FlyingWhut

Living the High Life on British Airways

BA Buzzers

Waiting to shower at LHR…

Last month I had the opportunity to sample BA’s premium economy and—as luck would have it—business class long haul product. The destination? Mauritius, a tiny island in the Indian ocean, east of Madagascar and south of the Seychelles. Return flights on BA were surprisingly reasonable, given the remote destination. Could this have been because of the necessary bus transfer between Heathrow and Gatwick? Yeah, probably. 🙄

Route: YYZ-LHR-LGW-MRU and back
Flights: BA 0096, 2063 / 2062, 0099
Aircraft: Boeing 772-200s
Operational Upgrades: 2 out 4 flight segments (not bad!)

T3 Lounges at YYZ

BA does have a lounge at Pearson Terminal 3 but I can’t say too much about it. The missus and I spent a grand total of about 45 seconds there trying to find a place to sit before giving up and moving on. It made sense that the lounge was packed to the gills for BA 0098, an earlier flight to LHR departing at 21:40. But why close up the lounge at 22:00 when there was another flight (ours) leaving at 23:00?

Fortunately there was (and is) a much better option: The Plaza Premium Lounge right next door. While you were huddled in a corner eating stale crisps out of a bag, we were getting fresh noodles made to order. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

World Traveller Plus to LHR

World Traveller Plus Cabin

The World Traveller Plus cabin, in all its garishly-lit glory.

Because the previous flight out was so full, we got our introduction to BA’s World Traveller Plus in an almost-empty cabin. Seriously, of the 24 seats available only 6 were occupied—including someone who snuck forward from economy after take-off. Regular economy must have been pretty bad, then, because BA’s premium economy certainly wasn’t great.

My biggest complaint would be the tiny IFE screens, made worse by whatever the ground crew cleaned them with—the visible streaks of cleaning fluid made what you were squinting to watch even harder to see.

And then there were the amenity kits…

BA PE Amenities

Presentation fail.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ll never say no to socks and eye shades, but this looked like something you’d find at a pet store crime scene—a body bag for a hamster or something.

The food was fairly unmemorable (hence no photos) but there was one nice touch in the lavatories that I’ve not seen on other airlines: flushable wipes for the toilet seat.

National Express to Gatwick

The less said about this the better. Changing airports with bags in tow is never a good idea. Ever.

Lounges at LGW

By mid-afternoon the next day we had checked in our bags for the onward flight and were enjoying the showers at BA’s Galleries lounge. Fortunately for us, this one was nowhere near as busy as the YYZ outlet. Lots of kids, though, and I have to say I’ve a few questions for the parents who would permit their children to run screaming in and amongst the computers and telephones in the business area.

As our evening flight wasn’t until 21:05 we had time to sample a second lounge directly below the BA one, Aspire by swissport. Anyone can use this lounge for a fee; our Priority Pass cards got us in at no charge. It was more cozy than the BA lounge but a lot quieter, too.

Before we knew it, it was time to make our way to the gate, where we received some good news.

World Club to MRU

As we handed over our boarding passes en route to another pair of premium economy seats, we heard an unfamiliar bzzzt from the gate agent’s ticket scanner. “Sorry,” the agent began, shaking her head in mock dismay, “your seats have been reassigned. You’re going to have to make do with lie-flat seats up front.”

It was great news and a great flight, despite the decidedly unorthodox layout of BA’s business cabin:

BA's B-777-200 J Class Cabin

Image courtesy of seatmaestro.com

In the months leading up to our trip I had tried unsuccessfully to use our Cathay Asia Miles to secure a one-class upgrade; in my research I had found a lively debate on TripAdvisor over the merits of which seats were better suited to couples—the middle, rear-facing EF pair or the AB/JK pairing at the window. We were assigned to 5J and K, which worked out great for us. The only time we couldn’t see each other was when we were both asleep.

As you can imagine, leg room was plentiful, the IFE screens much bigger and food generally much better. I did have a bit of a chuckle to myself as the FAs made their way down the aisles passing out amenity kits.

“Would you like a wash bag?” … A what now?

So this is a wash bag…

MRU Departure Lounge

We didn’t see too much of Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport on the way in, as we were keen to get to our hotel and actually start our vacation. It was on the way back home that we were able to appreciate the almost brand-new passenger terminal. There was only one available lounge choice, the ATOL La Terrasse Lounge which, curiously, didn’t recognize my oneworld Sapphire status. Priority Pass to the rescue, again!

Unfortunately we didn’t get an op-up on our overnight flight to Gatwick, so we busted out the Gravol and made do.

LHR BA Galleries Lounges

After another long line for UK immigration and suffering through another bus transfer we were back at BA’s hub, with the better part of an afternoon to see what they had on offer. The first stop was the expansive BA Galleries South, where we immediately booked our shower time and received the pair of buzzers you saw at the top of this post. The food here was exceptionally tasty; I managed to snag a breakfast pastry before lunch was rolled out, then sampled some of that too. But despite its impressive size the lounge was packed to the gills with other passengers. Luckily our turn for the showers came up within the hour. The best part of all was that we could take as long as we wanted.

The north lounge was smaller and only noteworthy for the good news we received there: our second upgrade to business class… Huzzah!

World Club to YYZ

Our last flight segment back to Toronto was peculiar in that there were babies and young children surrounding us on all sides. As we had been bumped forward we had no right to complain, but I can’t help but wonder how deep-pocketed folks paying full price for these seats would feel about all the additional noise.

Wait a minute… what if nobody pays full price for business class seats?

Anyway, my other big recollection from this flight was getting honestly angry at all the food that kept coming down the aisles, probably because I had already eaten so much at the lounges in Heathrow. I continued to eat anyway, as you do.

Recommendations

Of the three premium economy products I’ve experienced—on Cathay Pacific, Qantas and British Airways—I’d have to rank BA last. I think a big part of it was due to the aircraft; had we chosen a more premium route maybe we would gotten to fly on a newer A380 or B-747. Our B-777-200s were clearly older and had seen a lot of use.

But hey, if we’re talking upgrades it’s a different story. Despite being a traveller of status on another airline, BA very generously granted us two op-ups out of our four flight segments—ranking it second behind Cathay. Clearly Qantas has some work to do in this department. 😛

While I do think Cathay has a much better long haul business product, I’m grateful to BA for the upgrades nonetheless. I would at least consider flying with them again on some newer metal. And perhaps with fewer kids…?

Standard

Leave a Reply