Review of British Airways flight Baltimore London in Premium Eco

Airline British Airways
Flight BA228
Class Premium Eco
Seat 10K
Aircraft Boeing 787-8
Flight time 06:55
Take-off 29 Feb 20, 20:40
Arrival at 01 Mar 20, 08:35
BA   #63 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 794 reviews
KévinDC
By SILVER 1666
Published on 26th 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 return transatlantic sector from BWI to LHR in World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy). In case you missed the first two instalments in this series, you'll find the link below.


routing


Reviews in this series:



photo 1-routing

check-in & lounge


After dropping off the rental car, it was a good 10-minute ride to the Terminal. The remote location of the Rental Car centre is one of the few downsides of flying in or out of BWI, an otherwise very convenient and less-crowded option in the DC metropolitan area. 

And when I say less-crowded, I'm not kidding, the International terminal is mostly empty as seen from the curbside. 


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The only activity at this time of day is at the British Airways counters. I have no idea why there were several fire trucks parked in front of the terminal.


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At different points in time, BWI has had service from several international carriers including Air Canada, British Airways, Icelandair, WOW Air (RIP), Norwegian, Aer Lingus, Air Jamaica (RIP), Air Aruba (RIP), Air Greenland, Condor, Mexicana (RIP), and KLM–As of early 2020, only Air Canada, British Airways, and Condor (with a seasonal flight) remained–which explains the empty International Terminal E.

Now the majority of international service is on US Low-cost carriers Spirit and Southwest. How things have changed!
 
I've seen this terminal bustling before–it's sad to see it practically a ghost town, and this was before the Covid-19 lock-downs! 

We were checked in by a very friendly and efficient agent who tagged our bags through to Barcelona. Though it was over 1.5 hours before departure, apparently we were among the last stragglers as we were the only ones at the ticket counter. Being that there was nothing going on, the other two agents hung out and doted on our 13-month-old son–he loves the attention, so he ate it up! 

I asked if any paid upgrades to Club World were available, as BA sometimes offer some last-minute buy-ups at reasonable prices. Alas, not today! Upgrades were offered at $900 per person–hardly a deal.  


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Although it had been years, I'd flown out of BWI many times in the past and was certain I knew where the security checkpoint was located in Terminal E–to the right of the large flight information display screen seen on the right side of the photo above. However, the agents pointed us towards the D Concourse. 

On the way to the Concourse D/E connector area we passed by an art exhibit. 


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Well this is new…to me anyway! 


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There was a large security checkpoint in the D/E Connector between the two concourses, which hadn't existed the last time I flew out of BWI (4 or 5 years ago, maybe?). I'm not sure if the security checkpoint in Terminal E is permanently closed, or if it was just closed that evening because there was only one flight departing from Terminal E.

There was no wait at all going through the TSA Pre-check lanes, which, as you can see, were completely empty. Again, not having flown from BWI in years, I'm not sure if it's typically this quiet at that time of the evening, or if the beginning of the Covid-19 epidemic was to blame.

Security was a breeze, as we were the only party going through at the time. Having Pre-check makes a huge difference when travelling with a baby as we don't have to dig out all of the liquids (e.g. baby formula, liquid medication, etc). 

Once through, we headed left back towards international Concourse E. 


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Near the entrance to Concourse E, is a large children's play area. This will be very convenient to tire the kid out before the flight! But first, lets head to the lounge for a bit.


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Walking into the concourse, it was eerily quiet–quite was sad to see it so empty.


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At BWI, British Airways use the Chesapeake Club–a third party lounge that was previously also used by WOW, Icelandair, and others. It is located airside, right after the Concourse E security checkpoint–which used to be convenient, when that checkpoint was open.

We were greeted by a friendly agent who pointed out the location of the lounge's amenities, such as the business center, showers, bar, etc. Note that, as with most carriers, a Premium Economy ticket on BA does not give lounge access–we both had access through our oneworld Sapphire status. 


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As the Chesapeake Club no longer accepts Priority Pass and BA had the only flight going out of the concourse at the time, the lounge was pleasantly quiet.

The space is broken up into multiple smaller rooms, which makes for a warm and cosy atmosphere. 


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Tables between chairs are equipped with two standard power outlets and four USB ports–very convenient for charging multiple devices before a long flight.


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There weren't many food options, and no hot dishes at all. I'd say the overall spread was just slightly above average for a US lounge. 


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The drink options were more plentiful. I was pleasantly surprised to not only see that real champagne was available, but that it was Taittinger. 


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Our stay in the lounge was short-lived as the kid started becoming a bit restless–now that he's over a year old, he doesn't like sitting still for too long!


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So we headed to the nearby play area so he could run around and tire himself out before the flight.

