British Airways–My New Favorite Airline (not just because it’s British)

So I’m back from England.  With some lovely souvenirs, my research well started, and a cold.

This baby perfectly expresses my feelings about it.  Also, we have the same hairstyle today.   

This baby perfectly expresses my feelings about it.  Also, we have the same hairstyle today.

Image:  Phaitoon / freedigitalphotos.net

Many of my European friends have trouble understanding why Americans don’t travel overseas much.  It’s partly because we have everything we could possibly want to visit right here–oceans, deserts, mountains, forests, you name it.

It’s also because flying overseas is not only expensive, but UNCOMFORTABLE.  And we don’t get the generous time off that Europeans and British people do.  A flight to Europe or the UK takes seven or eight hours.  That’s not counting all the time spent sitting around waiting to board, and flying to a hub because you live in a little tiny place with a little tiny airport.   Just the travel eats up two days of your holiday (there and back again).

Not as comfy as they look.

Not as comfy as they look.

Image:  artur84 / freedigitalphotos.net

Oh, sure, if you’re willing to pony up for a business class or first class seat, you could hang out in the lounge, but most of us don’t have the money for that.  Some airlines let you purchase time in a lounge.  That’s nice if you have a long layover, but if it’s under two hours, I’m thinking it’s not worth it.

For this trip, I did some homework (here, and here) and decided to buy a premium economy ticket on British Airways.  I’ve never flown them before, but they appeared on several lists touting how much better foreign airlines’ premium economy is than the US carriers.  As the Asian airlines and Air France tickets were out of my budgeted amount, I decided to go with BA.

They call their premium economy World Traveller Plus, and along with the fancy name, it does not disappoint.  No matter what, flying anything less than First long-haul is going to suck (and I’m just guessing, since that will probably never happen in my lifetime).  But for a bit more money, BA ensures that it will suck a little less.

To start, you get your own cabin. Yes, they separate you from the rest of the economy ticketholders, something that Delta (God love ‘em) does not do.  The last time I flew to London, I paid for an upgrade to Delta’s PE, and it was no better than cattle class.  All I got were four inches of extra legroom, but my neighbor was still in my lap.

A lot like this. 

A lot like this.

Image:  en.rocketnews.24.com

On BA’s WT+ (I’m not typing it six hundred times), the seats are wider.  WIDER.  There are TWO armrests and you are not jockeying for them, unless your neighbor has very fat elbows or is an asshole.

When you get on the plane, you get juice and a newspaper.  A British newspaper, no less.

JUICE.  OMG.  And you have a little drink tray.  No juggling your glass!

JUICE.  OMG.  And you have a little drink tray.  No juggling your glass!

Photo:  Elizabeth West

The British have a fetish for newspapers; they still read the crap out of them–on the airplane, the tube, etc.  I thought that was cute, until the first time I found myself on a train with a low phone battery and nothing to look at but shoes and silly adverts.

Like this one.

Like this one.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

 Then I found myself diving for people’s abandoned copies of the Metro or the Evening Standard, both of which you can get free at almost every station.  Coming back, they gave me a Daily Mail with a huge picture of Princess Charlotte on the cover.  I left it at work for coworkers to gaze at and someone appropriated it.  Fine by me; they stack up.

A hot towel follows the juice; Delta did this too, but that was the ONLY perk in premium economy.

In the seat back, you’ll find a big touchscreen through which you can access tons of shows and movies.  I watched the first episode of Fargo going over, before my Unisom kicked in and I had to pass out for a while.  I was gutted when I couldn’t find it on the way back–I wanted to finish the first season.  So I watched Interstellar instead, and finished Broadchurch.

Pretty sweet.  Though Interstellar would have been better on my 37” widescreen.

Pretty sweet.  Though Interstellar would have been better on my 37” widescreen.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Note there are two USB ports for charging your phone or tablet.  You can listen to the shows through the lovely noise-cancelling headphones that come in your amenity pack.

Along with a pretty pillow and a shit blanket. 

