This flight, BA84, has a 9:10 pm departure time from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to London Heathrow with a scheduled flying time of 9 hours and 20 minutes.
Check In and Security Check
I arrived at the check-in counter about two and a half hours before departure. The check in process was a breeze. I was on a one-way BA Avios redemption ticket in economy class. At check-in, I was asked if I wanted to upgrade to Premium Economy for C$450. I declined because I knew that the aircraft was old and that the cabin had not been revamped. I flew BA’s premium economy several times before and made the conclusion that it was just not worth the money.
Security was painless and fast, even without fast track. Vancouver Airport is typically quiet after 7 pm. Most of the international long haul flights tend to depart between 12 noon and 6:30 pm.
Lounges at YVR Airport International Terminal
I had three choices – the default British Airways Club/First Lounge (for BA Silver/Gold members) or Plaza Premium Lounge (using Priority Pass) or SkyTeam Lounge (also using Priority Pass). I chose Plaza Premium because of the availability of hot foods. The BA lounge is nice and staffed by friendly people but it is relatively small and can be crowded. SkyTeam lounge, in my opinion, is soulless. At quiet times, you can barely get decent food there. The Plaza Premium in YVR is more than a decent lounge. It offers hot dining; I especially like the noodle station. The seating is adequate in numbers and quite comfy. As long as you can avoid the Qantas’s departing crowd, you can usually have a peaceful time there.
Much to my surprise, at the gate, my name was called out. They had swapped my economy boarding pass with a premium economy. The flight was quite empty, so to get an operational upgrade was a pleasant surprise. I accepted it graciously. Boarding was by group number, 1 to 5. I was on Group 1 (being BA Gold / One World Emerald) and was amongst the few who boarded first. Boarding was efficient and completed well ahead of scheduled time. The aircraft left the gate 10 minutes early at 9 pm.
The aircraft was a Boeing 747-400, a four engine aircraft with twin aisle cabin, registration G-CIVP, which came into service in 1998. (Source: The BA Source) That makes it a 21 year old aircraft. I am sure, the interior has been refreshed a couple of times.
Cabin and Seating in Premium Economy
The premium economy (also known as World Traveller Plus) cabin is sandwiched between the first class and the lower deck business class cabins. See seat map below. This invariably means the first class passengers will disembark the aircraft after the premium economy passengers.
It has a total of 36 seats in a 2-4-2 layout. To give you a general idea on the spaciousness, the standard economy cabin seating layout is 3-4-3. Essentially, two seats were removed per row to make it into ‘premium’ economy. The seat pitch is 38 inches and the seat width is 20 inches; compare that with standard economy at 31 inches and 17.5 inches respectively.
The seat did recline but by not much, but sufficient enough to disrupt your back-seat viewing and comfort level if the passenger in-front decided to do the maximum recline. There was an adjustable headrest and footrest for added ‘comfort’.
The seat-back pocket had two large pouches to store your cables, glasses and other small personal items – a very convenient feature.
There was no USB outlet to directly charge the mobile devices. A multi adapter power supply is available to power the laptop and devices.
The eating tray was stored inside the seat’s armrest.
In my opinion, the seat was quite hard. Overall, the cabin had a very year ‘2000’ feel. However, to be fair, I think it probably did receive a minor refresh a few years ago because the carpets were not totally worn out and the seats were not totally sunken in.
Bear in mind that British Airways has another variant of the premium economy cabin on its Boeing 747-400 fleet. This article refers to aircraft G-CIVP. The other version has smaller number of premium economy seats and better features.
I self-guided myself to my seat. I was seated on 15G, an aisle seat in the middle column. No one was sitting next to me. Needless to say, the entire flight was much more comfortable as a result. The premium economy cabin was less than three-quarters full. Interestingly, I noticed that the demographic group of the passengers in this cabin was mostly the over 50 years old.
There was plenty of overhead cabin storage. On the seat itself, they had already placed the headset, amenity kit, a small pillow and a standard blanket sealed in a plastic bag. So, in order to be seated comfortably, the first thing you have to do is to remove these items to the side.
The amenity kit consisted of basic inflight conveniences, all sealed in an unimpressive BA branded plastic bag. Inside, there were cabin socks, an eye mask, earplugs, a tooth brush, a small tube of toothpaste and a pen. The latter was handy to complete the UK landing form.
