When I was younger, I never travelled. I grew up in Malta, which is a little cut-off from the rest of Europe, and about twenty years ago flights were not as cheap or easily accessible. Whenever a school friend had come back from holidays and had been somewhere exotic (i.e. outside of Europe) I used to think wow, that’s so amazing! Roll on twenty years and my life has changed somewhat. Sometimes I feel that nowadays I take more flights than buses.
Whilst my family and I may have done one or two holidays when I was little, it was something that I really looked forward to doing as I grew older. My first opportunity was when my now husband and I went to Paris back in 2008. I was so happy to be boarding the plane and to be experiencing a plane ride. I actually cried as the plane was taking off as I felt so lucky just to be sitting in that seat. As I got older and I built out my own life, travelling has become a huge part of it. I really miss that feeling of feeling lucky to fly, as it truly is a privilege. The more you fly I think you lose some of that feeling, and rather than travelling in itself, your primary concern becomes comfort.
With this is mind, I wanted to write a post about the different travel classes that you can travel in and what is worth paying for. I can now say that I have flown all four classes of British Airways and, at least for me, anything above economy was at one point a total mystery. And so, I wanted to write a little bit about what you get from each cabin, whether it is worth paying for and how you can make the most of it. I am hoping that after reading this, you will get a little more insight as opposed to what the airlines tell you and can make a more informed decision for your upcoming holiday. It’s probably important to note that throughout the post, I am referring to long haul travel rather than short haul. All pictures below were taken on a British Airways 747 planes.
BA Club World
I guess the main difference between the cabins is the amount of room each passenger gets per seat and most importantly, whether that seat opens up into a full flat bed. This is obviously a dream on a night flight. Whilst we are all used to the upright chairs that recline only slightly, once you start moving up the cabin classes things get much better. Premium economy, the first step up, offers a slightly larger chair with footrest, more legroom and more of a recline. The screens are still pretty small depending on the aircraft, but if you find yourself on one of BA’s old 747s, you’re going to swear – don’t be fooled by the pictures on the website, some of those planes are about 30 years old and are being phased out. The price of premium economy can sometimes be double or triple that of economy, and I don’t think that increase in price justifies the additional perks. Personally, the only reason I would opt for premium economy is if I am part of the airline’s frequent flier program, in which case you MIGHT get upgraded to business class.
Business class is where things get so much better. The chair is significantly larger, more comfortable and reclines into a fully flat bed. Comfier and larger pillows, blankets and quilts are provided so at the very least, you can get some decent sleep in.
Where you really want to be on a night flight is in the First cabin. This was a mystery to me up until recently, and I always wondered how it could get any better than business class, but here you really get the epitome of luxury. The table is bigger allowing more work space, the seat is significantly bigger and reclines into a super comfortable flat bed, which cabin crew will make up for you. Mattress included! It is the best sleep you will get on a long haul flight! The question is, would I pay for this added luxury? Probably not. For the extra few thousand to experience the added perks, I think would rather spend the money at my holiday destination or on a new handbag! That being said, I would definitely recommend using air miles to upgrade and at least experience once.
BA Club World
Naturally, being in a higher cabin means the food is somewhat better. Premium economy is actually far more improved than economy, with a three course meal and breakfast/snack towards the end of the flight depending on your flight time. Two of the three meals served in premium economy are actually featured on the business class menu, which is great.
Moving up the cabins, business class also offers a three course menu. Above are some of the pictures.
Of course, the first cabin offers the best choice of food, which is served at your request, rather than at a set time like in all the other cabins. Everything is done around your requirements, which is great if you fall asleep and want food whenever you wake up. Again would I pay for this? Unlikely. Would I use points to upgrade to this? Definitely.
The higher up the cabins you move, the more personalised the service becomes. Whereas in economy, you are one of many other passengers which all get the same service, the higher up you go the more attentive cabin crew are to your needs. In First, cabin crew literally treat you as though you are the only passenger on the flight. My bed was made as I brushed my teeth, my glass was never empty and I never went without food. The purser also welcomes you aboard personally!
BA Club World
The pictures above pretty much speak for themselves and are what you would receive in business and first class cabins respectively. The first being amenities from The White Company and the second from Aromatherapy Associates. Both are sweet momentos of your trip and I love the little Liberty pouch! Within the First cabin, pyjamas are also offered in a variety of sizes along with slippers which are provided upon request. Each seat also has it’s own little wardrobe where you can hang your clothes during the flight.
One thing I love about the higher cabins is the privacy you get. Rather than sharing a row with two or three other people who are watching as you fall asleep with your mouth open, in business and first class you really have so much more privacy. For the most privacy in business class, choose a window seat. When it comes to First, any seat is ideal as each seat is built in its own little suite. If you don’t bump into your fellow cabin passengers in the lounge, you are unlikely to see the faces of anyone else in First – which I love!
Of course, there are many other perks to flying the higher cabins such as more luggage allowance, priority luggage and check-in, lounge access and so on, but this post was really about what you get whilst you are actually on the plane and how much bang you get for your buck. I think business class is a happy medium if you want to travel in a little bit more comfort. The difference between ten hours on an upright chair vs ten hours on a flat bed can make all the difference to your trip. First class is obviously wonderful but definitely one to use your air miles on rather than buy outright.
When it comes to airlines, I think it is really hard to beat the large Middle Eastern carriers like Etihad, Emirates and Qatar Airways. BA First is pretty similar to what you would get with an Emirates business class seat. Would love to be able to write another post on those soon!
What are your thoughts? Do you have any tips to make long haul travel more comfortable?