London to Chicago in Premium Economy

London to Chicago in Premium Economy

London to Chicago in Premium Economy 2048 1536 Chris West

When flying all over the world for work I usually found myself in the Premium Economy cabin on a British Airways plane. In this article, I am going to talk about why I like Premium Economy as a cabin. I will also talk about my recent experience flying from London to Chicago in Premium Economy on British Airways.

They’ve been my airline of choice because I was based in London and BA flew to all the destinations I needed. Premium Economy was also the highest cabin my company would allow me to fly. They would prefer I arrived a day early in a new time zone than fly Business as it was far cheaper to pay my expenses than pay the fare difference. I didn’t mind either, I quite like Premium Economy, and I’d often either upgrade myself with points or I’d get upgraded to business automatically when the flight was full. If I was in Economy the chances are I’d only get upgraded to premium, not business.

What’s so good about Premium Economy?

Back in the pre-pandemic days, Premium Economy was often sold at a good price. Usually more than Economy, but significantly less than Business. For your money, you would get a much bigger and nicer seat in a smaller cabin area. The seat on my recent Chicago flight (more below) was wider and came with an incredible recline. Not only does that help with sleep, but there’s also loads of leg room and a footrest. The service in Premium is supposed to be better too. You get a pre-flight drink, usually including sparkling wine, a hot towel and at least one meal from the Business class menu. There is even a snack basket and drinks available for self-service at the nearest galley, on some aircraft and routes.

All in all, I always thought the Premium Economy product on most airlines was the best of both worlds, good value for money and a comfy way to fly, (if you can’t afford a business seat that is).

What is it like today?

I recently flew to the USA for my honeymoon (Sept 2022). I booked with British Airways, outbound London to Chicago and return San Diego to London, all in Premium Economy. This was an open jaw ticket, allowing us to travel in America. See my article on those types of tickets here.

I know your first question is going to be “why didn’t you fly Business for your honeymoon?”. The main reason is we couldn’t afford it, the prices in post-pandemic times were far too high.

The outbound flight was a daytime flight on an A380. The return flight was an overnight flight on an A350, two of my favourite aircraft!

At the airport

We arrived nice and early for our 10:30 departure and checked in. It was nice and quick through the Business class check-in area, using my BA Silver status for both of us. We then headed to fast-track security, another benefit of Silver and we were quickly through to departures. After that, my partner wanted to buy some essentials and a book before we headed to the lounge.

At Terminal 5 you have a choice of 3 BA lounges, North, South and B gates. Again, as a silver member, I get myself plus one guest access to the Business class lounge. On a busy Monday morning, the B gates lounge is by far the quietest. This is the best lounge to go to if you are departing from B or C gates. If you are leaving from A gates don’t go there, getting back can be tricky. We were leaving from C gates, so we headed down to the little train out to the B gates building. One question I get a lot is “If I’m going to C gates, can I stop at the B gates lounge?”. The short answer is yes, you just pop back down to the train and re-board to the final stop when you’re done. We call this Lounge Hopping.

The lounge has now returned to the pre-pandemic service of self-serve food, rather than ordering at your seat. I think that is a shame, but I suppose it was not sustainable. There’s a small selection of hot and cold breakfast foods out and the usual soft and not-so-soft drinks, including sparkling wine. We whiled away our time there until it was time to board, then headed back to the train to head to C gates for our departure.

Onboard experience

One of the reasons I really like Premium Economy on BA’s A380 is the cabin is entirely upstairs. The lower deck has First, Business and Economy, whilst the upper deck has Business, Premium and Economy. I much prefer the upper deck on an A380, it’s quieter, and feels more intimate as it’s smaller. If you choose a window seat you get storage bins beside you too.

We boarded in Group 2, our final Silver perk and headed straight to my favourite choice of seats, left side window and aisle seats, second row from the front. I like a window seat, my partner likes the aisle seat and the reason for the second row is the first row is a bulkhead seat. This means your screen is in your armrest, meaning you can’t use it during take-off and landing. Also, you don’t always get a footrest in front of you.

Upon boarding, we did get offered a drink, but orange or water only, no sparkling wine. The crew seemed to be one step behind for the whole flight. From the surprise of doing a manual safety demo to food service where the trolley was not stocked correctly. The food was ok, my chicken tikka masala was clearly plain cooked chicken with a sauce on it, as the chicken wasn’t all covered. As a day flight, I watched a lot of films, snoozed for a bit and we were offered occasional drinks during the flight.

I was somewhat disappointed with the food offering at the end of the flight, it was a drink and a small warm pastry, given we’d been flying for 8 hours, and lunch was a good 5 hours ago we were ready for dinner. We landed on time in to Chicago and headed to immigration.

I went on ahead to get our bags as I have Global Entry, allowing me fast entry into the US, while my partner went through normal immigration. Turned out to be a waste of time as the bags took ages to arrive.  When they did it was to a belt that was nowhere near big enough to handle an entire A380’s worth, so they staggered the arrival of the bags. Unfortunately, the system of giving some customers priority baggage rarely works. Our bags had been marked priority due to my status, but they arrived almost last. By this time, we were starving, and our honeymoon started with a quick McDonald’s in the arrival hall of Chicago airport!

British Airways Premium Economy Meal

Bottom line

Premium Economy can be a good choice but British Airways seems to be very hit & miss at the moment.

Look out for part two of this trip report, coming soon!

Let’s plan your next trip…

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