We live in Iceland and we decided to travel to Japan with my son who is a big fan of this country. I didn't want to travel economy but I didn't want to pay for the regular business class fares which are usually quite expensive from Europe to Japan. The best option I found was a premium economy flight at a very competitive rate of 850 € return with the following itinerary:
Tokyo has two major airports. Narita is better known outside of Japan. It's further away from the city center although easy to access by the Narita Express train. The other airport is Haneda, closer to the city center, and can be accessed among others by metro for only 4 €.
There are five direct flights a day between Tokyo and London. British Airways has two flights: one from Haneda at 09.45 (this flight report is about this flight) and another from Narita at 12.35. Japan Airlines also has two flights: one leaving at the insane departure time of 02.45 from Haneda and another at 11.30 also from Haneda. The other major Japanese airline, ANA, also has a direct flight from Haneda at 11.40 (departure times can of course change).
We got to the airport by metro. Signs at train and metro stations in Japan are almost always both in Japanese and English but they're also quite often in Chinese and Korean.
Departures for this morning
Check-in for British Airways is from area L…
…which is at the left end of the terminal
There was a long queue for check-in at the economy class desks. Premium economy does not include priority check-in (only priority boarding) but my British Airways Executive Club Silver Membership does so we were checked in quickly at the business class desk. I was happy to see this sign:
…but I was told that business class was fully booked so there was no upgrade offer now.
Premium economy does not give access to priority security control. There was a very long queue at the general (economy class) security, and although only Gold and higher members have access to the priority line according to the signs we were let in which saved us a lot of time. The airport was crowded everywhere.
Being a Silver Member gave us lounge access. Note that while Japan Airlines gives lounge access to premium economy passengers British Airways doesn't. We could have gone to the Cathay lounge but we choose Japan Airlines' flagship Sakura lounge which was upstairs.
The lounge is large, was not crowded and had a good Japanese breakfast offer
I had some rice with beef curry which was very good
Coffee and tea
A good choice of drinks
The lounge was not crowded
The view on the apron
Boarding has already started when we got to the gate. Priority boarding was enforced
Our aircraft today was a B777-300, registration number G-STBB, built in 2010.
Only First Class passengers can turn left, all the others have to board by the door between first and business.
Our neighbor on the apron
This aircraft has a four-class configuration: First, Business (called Club World), Premium Economy (called World Traveller Plus) and Economy (called World Traveller). The flight seemed to be completely or almost completely full.
Premium economy has a 2+4+2 configuration. I couldn't take any photos of the seats as almost all of them were already taken. Although legroom is considerably better than in economy, the premium economy seats are definitely much closer to economy than to business.
There was anyway a brochure about the seat in the seat pocket:
The first row in the premium economy cabin only has four seats in the middle while the other five rows are complete with two seats on both sides and four in the middle so there are a total of 44 seats. Seats 21DEFG and 22ABKJ have a lot of extra legroom; seats in row 22 have more legroom than those in row 21.
I booked a window and an aisle seat but we got two seats on the right side of the four middle seats (22F and 22G).
Quite good looking headphones were waiting at the seat
A small amenity kit was also waiting at the seat
Newspapers were also offered, mostly in Japanese. Water or sparkling wine were offered a few minutes later.
An expected flight time of 12 hours and 10 minutes was announced for a scheduled flight time of 12 hours and 30 minutes.
Flight information before departure
Push-back was at 9.45, exactly on time. Bye bye Japan!
Take-off was at 10.05 after a long and slow taxi.
An oshibori was offered 10 minutes after take-off.
Landing cards were distributed shortly after for non-EU passengers.
Drinks (soft drinks, beer, wine, gin, whisky, vodka) and snacks were offered a half an hour after take-off.
Lunch was served one hour and a half after take-off. Let's see the menu:
The drink menu
Lunch was served on proper plates,and the cutlery were in metal, not in plastic.
Yuzu kosho pepper shira-ae, chicken tsukune, sweet potato kanroni. It was original and tasty.
Grilled fillet of beef, red wine sauce, mashed potato with chives, seasonal vegetables. The main course was below average which didn't surprise me.
Red wine with the main course
The BA logo on the cutlery
Mixed berry mousse, Chantilly cream. The dessert was light and quite good.
