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?
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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 which is worth bearing in mind. In this review, we discuss whether it’s worth upgrading to Premium Economy.
I would still book Premium Economy on one of these unrefurbished planes rather than fly Economy. Even in the worst Premium Economy in BA’s fleet with the tatty cabin, the recline, space, food, and drink are superior in Premium Economy. Discover more about my reasoning below.
1. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Price
If the price is your biggest factor when deciding on which class to fly in, you should probably choose to fly Economy. After all, the entire plane should reach 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, 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.
That said, you do still get the extras allocated to Premium Economy whichever BA plane you fly. You now get a decent meal offering in BA premium economy served on real china, and BA has also introduced new amenity kits, blankets, and pillows which are all surprisingly good.
2. 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 fly 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 that if I do manage to nod off, 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.
3. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Check-in
There is not a dedicated British Airways Premium Economy check-in, but there does tend to be out of the UK airports so this is an advantage over Economy.
4. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Baggage
You get two hold suitcases when traveling in Premium Economy, which is a big bonus.
5. 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.
6. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat Selection
Non-Silver and Gold customers cannot select seats in advance if they book Premium Economy.
7. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Priority Boarding
At Heathrow and Gatwick you get priority boarding via the group system (Group 3), but the group system is not used at all airports.
8. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Space
You get a wider seat with additional pitch when flying in the Premium Economy seat. The extra elbow room in the Premium Economy seats enables me to work more comfortably on my laptop. The seat width is 18.5 inches. The seat pitch is 38 inches.
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.
9. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Food & Drink
A big bonus of traveling on BA in Premium Economy is that you get a decent three-course meal with a bread roll served on proper china crockery with a real napkin. This is a better meal than is served in Economy. You also get a pocket pizza second meal service on longer flights.
You also usually get a welcome drink and another round of drinks with the meal, along with tea and coffee during/after the meal.
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.
10. Economy vs. Premium Economy: In Flight Entertainment
On the BA A350 you get a 12 inch seat-back TV. Larger than in Economy.
11. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Amenity Kit
The BA Premium Economy Amenity Kit contains eye mask, socks, pen, dental kit, lip balm. Better than in Economy although hardly a dealbreaker.
12. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Amenity Kit
British Airways provides an excellent blanket for its World Traveller Plus customers along with a pillow either.
13. 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’ll 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 were 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.
14. 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 flight 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 Boeing 747-400 flight 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 nine 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 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 big, 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, headphones (not noise canceling!), a great 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 and 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 and 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 I have ever taken. I began by watching some movies on the in-flight entertainment system, which was quite decent. 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 before landing. We soon landed at 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 the bare minimum standards of a Premium Economy product. The soft skills are definitely lagging compared to Middle Eastern and Asian carriers.
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