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BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:07 am

British Airways Premium Economy Trip Report 2012


Hi all,

Just want to write a short report on my recent trip on British Airways Premium Economy between Los Angeles and Barcelona via London Heathrow! It is actually one of my first real premium economy flights so my perspective is not as sharp as it should be. As most of you know, I am more like first and business class travelers when it comes to international travel but as an open-minded passenger, I have no issues especially if the price is right. After reading a number of reports, my expectations are low, as most folks prefer QF and NZ PE products. A few months ago, BA launched a premium economy fare sale for travels in the winter seasons – typically low season and my choices are just a same day roundtrip between LAX and LHR, or just overnight somewhere. At the end, the fare is actually cheaper if I fly all the way to BCN and I just decide to go with that and stay overnight at La Salles El Prat at Barcelona for the short night. My trip report will focus on the transatlantic flights, as the other two intra-European flights are in economy and service is limited to one beverage run (complimentary bar) with a pack of Indian Korma savory snacks, and followed by a duty free run.

Booking: is okay and I think in general, it is a good and reliable website. I booked my flight with no issues and selected the flights that I want and they recognize my Emerald status right the way with AA number and able to select seats for free and have access to premium seats. I appreciate that much and the online check in also worked well. BA does very well in the technology part and much better than BD for sure.

Flight information:
March 3, 2012
BA 282 LAX-LHR Lv1630 Arr1045+1 Boeing 747-400 G-BNLF (Low J)
Connect to
BA 480 LHR-BCN Lv1405 Arr1710 Airbus A321-200 G-EUXH

March 5, 2012
BA 473 BCN-LHR Lv1010 Arr1135 Airbus A319-100 G-EUOH
BA 269 LHR-LAX Lv1500 Arr1805 Boeing 747-400 G-CIVH (High J)

On time Performance:
Both flights departed on time, but arrived late due to ATC and bad weather at LHR, and a late takeoff from LHR for the same reason and strong head wind. BA 282 departed from R/W25R at 5:09pm and landed on R/W27R at 11:05am and parked at gate B35 ten minutes later. BA 269 departed from R/W27L at 3:34pm and landed on R/W24R at LAX on 6:16pm local time and parked at gate 121 at 6:35pm. Delays were okay and the crews apologized both times. The major delay occurred at my BCN to LHR flight, and thankfully I had a three hours layover, but the delay was handled poorly. I was at the lounge during the whole delay… yes BCN used a third party lounge – MIRO Lounge, but an announcement would be nice, and BA should have sent a ground staff to assist with connections and alternative arrangement. However to give credits, some passengers were already informed of their missed connections prior to landing at Heathrow so people did not need to fanatically rush to a gate. The delay was due to a mechanical reason, as one of the part (brakes related) required a change and the whole process took two hours. We also arrived at gate A12/ Bay “512”, which was in the middle of Pier A and right at the “flight connection area” and “arrival” area. It made my connections much more smoother.

The routing from LAX to LHR took us over Las Vegas, Grand Junction, Sioux Falls, Sault Sainte Marie and then Goose Bay, and we reached land again when we crossed Rossport at Ireland, and then onto Birmingham. The return flight headed North immediately after takeoff, and passed Nottingham, Manchester, Glassgow, and then Keflavik at Iceland, and then Greeland and Kangerlussuaq airport and crossing Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, Hudson Bay, and Regina before enter the US. Then we flew towards Billings, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas and turned west towards LAX.

Weakest part of the experience – there was no dedicated premium economy check in counters at Los Angeles International, and without status, you are expected to check in at the regular economy line. I don’t expect fast track security, but premium check in is relatively easy to set up and it can easily accommodate the need. I used the first class counter and the agent was friendly enough, but did not tell me that I was moved on my connection flight to Barcelona due to the last minute increase of Club Europe cabin. I found out after checking my boarding pass at the lounge. In the end, it worked out as Row 9 was the beginning of the economy section and I got the whole row to myself, and I guess the return load was heavy in J, so the seats were kept at the Club Europe 2 abreast seating. In Barcelona, I do not expect a premium economy line, but BCN is a nice airport with plenty of kiosks to print out boarding pass and a premium check in line is available.

World Traveler Plus does not permit lounge access, but I have access to the OneWorld Alliance first class lounge and BA Galleries First Lounge as an Oneworld Emerald member. I most appreciate the access to fast track at the transfer station at T5A. I used the regular economy line and the agent immediately led me to the fast track line after reading my Emerald status. But WT+ really has no benefits when it comes to ground service when it comes to check-in, lounge access and even priority boarding. There was no sign in greeting WT+ passengers. Anyway no photos at both lounges, as you can easily find them here. The LAX lounge was fine except the slow Internet access and the computers did not have Internet connection. That is unacceptable. The Galleries lounge in London was nice of course, but the food selection – could they have more than Chicken Tikka Masala considered they served it on the plane as well. I know there was a menu to order form, but they could do better. A soup station would be appreciated too instead of ordering such a simple item from the staff. Business facilities are good at LHR lounge and there was chargers that permits the use of American adapters. Wifi is good and printing is available.

