Review of British Airways flight London Baltimore in Premium Eco

Airline British Airways
Flight BA229
Class Premium Eco
Seat 16K
Aircraft Boeing 787-9
Flight time 08:25
Take-off 15 Feb 20, 15:30
Arrival at 15 Feb 20, 18:55
BA   #68 out of 115 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 803 reviews
KévinDC
By SILVER 1450
Published on 12th April 2020

introduction


Welcome to my last series of flights before the Covid-19 pandemic all but shut down air travel around the world. These flights took place between February 15th and March 1st, 2020–a short time period where things rapidly evolved in Europe. Though we were aware of the outbreak and took precautions while flying, little did we know that shortly after returning from our trip that borders would be closing and transatlantic commercial air traffic would grind to a halt.

We had been staying in France since late December, where we were planning on spending a few more months before returning to Southern California in the spring, but needed to head to Washington, DC for a few weeks to work on getting our previous home ready for sale. Being in the Southwest of France, there aren't really any major airports nearby. Toulouse is about 2 hours away, but transatlantic flights tend to be expensive from TLS, so we usually make the 5.5 hour drive to fly in and out of Paris.

For this trip, however, I'd found some really good deals from Barcelona in Premium Economy on British Airways. BCN is also about a 5.5 hour drive so I figured it would be an interesting change and a good opportunity to spend a bit of time in Barcelona. The best prices were to Baltimore-Washington Intl airport BWI, which is about the same distance from our home as Dulles IAD.

The transatlantic reviews in this series are the first on British Airways Premium Economy to or from BWI and only the second and third long-haul reviews to/from BWI. 

In this review, I'll cover the first transatlantic sector from LHR to BWI in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy). In case you missed the first instalment in this series, you'll find the link below.


routing


Reviews in this series:


Routing


photo 1-routing

transit & lounge


Having arrived from Barcelona at Terminal 3, we immediately headed for the connector bus to Terminal 5, from which most British Airways flights depart, including our flight to Baltimore-Washington. 


photo img_8067photo img_8068

Once at Terminal 5, it was surprisingly crowded. By the date of this flight in mid-February, Coronavirus fears had already led to cancellation of all BA flights to Mainland China and general drops in load-factors, but that was not evident from the throng of passengers at Heathrow that day.


photo img_8070

Once through security, we headed to the BA Galleries lounge (South), the larger of the two BA clubs in the main T5A Terminal.


photo img_8073

One of my favourite things about this lounge is the Elemis spa, where one can enjoy a massage or facial treatment. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available that worked with our schedule–the haul from T3 to T5 had eaten away a good bit of our layover. 


photo img_8075

Again, the lounge was surprisingly crowded for a Saturday, which usually tends to be a quiet day in my experience. I imagine that the many delays and cancellations due to the storm had a role in that. 


photo img_8076

Luckily we were able to find a quiet-ish corner that we were able to block off with chairs as a makeshift play area for the baby. Conveniently, there was already a high-chair nearby that we could use.


photo img_8081

The view from the lounge.


photo img_8077photo img_8082

There are tarmac views on the other side of the lounge, but that side was a zoo, as it usually is, so we stuck to the quieter side in our social distancing efforts.
 
At this point it was lunch time so I was getting a bit hungry, especially since we hadn't eaten anything on the flight from Barcelona.


photo img_8078

There was a decent selection of hot dishes for lunch.


photo img_8080

I tried a bit of everything, from beef meatballs, to chicken curry, to pasta and chicken salad. 


photo img_8083

There were flight information screens nearby–as you can see, many flights were delayed of cancelled that day due to the storm.


photo img_8084photo img_8085

Our flight to BWI was luckily not impacted and was due to depart on time. An hour before departure, the screens informed that the flight would be departing from T5B. One of my biggest pet peeves with Heathrow is gates only being displayed an hour or so before departure–I hate having to constantly monitor the screens and then feel rushed to arrive at the gate on time! Sorry, rant over ?


photo img_8086

boarding


So off we went to catch out flight from Satellite B


photo img_8088photo img_8089

From the Main Terminal, the T5 A Gates (or T5A), one must either take the underground train or walkway to the B and C gates (T5B and T5C. In my experience, T5A has mostly short-haul intra-European departures, with long-haul out of T5B and C.

