A review of British Airways World Traveller Plus – Premium Economy on the A380
It has been a good 4 years since I last flew with British Airways in World Traveller Plus, aka Premium Economy, on a long haul journey. I pretty much do everything I can in order to fly in Business Class (Club World), or even First (but possibly just a couple of times a year), but this time it wasn’t meant to be (or planned).
Nonetheless, I was quite excited (or kept telling myself ‘it was OK’) – for one single reason: I was to fly in the new A380, which had been on its maiden voyage under two weeks before.
Here’s how my Los Angeles – London Heathrow flight went.
All flights from LAX depart from the Tom Bradley International Terminal. As a British Airways Gold Executive Club card holder (OneWorld Emerald), I get to check-in at any First counter, which is a lovely perk, irrespective of the class I fly. There was one passenger being served and as soon as he was done, we were next. Wait time: 3 minutes. Check-in was efficient and the lady who helped us was lovely and was really quite excited about the A380 – ‘do you know it is ‘the flight’ to get from LA, right? It is the new plane!’. I did indeed and that is why we booked this flight (and 500 of our closest friends). ‘Any chance we could have an upgrade?’, I asked. ‘I am sorry madam, but the flight is fully booked’. Worth a try, anyway!
We used the fast-track lane at the terminal, which is a little bit of a joke as it only fast tracks you to the TSA agent checking your boarding pass and passport. You then merge with everyone else. Sadly, out of 6 lanes, only 2 were open – and I promise you, there must have been more than 20 agents manning them (or just walking around).
British Airways passengers use the OneWorld lounge which is located close to the security area. There are two lounges to use: Business (for Business Class, OneWorld Sapphire and BA Silver cardholders) and First (for First, OneWorld Emerald and BA Gold cardholders). We went into the latter for obvious reasons and got ‘the bonus’: a bit of celeb spotting. I never see anyone in my life (seriously), except on this lounge – and worry not, I behaved impeccably (it was so hard – think: cool band, lead singer, absolutely gorgeous and tall).
This lounge is quite nice (obviously not like BA’s lounges back at Heathrow) and the food selection was decent, for US standards – we had beef, pasta, vegetables, real cheese (wow) and some yummy cookies. The drinks selection was rather weird, but still with good wine but no champagne (only sparkling wine) and no ‘normal gin’ (only Bombay Dry). The restroom facilities were very good and the wi-fi was also working well – however, not enough power sockets, which made everyone move sofas in order to find some.
The magazine selection was poor but the newspapers were quite good – both US and UK.
– Welcome – we boarded the plane using the fast-track lane and took the escalators up to the 1st floor of the plane, where the World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) cabin is located. The A380 has two floors and you board directly to your designated area, so it is no different from a normal sized plane. Once on board, we were greeted by name ‘Welcome back, Mr. and Mrs. O’Reilly’, which is a nice touch if the crew member can spot your frequent flyer status. When we sat down, we were offered a glass of champagne or water, which surprised me – but obviously I didn’t say no. (I believe it was sparkling wine, and a very nice touch in this cabin – on the outbound flight the options were orange juice or water).
– Amenities – on our seats, we found a pillow (loved the colour: it was grey!), a blanket and noise cancelling headphones. Weirdly, we did not have the little overnight amenity bag, which usually contains socks, eye-mask, ear plugs, toothbrush and paste and, guess what, a pen. I have only gotten a pen when I travelled on this cabin, years ago (and quite a few times since it has been introduced), which I find very handy. I actually asked the crew where this was, later on the flight, to be told that they weren’t loaded by the ground staff, which I found quite strange. I was asked if I needed anything, which she would get from another cabin and I requested a pair of Club earplugs (the best in the world, which I use on a daily basis and my friends kindly save them for me on their BA Club flights). It wasn’t a problem and the crew member was able to get them for me.
– Drinks service – Prior to dinner, we had drinks and yours truly went for a G&T, as always, which was lovely. I was also given the choice to select the wine for dinner, and it was quite a moment when I asked which were the wine choices, which were ‘red or white’. I did smile (and thought it was a rather silly question as obviously I wasn’t in Club or First). I chose the red option.
