Review: British Airways flight from London Heathorw to Hong Kong in Premium Economy (World Traveller Plus)

Introduction

I was suppose to take this flight in June 2015 though I bought another ticket and travelled First on the same flight at the end — ditched it as I found a return Club World fare deal from Munich to Hong Kong via London for £780. I upgrade to First on the outbound for 30,000 Avuis. For the unused ticket I moved it to March 2016.

Because of last minute changes I needed to take a flight to Hong Kong as soon as possible. As a student purchased student fare tickets – slightly expensive however it gave me the possibility to change the flight date whenever I want for free – as long as the booked fare bucket is still available. This basically functions as a fully flexible ticket though no refunds can be made for unused sectors and has to be a return ticket.

As this ticket is booked via a travel agent I needed to phone from Edinburgh to Hong Kong to make that change: I stayed up late to write an e-mail requesting the change and I phoned in the early morning in the UK (late afternoon in Hong Kong) to reissue the ticket.

As the February school holiday was just around a week to go I therefore enjoyed an extra week of holiday while others are still working 🙂

Flight information:

British Airways flight BA0027
Seat:                23A (previously 29F; moved to 21F at the end)
Aircraft Type: B777-300
Load Factor:   Very low in World Traveller Plus but high in World Traveller and Club World

Check in

All the check-in was done in Edinburgh as I needed a domestic feeder flight to London Heathrow. It was a quiet morning and I was served in a minute or two.

Airport Upgrade

I was initially given seat 29F (didn’t pick a seat by myself as all the good seats are taken anyway as online check-in starts). After getting spoiled by Club World on different flights throughout the past journeys I started considering getting an upgrade into a higher cabin – either World Traveller Plus (WTP) or Club World (CW).

At BA’s customer service desk at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 South I enquired about airport upgrade and for this flight the upgrade costs are as follow:

World Traveller Plus:       £229
Club World:                       £799
First:                                  Forgot to ask :O

Unfortunately, upgrade with Avios is not available as it has to be done online or by phone . My booking class is not eligible for Avios upgrade (bucket M) anyway as I booked this ticket before changes to the Executive Club scheme were in place.

After a couple of hours I decided to opt-in at one of the special promotions desk at desk E1. The prices were the same at that time. Given the economy cabin is quite full (the ground agent showed me the seat map) and almost 3/4 of the World Traveller Plus cabin is empty I opted in – and £229 are gone after the swipe on the card reader!

One thing to note about cash upgrade is that the booking class changes – in my case it was moved from discounted economy (M) to full fare premium economy (W). This means you would get a considerable amount of Avios bonus and surely a big jump of tier points you get – from 35TPs to 90TPs! This is different from airlines such as Qatar Airways, where you only receive the original qualifying miles and frequent flyer miles when getting a cash upgrade to business class.

As the Avios and Tier Points posts I received 90TPs and 13,453 Avios. This includes a 100% Tier bonus for bookings made before the changes and 1,495 Avios were for the cabin upgrade.

Lounge

I visited two lounge: Galleries Club Lounge T5 North and Galleries Club Lounge T5B. To describe the differences in one sentence is that T5B is far better. The lounges in T5A is always extremely cramped and is quite dirty – especially the keyboards and mouse for the computers – so dirty that there are dusts inside it and it just feels sticky. Totally not acceptable for a lounge. In terms of seats it was probably 90% full – there are some odd seats however it was not easy to find a spot with privacy – in fact I only spent minutes on the computers then I moved on.

As the flight departs from gate B48 I moved on to the B lounge. Things were good there. Everyone have a place to seat and it just felt relaxing and refreshing.

Getting a shower before any flight is a must for me therefore I booked for a shower. It took a good 5 minutes for a receptionist to come however I felt much better my request of jumping the waitlist for shower was granted as I only have an hour to get everything done. Different from the shower at Terminal 5 South lounges the showers here are not refurbished, meaning the floor is still blue and the yellow stains are still here and the built in radio did not work (shower 2 in T5B lounge). Wi-Fi signal from this bathroom was fair and I managed to play some songs on Spotify, replacing the radio. Shower pressure was good at Heathrow but okay when facing the lounges at Hong Kong International Airport.

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Hot meals selection — weren’t interested at that point so didn’t get anything (though the chicken one is really good)
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Way to Elemis Spa, showers, Work and Entertainment zone and the fixed charging cables for your devices

Prior to leaving the lounge I grabbed some fruits, had a glass of water and wrote feedbacks on the book at the shower reception. I also got some shave gels and other amenities as they are very good. It is also my habit of drinking some hot chocolate at the lounges but not this time as boarding started as I go and get one.

Boarding

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I usually go to gate when it says ‘Now boarding all passengers’ — you know I just want to be in the lounge for longer!

Gate B48 is where I needed to go, which is just 3 minutes away from the lounge. I stayed in the lounge for quite a while after boarding was announced. By the time I arrived I was probably the last 10 people to get on. As I used airport upgrade the ground agent at the gate needed to reissue my boarding pass, which took around a minute. I also asked her to show me the load in economy and premium economy – she conformed with me that it was quite full (I saw the screen too) and when I asked if anyone is sitting next to me we looked and it is empty.

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Big aircrafts always need a longer bridge to have more space to move around during pushback and arrival. I though the ones which the A380s use are long enough until when I step on the bridge…

…it has to be the longest one I have been on yet.

Departure

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As expected the WTP cabin is sparely populated. It took some time for me to learn how to open the overhead bin om the B777-300 in the centre – instead of just pull it down you needed to pull it outwards first then pull down – I though the bin opening mechanism is not functioning until when a cabin crew showed me how to do it. Surely I should know how it’s done given the miles I fly every year?