I boarded with the fast track group, as an Emerald member, and noticed that WT+ passengers often boarded last, which was strange. Boarding was organized at the major ports and Barcelona boarded everyone in the same time, but separate premium boarding lane was available at LHR and LAX. There was no pre-takeoff beverage service – only a quick newspapers round and then the passing of printed menus, which was a nice surprise – nothing fancy just a small card, but better than nothing. At each seat, there is a pillow, a blanket (fleece), a noise-canceling headset (same kind used in J and same cheap generic brand used by CX F and J), an amenity kit, and a charity envelope asking for spare changes.

Cheap noise-canceling headset

Cabin & Seat:
There were two different configurations – one featuring a 70 seat business class cabin with a 30 seat WT+ cabin, which was right behind Club World, and another one with a 52 seat J cabin with a 36 seat WT+ cabin between first and Club World. I flew both cabins – the 52 J seat version on the outbound and the high J on the return.

Cabin – 36 seats cabin with low J situated between Door 1 and 2 and strangely in front of Club World

My choice – Bulkhead window – 12A (Same 11K) – note this seat did not release till 48 hours prior to departure. I held 12B (12H) originally.

Legroom Shot for 12A – yes bassinet seat – so there may be chances that a baby is seated there.
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:08 am

Cabin – 30 seats cabin with high J

Most prized seat in high J cabin – 28B (Same as 28J) – solo seat with unlimited legroom and large side table, but no under-seat storage and also no window to look out from – that is why I do not choose the seat.

My choice is 29A (same with 29K)

Still direct aisle access

The seat itself was a nice cradle type with more width and recline compared to normal economy seat. I like the adjustable headrest. I was able to sleep seven hours on the return flight but no sleep over there, as I was a night owl and could not sleep till 3am local time.

Seat Control – recline, lumber support, footrest, and personal TV ejection for bulkhead seats

Power control – No real ac power unit – only Em Power port and headset jack

Back of seat (29B illustrated here in high J) – normal (no PTV on 29B or 29J)

I actually like my seat choices and will pick the same seat again when I fly WT+ in the future. Of course I preferred the low J configuration with the WT+ locating between F and Club World, as the boarding and deplaning went smoother. It felt more special and bathrooms were in a better location. However, the service was notably slower in low J configuration, and please note only one F/A was in charge of the WT+ section and it took a bit of time. With the high J section, two F/As were serving the section, as they were able to service both Y+ and the mini Y cabin right behind WT+. They also don’t need to share the galley with the CW cabin.
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:10 am

I was surprised that printed menus were provided and believe that BA has stepped up its efforts in improving the catering in WT+, especially the hot meal service, and unfortunately the second meal – pre-arrival meals were identical with World Traveler/Economy, and no separate beverage run was offered too – not a big deal for the breakfast service, but a big deal for the daytime second afternoon tea service. They should do a quick beverage run prior to the afternoon tea service especially towards the end of an eleven hours flight.

Same as Club World, hot towels are provided prior to the hot meal service (but not the pre-arrival meal), and while Club World has four entrée choices, WT+ share the same entrée choices, but of course the entrée was served in a real casserole dish, but a smaller one. Real metal cutlery is also provided but plastic cups are used, but real wine glasses are provided if you ask for wines.

Here is the real printed menu – relatively small but still an effort!

Cocktail service with Worcester Sauce pretzel nuggets

Wine served in real glasses
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:12 am

USA to London
One tray service – not unexpected but larger tray

Packaged Kaiser Roll – will it cost much if BA offers real warmed rolls in coach? If some airlines offer them to regular coach passengers, I don’t think it is a big deal. They don’t need to have choices, but warmed bread roll will be nice

Mixed green salad served with balsamic vinaigrette – chopped green salad

Meaux mustard marinated fillet of beef with Madeira wine jus, glazed root vegetables and potatoes fondant

Organic chicken tikka masala with basmatic rice, dal and toasted naan bread

Banana cake with frosting

Light refreshment will be served prior to arrival, including juice, tea and coffee

Out of all the airline food I consumed throughout the past decade, this breakfast box definitely qualified as one of the worst and BA should be ashamed to serve this box to any one. The sugar content in this box can kill anyone. Is it so hard to serve a croissant with butter and jam with a real piece of fruit, like banana. A box of raisins does not qualify as “real” fruits. For a ten hours flight, I don’t think I am asking too much for a warmed egg muffin sandwich – no need for a hot entrée, but a warmed breakfast sandwich.