Along with a pretty pillow and a shit blanket.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

Seriously, they could do better with the blankets.  I had to steal the extra one on the flight over to keep from freezing.  The best use for an airline pillow is in the small of your back–your own neck pillow is probably more comfy for sleeping, and definitely more sanitary.   But these weren’t too bad.

In the amenity kit, they included a small plastic bag containing a sleep mask, earplugs, a pen, a toothbrush and something I suppose was paste, and SOCKS.  Usually you only get socks in fancy class.

Nice, BA.  Nice.

Nice, BA.  Nice.

Photo: Elizabeth West

I already packed all these things on my own, including an inflatable footrest (that saved my back on the Delta flight, where I had a bulkhead seat and couldn’t use my bag as one). But I didn’t need the latter, because the seats have footrests that go up and down.  There’s not much room under them for your stuff, but the overhead bins are more than generous.

Dinner!

You get a menu with a choice of two entrees.  The food comes from the Club World menu, which is BA’s business class.  It’s airplane food–don’t expect a five-star Michelin experience.  However, they do their best to smarten it up with a real cloth napkin and metal cutlery.

The tray folds out from your armrest–it’s quite sturdy, and because the seats are wider, there’s no elbow whacking when you try to eat.  Lovely.

WT+ Supper

A real glass for the wine, too.

 

Photo: Elizabeth West

Going over, I had a pasta thing with artichoke hearts–in the picture–and it was pretty tasty.  Coming back, I chose the British beef.  Not bad, but the potatoes were quite mushy.  Bleah.  No worries; I had no problem with the rest of the meal.  It probably didn’t help that I had lunch at Gordon Ramsay’s Plane Food at Heathrow.

Yum yum.  Every scrap of this was utterly delicious.

Yum yum.  Every scrap of this was utterly delicious.

Photo:  Elizabeth West

No matter how nice everything is, few people can sleep comfortably on a long-haul flight when they can’t lie down.  I’m a side sleeper, which doesn’t help.  The Delta flight, with no room to even turn sideways, was torture.  I prepped for this one by bringing my own mask, earplugs, and a packet of Unisom fast-melt tablets.

Thanks to a cabin that wasn’t completely full, enabling me to move to a nearby empty seat and stretch my legs into my own footrest, an extra blanket and my pashmina for warmth and the Unisom, I was able to get enough sleep to prevent a full zombification upon arrival.

Pretty much me last time.

Pretty much me upon arrival last time.

Image:  xfinity.comcast.net

The flight attendants on BA were pleasant and helpful.  I would give them all big fat raises–are you listening, executives?  Seriously, FAs don’t make nearly as much as they should, given all they do for passengers.  Like, you know, being trained to save our asses during an emergency and all that.

Overall, I’d rate my experience in World Traveller Plus with a great big fat A minus.  The minus addresses two things:

  • The shit blankets (I don’t expect much from an airline blanket, so perhaps it’s not a fair rating). I’m really glad I took my pashmina because without it, I would have frozen.
  • WT+ gets Club World food, but we’re not allowed to use the Club World loos. No, we had to go back into Economy (World Traveller on BA) and wait in line along with everyone back there.  Since there are so few people in WT+, I see no issue with us using the CW loos, but that’s up to the flight attendants, I suppose.  One side of my cabin had the rope up and the other didn’t.  If CW passengers didn’t mind, I guess they’d let us use it.

All in all, I’d fly this airline again in a hot minute.  In fact, I’m gutted because they have a sale on right now and I have to book by May 14 in order to take advantage of it, and I don’t have the money.  Arggh!

I did join their Executive Club and received 5,000 Avios points.  I could get more if I could get a BA-branded credit card, but since I can’t get a credit card right now, that’s out.  Oh well, I’ll slowly rack up points, because I’m definitely not ever flying an American carrier overseas again, unless I’m in First.  And maybe not even then.

New favorite airline. 

New favorite airline.

Image:  anglotopia.net

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