With an eleven hour flight from Heathrow to Los Angeles looming, I impulsively upgraded mine and Hannah’s travel class from economy to premium economy, or World Traveller to World Traveller Plus in British Airways language.
FANCY, I know. I’m really not a fan of the whole flying palaver, so anything that claims to make the process easier or more enjoyable is definitely worth a go, in my opinion.
Upgrading was easy and all done online. Our original booking was made a few months before we decided to upgrade. One very annoying detail is that the premium economy upgrade DOES NOT include seat reservations. Therefore, If you wish to upgrade and also reserve yourself a seat, you will have to pay TWO different fees. Naughty British Airways.
Of course, you can wait to reserve your seat for free when check-in opens 24 hours before departure. However, you will not be guaranteed your preferred seat.
Boarding is a sore subject for many, with some favouring priority boarding and others believing it’s a bigger waste of money than Mesut Ozil. Unfortunately, there was no priority associated with a premium economy ticket, or no obvious priority at least. This meant there was no avoiding the queue at the gate.
On arrival at our seats though, we were immediately greeted with a choice of bubbly or water, all before take-off. The perfect welcome, right? It’s just a small touch, but one that introduced calm and instantly highlighted the difference between economy and premium economy.
The standard long haul treats were also waiting on our seats, including; blanket, eye mask, pillow, toothbrush & toothpaste, socks, headphones and a pen. There was nothing special about these, although the headphones were noise-reducing headphones rather than the standard in-ear headphones.
The premium economy rows were arranged in a 2-3-2 formation. For two people travelling together, obviously the two seaters are the dream. The two seaters come with the additional benefit of locker style storage next to the window seat, directly under the window.
This may not sound like a big deal, but it’s quite the game changer. There was no need to struggle with the overhead storage each time I wanted something from my hand luggage. Instead, I stored a whole backpack in the under-window storage, as well as some cheeky snacks from Pret. (Tactical plane snacks are a must because you never know when the next food supply is coming).
The amount of room per seat was INSANE. My knees were nowhere near the seat in front and I could completely stretch my legs out. In the real world, these standards are nothing to shout about, but in the aviation world, it’s amazing. The cabin felt pleasantly open and spacious because of this. A complete contrast to the cramped conditions in economy.
Shortly after take-off, hot towels were handed out to premium economy customers. Again, just a small touch, but one that made the overall experience more enjoyable.
Also worth noting is the abundance of power supplies. There were two USB ports under each entertainment console and two plug sockets to share between the two seats, providing plenty of opportunities to keep your tech charged.
We can all agree that airplane food is never going to win awards, however, it isn’t wrong to expect an improvement in quality with the upgrade.
Not long after boarding the food menu was handed out, detailing the options available to premium economy customers. The handing out of the menu was a nice, theatrical touch, however, the food still arrived on a standard tray from a standard trolley.
The two main course options were British beef and Chicken tikka missala. In my opinion, it’s disappointing that a vegetarian option isn’t a permanent fixture on the menu. It’s not just vegetarians that can enjoy a vegetarian meal after all. Yeah, you can specify dietary requirements ahead of the flight via the British Airways website, but come on, the slaughter of animals should be an opt in thing, not opt out.
Overall, the food was good and there was an apparent improvement in quality. The dining experience was improved by small, thoughtful touches, such as metal cutlery and the choice of rolls from a bread basket.
Complimentary drinks were handed out throughout the flight and with meals, including alcohol. BOY, did people make the most of this. It was perfectly acceptable for customers to request a couple of miniature bottles of wine or whiskey at a time.
From afar, it can be difficult to understand what exactly you are getting for your money. That’s understandable, seeing as there is no headline act, such as a full flat bed or access to a departure lounge.
The main benefit of premium economy, however, is the accumulation of small touches, from hot towels to food menus and spacious seats. In comparison to economy, it really is a more enjoyable experience, which is significant on a long haul flight. I have to admit, I’m a big fan.
It feels like a step up without the dollar associated with Business or First. As far as I understand, the price is influenced by supply and demand, which means the upgrade needn’t be expensive, as long as the demand is low.
So, would I recommend upgrading to premium economy? HELL YEAH.