Me Breakfast Box

Content of the box

Yogurt Drink – but I don’t understand why airlines want to serve pro-biotic yogurt drink? Not sure if you want a long line of passengers rushing to the bathroom in any cabin. I know it is popular but regular yogurt is good enough.

Mixed Fruit Muffin – too sweet with a packaged biscotti stuff that is even more sweet, and the box of raisins hiding in the back
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Wed Mar 07, 2012 10:13 am

Cocktail Service
Vodka Tonic

London to USA

Topped Harlequin Bread – white bread on top and then wheat bread on bottom

Herbs de Provence mixed bean salad

Filet of Aberdeen Angus beef with Stroganoff sauce, beetroot and gherkin boulangere potatoes

Chicken tikka masala with coriander rice and onion pakora

Lemon posset

Afternoon tea
Light refreshments will be served prior to arrival, including juice, tea and coffee.

Sandwiches – Chicken Caesar/ Double Gloucester Cheese Basil Mayonnaise and Slow Roasted Tomato

Chocolate Chip Muffin

The return flight features a very bad hot meal and the beef entrée did not taste well. The sauce was a bit on the sour side and seasoning is not balanced. I am also surprised a similar Chicken Tikka Masala is offered again. There is a strong tradition of Indian food in British culinary world, but it is odd to feature a similar dish on both the inbound and outbound flights to and from the USA. I expect another chicken dish on the return flight. The catering department should avoid serving similar food on both inbound and outbound flights. Vegetarian passengers need to preorder their meals. My neighbor had this issue but thankfully there was an extra vegetarian meal lying somewhere or a no-show vegetarian passengers. But the pre-arrival meal box is better and the sandwiches are fresh and tasty, and the chocolate chip muffin is not overly sweet. Quantity can improve, and not sure if I am asking too much for a heartier second meal on an eleven hours flight. Anyway, it won’t happen, but at least the food is edible. I don’t mind if BA offers a similar meal on the breakfast flight. Anyway, catering is very weak and BA has lots of work to do.

As I mentioned earlier, on the low J configuration, there is only one F/A serving the whole WT+ cabin, which takes a while with 36 passengers. Meals also take longer as one entrée choice was offered first, and other entrees served later. To be, there seems to be a shortage of oven or the fact that CW has priority use of the oven. For the LAX flights, it is okay, but for a short transatlantic flight, it might not look good if passengers have to wait two hours on a six hours flight. For the high J configuration, the service is a bit quicker.

In terms of friendliness, most F/As are polite and cordial, and it was within my expectation. For WT+ the F/A actually took entrée order shortly after takeoff but passengers were not addressed personally – not sure what this entrée order exercise means. They also passed through the cabins quite frequently with water and orange juice, and there is a juice and snack station at each galley. Snacks include chocolate bars, cookies, and crisps.

However, my experience was soured by a strange encounter in the galley on the way back to LAX. It was more than half way through the flight and I headed to the galley to get some snacks and drinks. The snack box was a bit low but just looking for a particular chocolate cookie bar. The F/A nearby just barked – “Sir, that’s all we have, as we are heading towards the end of the flight” and shot me a rather unfriendly look. I just smiled and nodded, “no worries”! Not sure if she was not happy that I was looking through the box, but with everything packaged, I did not see an issue. I was not making any gesture that suggests I am not happy. Other than that strange encounter, most F/As are friendly.

I don’t consider I am a frequent BA flyer, but have flown a few flights in F, J and now WT+. In general, there is always a shortage of staff and feel that F/As are not able to provide a more personable service because they are rushing to serve the main meal within a reasonable time frame. The Club World Service is slower because of the stupid divider. Only first class seems to be less hassled. Sometimes I feel SQ is able achieve a better service level because they are well staffed especially first and business cabin.

There is an on demand entertainment system with many movies, television shows, and moving map. It is not the top-notch system with SQ, Emirates, or CX, but acceptable compared to other European airlines like Lufthansa. Noise-canceling headsets, despite the cheap brand, is still a nice item to offer in WT+.

I paid $1372 including tax for this roundtrip flight with a 10% bonus and 1.5 EQM points with AA. I think it is a nice bargain, but honestly I am not sure if I will pay for more than $2000 (tax included) for this product. Will I fly it again? I will do it if there is another premium economy fare sale. The weakest link with WT+ is the completely lack of ground service, including priority check-in counters and boarding. Even with WT+, you are treated as a normal economy passenger, and WT+ passengers should board prior to regular World Traveler passengers, and there should be a dedicated WT+ counters on all long haul destinations, as well as a separate check-in area at Heathrow. I think my experience was improved with all the Emerald benefits provided to be with first class check-in, lounge access, priority boarding and access to choice seats. Nonetheless for the price I paid, I got a decent product and was able to get enough rest. Plus I am really not a big fan of the Club World seat and just can’t get over its odd face-to-face arrangement. I sincerely hope that A380 will feature the more current business class seat, like the Cirrus seats used by CX. Sure it beats flying AA sliding business class seats, but CW is more of a let down than WT+. In conclusion, WT+ is a nice product (with real power port or even an USB port will be great) and just keep your expectation reasonable! To me it is definitely a economy "plus" product, rather than a business "minus" product! Hope you enjoy this trip report!


