Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways B777-200 World Traveller Plus


BACKGROUND British Airways flies three times daily to Boston from London Heathrow. American Airlines and Virgin Atlantic Airways also ply the route.

CHECK-IN I arrived bright and early, at 8am, at Terminal 5 for my 1045 flight BA213 to Boston, having checked in online and selected my seat. It was a good job I was in plenty of time as the queues awaiting me were painful.

T5’s operations director Mark Murphy told me a couple of weeks ago that you would rarely find more than one person in front of you at the terminal’s 96 self-service check-in kiosks and fast-bag drops and that it took only a few minutes to clear them. That may have been the case at the kiosks, but the fast bag-drops were anything but fast – most had queues of up to 15 people and it took a good half an hour to reach the front.

My bag duly dropped, I proceeded to security. Murphy also told me that T5 had hit its target of 95 per cent of people passing through security in less than five minutes every month since last April. Not this morning. Queues were at least 30-strong and it took 15 minutes to clear. It had therefore taken me a total of 50 minutes to reach airside.

After browsing the shops on ground level I took the escalator down to the busy seating area to check my email. Wifi access cost £2.99 for 30 minutes and £4.50 for an hour. My gate was announced onscreen at 0935 (only final flight calls are announced over the loudspeaker) and at 0950 I made my way to Gate A10 – a short walk and a lift down one level.

BOARDING I was just in time for the opening of the gate for boarding at 0955. I passed through the queue in five minutes – there was no priority boarding for premium economy – and was ushered on to a packed bus to take me on the ten-minute drive to the aircraft. It was the first busload and I wished I hadn’t bothered to be so prompt, as when we arrived the aircraft had not finished being checked, so we weren’t allowed off the bus, which was now sweltering, for another five minutes. I finally made it to my seat at 1020.

THE SEAT BA’s Boeing 777s come in a number of configurations, and this one had a four-class, 30-row layout (click here for the seat plan). First class was across rows one to four in a 1-2-1 configuration (A-EF-K), with three pairs in the middle, making 14 seats in total. Business consisted of 48 seats across six rows, numbered 10-15 and arranged 2-4-2 (AB-DEFG-JK) with a mixture of forward- and backward-facing seats - the window seats faced backwards, as did the two middle seats E-F, while the rest faced forward. Economy was across rows 26-40 in a 3-3-3 configuration (ABC-DEF-HJK).

My class, premium economy (World Traveller Plus), comprised five rows, numbered 21-25, in a 2-4-2 formation (AB-DEFG-JK). I was in aisle seat 23J. My seat was comfortable and upholstered in blue fabric with plastic and leather armrests, and I could adjust the headrest, leg rest and level of lumbar support via buttons in the armrest. The recline was 18cm, while the width was 47cm. Seat pitch was 97cm, 18cm more than in economy, though I still found it hard to stretch my (short) legs properly, especially as there was an IFE box underneath the seat in front.

There was a small individual IFE screen in the back of the seat in front – the front row had ones that folded out of the armrest. A table folded out from my left-hand armrest and a handset to control the IFE system was fitted into the right-hand one. There was a magazine rack on the back of the seat in front, where I could store small items, and storage space underneath for my handbag. All seats in the class had access to the overhead lockers. Premium economy was about three-quarters full.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The front row, 21, is the best as the bulkhead is in front of you so you have more legroom, and you also get served first and can disembark first. Avoid the back row, 25, as this is in front of the toilets, and seats lettered B and J as these have the most restrictive IFE boxes underneath.

THE FLIGHT The safety instructions were meant to be shown onscreen but after struggling to get it started, the cabin crew did a demonstration instead. This helped to delay take-off. We pushed back at 1105, taxied for five minutes, then stopped again before eventually taking off at 1120, 35 minutes behind schedule.

I was provided with a blanket and pillow and an amenity kit containing an eye mask, socks, ear plugs, toothbrush and toothpaste and a pen.

About half an hour after take-off drinks were served – the selection included a choice of two red and two white wines, soft drinks and a small pack of pretzel bites. Lunch was served at 1225 and consisted of beef lasagne or roast chicken with ratatouille, a green-leaf salad with shredded beetroot, a winter fruit frangipane, a roll, a bottle of mineral water, tea or coffee and a Lily O’Briens chocolate. I had the lasagne, which was tasty and substantial, and accompanied it with a glass of Redwood Creek 2007 Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. It was enjoyable but served a little cold for a red. Plastic cutlery was provided but the proper glass for my wine was welcome. Throughout the flight the service was friendly and helpful – my only gripe was that it took a long time for cabin crew to take away my tray after eating, which was irritating as I wanted to get on with some work.

Water and juice were offered periodically throughout the flight and an hour before landing I was served a snack box containing a sandwich (half salmon and cucumber, half cheese ploughman’s), a piece of fresh pineapple, a mini Kit Kat, a tub of traditional lemonade and tea or coffee.

The in-flight entertainment consisted of 12 channels of film and TV (not audio-visual on demand, but on a cycle system) and 16 channels of radio and music CDs. This was operated via the handset and there was no touchscreen facility. Call-making facilities were also available via the handset. The large headphones provided were comfortable and helped to block out external noise.

ARRIVAL Despite taking off late, the flight arrived on schedule at 1410 US time. We disembarked ten minutes later and it took five minutes apiece to clear security and baggage.

VERDICT Other than the lengthy queues at T5, this was an enjoyable flight with good service and a better than expected food and beverage offering. The IFE system could do with upgrading though.

PRICE Internet rates for a return flight in premium economy in April started from £805.50.


Michelle Mannion