When looking around for somewhere to visit in November 2019, I was initially looking to visit the US once more. However with the hotel prices there seemingly getting higher and higher, this put me off somewhat. Although I would later end up booking flights to the US anyway.
A bit of further exploration, and I ended up finding some reasonable World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy) fares to the Middle East. As an added bonus, the hotels there were far more realistically priced. Although I would end up spending the same amount as if I had gone to the US, I got more for my money. So to me, this was a winner.
Since I last flew with British Airways in their World Traveller Plus cabin back in 2014, the airline has rolled out pre-ordering main meals. This is only available on flights from London however.
With the hectic nature of most of my trips in 2019, this one would be a little more straight forward:
- British Airways World Traveller Plus, B777, LHR-AUH
- LeMeridien, Abu Dhabi
- Abu Dhabi: In Pictures
- British Airways World Traveller Plus, B777, AUH-LHR
- BA Galleries Arrivals Lounge, Heathrow T5
London Heathrow – Abu Dhabi
Boeing 777-200ER G-VIIM
This trip starts at the Terminal 5 Pod Parking. Unusually, this was the cheapest option for this weekend – including the standard Long Stay parking. The pod parking is a unique driverless system connecting the car park to Terminal 5 in just a few minutes.
Upon arrival at the terminal, it was down to the far end where the First Wing is located.
Opened in 2017, this is an area dedicated to British Airways First Class customers, OneWorld Emerald card holders and British Airways Gold card holders. On top of the separate check in area, there is also a private security channel leading directly into the Galleries First Lounge. I have looked at the lounge previously, so won’t go into too much detail here, as I’ll be covering the same ground twice.
As usual, it was only a couple of minutes from entering the terminal to being into the lounge via the first wing.
I grabbed a light breakfast and then spent the rest of my time out on the terrace with a coffee.
After messaging a contact at BA the day prior to my flight, I knew that departure would likely be from a bus gate. Unfortunately, not much changed overnight and gate A10 appeared on the screens around 80 minutes prior to departure.
As such, boarding itself began around an hour prior to departure. After a drive to somewhere over near terminal 3, we pulled up at G-VIIM, a 21 year old Boeing 777-200 that I’ve previously flown on twice before.
Unusually with bus boardings, I chose my position on the bus perfectly to be the first on board.
I made my way to the middle of the aircraft where the World Traveller Plus cabin is located on the fleet, and made myself comfortable. Unlike other airlines such as Lufthansa and Iberia, the British Airways premium economy cabin is separate to the standard economy cabin.
Ready and waiting at my seat was a set of noise cancelling headphones, a pillow, blanket and a basic amenity kit.
Boarding was completed around 10 minutes prior to our scheduled departure time and I was lucky enough to score a free seat next to me. At this point, either water or champagne was handed out.
The seat itself features a footrest and powerpoints – although I personally wouldn’t want to go anywhere near them looking at the state of them.
A few moments prior to pushback, menus were handed out, but the contents didn’t come as any real surprise to me.
The captain announced our flying time of 6:40. He also mentioned a bit of a slot delay meaning that we would be held on stand for around twenty minutes or so. Once we did get going, because of a APU issue, one engine was to be started on stand. This also meant that it was more than a little warm on boarding. And because BA don’t fit personal air conditioning nozzles to their fleet, there wasn’t much that could be done about it until we were underway. It even got to the point where the captain had to make an announcement and apologise about the temperature shortly before pushback.
A few moments later one of the senior cabin crew members came and welcomed me on board, and asked if there was anything she could get me. Yes, some water! Status has its benefits…
Although a few moments later the crew pro-actively brought some water around anyway.
We finally pushed back around 25 minutes behind schedule.
A lengthy taxi followed, and we finally took off around 35 minutes after pushback.
All of British Airways 777-200 aircraft are now fitted with WiFi. I decided to splash out the £17.99 for the top full flight high speed package. Whilst the speeds were reasonable and perfectly usable, I wouldn’t particularly class this as high speed. I doubt you’d be able to stream anything in HD. Although as I had an iPad full of content, I was only really interested in messaging and surfing anyway.
The onboard service started as we reached our cruising altitude. First up were hot towels.
Followed shortly after by the bar service. I was pleased to see they had the Brewdog Speedbird100 on board. I’d had some in the lounges before, but this was the first time I was able to drink one on board!
Twenty minutes later came the lunch service. The World Traveller Plus catering had a revamp around 12 months prior to this flight. Therefore I was interested to see what it was like these days.
As I had pre-ordered my meal, I was served around ten minutes before the rest of the cabin.
The downside of this being was that I received my bread service pretty much as I’d finished eating.
The main meal service was finished with a round of tea and coffee.
With the lunch service done, I took a look at the IFE. The World Traveller Plus cabin benefits from slightly larger screens than in the World Traveller cabin. Although, obviously, content wise it’s the same throughout the aircraft. British Airways has a reasonably good selection on board. I wasted a couple of hours watching Rocketman – a film I’d been meaning to watch on board my last few long haul flights, but for whatever reason, never actually got around to it.
With around 90 minutes until arrival, the carts rolled towards the front of the cabin once more. The second service consisted of something very similar to what I received on American Airlines previously.
It didn’t look like much, but was pretty tasty.
This was accompanied by a drinks service.
With 40 minutes until landing, the captain gave a very brief update – stating that we would touch down at 00:40 local time, that the temperature was 21 degrees but not too much more.
Touchdown came at around 00:45 local, and we made the journey over to the stand. We pulled up a few minutes later, around 35 minutes behind schedule. However, the APU issue meant a bit of a delay on disembarking. As we had to keep one engine running until the ground power was plugged in, the seatbelt signs remained on. Although, of course, this didn’t stop one or two people jumping up anyway, resulting in a rather stern PA from the crew.
Upon arrival at passport control, there was just the one member of staff on hand, who was directing everyone to the ePassport gates. I figured I probably wouldn’t be eligible, but figured he knew best. He didn’t. Therefore it was a bit of a discussion with him to allow me to go and see an actual person. This didn’t take too long though, as most people were still messing with the ePassport gates.
After this, it was through to arrivals to grab a taxi to my hotel. This proved to be far easier than when I arrived into Bahrain late last year, and I was in my room less than an hour after landing.
There’s a common conception out there than the premium economy cabin just isn’t worth it. My personal view is that it really depends. I paid £600 for this round trip, and having experienced the most basic of economy tickets last time around, I would say the £300 premium paid for this trip was worth it.
However, if the price of this ticket was into the thousands of pounds, which premium economy can sometimes go for… I wouldn’t be so sure about the value of it.
The flight itself was fine – if you’ve ever flown British Airways Club Europe on a longer sector, the meal service was very similar to this – if not identical. The seat featured was comfortable enough for the 6:30hr flight. Although it was probably helped by not having a seat mate.
A thought I had was that if British Airways were to fit this seat to their short haul aircraft and offer the same service, they would have a very solid European business class product. It won’t ever happen, but still…