From the main concourse, the lower level can be accessed via escalators or lifts. As we were flying with a baby, the latter was the logical option.


photo img_8090

Once we reached the B Satellite, our gate was at the end of the concourse. 


photo img_1038

At the boarding gate we learned that our aircraft was parked on a remote stand and that we would be boarding by bus, ugh. Normally, I wouldn't mind–and my AvGeek side actually loves tarmac boarding, normally–but not when flying with a one-year-old, and especially not in the middle of a big storm!

We were advised to queue up in the pre-boarding lane with the baby, but the "pre-boarding" lane was only allowed to board at the same time as oneworld Sapphires in group 2. We both hold Sapphire status and were already in group 2, so there was literally no point. Note that a BA Premium Economy ticket does not normally come with early boarding, unlike most other carriers. 

Another pointless excercise…pre-boarding a bus to a remote stand. The only advantage being catching the first bus.
 
Nevertheless, I obviously enjoyed the ability to do some planespotting from the unique perspective of the bus during the ride, though the rain and wind didn't help.


photo img_1040

BA 787-8


photo img_1041photo img_1042

BA 747-400 in oneworld livery


photo img_1043photo img_1044

It turned out our aircraft wasn't too far–it was parked just one stand down from the end of the terminal. So close, yet so far away. Doh!


photo img_1046

As I was lugging a baby stroller and fighting wind and rain, I only managed one more quick shot of our beautiful Dreamliner on boarding.

Those windows are huge! 


photo img_1048

The BWI flight is normally operated by a 787-8, as Baltimore is one of the smaller US markets for BA–especially with such a large presence down the road at Washington-Dulles–but was operated by a larger 4-cabin 787-9 that day. 

The Premium Economy cabin on the 787-9 has 39 seats in a spacious 2-3-2 layout over 6 rows. As we were travelling with an infant-in-lap, we were able to reserve the bulkhead row at booking, which is normally blocked until online check-in.  


photo ba-seats-lhr-bwi

The infant seat belt, which attaches to the adult passenger's seatbelt for takeoff and landing, was pre-placed on the official "bassinet seat" (bulkhead window seat).


photo img_1050photo img_1052-31211

In addition to the infant seatbelt, there was a pillow, blanket, amenity kit, and noise-cancelling headphones. 


photo img_1055photo img_1065photo img_1064

Here's a view of the World Traveller Plus cabin during a lull in boarding between buses. The cabin would end up being completely full.


photo img_1058-34133

A look into the Club World cabin during boarding.


photo img_1057

Stormy window view.


photo img_1061

The best part of the bulkhead row…tons of legroom!


photo img_1060

A few minutes after settling in, a very friendly flight attendant came through the cabin with pre-departure drinks. Choices were water and sparkling wine.


photo img_1063

My son doing the safety demo–he's a quick learner ?


photo img_1068-52463

Though this flight was a month before confinement and border closures, Covid-19 was already all over the news as the first cases were being detected in Europe. I therefore took some extra precautions and cleaned all hard surfaces with anti-bacterial wipes (sidewalls, bulkhead, armrests, tray tables, window shades, even literature covers and the safety card!). I'm not normally paranoid, but I do often get sick after long-haul flights, so I felt it was better to be safe than sorry, especially travelling with a baby. 

Funny enough, as soon as I started wiping down surfaces, several other passengers in the cabin began to do the same. Seems I wasn't the only one carrying Clorox wipes! I guess they were all waiting for someone else to go first, haha. 