There's obviously an aviation theme, mixed in with some Maryland nautical themes, and a touch of tacky Americana thrown in.


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After a quick wash of the hands–this was just 2 weeks before Covid lockdowns, after all–we headed out to the boarding gate.
 


boarding


There was now only slightly more activity in the concourse with the beginning of boarding. 


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Right as we arrived at the gate, the same friendly agents who had checked us in waved us over to the podium.

"Hi, there you are! we were looking for you guys to get you on board first before general boarding," The agent exclaimed with a smile.

"That's very sweet," I replied, explaining we were in the play area so the baby could run around and get himself nice and tired to sleep on the flight, which made her laugh with understanding. 


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I've mentioned in past reviews that when travelling with small children, pre-boarding offers a few precious extra minutes to get situated–time to fold up the stroller/push chair, etc; however, I've also learned that sleeping babies, make for a much more pleasant flight experience for everyone, so it's also important to let them play and get all the extra energy out of their system before a long flight.

With that we missed pre-boarding, but luckily we had our travel stroller, which fits in the overhead bins, and therefore doesn't need to be checked at the gate–this saves a ton of time and effort–highly recommended!

No social distancing here–the Premium Economy cabin ended up completely full.  


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The Club World (Business class) cabin stayed mostly empty, though. 


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Our seats in the bulkhead row


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Pre-placed on the seats were a pillow, blanket, noise-cancelling headphones, and a basic amenity kit containing eye shades, socks, ear plugs, a travel toothbrush/toothpaste set, and Elemis hand creme. 


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One of the biggest advantages of the first row is the large amount of space. AT 5'10" (178 cm) I can fully stretch my legs out and barely touch the wall. Seats in other rows are pitched at 38", standard legroom for long-haul Premium Economy and domestic First/Business. 

Legroom shot with small child… 


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…and sans small child 😁


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As on the previous flights, I wiped down hard surfaces on and around the seats with disinfectant wipes–not wanting to take any chances in those early Covid days, especially travelling with a 13-month-old who has to touch absolutely everything!

Shortly after settling in, two of the lovely cabin crew came by with pre-departure drinks and the seat belt extension for the baby.  

Unlike flights from Heathrow, which usually include sparking wine, the choices were only water and orange juice. 


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Paper menus were distributed a short time later.


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the flight


We pushed back from the gate a few minutes late due to some missing passengers and subsequently their baggage needing to be offloaded. 


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The comical and well-done safety video played as we taxied.


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The taxi time was a good 15 minutes, which I found to be a bit long for BWI.

One of the lovely cabin crew came by shortly after takeoff to set up the bassinet, which would allow us to have our arms free once the baby fell asleep to enjoy the meal and get a few solid hours of sleep.

The meal service began with drinks. We had sparkling wine as usual.  


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Luckily, the baby fell asleep before the meal was served so up he went into the bassinet, where he slept the entire flight. 

The main meal is served on china with real silverware and glasses, clearly differentiated from Economy service. The main dish is similar to dishes served in Business class. 


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Teriyaki-glazed chicken, Jasmine Rice, Asian vegetables.


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After the meal service I was able to sleep for most of the remainder of the flight. BA's World Traveller Plus seats are quite comfortable for sleeping with a very generous recline and full leg-rests in the front row, allowing for a comfortable cradle position.

I only woke up 50 minutes prior to landing, as lights were turned on for breakfast service.  


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Luckily, the lights did not wake the baby and he continued to sleep soundly right up until we needed to take him down for landing. 


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I love the multiple tint settings of the 787 windows, allowing you to look out the window in the early morning hours without blinding everyone in the cabin.

Some morning wing views with the windows partially tinted.  


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Unlike on the longer West Coast Transatlantic flights, like this LAX-LHR flight that I reviewed a few months ago, the short East Coast flights don't get a full hot breakfast.
 
Instead, much like the pizza on the flight over to BWI, we received a hot snack in a cardboard box. 

Turkey bacon & cheese panini–similar to a large "hot pocket," for those who are familiar with that common US snack.  


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while it wasn't pretty, and in sharp contrast to the much more premium main meal, I appreciated that it was a hot snack. In my past experience, the breakfast on these shorter flights was just a muffin and yogurt. 
 
We began our descent into Heathrow with a bit under a half hour to go.


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The cabins were readied, all windows un-tinted, and cabin separators opened for landing.


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We were able to make up a bit of our delay with only one quick loop in the holding pattern prior to landing. I'd often experienced 3 or 4 loops during the busy morning transatlantic arrival banks. 


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It was a beautiful clear day as we did our holding turn over the countryside northwest of London.


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I'd purposely selected seats on the right side of the aircraft in hopes of getting some good city views on landing and I was not disappointed!


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London City and its massive skyscrapers on the left and central London and the London Eye to the right.


