Some 15 years ago, our first ever long-haul flight on BA was in its premium economy cabin, World Traveller Plus. Having flown in the cabin on every type of BA long-haul aircraft, a review is long overdue.
At the time, BA and Virgin were virtually the only airlines to offer premium economy. Having overcome their fear of cannibalising business class revenue, most European and Asia Pacific airlines have followed suit. On the other side of the Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta and United are also rolling out premium economy.
More than any other cabin on BA, the value of World Traveller Plus is very subjective. Some see little difference from economy. Others see it as a welcome relief. There are also significant differences depending on which aircraft you are flying.
So here’s our guide based on a number of flights over the past 12 months or so.
World Traveller Plus on BA
World Traveller Plus is available on every BA long-haul flight from London Gatwick and Heathrow.
The one exception are flights on Airbus A321 aircraft to Amman, Beirut and occasionally Cairo, Moscow and Tel Aviv.
The one relative weakness compared to other airlines, notably Virgin Atlantic, is that you don’t get much extra in terms of ground services.
You do have an increased checked luggage allowance of two bags. There is priority boarding of sorts as you will board before economy under the group boarding system. But that’s about it. Some airports outside of London may have dedicated check-in desks, but that’s the exception rather than the rule.
After the 2008 financial crisis, BA did trial paid for lounge access for World Traveller Plus passengers at New York JFK but this was not extended.
The World Traveller Plus Cabin
Here’s the cabin you find on the the Airbus A380, Boeing 777-300, 787-8, 787-9, and the majority of four class Boeing 777-200 aircraft.
On the majority of aircraft, the cabin is in a 2-4-2 configuration. However, on the Airbus A380 and Boeing 787, the cabin is a 2-3-2 configuration. Here are the seat maps on ba.com
Boeing 747 aircraft, three class Boeing 777-200 and some four class Boeing 777-200 aircraft have the original World Traveller Plus seat which you can see on ba.com.
However, Boeing 747 aircraft with 86 business class seats have had the original seats recovered and at seat power upgraded to USB and a universal plug. Aircraft that have not been upgraded have Empower at seat power sockets which require a PhD in electrical engineering to find an adapter that will work with your devices.
BA is also in the process of upgrading its Gatwick Boeing 777-200 with a new World Traveller Plus cabin.
There is also one peculiarity. On Boeing 747 aircraft with 52 business class seats, the cabin is actually located between First and Club World. This was done intentionally to allow BA to add another 16 business class seats to these aircraft.
The Cabin Environment
As World Traveller Plus has become more popular, the number of seats on newer aircraft has increased significantly.
On three class Boeing 777-200 aircraft there are just three rows of World Traveller Plus. On Airbus A380, there are nine. Whilst the Airbus A380 is a great aircraft to fly on, it does lose its “demi-cabin” feel.
The one bonus on the Airbus A380 is that there are side bins along the windows for storage. However, beware passengers behind you using them as a foot rest. Ugh!
If the cabin is not full, and there is little by way of through traffic from other cabins, it can feel very peaceful and relaxing during the flight. If not, it can be much less so.
The main features of the seat are:
– Seat pitch of 38 inches and width of 18.5/20 inches
– 10.6 inch in flight entertainment screen.
– Adjustable “hammock style” headrest
– At seat cocktail table
– A fold-out half/full tray table
– Adjustable foot rest
– Adjustable leg rest (front row seats only)
– Universal and USB plug sockets
Needless to say, the front rows offer the best seats. The worst seats are centre seats and those towards the back of the cabin where you do risk noise from the front row of World Traveller.
It should also be noted that the recline of the seat is quite deep. Whilst this is good for sleeping, some passengers struggle to get out of their seats if the seat in front is fully reclined.
The in-flight service is essentially an enhanced version of BA’s World Traveller service, as served by the same crew.
The principal differences are:
– Noise cancelling headphones
– Pre take-off drinks of water, juice and sparkling wine
– Hot towels
– Printed menus
– An enhanced first meal tray with bread from a basket and a main course from the Club World menu served in a china dish
Extra drinks runs and, to use BA lexicon, “surprise and delight” moments for frequent flyers depend very much on the crew on the day. There are no dedicated snack bar type areas for World Traveller Plus. You can of course go the World Traveller galleys for tuck boxes where these are available.
If there was one criticism in particular is that the 2nd meal, particularly on inbound overnight flights to London, could be more substantial (and with lower sugar content).
Here’s a selection of menus and meals from the past on three different transatlantic routes in the past 12 months or so:
How does it compare to World Traveller?
Can I let you in a secret?
No, dear reader, please don’t write in. What can be said with confidence is that having observed the World Traveller cabin on the Boeing 787-8, the seating does look incredibly tight. As are the aisles. So, by any measure, World Traveller Plus is a significant upgrade on this aircraft.
One difference between BA and many other airlines is that it does not offer any “economy comfort” type seats with extra leg room. Bar exit row seats in World Traveller, this is the only option for improved comfort.
Upgrading to Club World
Arguably one the main benefits of World Traveller Plus is it can be an easy way of upgrading to Club World. This can be done in three ways:
1. Operational Upgrades
These are most likely for Silver and Gold Executive Club members. If BA has oversold either World Traveller or World Traveller Plus, some World Traveller Plus passengers will be upgraded to Club World. This will depend very much on the profile of the route and seasonal demand patterns. Overselling is a long-standing and sophisticated revenue management technique all within the control of BA, so please don’t ask for an upgrade.
2. Paid-for Upgrades
These will come and go at any point from the time of purchase. From experience, these are only offered when flying direct to and from the same airport. So if you are flying to New York JFK and back from Boston, you will not see any of these offers.
Again, these will depend very much on the profile of the route and seasonal demand patterns. The price will very from around £400 to £700+ one-way, which is probably beyond what most would consider reasonable. These are a convenient way for BA to convert what would otherwise be free operational upgrades into paid for upgrades. From experience, a lower price indicates BA has oversold the cabin. A higher price indicates BA sees no need to offer discounted Club World seats. You may also see promotional signs at some airports.
3. Upgrade using Avios
You can use Avios to upgrade, subject to availability.
The cost is the difference between the number of Avios needed to book a reward flight in Club World and the number of Avios needed to book a reward flight in World Traveller Plus on your route.
So, on London Heathrow to New York JFK, it would cost 60,000 Avios minus 40,000 Avios (20,000 Avios) to upgrade one-way. This is not the best value use of Avios, but it’s there if you need it.
It should also be said that if your booked to fly in World Traveller, all of the above are also available to use to upgrade to World Traveller Plus.
Is it worth it?
This is very subjective. It is if:
1. You value being in a smaller and quieter cabin
2. You value guaranteed extra seat-width, leg-room and a better at seat table
3. You are travelling with a partner and want seats alone together
4. You don’t sleep easily in economy
5. You are able and willing to upgrade to Club World if the opportunity is available
6. You want to earn extra tier points and Avios.
In our view, it’s at its best when seated in an exit row on either the Airbus A380 or Boeing 787.
On a day flight, the only thing it really lacks compared to Club World is personal privacy. On a night flight, whilst the seat is obviously not comparable to a flat bed, combined with a more comfortable cabin environment on newer generation aircraft, it is adequate for a reasonable night’s sleep.