More often than not, flight reviews on this site and others are for premium cabins. Given the lower number of seats and therefore smaller turnover of passengers, it means that Business of First flights seem more special and worth writing about, compared to an Economy leg. However, in planning for this trip, I realised that there was far fewer economy reviews out there, so here is one to redress that balance.
This trip was always going to be different – taking twenty 15-16 year olds to New York is not everyone’s idea of a good time, but I was very excited about sharing my passion for travel with kids that I teach. I had wanted to book the tickets using BA Group Reservations so that I would have been able to use the Gold Line to manage the booking. Unfortunately they were not able to price match with American, which was odd given the joint venture, so I had to go with the cheapest. This worked out really well as about 2 months out, I noticed a base fare of £1 filed on ExpertFlyer and was able to get the reservation team to change the tickets – we paid an average of £380 for the return flights which was fantastic given the flexibility they provided and payment terms.
The day soon came around and we arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 to check in. Despite requesting to use the empty check in desks, we were directed to use the self-service check in. Given that most of the group were under 16, the machines rejected the check in of all but one student, so eventually the staff relented and checked us in as normal. Security was pretty painless too. The colleagues I was travelling with did not have any status and were happy for me to use the fast track security as it meant that I was able to beat the group through and be ready on the other side to gather them up.
After some shopping, eating, lounging and the inevitable last-minute currency changing (despite warning of shocking rates!), we made our way to the gate and boarded. Again, I boarded first from our party to oversee things on the plane and was in Group 2 of the boarding process which was very well-managed. BA can only hope to get their system up to this standard.
The aircraft was a Boeing 777-300ER (77W) which seats 292 passengers across 4 cabins. We had a block in the rear cabin and whilst I could have moved myself and my colleagues who were on the same booking reference for free to Main Cabin Extra, we settled for bulkhead seats with extra leg room, with 33J below being my choice.
The MCE were the same seats but with a wider aisle and more leg room.
In the end I didn’t have to worry – there were fewer than 90 passengers on board according to the crew and we had the entire cabin to ourselves. I made sure the crew had a note of the students new seats for special meals, but it meant that many of them had a whole row to themselves – they were chuffed!
The food was very similar to that on the last American Airlines flight I did in Economy, which was Manchester to Philadelphia in April last year.
It was tasty enough and I like that there is a variety of different things to nibble on. This was accompanied by beer or wine, and the offer of spirits pre-meal (although I think this was a gesture from the crew as it was offered to all the staff and not just me as a oneworld Emerald.) Later in the flight we were served ice cream and about an hour before landing a warm snack – no-one was hungry!
The flight was delayed taking off but made up some of the time on the way. We were very quickly through immigration despite only 2/23 being able to use returning ESTA / Visa channels. The bags took a while, but we had them all before the last of the group arrived.
The return flight does not get its own review – I was too tired from an exhausting few days, and relived that we had made it, that I wasn’t in the mood to write. As a oneworld Emerald, my name was on a list at the First Check so I could use that, I was greeted on boarding and given a wash bag and bottle of water which was very welcome. The flight was only slightly fuller and most were able to spread out a bit.
Everyone loves travelling in style in a lie flat bed, and I would always choose it if I could, but I am not going to lie; the flight was great! It was a good mix of service, price, time and comfort which I would happily repeat if needed. However, I know that I was spoiled by the fast track check in, the lounge access, the priority boarding and the additional touches; I am not sure I would be so favourable if I was jammed in with people all around!