British Airways World Traveler Plus
Poor Man’s Business Class - or Rich
Man’s Coach Class?
BA's Recaro designed
World Traveler Plus seat - stylish, comfortable and
Something more than coach
class, but something less than business class. Is this a
product that falls between the cracks, or one that fills a
The answer is 'it depends' with
the key variable being the price asked for the tangible but few
extra benefits offered in BA's World Traveler Plus cabin.
Read on to decide if it is
something you'd like to take advantage of on your next
If your travel budget has
been tightening, you’re probably finding it harder to get
business and first class travel costs approved. While this
doesn’t matter too much for a one or two hour flight, when
you’re stuck on a plane for an extended time, the closer you get
to the front of the plane, the happier you are.
Airlines such as United and
British Airways have recognized the growing gap between coach,
business and first class fares and experiences, and so are
implementing yet another class – one that is halfway between
coach and business class. It seems only a few years ago that
many airlines were pronouncing that First Class was dead and
moving to two class services, and now we’re seeing a trend in
the opposite direction towards four classes!
And, to give fair credit to
where it is due, the concept that BA is now adopting was
originally developed by their arch-rival, Virgin Atlantic
Airways, some ten years ago. Virgin also offer a 'Premium
Economy' cabin on their trans-Atlantic flights.
I've now flown BA's 'World
Traveler Plus' - their premium economy cabin - five times. Some
element of this product are excellent, but others are strangely
Check In Experience
BA don't offer a special
check-in line for WTP so you're waiting in the long coach class
line along with everyone else. Most recently, I was in line for
38 minutes waiting to check in!
This was disappointing,
because Virgin offer a special checkin line for their Premium
Unsurprisingly, WTP doesn't
qualify you for entrance to their business lounge.
And, when boarding the
plane, the situation quickly became worse. WTP travelers get to
BA start their boarding by
allowing First and Business class passengers, and then elite
level frequent fliers and families with small children, etc, to
board. Then they board the coach class cabin by row number,
starting at the very back. They make no special arrangement for
their WTP travelers, and because the WTP cabin is in front of
the main coach class section, this means that it is the very
last part of the plane to be boarded!
Someone at BA really didn't
think this out at all. I asked the gate agent about this, but he
had no satisfactory explanation to offer.
The WTP cabin is in front of
the main coach cabin and behind the business class cabin, with
curtains screening it from the other two cabins. It is a small
cabin with perhaps four rows of seats.
The WTP seat configuration
is 2-4-2 on both 747s and 777s (compared to the standard 3-4-3
in coach on BA’s 747s and 2-5-2 on 777s) and seat pitch is 38”,
giving a full 7” more leg room than in coach class, and
comparable to what used to be the standard 39” pitch in most
business class cabins a few years back.
On both plane types the WTP
cabin does not have access to any toilets - it is necessary to
go back into the coach section to find a toilet. This is
inconvenient, because one can't just simply wait until one sees
the toilet vacant before getting up, one has to walk back down
the plane and then potentially endure a long line to access a
toilet. Virgin have special toilets for their Premium Economy
The seats, designed by
Recaro (as in racing car seats) are stylish, comfortable, wide,
highly adjustable and ergonomic. They recline further than coach
seats, but not as far as business class seats used to - BA now
offer seats that convert to fully horizontal beds for business
class passengers as well as first class. With the increased
space between rows of seats, even if the person in front of you
reclines their seat all the way back, they’re still acceptably
far away from your own ‘personal space’.
The seats have legrests, but
I didn’t find this to be much use as it didn’t come up as far as
I wanted, and foot rests that fold down from the back of the
seat in front.
To keep you occupied when
you’re not eating, drinking or sleeping, the seats have
individual 18 channel videos, telephones, video games and
computer power plugs. But the plugs are only useful if you
already own one of the shamefully expensive adapter cables - it
would be a major added service if BA rented (or, better still,
loaned for free) the adapter cables.
Passengers are given a coach
class type amenity kit - socks, eyeshade, and a toothbrush.
Due to the extra space
between your seat and the one in front, using a computer is very
much more practical, and I managed to put in four hours of solid
productive work during the flight.
With fewer seats sharing
each foot of overhead locker, in theory you have much more
chance to stow your carry-ons above you, and with all the space
around you, even if you have to put something ‘under the seat in
front of you’ there’s still plenty of room for your legs as
well. Passengers are allowed twice the carry-on weight of
regular coach class passengers (26lbs instead of 13lbs), and
this extra ration of carry-on does rather counterbalance the
extra storage space, and I've sometimes ended up having to stow
my moderate sized flight bag under the seat rather than in the
Food and Drink
Service is a coach class
service, as are the meals. My first flight, in October 2001 from
London to Seattle had a main meal with three entrée choices,
plus a snack and a light meal, but my second flight in Jan 03
from SEA to LHR saw the main meal with only two entrée choices
(a generic 'chicken or beef' selection with no information
offered about exactly what type of chicken or beef one was
selecting) plus a breakfast later in the flight. I also vaguely
remember that in the past BA printed a very small little 'menu'
card for its coach and WTP cabins, but this was not offered on
the Jan 03 flight (or April 03 either). It would seem that BA is
cutting back on their food and food service.
Free drinks are also
offered, and the cabin crew seemed a bit more attentive and
courteous than in the ‘back of the bus’. BA's international food
quality, while no longer as good as it used to be, remains
notably better than most US domestic carriers offer.
WTP passengers don't get
priority luggage handling. However, I laughed to watch the bags
coming off the flight when we arrived into Heathrow. My bags
were among the very first to come off the flight, and none of
the early bags had priority or first class tags on them at all!
So maybe so-called 'priority' luggage handling isn't a very
valuable service, after all.
A business class fare from
the US to Britain lists in the range of $7300-7800 (depending on
your choice of gateway city); World Traveler Plus costs ‘only’
$2100-3200. Of course, you can find coach fares, sometimes for
as little as $270-450, and if money is no object, you probably
don’t even care that you’re spending $11,400-13,000 on first
As such, a WTP fare offers a
massive saving compared to a business class fare, and from that
reference point is excellent value. Compared to a coach class
fare, WTP can cost up to $2000 or more extra. Any premium cabin
fare is always difficult to justify compared to a discounted
coach fare, and obviously the much lower surcharge attached to
WTP makes it the easiest premium cabin to upgrade to. Companies
that no longer feel comfortable paying business class fares will
find WTP an excellent compromise.
Special WTP Sale Offers
BA often have discounted
special coach class fares to London, and many times when they
offer these special fares, they have an option to upgrade to WTP
for an incredible bargain price of only $250 in each direction.
Note that Virgin Atlantic
also occasionally have special deals on their
Premium Economy cabin.
Any time you are buying
coach class travel on BA or Virgin, enquire to see if there is a
special offer to upgrade to their premium economy cabin
available. It is well worth $250.
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26 Oct 2001, last update
15 Oct 2013
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.