The built-in IFE (in-flight entertainment) screens are small
There's an excellent choice of movies. They're categorised as New Onboard (43 movies), New Releases (more or less the same movies), Award Worthy (12 movies), Wonder Women (14), Best of British (12), Docufilms (7), Last Chance to Watch (29), Essential Movies (39), Silver Screen (6), Global Cinema (55, including many Japanese and Korean movies), Hidden Gems (2), Disney (10), Kid's Zone (19), BA recommends (7). Most of the movies are in several categories; I counted a total of 176 movies.
Some of the current movies include Green Book, Bohemian Rhapsody, A Private War and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
You can also select movies by language (sound or subtitles): 48 are available in Arabic, 57 in Chinese, 62 in French, 58 in German, 6 in Hindi, 57 in Italian, 46 in Japanese, 73 in Spanish and so on.
Television is categorised under BOX sets, Favourite Channels, Wonder Woman, Trending, Fashion, Reality Bites, TV by Genre, Inspire, Best of Global TV, BA recommends and Best of British. The choice of TV programmes was also very good, and especially good within the best of British category. Favourite Channels include HBO, Disney, National Geographic, X Factor, Discovery Channel, BBC World News and many others.
I was much less happy with the choice of music. Definitely too few artists with most former or current stars missing. I like a lot of different types of music but I never heard of 90% of the bands/singers. Name any ten great British (or other) rock bands and most likely nine of them won't be featured.
I watched this movie first:
We were over Siberia when I finished the movie,
Water, apple juice and orange juice were offered regularly as the crew passed through the cabin.
There was no way I could sleep in such a crowded cabin with so limited space around me. I first watched a lot of trailers, a Polish movie called Cold War and later so I watched another movie
We were near Arkhangelsk when I finished this movie
A light meal was served 20.45 Tokyo time, about 9 hours after the first meal and one hour and a half before landing.
I find that having only two meals on a 12 hours and 30 minutes flight is not enough, and it's especially too long to leave nine hours between the two meals.
The chicken and the rice were actually quite good.
The muffin was low quality industrial
The tea was not good. Coffee was the other option; no other drinks were offered.
We were near Oslo that time.
Almost at Heathrow
We landed at Heathrow Terminal 5 at 13.25 and we were at the gate at 13.35 for a scheduled arrival time of 13.25.
We were the first at immigration so we were through it in a minute or so but our priority tagged luggage arrived almost 50 minutes after the plane got to the gate.
Thank you for reading my flight report and please feel free to comment.
JAL Sakura lounge
Tokyo - HND
London - LHR
Being a Silver Member of British Airways' Executive Club made a huge difference at the airport: we saved a lot of time by having access to priority check-in, priority security and priority boarding, and Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge was a great place to have a last Japanese breakfast before the flight. But BA's premium economy passengers normally have to use economy check-in and security control, have no lounge access and their only advantage on the ground is priority boarding.
My first impression after flying Japan Airlines premium economy was that it felt clearly like a downgrade. JAL's premium economy is closer to business class while BA's is closer to economy class.
BA premium economy seats are only a little bit better than those in economy, and certainly a lot less good than the ones offered by Japan Airlines in the same class.
Meals are also closer to economy. The appetizer and the dessert of the main meal were good but the meat wasn't. The main of the second meal was better but no drinks were offered except coffee and tea. Moreover I think that having only two meals on a 12 hours and 30 minutes flight is not enough, especially when you have 9 hours between them.
The best part of BA's product is the good choice of movies; on the other hand the choice of music is deplorable from the flag airline of a country that produced so many great musicians.
The cabin crew didn't seem to be very welcoming at boarding but proved actually to be very helpful later.
Altogether British Airways' premium economy branded as World Traveller Plus is not a very good product on this route (I had better experiences earlier on shorter flights). In terms of money I estimate that it is worth around 40 to 50% more than economy depending how long your flight is, if you're having a day or a night flight, and if you collect miles (BA, like many other airlines, give almost as many miles for flying premium economy than for business).
If you fly premium economy between Europe and Japan and you have the choice between British Airways and Japan Airlines make sure you choose the latter.
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