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Central London and Hyde Park


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The City


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Simply amazing views of Tower Bridge and the City


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Houses of parliament and the London Eye to the left and the massive "Shard" across the Thames from the City


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The Tower of London is clearly visible to the right of Tower Bridge.


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St. Paul's Cathedral and it's iconic dome is visible to the right


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Buckingham Palace, Parliament, and the London Eye


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Buckingham Palace


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final descent


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Caught our shadow


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Last time I'll see a South African Airways aircraft?


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Beautiful Concorde


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A Delta 767-400 taxiing


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The iconic Heathrow ATC tower


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It was crazy to think at that time in early march, that only a short time later, major airlines like Virgin Atlantic would find themselves on the brink of collapse with demand all but gone following worldwide lock-downs and border closures amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Approaching T5 and the sea of Union Jack tails


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A beautiful new BA A350-1000 equipped with the new Club Suites, which I look forward to trying one day.


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We parked next to a 777-300ER at T5 Concourse C, the furthest out of the satellite concourses. 


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Deplaning is quick from the World Traveller Plus cabin as there are only 2 rows of Club World to pass on the way to door 2L. 


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We weren't in a rush at all, but figured we'd head directly to Terminal 3, from which our next flight would be departing, as there were some different lounge options there for us–a nice change from the T5 Galleries lounges with which we are very familiar. 


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So off to the main T5A Terminal we went to catch the bus to T3.


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See more

Verdict

British Airways

8.5/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew9.0
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering8.0

The Chesapeake Club - E

7.5/10
Comfort8.5
Meal/catering6.5
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Services8.0

Baltimore - BWI

8.0/10
Efficiency9.0
Access6.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness9.0

London - LHR

8.0/10
Efficiency8.0
Access6.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness8.5

Conclusion

Having tried Premium Economy products on several carriers, I find BA's seats to be the best for sleeping, by far. The recline is very generous--maybe even too generous on day flights, but perfect for night flights. The legrests come up a decent amount, which also makes a big difference when put in the comfortable cradle position. And obviously, spacious 19" wide seats with additional space in the bulkhead row also made for a comfortable flight. The cabin is modern and each seat features multiple USB ports and a universal power outlet for device charging.

The catering is sufficiently premium and differentiated from Economy for the first service, but as I've said in the past, the pre-arrival meal could use some improvement. Nevertheless, I appreciate that hot pre-arrival option on such a short transatlantic flight, which was not the case in the past.

Cabin crew were lovely and attentive as always. We've been fortunate to have had so many positive experiences with British Airways and I continue to be a fan.

Related

10 Comments

  • Comment 552541 by
    757Fan 587 Comments

    Looks like a great flight with BA. I have not flown them in many years - but as you have reported on them multiple times it makes me think that the next time I fly to England I should try them again!

    My wife and I now have a 1 month old - and i'm impressed by how long your baby sleeps on planes. We have yet to travel with our son, but definitely wonder how he would do on a long overnight flight like this one!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 552746 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5273 Comments

      Congratulations on the new baby! Becoming a parent is such a wonderful thing. The not-so-wonderful part is the total lack of sleep in those first few months! haha

      Our son got used to flying early on and has generally behaved well on planes. He's always been a good sleeper, so night flights have usually been the easiest flights as he just sleeps right through the entire flight. Day flights were becoming more and more challenging as the older kids get, the more they need to be constantly entertained and get restless outside of normal sleep times. With the lockdowns, our son will go the longest period in his life without flying...we'll see how he does once we can all fly again...I'm guessing he won't be quite as well-behaved as he has been in the past. haha

  • Comment 552603 by
    ISTFlyer GOLD 237 Comments

    Hi Kévin and thank you for this FR,

    I've seen this terminal bustling before–it's sad to see it practically a ghost town, and this was before the Covid-19 lock-downs!

    - Terminal E was always a ghost-town; on the other hand, Terminals A, B and C are always crowded. :)
    Upgrades were offered at $900 per person–hardly a deal.

    - From WTP to CW, that is so much, especially when the Club World cabin was empty
    As the Chesapeake Club no longer accepts Priority Pass and BA had the only flight going out of the concourse at the time, the lounge was pleasantly quiet. There weren't many food options, and no hot dishes at all. I'd say the overall spread was just slightly above average for a US lounge.

    - If I'm not wrong there is a PP Lounge ( another one ) at Terminal D near the Spirit gates. By the way, the dishes look super-similar to the buffet of the BA Lounges in IAD and PHL.
    Instead, much like the pizza on the flight over to BWI, we received a hot snack in a cardboard box. while it wasn't pretty, and in sharp contrast to the much more premium main meal, I appreciated that it was a hot snack. In my past experience, the breakfast on these shorter flights was just a muffin and yogurt.

