Later this year, British Airways will celebrate a huge milestone: a full 100 years of passenger flights (if you count their predecessors all the way back to the Aircraft Transport and Travel company). As one of the many ways it’s commemorating the occasion, BA is making some updates to World Traveller Plus, their premium economy cabin. The current version of the seat was unveiled back in 2010, and earlier this year we got to fly it on two long-haul flights, one on a Boeing 787 and another on an Airbus A380.
We found a lot to like, from basics like more space and recline, to better amenities, and — at least on the A380– the chance to sit on the upper deck without breaking the bank! It ain’t business class for sure, but it was definitely enough to make 20 hours in the sky fly right by.
Read on for a chronicle of our trip in World Traveller Plus from Chennai to San Francisco via London Heathrow. And at the end, we’ll discuss BA’s big upcoming updates to its premium economy service.
Last month we were on Virgin Atlantic’s first flight using jet fuel made from recycled pollution. The service was operated by one of the older planes in Virgin’s fleet, the classic 747-400. It’s always a blast to fly with the Queen of the Skies, but on the return journey we were looking forward to flying with her younger sibling the 787-9 Dreamliner.
While onboard, we got to review the newest version of the airline’s premium economy product: Virgin Premium. True to form for Virgin, the cabin experience oozed style, with sleek yet comfortable seats, great inflight entertainment, and food that could’ve been mistaken for what you’d get in business class. Of course there were parts of the experience that reminded us that we weren’t actually flying in Virgin’s “Upper Class.” But all in all, we found Virgin Premium to be a strong product that’s is well worth it when crossing the Atlantic.
Read on for plenty of photos and details from our premium economy flight with Virgin Atlantic.
A Virgin Atlantic 787-9 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Photo: Colin Cook
On a recent trip to Europe, my girlfriend and I had the opportunity to fly in two different premium cabins to compare different products. The first story covered the British Airways First Class experience on a 747-400 from Seattle to London. This second part reviews the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) product on a 787-9 from London back to Seattle.
The flight in BA First Class set an extremely high bar for any future flight to exceed. Simply put, it was the best flight I’ve ever experienced, both from a hard and soft product perspective. I was interested in comparing the premium cabin experiences on aircraft that are generations apart in technology. While the 747 will always be the Queen of the Skies and helped to open many international travel routes, the 787 is very much the future of air travel.
On the night prior to our flight, we discovered that Virgin Atlantic offers Upper Class passengers a premium car service from central London to Heathrow. Unfortunately, we were evidently not eligible for this perk, as we were traveling on an award ticket. We also discovered that when you are arriving by a car service (we took an Uber), there is a special airport entrance, the Upper Class Wing, for which you can register. Once I requested the Uber on the morning of our flight, I had our hotel call Virgin Atlantic to register the car’s license plate, which allowed us access to the private check-in area for Upper Class passengers. Now that’s classy.
A United 787-9 touching down – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
United’s daily service from Los Angeles (LAX) to Melbourne (MEL), Australia is the world’s longest Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight. The long flight (UA98 is scheduled for 15 hours, 50 minutes) allowed me to not only put the 787-9 to the test, but also United’s Economy Plus product.
Flights from LAX to Melbourne take off in the late evening and arrive in the early morning, so the outbound flight is quite easy to sleep on, assuming you aren’t contemplating the remoteness of the vast Pacific Ocean. The routing typically takes the aircraft out on runway 25R, and after an eternity over open water, high above Kiribati, American Samoa, and Fiji, before crossing the Tasman Sea, leaving less than an hour of flying time over land.
Economy Plus on the United 787
As you enjoy your breakfast, you can gaze out on a sunrise over the Australian Alps and observe the Dreamliner’s wings, which are nearly free of fuel, in their most upward-bent shape. I was excited for the flight, but not sure if United could come through during such a long trip.