[Edited 2012-03-07 02:24:44]
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:23 pm

Good to have an insight into BA Longhaul. Look forward to reading about your flights to BCN!
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Thu Mar 08, 2012 5:59 am

Hello carfield, thanks for the insight on the BA WT+. Whenever I fly back to the States, it's always via FRA or MUC, so I was thinking about trying this out from LHR to BOS. The rt ticket on WT+ is double that of Economy on UA via MUC and IAD and with Star Gold, I get the Economy Plus seats anyways. Definitely something to think about. Thanks for the detailed report!
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:25 am

Great trip report.

I like the focus on the meals, which despite the very weak breakfast offering seems to have improved from my experiences on WT+ from two years ago. Though beyond the menus the presentation is still very coach like.

I concur with the value assessment about WT+ in your conclusion, and also regarding the weirdness of the face-to-face arrangement of Club World. Hope they work on this class of service, as I think it definitely has potential for BA and in the industry particularly for dense ultra long haul routes.
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Fri Mar 09, 2012 11:09 am

The one aspect of BA catering that continues to baffle me is that they manage to serve a well regarded full english breakfast to economy passengers on 1 hour flights, but can only manage a shrunken warm bacon roll to passengers flying 10 hours in club, as for the breakfast offering in WT or WT+, the only comment I can make is that in my experience VS was even worse !

Regarding the overall WT+ offering BA are trying to pitch it somewhere in the middle of WT and Club. Previously it was too near WT compared to the VS premium economy, hence the upgrade of the main course to Club level. However if they take it too far and offer the complete Club meal package, this could reduce club yields, particularly on shorter day time routes.

At least BA do seem to be slowly upgrading catering a little, compared to a couple of years back when they scrapped more or less everyting they could.
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Fri Mar 09, 2012 10:19 pm

Wow, fantastic TR! Didn't realize that the WT+ product was really that good - makes me want to try it!


Quoting Bongodog1964 (Reply 8):

The one aspect of BA catering that continues to baffle me is that they manage to serve a well regarded full english breakfast to economy passengers on 1 hour flights, but can only manage a shrunken warm bacon roll to passengers flying 10 hours in club, as for the breakfast offering in WT or WT+, the only comment I can make is that in my experience VS was even worse !

This also has me baffled, but i suppose it kind of makes sense given the fact that sometimes, passengers are still asleep prior to landing due to time zone adjustments, so often the full breakfast fare may not be necessary. Also, not sure if it's a cultural thing, but people in the US are used to having breakfast on the go, usually a coffee and a small carb/protein is enough to suffice.

But, I digress, airlines know more than I do
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Sat Mar 10, 2012 4:22 am

Good report, Carfield and your coverage of BA's WT+ makes it look like an appealing option for a long flight if you're not wanting to fork over the J class fare.

I don't understand why so many airlines offer such a lackluster breakfast meal on early morning arrivals into Europe. A sweet muffin, and biscotti? When did this become breakfast? This will certainly lead to a sugar crash later in the day! If no hot breakfast sandwich, why not some type of cereal, a bagel and cream cheese, or fruit plate; the selections are endless ...

Thanks for sharing!

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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Mon Mar 12, 2012 8:36 pm

Quoting OP3000 (Reply 7):
the weirdness of the face-to-face arrangement of Club World

Out of interest, have you ever flown BA in club world? and experienced this?
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Mon Mar 19, 2012 3:41 pm

Excellent trip report,very interesting to see and read a report on the BA product.I had read recently that the meal had improved on the Y+,and going by what i have read it is a big improvement.I intend in the not too distant future using BA so maybe I will look again at Y+,and see how it compares to other prices!!!!
Thanks again Carfield,keep up the good work!!!
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Fri Mar 23, 2012 5:33 pm

Hi Carfield !
Thanks for a new expert analysis ... you and abrelosojos are the best analytical writers ... always professional and very educational ... waiting for a new story ...stipica  
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RE: BA WT+ LAX-LHR-LAX March 2012

Fri Mar 23, 2012 6:43 pm

BA regular Y is great except the 31" legroom.

As to Y + I prefer the "affordable" UA product. For only 100 USD extra OW you get 34" legroom. I don't feel that it's worth paying over 1000 USD for extra width on BA. The extra legroom is enough. But if I can get 32" legroom no need to even pay $100 more for 34" in my opinion.

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