– In-flight dining – Things seemed promising when we were given a printed menu (I thought it was a really nice touch and wasn’t expecting it). But sadly, this was the most disappointing part of the flight (and interestingly, not so bad on the outbound flight to San Diego). There were some really good service elements – like a cloth napkin, proper cutlery, proper glasses and your own water bottle – but the way the meal was presented, with the foil covers, could seriously be improved. But in hindsight, it could have been for a reason. I wasn’t expecting foie gras or anything like that, but I was expecting a decent meal. The fillet wasn’t bad at all (if you removed the crust), and the rest was so bland, it was a real shame. Desert was as plastic as it looked. I tell you what, I was glad I ate dinner at the lounge.
During the flight, the crew was very present (I was awake for most of it, by choice, worry not) and I didn’t go hungry, in case you were wondering! I loved the ice cream and the chocolates which were passed around the cabin. I may have even gone back for seconds. I missed my Club Kitchen but thought that these little touches were very good.
Breakfast sadly wasn’t much better – it did look OK, but the croissant was so hard, we just gave up. I must say that on the outbound flight we had lovely scones with jam and clotted cream. I would have loved those (even if at the wrong time of the day).
– In-flight entertainment – this is where I went to town. I must fly with BA over 20 times per year every year and actually think the IFE selection is usually very good. Whoever picks them does a very good job (note: thank you for Veep. I can’t watch it in the UK but every month I can catch up onboard) and on this new plane, it was almost ridiculous. Very good choices indeed and I watched 4 films and all the Veep episodes (sense the obsession). The screen was much larger than on previous planes and the sound quality is very good – you gotta love new planes. The inflight map was also much more informative than previously and I must confess I am curious with the ‘chat room’ options available – will people really take part in them? I gave it a go but I was on my own… next time!
– The seat – wasn’t bad at all. The pitch is significantly wider and larger than economy and the new seats are comfortable – the headrests are way better than before. What I think could be improved? There is very little leg support – only a teeny tiny footrest which doesn’t do the job on a 12h journey at all. I know I am comparing this to a fully flat-bed, and it may not be fair, but this is where I felt most uncomfortable. The first rows have different versions and they looked slightly better.
I loved the personal storage area by the window, perfect for any items you will need during the flight (so you don’t have to get up and disturb others), and also for any duty free shopping (selection is also better than ever – presence of Tanqueray Ten for £22 noted, thank you very much).
Final thoughts – Although I obviously prefer Club World (who doesn’t), I think this is a very clever product, which is being extended to many other airlines as we all know. I was pleased to see many service elements which really put it halfway between standard economy and business class – a smaller cabin (now larger on the A380, usually 4 rows only) which means a bit of peace and quiet, the printed menu, a bit of bubbles (always good for the soul), a proper napkin and cutlery and the personal storage space).
Service was very good – I can’t fault it in any way. Everyone smiled and tried to be helpful when needed. We felt welcomed and nothing was too much trouble – everything I expect from BA on any cabin, and I got it. The only downfall was the food, which I have to say it was way better on the flight from London to San Diego. The plane looked fab – the cabins (all of them) looked so smart, I can’t tell you. Even the loos were much more spacious.
World Traveller Plus can cost as little as £150 (each way, £300 return) on a flight from Europe to the USA – for that money, it is outstanding value, you do get what you pay for (and an extra piece of luggage, which is handy). But supply and demand change prices, as we all know, and seats can sell for more than £3,000 return. So if you usually travel in economy and fancy a treat, I would say do give premium economy a try – I did this 10 years ago and never went back. If the business cabins are shockingly expensive (as sometimes it happens – on my flight to San Diego, the difference between Premium and Business was £4,500 more, quite abnormal, but hey full plane, supply and demand!), you will surely survive a long haul flight on this cabin.
I still prefer *you know what*, but if that can’t be had every time, I will settle for this.