The front of the centre console, where the universal 110v power outlets are located, was absolutely filthy. Thank goodness I had wipes–shameful in general, but especially in times of Coronavirus, even if it was the early days. 


photo img_8095

There are also 2 USB ports for each seat.


photo img_8104

Of course I also wiped down the IFE screens, which we were made to take out for the safety video.


photo img_1072

And the cool window dimmer button, one of the unique features of the 787


photo img_1089

the flight


Despite the storm, we pushed back from the stand close to on-time. 


photo img_1071

The hilarious and well-done safety video played as we taxied to the departure runway.


photo img_1073photo img_1075

Absolutely Fabulous (see what I did there?) ?


photo img_1076

It's sad to think most of these aircraft are sitting idle today.


photo img_1077photo img_1078

Curtains and windows in centre bulkheads are open during takeoff and landing. 


photo img_1079

That's the iconic Heathrow tower somewhere behind all that rain and wind.


photo img_1082

The Emirates special "Expo 2020" livery A380. It remains to be seen whether the world expo will take place in the fall or be postponed. 


photo img_1083

After a relatively quick taxi time, we were off. 


photo img_1084photo img_1086

Love the 787 wing


photo img_1088

Finding blue skies above the storm. 


photo img_1094

Heading out over the sea, but outside the window it's still a sea of clouds. 


photo img_1097

Shortly after takeoff one of the lovely cabin crew came by to set up the child seat in the bassinet position. 

It was perfect timing as the baby had just fallen asleep during the climb. 


photo img_8098-30505

Whereas on our previous flight with BA in December 2019, at 10-months old, the baby could still (barely) fit in the cot, 2 months later, he had definitely outgrown it. One of the great things about flying with a baby on BA is that they provide a child seat for older babies under 2 years-old and weighing less than 12.5kgs (27.5lbs).

To my knowledge most other airlines only have the cots for smaller babies. Being able to put the baby in the bassinet, where he can get a few solid hours of sleep makes a huge difference when flying with a baby. A sleeping baby and free arms make for a much more relaxing flight!


photo img_8105photo img_8100-48515

And of course, being free to eat and drink in peace is one of the little things I've learned to appreciate as a parent, whereas it was previously something I took for granted.

pre-lunch drink service with a drinkable Spanish Cava. 


photo img_1109

Salud!


photo img_1111

As always with BA the in-flight entertainment system has tons of content including films, series, documentaries, music, games, and a kids section. 


photo img_1099photo img_1103photo img_1105

shortly before lunch service, our flight attendant came to check on us and asked if we'd like another drink, promptly bringing another bottle of Cava for dinner. 


photo img_8101

Premium cabin passengers have the ability to pre-order main dishes on long-haul flights departing London. 

These were the choices. 


photo ba-meal-selection-lhr-bwi

I went for the chicken curry–a dish the British do so well. 


photo ba-meal-selection-lhr-bwi-confirm

I was not disappointed–it was delicious with the perfect level of spice. 


photo img_1112

The main meal is served on china with metal cutlery in the Premium Economy cabin. In my experience, the main dishes are very similar to what you'd see in Business class. 


photo img_1113

View of the cabin after meal service.


photo img_8106

The baby woke up shortly after the meal service. Luckily, Moana was there to keep him entertained for a bit!


photo img_8107

Throughout the flight, cabin crew came through the aisles offering water and juices; however, there was also a self-serve station in the rear galley that included drinks and snacks. 

 View of the Economy cabin from the rear galley.


photo img_8109

Lovely views over the snowy Canadian Maritimes.


photo img_8110

Though it was only the middle of the afternoon, the sun was setting over these northern latitudes. 


photo img_1115

The pre-arrival meal service began as we were over New England. 


photo img_1116

Coffee, tea, juices, and soft drinks were offered along with a hot vegetarian pizza.


photo img_1117photo img_1121

While the main meal felt premium and differentiated from Economy, this pre-arrival snack certainly did not. A boxed snack felt rather cheap compared to oneworld partner American's plated 3-course pre-arrival meals in Premium Economy. Nevertheless, I like pizza (who doesn't?) so I can't really complain. But my observation is this is the one area that could use some improvement in the Premium Economy service.

