I’ve been very spoiled over the years flying Club World (business class) on British Airways from Philadelphia to London return for work in my prior job. Now that has ended, I’ve had to pay my own way to London (yes, I know cue the sad tiny violins) and have done it in a variety of ways to stay in Business Class, keep my status and earn Avios. Examples include my $856 Business Class ticket hack on American Airlines via Manchester (BA codeshare), enrolling in AARP (I’m not that old – there’s is no age requirement) and jumping on the recent BA business/first class three day flash sale. For my two days in London trip over Memorial Day weekend just to get my Silver elite status back, I couldn’t afford the $5k business class fare so was able to fly in World Traveller Plus and still qualify for status based on the tier points earned for the flights.
British Airways is one of a few international carriers to offer a four class cabin – First Class, Club World (Business Class), World Traveller Plus (Coach Plus) and World Traveller (Coach). World Traveller always sounds so posh but in reality, coach is still coach (BA flies in a 3-3-3 configuration in coach). In the past when I’ve flown World Traveller Plus, my status allowed me to score the bulkhead row which is the key to survival with extra legroom. I also had British Airways Philadelphia Lounge access as well as BA LHR T5 Lounge access due to status, however, flying World Traveller Plus does not afford lounge access without status. The downside in the cabin is that you are a curtain away from business class and at times, you want to sneak in as it’s just there.
BA PHL to LHR World Traveller Plus Cabin on the 777
The cabin is organized 2-4-2 with five rows accommodating 40 passengers with curtains closed to Club World in front and World Traveller in back. When you first arrive at your seat in the cabin it seems private with such a small group. The seat has a pillow, blanket and headsets. There is an in seat charger as well as two USB ports in the seatback in front of you, below the entertainment screen. Once you are seated, you can feel the different with the extra legroom and the open side of the seat (the middle armrest is hard seat with the remote, shared table and other functions set in).
World Traveller Plus does not have its own bathroom like Club World or First Class. You need to go to the back of the cabin, pull back the curtain and it’s right there in front of the World Traveller (Coach) section along with a cabin stuffed with people all trying to survive the overnight flight. If you want to stretch your legs then walk to the back of the lane where I was surprised to see the new configuration bathrooms on either side of the plane in a long rectangle space with the crew kitchen galley in between. The bathroom was long and could fit three people in it which is good if you have kids or need extra room.
For the overnight flight from Philadelphia, I chose the last row in the cabin, window seat hoping to rest (not a change since I rarely sleep on planes) and while the legroom is lovely when seated, it disappears when the couple in front of me pushed their seats back as far as they could which practically pinned me in. Thankfully no one sat next to me so I was able to angle my body to slide out of the row to go to the bathroom (I call it ninja yoga). Once the seats were back it was hard to watch a movie as the screen was a bit close for me.
On the way home from London, BA changed my last row seat aisle to a middle section aisle bulkhead and I was pretty happy for that change. To make it even better, the only empty seats in the World Traveller Plus section were both beside me as I was in the 2-4-2 configuration. The woman on the aisle on the other side was also pleased by our seat lottery as we both used the tables of our empty seats to store our trays, drinks, food. The seat was only inches from business class where I saw children enjoying flat beds (yes, jealous) but I also had my individual in-flight entertainment (IFE) system at my armrest unlike others in the cabin with seatback screens.
The flight attendant played a cruel joke on me after I asked “is the seat next to me still empty?” He said there were less than ten seats open on the flight. Before takeoff, he came by after I got sorted and said “Ma’am, we need to move a woman and her crying baby into this seat” and then laughed at my facial expression (obviously my poker face was cracking as it neared 11 pm). I replied “if that was the case, you’d hear me cry until you moved me forward to business or first class”
The service is cordial and runs on the same serving clock as coach unlike the individual attentive multi-coursed service in Business or First.
The Food in World Traveller Plus
While normally, I’d order my special meal on British Airways (low calorie which practically ensures chicken and veg) and bring my own food as backup, this time hoping that full flights would bump me up a class, I decided to forgo my special meal as I’d read that they won’t upgrade you if they loaded a special meal (not sure if this is true or not). Unfortunately, World Traveller Plus doesn’t get the variety of choice like you do upfront (Business and First Class usually have a menu with at least three entrée choices). I did get a printed menu with the food being served. For the overnight flight to London, I skipped the food (beef or pasta) and drinks as it was near 11:30 pm when they started service and I had indulged in Chickie’s & Pete’s (a Philly local favorite) at the airport.
On the flight home, the meal (starter, entrée, dessert) was served in one shot on one tray. I chose the chicken over the pasta in cream sauce. Surprisingly the chicken was pretty good, not Chicken Shop amazing, but for airplane food good. The wine was also served as either red or white and in a little bottle. No worries, I paired the red with the chocolate pot and did ok (I did miss the anytime Club Kitchen with the extra chocolates, desserts, wine refills, etc.).
British Airways In Flight Entertainment (IFE)
For the World Traveller Plus and Coach section, the IFE screen is in the seat back in front of you. For those in the bulkhead rows, the unit is in the armrest and needs to be brought out and serves as a personal IFE you can adjust. The choices of movies, television, radio, British Favorites, etc. was quiet extensive and BA lets you watch until they land.
A new feature of the British Airways app lists all the IFE choices available on your flight before you fly. So you can decide to sleep, read, listen or watch a program ahead of time. That’s good planning and a helpful feature in my opinion plus saves me renting a Netflix film if I can watch on the plane.
Overall – World Traveller Plus PHL-LHR-PHL
World Traveller Plus is a good choice on British Airways to give you just a bit more privacy and legroom on the flights. It’s a definite improvement over U.S. Airlines coach options and just a tad better than BA’s World Traveller. There is extra leg room and if you are a couple you can choose the two seats on either side of the plane with no one between. No more worries about the middle seat issue and hoping you get the whole row (the older couple in front of me held hands the entire flight it was really cute). The cabin is smaller and more private at only five rows.
With my AARP card, I was able to discount the World Traveller Plus fare by $150 and then I used my BA Chase credit card for 10% off the base fare essentially stacking the discounts. Is it worth the extra to pay more than coach? Yes, I think it gives you just a bit more sanity. Is it worth the savings over Club World (Business Class)? On the way home from London in the bulkhead row, I survived fine and could see the value of saving the business class fare (or points redemption). The overnight flight is where I missed having a flat bed and the club kitchen for snacks. But the cost of business is generally $4k+ (unless you get a sale at $2,500+). So for a points award, you may want to do one way redemptions to mix up the cabin classes.
How to Save Money on your British Airways Flight
- Book at least 45 days ahead
- Join AARP for online discounts with British Airways (must log into AARP to click through to BA)
- Open a Chase British Airways Visa card (50,000 bonus + 3x BA Spend) to get 10% off online bookings
- Follow British Airways Facebook page (learn about the discounts asap)
- Follow British Airways Twitter account (a bit harder to see the sales unless you go to their page)
- Read the Blogs for fare alerts – One Mile at a Time, The Points Guy, Travel is Free
Examples of Fares from Philadelphia to London (August 24-31)*
$1,025 Coach (World Traveller)
$1,281 Coach Plus (World Traveller Plus)
$4,015 Business Class (Club World)
$5,015 First Class
*before applying AARP and BA Chase Visa discounts