Good Advice Tried and Tested

British Airways B787 World Traveller Plus

03/10/2013

BACKGROUND

Last month saw the introduction of B787 Dreamliner aircraft to the BA flight schedule, with flights to Toronto commencing on September 1, and flights to New York Newark on October 1.

The B787s are being used at this stage to retire the 14 long-haul B767 aircraft in BA's fleet, though this may take until 2017. I had flown over to Toronto the day before in Club World. For that review, click here. This is the return in World Traveller Plus (premium economy)

CHECK-IN

I arrived at Toronto Pearson International Airport at 1600 for the 1910 departure on BA0092. BA has recently moved the check-in area at Terminal 3, and it is now at desks 213-227. On ba.com it says this is because: "This move now locates British Airways opposite our joint business partner American Airlines and also our codeshare partner WestJet." This is true, but it does mean you are checking in at the other end of the terminal from the gate.

I had already checked in online, but wanted a paper boarding card, and so printed one at a self-service terminal.

From there, it is a short walk to the security area. Note that if you are Emerald in Oneworld, or have a Platinum Amex card, then you can skip the queue and go through fast track.

Once through security, turn left and be prepared for a very long walk — a good ten minutes heading for the lounge which is by Gate C32 at the end of Pier C (the lounge is accessed via an elevator). [edit: added because of comments below - note that as a premium economy passenger, you are not entitled to lounge access - you only get this if you have status in Oneworld.]

Once up there you will see three lounges – a Skyteam one, a Plaza Lounge and the BA one.

THE LOUNGE

The lounge is divided into two, linked by a restaurant area. The helpful man on reception said that although I was Emerald in Oneworld (Gold in the BA Executive Club) and so could go into the First Lounge, I was not allowed to have dinner since this was reserved for business and first class passengers, and I was flying World Traveller Plus. I was welcome to have drinks and crudities in the business class lounge, and sit in First, but for more substantial food I would have to wait until on the aircraft. I didn't mind, so stayed in the business class lounge looking out onto the runway. The first lounge is smaller, and this evening was busy with a party of travel agents who were travelling on the B787 and were flying in Club World.

He also told me that because I had printed out my boarding card, I would need to have my passport checked by his colleague (when the colleague returned) or I would not be allowed on the flight. I liked his polite but straight way of dealing with all of this, and thanked him.

When I went back to get my passport scanned we chatted about what a busy station Toronto is, having two flights daily and three flights three times a week (I think). He said pre-flight dining had been offered here for many years, and was usual if a station had flights departing after 2000, which Toronto does. He then offered me an invitation card for the dining room so I could try it, which I gratefully accepted.

Obviously, this part only applies if you're flying business and first, but the food selection included a choice of salads, a soup (clam chowder) and then main courses of at least one meat, one fish and one vegetarian dish. I had beef stew in Guinness which was delicious, and then a chocolate pudding with fruit and cream, which was far too filling but which I finished.

I then went back to the business class lounge and worked. The lounge has windows facing roughly west, through which the sunset gave a golden glow to the place – great views of the aircraft as well.

BOARDING

Flights are called from the lounge, and ours was called at 1840.

It was only a short walk to the Gate once we had taken the elevator down, and there was priority boarding for top tier card holders and those in business, though I did hear one disbelieving economy passenger exclaim "they can’t all be in business".

THE SEAT

British Airways B787-800 Dreamliner carries 214 passengers, being 154 economy seats, 25 World Traveller Plus seats and 35 Club World seats.

Here is a video of the exterior and interior of the BA B787:

The WTP premium economy cabin is in a 2-3-2 seating in a AB-DEF-JK. To see a seatplan, click here.

I was in 11K, the second row of four on the aisles (there are three rows in the centre seating DEF). This photo shows both 10JK and 11JK (the high vis jacket is in 11J). The image was taken a few months ago.

British Airways B787 Dreamliner World Traveller Plus

I put my belongings on my seat, and put my bags into the large overhead locker. There is a new seat pocket on the back of these new WTP seats but it doesn't hold much – I struggled to fit more than a couple of magazines and an iPad in its case, and since this is the only place to store belongings for take-off and landing, you need to think carefully about how much you unpack when first getting to your seat.

The cabin gradually filled, but only when we were ready to push back was orange juice and water offered. The amenity bags were already at our seat, with ear plugs, eye mask, flight socks tooth brush and toothpaste and a pen.

The seats all have seat-back TVs (10.6 inch screens) and footrests which come down from the seat in front, apart from the front row, which have footrests which rise from your own seat, and which have TV monitors which come out of the arm.