By the end of the meal service we were well into our descent and the cabin was readied for arrival.


photo img_1122

arrival


We had left the gate in London about 10 minutes behind and had not made up any time in flight, arriving at the gate in Baltimore about 10 minutes behind schedule. 

Deplaning was quick as there were only three rows of Club World between us and the door. 


photo img_8112photo img_8113

Fun story: I'd mentioned in past reviews that I'd been waiting a ridiculous amount of time for my son's Global Entry application to be approved. As luck would have it, after a full 6 month wait, I finally received the conditional approval a few days before this flight. Global Entry requires an interview with a CBP officer in order to receive final approval and, luckily, BWI is one of the approved locations where one can do an interview on arrival. 

Because the baby still technically didn't have Global Entry, we had to go through the regular lane one last time. It wasn't too bad since we were the only international arrival at that time. 

I had to laugh at the photos taken by the  APC (Automated Passport Control) machine–in all my travels, this was the first time ever that I actually looked up quickly enough from the screen so that my eyes didn't look closed…

The baby, on the other hand, was dead asleep! 


photo img_8114

And he slept right through the Global Entry "interview," which only took a few minutes. The super nice CBP officer thought it was hilarious that he had to interview a baby. He basically only asked about travel patterns and approved our file. I was happy to finally have Global Entry for the kid so that we could again use the Global Entry lanes when travelling with him.

By the time we were done with immigration and the interview, the baggage area was deserted and our bags were already waiting for us.


photo img_8115

We then made our way to the BWI car rental center to pick up our car for the next two weeks. It felt weird picking up a rental car at "home"…since DC had been home until mid 2019. 


photo img_8116

Thank you for reading!

See more

Verdict

British Airways

8.5/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew9.5
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering7.5

British Airways (South) Galleries Club - 5A

7.5/10
Comfort7.5
Meal/catering7.5
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services8.0

London - LHR

7.5/10
Efficiency6.0
Access6.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness8.5

Baltimore - BWI

8.0/10
Efficiency8.5
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

Another fantastic BA cabin crew made for a relatively stress-free flight. We've always had good experience with BA staff, but we've found them to be even more attentive when travelling with the little one. I really appreciate the crew's efforts to make the experience as pleasant as possible every time we fly with our son.

While I've been lucky to often fly Business or First, I've always found Premium Economy to be a good value. A wider seat, 6-8" (15-20cm) more legroom, and upgraded service in a smaller, more intimate cabin, for about a 50% premium over Economy prices. Unless I find a really good deal in Business or First, now that I have a family--and have to be more budget-conscious--Premium Economy fits my needs. Having flown Premium Economy on several airlines, I find BA to have a solid and competitive product with the best seat recline, which makes a huge difference for sleeping.

The one thing that could use improvement is the pre-arrival offering, which was not particularly premium. Otherwise, BA World Traveller Plus is an all-around good Premium Economy product and a good value.

Related

12 Comments

  • Comment 550590 by
    Aaro 37 Comments

    BA flies to so many smaller US airports like BWI, MSY, BNA, AUS, PIT, CHS, and PDX. This is what makes them different from the other EU carriers.

    • Comment 550747 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5319 Comments

      Indeed, that is one of the nice things about BA. I would even add SJC to that list since I believe BA is the only European carrier. BWI was one of the last destinations served with a 763 and I was a bit nervous they would pull the route or reduce it after they retired the 767 fleet, but they've made BWI work for them, along with so many other mid-sized to smaller markets, as you mention.

  • Comment 550608 by
    KL651 TEAM 4497 Comments

    Thanks for this FR Gurrl.
    We were at LHR at the same time, too bad not at the same terminal.
    Premium Economy offerings really vary with each airline, AF offers Priority Boarding (which doesn't cost anything) but no welcome drink, BA does the opposite.
    Again I'm pretty impressed by BA's Y+ the overall service is clearly improved vs Economy, especially the main meal and drinks.

