What do I think about British Airways Premium Economy (branded as World Traveller Plus)?
Seat and Cabin: 6.5/10 (and that’s reviewing my specific bulkhead seat)
Food and Drink: 5/10
Service, boarding, etc: 6/10
Premium economy, I will say is better than regular economy. The seat is closer to domestic first/business plus a little more recline and a footrest, which I have currently augmented with my Briggs & Riley cabin bag to create a bit more support.
This is my first flight on British Airways' a380 World Traveller Plus, and it's going fine. I have a nice bulkhead seat in the front row of the cabin, which is on the upper deck behind Club World. The only seat in the cabin I'm coveting is the one next to me- 61A, which is the same as 61B, but has control of two impressively large storage compartments by the window. They won’t fit a cabin bag or larger backpack, but small bags, headphone cases, blankets and pillows all fit nicely.
The bulkhead rows, which are 61 and 60 on the a388 really are the best in the cabin, with the last rows being the worst as they are right next to the busy lavatory and galley area. I can’t imaging getting much rest or work done there while being constantly bumped and hovered next to.
These rows may have some seats blocked until the day of the flight, as they’re accessible and/or bassinet seats. It’s worth asking at check in if one has been freed up.
Check in and Boarding:
Since this flight departs out of LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal (“TBIT”), I checked in with the BA counters rather than the Flagship or Priority check in at the American terminals. The line at my time of day was minimal, especially since I could use the First Class lane as a Oneworld Emerald. I asked how booked the flight was since it’s a known practice to upgrade top tier flyers in the case of an oversell in economy. However, the agent let me know that wouldn’t be the case this time. As it turned out the flight was fairly full, but not oversold. All seats in the World Traveller Plus cabin were filled.
Though it wasn’t the case at the time of this flight, British Airways has now joined PreCheck at LAX! So if you’re eligible, this is now accessible to you when flying with BA. Given that TBIT’s security can have some long lines, this is good news. More time for the excellent Oneworld lounge options that seem to just be getting better at LAX!
Since it’s a big plane on an international route, this flight boards about an hour ahead of the departure time. Whether you need to be there this early is a judgment call based on what bin space you need, and how much longer you want to sit on the plane. Since I wanted to check out the cabin before most people got onboard, I went ahead and boarded with group 1 due to status. At this gate, the boarding process is completely automated using “biometric self-boarding.” You don’t need to have a ticket, a passport, or even see an agent. You just step up to the boarding kiosk/gate, the computer images your face and checks it against your digital passport info, and lets you board. It was my first time using the technology. I’m not sure how much time it saved since it appeared most people weren’t familiar with it yet, but I suppose it saves BA on labor costs.
That done, I headed to the upper deck of the plane to get settled in. Bin space, even later on, was fine. The cabin is laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration, so unless you're planning on cuddling with your travel companion, the center seats are to be avoided. The seat also comes with a blanket, small amenity kit, and a likewise small pillow. If you like anything extra to get comfortable, you’ll need to bring it with you.
In Flight Food and Entertainment:
We pushed back on time, without much of a runway delay, even though LAX is know for them lately. On thing that’s always fun about flying the a388 is how uneventful takeoff feels. The equipment is just so massive that not much seems to translate through to the passengers inside. Once in flight, it handles turbulence well, making for as smooth of a journey as is generally possible across the Atlantic.
Before takeoff they offered a pre-departure beverage to the WT+ cabin, which was a choice of water or orange juice. This was a nice touch I wasn’t entirely expecting. Once in flight, the real service started with hot towels and menus, followed by a first pass with the drink cart and a bag of pretzels. This was also when they took meal orders. As a side note, if you’re departing from Heathrow or Gatwick, you can pre-order a meal in WT+.
I do have to specifically review the drinks and dinner process though, because I was a bit unimpressed. Here’s how it went:
FA: Something to drink?
Me: Gin and tonic please. (What else would you order on BA??)
FA: would you like wine with your dinner?
Me: Yes, please.
FA: Red or white?
Me: White please.
FA: Pinot or Sav blanc?
Me: Sav blanc.
The Flight Attendant then proceeded to hand EVERYTHING over at once. Please note the dinner service is a fair bit off. So I'm left with a tray table packed with wine, water, tonic, two bottles of gin, and pretzels to boot. Not classy, and honestly awkward.
On to dinner, and they serve front to back so I ordered the beef. It's fine. It was along the lines of AA domestic 1st, which doesn't say much, but I had the beef cheeks and pork chop at the Qantas lounge, so I wasn’t terribly hungry anyway. It should be noted that at this point any comparison between WT+ and higher classes of service ends. There's really no follow up service at all. If you want anything else- refills, snacks, etc., you’re forced to wade back through main cabin proper to ask. This also subjects you to any perceived side-eye for asking. Before landing they served a breakfast. It wasn't good, but I ate it. I needed to fortify myself before being dumped headlong into the LHR chaos at what was about 1am my time.
In the bulkhead seats, the IFE screen folds out from the armrest, while in the rest of the cabin, it’s located in the seat back in front of you. There’s really no other place to put it as the actual bulkhead is fairly far away (which means unlimited legroom). It does make getting up and down slightly awkward, especially if you have food or drinks balanced on the tray table as well, but it’s worth it.
There are a reasonable selection of movies and TV on the system, enough to get you to sleep or to Heathrow, whichever comes first. The touch screen and remote are decently responsive, but all in all it doesn’t look super modern. This is likely because it’s not, and BA is slowly rolling out a newer WT+ product, which hasn’t been installed on the a388 as of yet. I settled in after the meal and watched some old favorites from the TV selections before taking a nap.
Though the WT+ product was passable for this flight at a highly discounted rate, sadly, BA is a study in how the mighty have fallen. Historically, it was a truly good airline with better products and service, but budget cuts have lowered their standard to the point that most competitors hard and soft product is much better. AA, CX, QF, etc all have slightly-to-much better Premium Economy on similar routes, and BA's Club World (Business class) seat likewise pales in comparison.
In the end we pulled up to the gate 15 minutes early, and I was happy to be on my way. All in all, it was fine, especially since I was flying on a cheap fare. The bulkhead seat is decently comfortable with plenty of leg room, but I wouldn't want to be really anywhere else in the cabin. In any case, I'm getting to Denmark safely and on time, which is the goal in the end!