Note that you are now allowed to watch the Inflight Entertainment system from the moment you come on board and right the way through take off, although obviously it is interrupted for safety announcements. During this time you can only use the BA supplied headphones (which were fine), not your own. In the case of the front row, watching the IFE in this way is not possible since those IFE monitors need to be folded back into the arm. It's not a big deal, but worth bearing in mind.

The seat reclines back a long way and has a 38-inch seat pitch, but even in an upright position there's lots of room for both sitting, eating and working. There is also in-seat power for charging devices such as laptops etc, as well as USB sockets which charge devices as well (although I found this only worked for my Android Smartphone, and not for the larger first generation iPad).

Although the Premium Economy cabin has a curtain separating it from both Club World in front and economy behind, note that there are no washrooms, so you have to walk back through economy to use them. I saw some passengers walking forward through the small second cabin of Club World to use the washrooms there, and at the moment, there's some inconsistency as to whether you are stopped from doing that. From one point of view, they are clearly Club World toilets since they are between two Club World cabins. But with a warning to use the washrooms before landing, and no washroom for this cabin but just the ones for economy, how can you be denied?

Service is from the front of the cabin and then works its way back through the economy cabin, though I imagine service is also working its way forward from the back of that economy cabin to the front.

Note that you can control the darkness of the windows by pressing a button beneath them which gradually dims or lightens them. The crew can override this, however, otherwise you might have people playing with them on overnight flights and waking the whole cabin by flooding it with sunlight.

BEST SEAT

Generally seats A and B and J and K are better. Obviously A and K get the window, and those windows are lovely and large. Here they are viewed from the aisle (laptop bag not included):

British Airways B787 Dreamliner World Traveller Plus

As you can see, the aisle seats in these rows can also see out of the windows and have uninterrupted access to the aisle. There shouldn't be too much footfall past these seats since Club World is in front, but for more on that, see below.

Middle seat E is to be avoided. The middle three seats in the front row have an initial problem of people trying to walk across the front of the cabin but once you stretch out no one attempts it.

THE FLIGHT

We had an on time departure and shortly afterwards drinks were offered. It's always a struggle both feeding everyone on a flight such as this and leaving them time to sleep, and the crew were clear that while they would be as quick as possible, it was a new galley to them and so they might be a little slow while they got used to where everything was.

I had no problem with this, and indeed it did take until nearly 2145 for the meal to be cleared away, by which time it was 0245 UK time. 

The menu was as follows:

Starter

  • Caesar Salad

Main course

  • Braised beef short rubs with red wine sauce, Yukon gold mash, glazed carrots and broccolini
  • Thai chicken red curry with cilantro jasmine rice, baby bok-choy and sweet bell peppers

Dessert

  • Chocolate caramel cake
I went for the Thai chicken, which was good. As usual, some passengers were determined to eat and drink everything on the plane, while others just wanted to sleep.

In fact, at 0300 UK time I heard them come round, fairly quietly, offering duty free, and the cabin was dimmed around then and I slept until 0600 when we were offered breakfast which was a strange puree type thing which I couldn't identify, having lost the menu, and a fruit juice and muffin, along with tea and coffee.

ARRIVAL

We landed on time at London Heathrow at 0700 at a remote stand and were bussed back to the main terminal. Immigration was reasonably quick, and having no luggage I caught the Piccadilly Line into town.

VERDICT

The aircraft was just as impressive in premium economy as in business class. In fact, in a way you appreciate it more because the windows allow light along the rows without the interruption of the walls around the Club World seat. Boeing says the windows aren't just larger, they are higher on the fuselage so the horizon is at eye level. I'm not sure about that, but the cabin felt a lot less oppressive and cramped.

The service was good - it's a tough flight being overnight but only seven hours in duration - there's a lot to fit in, and with a new galley for the flight attendants to master making it more challenging. Then you have a mix of passengers some of whom want to sleep, some of whom are happy eating and drinking most of the flight. They did well, and it will get better.

For overnight legs such as this, the value of the premium economy seat is in getting some sleep, and for that, it works well, having plenty of room, several alternative positions and lots of recline and leg room.

I'm flying back from Los Angeles in WTP in a few days, so it will be good to see how they cope on the A380 but with more time due to the longer flight.

FACT FILE

  • DEPARTURE TIME 1910
  • FLIGHT TIME 7 hours
  • PLANE TYPE B787-800
  • CONFIGURATION 2-3-2
  • SEAT WIDTH 20.5in/52cm
  • SEAT PITCH 38in
  • SEAT RECLINE 8in
  • CONTACT ba.com

Tom Otley

To read why, unlike in premium economy, the middle seat in business on the B787 Dreamliner might be worth considering, read the review here