    • Comment 550749 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5319 Comments

      I know, I wish I had known earlier! Too funny!

      Premium Economy offerings really vary with each airline

      So true, and now that the US carriers have finally gotten on board with Premium Economy, they arguably have some of the most premium of the premium economy services out there

  • Comment 550627 by
    ISTFlyer GOLD 277 Comments

    Hi Kévin and thanks for this report,

    One of my favourite things about this lounge is the Elemis spa, where one can enjoy a massage or facial treatment. Unfortunately, there were no appointments available that worked with our schedule–the haul from T3 to T5 had eaten away a good bit of our layover.

    - I didn't know that Sapphire passengers traveling on long-haul Premium Economy could benefit from the spa facilities. When I travel on another cabin other than Club World ( I didn't fly BA First until today ), my treatment request was always rejected.
    Luckily we were able to find a quiet-ish corner that we were able to block off with chairs as a makeshift play area for the baby. Conveniently, there was already a high-chair nearby that we could use.

    - My favorite corner in Galleries Club South :)
    Note that a BA Premium Economy ticket does not normally come with early boarding, unlike most other carriers.

    - Group 3 is for BA Premium Economy, BA Bronze, oneworld Ruby
    While the main meal felt premium and differentiated from Economy, this pre-arrival snack certainly did not. A boxed snack felt rather cheap compared to oneworld partner American's plated 3-course pre-arrival meals in Premium Economy. Nevertheless, I like pizza (who doesn't?) so I can't really complain. But my observation is this is the one area that could use some improvement in the Premium Economy service.

    - At least the pre-arrival meal on BA W is much better than the new LH W pre-arrival meal, which is a cold Prosciutto sandwich with coleslaw; and yes, even though I couldn't take my first AA W flight in March due to COVID-19, I know that they have a better pre-arrival meal.
    there was also a self-serve station in the rear galley that included drinks and snacks.

    - It's nice that the self-serve station is back, in late 2018 and 2019, at least the flights I took, the crew told me that BA removed the self-serve station on shorter transatlantic routes and subbed it with an ice-cream service mid-flight. It's pretty good news that there were available snacks.

    It's pretty nice that you and your family ( especially the little one ) enjoyed BA Premium Economy and I look forward to reading about the eastbound service and the BWI Lounge ( that I never had the chance to experience ) on your next report.

    • Comment 550751 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5319 Comments

      Hi ISTflyer, thanks for your comments!

      I didn't know that Sapphire passengers traveling on long-haul Premium Economy could benefit from the spa facilities.

      You're actually probably right that Sapphires don't have access and it may have been a fluke. I have also had treatments as an Emerald flying long-haul Premium, which I believe is allowed in any cabin.

      My favorite corner in Galleries Club South :)

      It's funny I tend to always go to this area. Though I'd love to watch the activity on the runway it's always waaaay too crowded on the other side. well, it was in pre-Covid days anyway--no idea what it's like now...probably quieter.

      It's nice that the self-serve station is back, in late 2018 and 2019, at least the flights I took, the crew told me that BA removed the self-serve station on shorter transatlantic routes and subbed it with an ice-cream service mid-flight.

      It seems the service protocols in W/Y keep evolving. First there was cost cutting, then they realised they cut too deep and brought back some things. No idea if the FAs were following current protocol or not..they just had a few cups of water and juice out with some bags of snacks.

      I look forward to reading about the eastbound service and the BWI Lounge ( that I never had the chance to experience ) on your next report.

