find out whether it is worth paying for the upgrade. Now we review the cost, seat, food, check-in, and airport lounge that you will experience if you book BA Premium Economy. Is it worth paying to upgrade your next flight from Economy to Premium Economy?

In our previous article, we didn’t detail the various types of Premium Economy that you can fly. There is quite a difference between the Premium Economy seats within the British Airways fleet. In this review, we focus on the worst Premium Economy seat on British Airways. We discuss whether it’s worth upgrading to Premium Economy, particularly if you are flying on an unrefurbished plane.

On a recent last-minute work trip, due to flight scheduling and a packed out business class, I was booked into British Airways’ World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) for my flight from New York to London.

I got “lucky” and got to try out possibly the oldest Premium Economy seats in their fleet. They were so archaic that I would not recommend paying to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy if you are looking for style and a massively upgraded experience.

And yet, I would still book Premium Economy on one of these unrefurbished planes rather than fly Economy. Even with the tatty old cabin, the recline, space, food, and drink are superior in Premium Economy. Discover more about my reasoning below.

Wherever you fly to, book your hotel and flight via our luxury travel concierge. We offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, and free perks at hotels, including the Four Seasons, Hyatt, Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, InterContinental, and more.

Typically, our free benefits at luxury hotels include:

  • Room upgrade to next category
  • Complimentary breakfast for two per bedroom
  • Complimentary Welcome Gift
  • $100 USD equivalent Hotel experiential credit per room per stay
  • Early check-in / late check-out (subject to availability)
  • Complimentary Wi-Fi

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.

If you are booked into an unrefurbished plane, or your plane is substituted for an unrefurbished plane, such as the Boeing 747-400, you will most likely be extremely disappointed that you have paid to upgrade to Premium Economy from Economy. The cabin is shabby. The seats are tatty, and however rich you are, this expenditure buys you a disappointing product. Just take a look at the photo above!

If your business is paying, then the situation is different. You don’t have to worry so much about the cost, and on any BA plane, the Premium Economy offering does have more space and better food as well as more and better drinks. If your business is paying, book Premium, or Business, or First Class!

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Why Upgrade?

Following on from my comments about the price, you may wonder whether it is worth upgrading from Economy to Premium Economy at all! Well, it is. The biggest reason to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy is to get sleep or rest if you are flying on an overnight flight.

For overnight flights, being stuffed in a sardine-tin, with little space to move and next-to-no recline, means that sleep is difficult. Or impossible.

When I fly in Economy, I find, if I do manage to nod off, the fact that my head then droops to one side because of the lack of seat recline means that I almost always wake myself up as soon as I drop off.

The result is that you can feel pretty grotty after an Economy flight when you get to your destination. This matters if you are potentially ruining the first day of your trip because you have not spent the extra on upgrading your flight.

Even if the price is your biggest factor when choosing between Economy and Premium Economy, Premium Economy can mean that you avoid wasting a day of your holiday, which may ultimately be worth more than the price difference.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Check-in

There is not a dedicated British Airways Premium Economy check-in, so there is no advantage between these airline classes at check-in.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Baggage

You get 2 hold suitcases when traveling in Premium Economy, which is a big bonus.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Lounges

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.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Space

When flying in the Premium Economy seat, you get a wider seat with additional pitch. For me, the extra elbow room in the Premium Economy seats enables me to work more comfortably on my laptop.

The extra recline also enables me to sleep for a short period, a crucial reason to choose to fly Premium Economy if you are flying overnight.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Food & Drink

A big bonus 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, which I have detailed below, 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 delicious.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: 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. If you can’t avoid this plane, Premium Economy does still has the edge. Just.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Conclusion

British Airways Premium Economy is a very average product, but it is still worth paying the extra if you can afford it. If you get the old, unrefurbished Premium Economy, you will be disappointed by the tatty presentation of the seats and the old-fashioned feel of the cabin. I was! But, even with the grotty cabin, the food, drinks service, and crucially the seat recline and space was better in Premium Economy vs. Economy.

While you could argue that the price is not worth the small amount of extra space you get on a 6.5-hour transatlantic flight, if you can sleep (or at least rest better), have enough room to work on your laptop, and are fed and watered better most people will consider that Premium Economy IS worth the upgrade from Economy, even on the worst and oldest BA planes.

My Premium Economy Flight Review (2019)

The flight, BA178, was a morning flight departing New York at 7:55 am and was scheduled to arrive at London Heathrow Airport at 7:45 pm. As I had to arrive in London for a meeting the next morning, this was the flight that matched my schedule the best.

I didn’t think much of this flight before boarding. As the flight was an early morning one, I didn’t spend much time at all in the British Airways lounge at JFK before the flight, either. Instead, I arrived at the airport slightly late and got on this flight just when they were about to begin boarding.

For this flight, I was seated in seat 33K, which is the first row of Premium Economy. The flight, a Boeing 747-400, had a 4 class configuration. The Premium Economy cabin was a small one, with 4 rows of seats in a 2 – 4 – 2 configuration. My seat, 33K, was the window seat on the right side of the plane.

For this flight, while business class was full, Premium Economy only had 9 people. However, that was not the most shocking thing. The biggest shock for me was the seats!

The Premium Economy seats for this flight were the old school ones – I mean, like the type of seat that was probably the first batch of Premium Economy seats ever introduced by British Airways back in the 2000s.

The seat was a large stuffy semi recliner, measuring 18.5 inches across, with a seat pitch of 38 inches. The upholstery was dark navy blue and straight out of the 90s. The seat was heavy and stuffy, which I suppose added a bit of cushioning and extra comfort compared to the streamlined, slim ones.

Waiting for me on the seat was 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.

On the left side of my seat were the seat controls to adjust each component of the seat, as well as a button to pop out the TV screen. Luckily, the TV screen was not an old 2000 7 inch standard definition TV. This was at least updated to the latest touch screen High Definition TV.

On my right side of the seat was a USB power plug, as well as the TV remote control. The left armrest also contained a small cup holder, but my right armrest was where the food tray was hidden.

I had some water as my pre-departure welcome drink. Soon, we took off and thus began my 6 hour 50-minute flight in the oldest Premium Economy seats that I have ever taken. I began by watching some movies on the in-flight entertainment system, which was quite decent, by the way. Even though the physical seats were ancient, at least the entertainment system had a decent selection of newer movies and TV series.

Soon, it was time for lunch, and we were given the menus, which you can see in the scroller above. The food was good, and I continued watching movies throughout the meal, and then decided to recline my chair and take a short nap. The recline is crucial to get a nap and is much better in Premium Economy than in the Economy.

I woke up close to the landing time. I then went to the bathroom to freshen up before strapping myself for the slow descent. I again opted for water as my light refreshment prior to landing. We soon landed in Heathrow on time, and I was off to my hotel.

Overall, I must say that I was quite shell-shocked to see that these seats even exist anymore. They do not even dare to show them on the website or mention these relics. However, even though the seats were definitely old, I must admit that they were decently comfortable, probably more so than the new slimmer version.

I would say that British Airways Premium Economy is, however, the bare minimum standards of a Premium Economy plane. The soft skills are definitely lagging compared to Middle Eastern and Asian carriers.

Coupled with this super old equipment, they are not very competitive at all. As they have mentioned plans to improve these, I hope that this seating upgrade is not overlooked and that they refurbish these planes soon!

  • Worth The Upgrade British Airways Premium Economy Vs Economy

Note: Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor. Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.