The headphone was a bit flimsy, definitely not noise cancelling, despite BA claiming it to be on its website. The personal entertainment screen, mounted on the forward passenger’s backseat was very tiny, about 5.25 inches (same size as in the standard economy seat). Amazingly, it was a touchscreen (sarcasm)! To clarify, it was not touchscreen. There was also a handheld media control to operate the entertainment system. The inflight entertainment was adequate with the usual offerings of Hollywood movies, TV shows and radios. But in all frankness, it was hard to enjoy them on a screen size that was no larger than the length of an iPhone 6/7. Real time flight navigation information was also on offer to track the progress of the flight.
We were offered a pre-flight drink, limited to a choice of water or orange juice only. Shortly after, a menu was distributed in the form of a small postcard size. After reaching the cruising altitude, a warm towel was handed out. I was warmly greeted and addressed by my last name. The UK landing card was distributed shortly after, followed by drinks and snack, served from a trolley. Alcoholic drinks were offered including wine and champagne. The snack was just a packet of pretzels. She came back a short while later to take my choice for the entrée. Apart from myself, I did not see her approached other passengers in the premium economy cabin.
The dinner menu was limited in choice. It was either chicken or pasta. I selected the chicken ‘coq au vin’ which is a variation of French dish of chicken braised with wine, lardons and mushrooms. The entire dinner set (starter, main and dessert) came in one single tray, and it was quite congested. The cutlery set was a proper stainless steel and the dishware was in the form of fine china.
I was also served dinner first before others. This led me to conclude that I must be the only BA Gold member present in this cabin. (Not complaining – certainly nice to receive a little special treatment.)
The starter was a fresh salad, nothing much to shout about. My main, the chicken ‘coq au vin’, was surprisingly tasty. It was complemented with French green beans and rice. The dessert (maple berry cake) was uninspiring.
After dinner, I watched a newly released Hollywood movie, “Peppermint”, starring Jennifer Garner. The very small screen and sub-par audio headset did take some enjoyment away.
I then slept nicely for a good five hour! The fact that I did not have anyone sitting next to me added exponentially to my comfort level.
Breakfast/snack was served 1.5 hours before landing. It was a simple croissant bun and crunchy bar, along with beverage of your choice.
The premium economy cabin was serviced by just one dedicated cabin crew. She was professional, warm and had cheerful disposition, always smiling. She intuitively knew when to strike a conversation and when to leave the passengers alone. I was so impressed with her service that I gave away my first British Airway “Golden Ticket” to her. I had it for many years but never felt compelled enough to give to anyone. There were a few marginal cases where I could have dished it out, but I refrained at the last minute. (Note – Golden Ticket is British Airways’ recognition method for passengers to award its crew for outstanding services. It can be awarded by BA Gold members only.)
Our flight arrived 1 hour and 5 minutes early! BA84 was scheduled to arrive at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 2:30 pm, but touched down at 1:25 pm. The scheduled 9 hours 20 minutes flight was accomplished in 8 hours 15 minutes. The aircraft must have rode in a jet stream with a very strong tailwind. I now wish I had paid more attention to the navigation system, especially to the tailwind speed.
Post note: A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787 plane set a new speed record on February 18, 2019 by clocking 801 mph, riding on a tailwind of 231 mph. The flight completed the Los Angeles to London journey in 9 hours and 14 minutes, much less than the 11 hours scheduled. Story here.
Overall, I enjoyed this premium economy flight. Firstly, I had no one sitting next to me; that instantly elevated the comfort level. The cabin staff who serviced the cabin was very pleasant, warm and professional.
On the other side of the argument, British Airways’ premium economy is not created equal across its fleet. The newer aircrafts (Boeing 787, Boeing 777 and Airbus A380) have a much more modern cabin and sleeker inflight entertainment. The Boeing 747, on the other hand, is stuck with early 2000’s technology and features. In my view, the hard product must go hand in hand with the soft product in order to make it very desirable.
If I had to pay to fly premium economy, it would be a resounding no, especially on a Boeing 747. The price differential between a standard economy and premium economy is not small. Typically, it ranges from 2 to 2.5 times the standard economy fare. It is hard to justify paying more than double for a little extra space, marginally better food and a cheap amenity kit. As I said earlier, it was not worth the money.
BA’s premium economy cabin in the Boeing 747-400 has a couple of configurations. If your flight has the same configuration as aircraft G-CIVP, go for first row seats on the right – 11J and 11K. Or the last row of the two seater – 16J and 16K. The seats are very private, especially for couples (no neighbours to your left).
Airline Review: BA84 British Airways Boeing 747-400 Vancouver to London Heathrow Premium Economy Class
Date Flew: 21-JAN-2019