      I will definitely be covering the lounge. It'll be the first time it's been reported :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 550714 by
    NewYorker SILVER 107 Comments

    Thanks for this Flight-Report Kevin! While I'm definitely no fan of BA (quite the contrary, tbh), WTP looks like a pretty solid product. The cabin is elegant and the seats seem comfy. That first meal looks very Business Class-y, which is a nice change from LH, who offers the same meal in W as in Y. Lame, especially for a "5-Star Airline". While the pizza isn't premium, I also can't complain. Who doesn't like pizza?!?! And lastly, I've flown through Heathrow many times and never once seen a remote stand in use, so it figures you get a remote stand in the middle of Storm Dennis ? Murphy's Law, I guess. Thanks again, and looking forward to the return.

    • Comment 550753 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5319 Comments

      Hey NewYorker, thanks for your comments!

      I'm definitely no fan of BA (quite the contrary, tbh)

      I get that. I've had some bad experiences with BA, especially in the awful old Y. But have only had good to great experiences over the last few years flying them several times a year in longhaul J and W. Intra-European is another story...that's about as mediocre as it gets.

      That first meal looks very Business Class-y, which is a nice change from LH, who offers the same meal in W as in Y.

      Such a shame that LH does that. Very cheap of them. I would like to try their W product sometime though; the seat looks pretty comfy.

      And lastly, I've flown through Heathrow many times and never once seen a remote stand in use, so it figures you get a remote stand in the middle of Storm Dennis ? Murphy's Law

      Soooo my luck! Yeah literally fly through LHR multiple times a year on BA and have NEVER EVER EVER gotten a remote stand, but in the middle of a huge wind storm, that's when I get a remote stand...oh the irony!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 550757 by
    aussenrist 224 Comments

    Merci pour ce reportage Kévin! En fait I have no knowledge that BA also fly to BWI because I always think it only fly to IAD…
    Maybe this is a newer aircraft, imo this BA 789 looks much nicer than BA 777 in every aspect, especially the CW lol
    Your son is so adorable^^ I found that he knows the timing to sleep on every flight which is a huge relief for the parents!
    The PEY catering looks very solid. I like the idea that BA let you pre-select online. Although the pre-arrival pizza looks not so PEY, it is a hot food which is much better than AC’s a piece of cold cake on the TATL!
    I always wish to try the BA PEY after they announced the improvement but usually they are not the cheapest from my places, even during the current situation…
    A+

    • Comment 550886 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5319 Comments

      Hey Ashley! Yup, BA have been flying to BWI for a long time...at least since the 90's. I believe the flight was at one point partly subsidised by the State of Maryland, and may still be, but they've made it work for decades now.

      I found that he knows the timing to sleep on every flight which is a huge relief for the parents!

      Thank God! haha. He's usually good on planes, but night flights are the best because he sleeps the whole flight usually.

      I always wish to try the BA PEY after they announced the improvement but usually they are not the cheapest from my places, even during the current situation…

      BA are definitely not cheap from oneworld hubs, but luckily I've found them to be consistently cheap from places with a lot of competition or another alliance's hub like LAX, EWR, CDG, BCN.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 551414 by
    loukas SILVER 342 Comments

    Hi Kevin, nice to read about a flight to Baltimore that seems not to be a typical US destination for European carriers. When I saw the first meal service, I said: WOW! That's a premium economy meal! But the pre-arrival snack cooled down my enthusiasm... I like BA livery and I must say all the aircraft look great in it, even with such a bad weather in the backround. Waiting for the next part to come! All the best!

    • Comment 551505 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5319 Comments

      Thanks for your comments Loukas! I could have flown into IAD for about the same price, but I've done that soooo many times and since BWI and IAD are about the same distance from my house, i figured it would be different to try out BWI and I wasn't disappointed as it's a much quieter and more convenient airport!

      Yeah, the first meal is great and then you get a pizza in a cardboard box...not very premium at all. But it's pizza...I can't hate on pizza, hahaha.

      I'm also a fan of the BA livery. It's ageless. It's hard to believe it's been around for more than 20 years and it still looks modern and fresh.

      Thanks for stopping by!

Login to post a comment.