By Tadhg Peavoy
Air travel takes a number of forms in the hierarchy of comfort. At the very top tier, first class epitomises something towards sainthood in terms of the experience delivered; business class is heaven for those others that have managed to reach that exalted state; economy is Earthly living.
Premium fits into a strange limbo like category between Earth and heaven. One doesn’t get to experience the outlandish pleasures that business or first class roll out for those on-board, but at the same time one doesn’t get rammed into the packed confines of economy.
TravelTimes.ie travelled with British Airways on a 777T in their premium section from Tobago, in the southern Caribbean (the Lesser Antilles to be precise), to London Gatwick, to explore how good their offering is, and explore whether it is worth your while paying the extra cash to jump up one class.
The short answer to the last question is: without doubt it’s worth jumping up in class if finances permit. Any more leg room, and better food and service makes a huge difference, even on a short-haul flight, never mind crossing an ocean or on trans-continental flights.
The first observation is the seats. To put it bluntly, you have more leg room, which on a ten-hour plus flight is quite simply divine; someone just over five foot will find this quite handy, but someone over six foot – like your writer – will find this an absolute game changer. These seats quite comfortably allow you to stretch your legs out beneath the seat in front, and they also have a pop-up leg rest to elevate your limbs, while also simultaneously pushing back the chair. In other words, it’s not quite a bed, but it’s almost like a lazy-boy lounger-sofa: a big improvement on economy.
The seats themselves have a remote control built into the seat for use on your own TV, and noise-cancelling headphones as standard per passenger. There is a drinks table built between seats, which would be better slightly if it were slightly wider in order to accommodate both passengers using it.
In the space between seats there is a plug and USB section, set up for multiple-territory usage, which is great. The major issue is that it’s placed at foot level, rather than say knee level, or even upper-body level when seated, which can make it hard to access.
Noise-cancelling headphones come with socks, sleeping masks, and toothbrush in the welcome packs.
In the bathroom department, there is also a significant increase in bang for buck. A selection of The White Company, London, hand products are available for use, including hand wash, luxury hand balm and hand cream. On a recent short-haul flight, TravelTimes.ie encountered a situation where the toilet was bereft of all supplies, highlighting how much better BA premium was equipped in this situation.
A glass of champagne on arrival sets the tone for what we regarded as a very good in-flight service; BA’s staff could not be faulted on this flight and their generally positive behaviour is a known feature of the airline.
The attentiveness of the staff is of course increased by the fact that the cabin staff have fewer passengers to deal with. The breakdown in premium is that two staff have 52 passengers to serve. By contrast economy is 250 passengers with four crew and business class is three staff for 32 passengers.
Dinner onboard was as very succulent mahi-mahi fish, very commonly served in Tobago and paying homage to the local cuisine of the departure airport, paired with mashed potato and collard greens – more commonly associated with British cuisine. The dish was of a very high standard and would have been acceptable as a course in business class. The other option was chicken wrapped in prosciutto, with roast vegetables and potato cake, which we were reliably informed was of a decent calibre.
The main was accompanied by a garden salad, which was fine; although with a combination of iceberg lettuce, cucumber and pepper, it could have been more imaginative.
Dessert took the form of an apple pie, which like the main, was of a high standard. If there were to be a gripe there it would be that it was a little cold, which could have been rectified by some more time at room temperature prior to serving.
We went for red wine to accompany and were served a Vina Albali cabernet sauvignon, hailing from Valdepenas – it was a 2018 vintage. Fruity and light, with a hint of more body that will come from ageing, the Albali worked well with our mahi-mahi fish so as not to overpower it.
The second meal served was breakfast before landing in Gatwick and was a small sandwich and drink. This definitely could have been improved upon with a larger portion and more options to accompany it.
BA’s premium is a good offering, giving the passenger a large enough jump in service to more than justify the price. A little tinkering with the food menu to make it slightly more niche and perhaps a more comprehensive wine offering would help to bump it up the rankings further. The biggest plus point is that, oh so sweet, extra leg-room and leg rest – both make a huge difference on a long-haul flight.
Lead in fare from Ireland to Tobago:
€280 plus taxes: World Traveller (economy). Return lead-in fare.
€1000 plus taxes: World Traveller Plus (premium economy). Return lead-in fare.
For full details on what British Airways offers in each class see the below links:
World Traveller (economy) information: https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/travel-classes/economy/world-traveller
World Traveller Plus (premium) information: https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/travel-classes/premium-economy/world-traveller-plus