    - This pizza is much better than the fruit and yogurt offering of Lufthansa W. At least you were happy that you got a hot snack.

    Once again thanks for sharing this report as I'll am scheduled to fly on this same exact flight in Y in the upcoming months and hope to see you on the next report of this series.

    • Comment 552747 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5273 Comments

      Hi ISTFlyer, thanks for your comments!

      Terminal E was always a ghost-town; on the other hand, Terminals A, B and C are always crowded. :)

      Lately sure, but 10-15 years ago it could get pretty busy. Heck, even a few years ago with BA, WOW, Condor, and Icelandair all leaving about the same time, it was very different than today in Terminal E. I don't ever venture to Terminals A-C...I make it a point not to ever fly Southwest haha

      From WTP to CW, that is so much, especially when the Club World cabin was empty

      Seriously, makes no sense. Had they been doing upgrades for around $400-500 as I've seen in the past, I would have gone for it. Seems silly to charge such a high price for a same-day upgrade when the cabin is empty--they could have made more money offering at a more reasonable price. Obviously the price was too high so no one went for it.

      If I'm not wrong there is a PP Lounge ( another one ) at Terminal D near the Spirit gates. By the way, the dishes look super-similar to the buffet of the BA Lounges in IAD and PHL.

      Correct, there's a PP lounge in D that is pretty decent. The offering was similar to a typical BA lounge, minus the dining room part, which is where I usually go at IAD (only when flying Club, of course).

      At least you were happy that you got a hot snack.

      Indeed, it makes a difference. An improvement over previous catering, and over much of the competition, as you mention,

  • Comment 552619 by
    loukas SILVER 341 Comments

    Hi Kevin! So strange to see such an empty airport and - exactly as you wrote - before the pandemia. Local airports however still have this charm that you won't find in the main hubs. It looks as if you had a special extra flight over London to enjoy the views ;) Nice to see a proper premium economy main meal. Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 552748 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5273 Comments

      Hi Loukas!

      Local airports however still have this charm that you won't find in the main hubs.

      Indeed, it's nice to fly out of smaller airports sometimes.

      Nice to see a proper premium economy main meal.

      This is one area where the US3 do a good job over European carriers with all meals being premium, rather than just 1 (or none). For the rest, BA beats the US carriers

      Thanks for stopping by!

  • Comment 552669 by
    aussenrist 224 Comments

    Merci Kévin pour ce reportage! You make me really want to try BA PEY HAHA
    BWI looks so modern! The airside concourse E looks like IAD concourse B a bit with those flags^^
    Funny to see the J is mostly empty. How about the load of Y?

    No social distancing here

    IMO it is difficult for aircraft to practice unless the flight load is below 30% which are equally distributed on different cabins. Blocking middle seat does not help lol
    The aerial shots of London are really exceptional!
    A+

    • Comment 552749 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5273 Comments

      Hey, thanks for your comments!

      You make me really want to try BA PEY HAHA

      Haha, yep, you're well placed to try BA, though it's never cheap from a Hub, except when there are good sales...and when there are good sales, J is usually a better value

      BWI looks so modern! The airside concourse E looks like IAD concourse B a bit with those flags^^

      Indeed! BWI's Terminal E is pretty new--built in the late 90s

      Funny to see the J is mostly empty. How about the load of Y?

      BWI isn't as premium a destination as IAD so J loads are probably lower on average even with a smaller J cabin on the 788. The load in Y was about 60%. The W cabin was the fullest one! haha

      IMO it is difficult for aircraft to practice unless the flight load is below 30% which are equally distributed on different cabins. Blocking middle seat does not help lol

      Very true. Commercial aircraft cabins are built for the opposite of social distancing. Even in EK F, technically passengers aren't 6 ft apart. There's no way to do proper social distancing on planes so the best answer is PPE...mask, hand sanitiser, disinfectant wipes, etc...though I don't know if I'd go as far as wearing a plastic poncho like some HK travellers 🤣

  • Comment 553258 by
    Pilpintu SILVER 707 Comments

    I can't believe this is premium eco. It is evidently far better than many business class services I have read about here! I am really impressed.

    Fantastic aerials of London! I loved them all!!

    Thanks for sharing, Kevin!!

    • Comment 553737 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER AUTHOR 5273 Comments

      Indeed, Long-haul Premium Economy is akin to short-haul Business class in many ways--the seats are the same as short-haul Business class (everywhere except Europe where it's just a Y seat with a blocked middle seat). The catering is very similar to short-haul Business class as well. On long-haul, Premium Economy is a nice compromise between cramped space in Y and very high prices in J.

      It was definitely a beautiful morning over London--I got lucky! Thanks for your comments!

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