Then I walked around the economy section: it was so cramped. I had a glance at 29F and it was occupied by I guess a family group. There are a lot of passengers who I think are from mainland China – again not surprised given the Chinese New Year is just more than a week away.

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A while after I seated I was offered the menu then again a while after a glass of drink. As they were trying to look for an oxygen mask for a man (took a long time as the man wasn’t happy with the size) I acknowledged in my mind and moved on. Hot towels were offered pre=departure too and was collected shortly after. Noise-cancelling headphone with a amenity kit was sealed on the seat. It includes socks, eye mask, tooth brush/paste, ear plugs and a pen, very useful for landing cards

This flight departed late as a of no-shows. It took around 30 minutes to unload the bags and we took off at around 21:45.

The seat

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In terms of design the seats are very economy – I mean you still see the shape of it only the sit, entertainment screen is bigger and you have a foot rest plus an extra USB port for charging. You also get a nicely sized seat pocket which I put all the essentials into.

Premium economy is after all, well, economy. The yellowing of the plastic shell on top of the screen, the screen which did not installed horizontally with the side and that uneven tray table from the armrest are a proof of that. The biggest problem however arises as I try to recline. Instead of leaning back smoothly as I press the button and lean back the seat started to build up pressure and suddenly it goes all the way back. Perhaps they should lubricate the recline mechanism. I reported this to one of the crews and she said she will log it down. Hopefully she remembers it (and she forgot… though she did remember to bring a cup of tomato juice later on

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Only in World Traveller Plus: you get an adjustable footrest (footstools in Club World and First)
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You also have a mini table on the armrest for putting drinks

To summarise I really appreciate the legroom and space I own. Even if I am sitting with someone my space is still well protected as the armrest is fixed. This means I can still stretch out even when a big mass person shares the journey with me. The size of screen is also big enough to watch a film or read the texts easily, unlike in Club World where it is just basically to small given the huge space I have around me.

Service

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Favourite drink in the air: Tomato juice with lemon, ice and sauces

As a standard snacks (pretzels) and a bar service started one hour after departure. Meal service followed around an hour later and that after three hours into the flight the trays were collected. It was around another good 30 minutes before the lights go off as crews were selling duty frees.

The cabin crews who served me were very polite. It doesn’t look like that are rushing, which made the journey very enjoyable. What also stands out is the announcement: they were very swift and to the point, this especially applies to the crew who does the Cantonese announcement. She is by far the best and most efficient Cantonese speaker on the PA system on British Airways. She doesn’t drag her speeches and that she follows up immediately after for example the captain explained why the departure is delayed. The other crucial thing is she speaks fast enough and that she knows what she is saying – which sadly lots of other Cantonese crew do not know how to achieve on BA. I am sue how satisfied I am with her by the volume I write about her!

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It’s a bassinet seat — it can only be reserved by oneworl Emeralds until T-72

While the plane is flying nearby Moscow I was lucky enough to speak to the Customer Service Director or this flight: Paulu. I first only wanted to ask if the lights will go off or not (the service took slight longer than usual experiences — 3 hours) however as she asks if things are alright I showed her the 23A seat which just reclines too fast (yep things have changed). She then offered me to move to other seats which are not occupied, and I got into the bulkhead seats, 21F. Since the whole row is empty I do now have my ideal private space!

Meals

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They do taste better than what it looks!

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As advertised catering in Premium Economy is in Club World’s fashion: for example you get the same main course and metal cutleries. The major differences are all food are served in one go and starter/desserts are fixed. You still get to choose bread though (bread is pre-packaged in economy). I got a brown and white one – my beloved garlic bread was not available. I was really impressed by the chicken main course on my last Club World flight however this time in premium economy I chose steak instead. The beef was well-done, along with everything else. There is nothing too special to mention however as few hours prior I had early dinner at Flat Iron, a well rated steakhouse. Oh I just want to stress that the steak was very rough and chewy, and it hurts my mouth.

In-flight

As the plane flies passes over Belayyya Kholunitsa turbulence strikes. There are off bumps though not a big deal. The seat-belt sign is turned on.

The CSD walk around the cabin frequently, perhaps she is on duty and she has lots to look after. After I moved seat she asked if I knew any BA staffs or not. I said no and explained all the things about flying Club World cheaply and FlyerTalk. Do visit there for great tips that would change your life!

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I started this report as I boarded the plane!

Arrivals

As of late departures we arrived around 30 minutes late. Immigration was fast as I am entitled to use the e-gates. If you are a frequent visitor of Hong Kong or is a frequent flyer status holder you can apply the use of the gates at the airport. It costs something though is free for some loyalty programme members. More information can be found here.

Never worry about it if you have a connection on the same ticket: 4-5 staffs stand outside the bridge knows about it and just contact them when you find your name on the sheets.

Even as a frequent flyer with a priority on one of the two bags it took 20 minutes just to get my bags. The one without tag came first then the tag attached one arrived 5 minutes later. Do not rely on BA to have your bags delivered first as they never promise this would happen. They do happen though do not count on it.

BA always use baggage reclaim belts at the A arrivals area.

Conclusion

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20 minutes before landing

To begin I didn’t regret paying for an upgrade as the last thing you want to happen on an overnight flight sleeping in a cramped environment and have people constantly going to the loo. I really enjoyed the amount of space available and the good attitude from the crew members. Certainly the difference is huge when comparing to Club World though I accepted what I paid for and made the most out of it.

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Author: Samuel

Samuel, 18, was born in Hong Kong though since 2011 he started studying in Scotland. Samuel is a big fan of travelling, however he is no ordinary traveller -- he is a premium traveller. With the use of different hotel booking strategies and ticketing hacks he is able to turn the dream of business class travel into reality while paying the price of economy (sometimes less than that).

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