The Guide to British Airways Premium Economy

Called World Traveller Plus, this upgraded economy fare offers baggage, boarding and points-earning perks.
Elina Geller
JT Genter
By JT Genter and  Elina Geller 
Edited by Meghan Coyle

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Flying in economy just isn't what it used to be. Over the decades, many airlines have reduced legroom, squeezed more seats into each row and cut back on services. Many travelers can't afford to pay for business class, but there is a Goldilocks middle ground: premium economy. Arguably, one of the better premium economy products available is British Airways premium economy, also known as World Traveller Plus.

Let's take a look at British Airways' premium economy, including what you'll find onboard, how the experience differs from economy and how you can save money on these seats.

What is premium economy on British Airways?

British Airways’s premium economy class is called World Traveller Plus. The other classes on its flights include economy (Euro Traveller and World Traveller), business class and first class.

World Traveller Plus is situated in its own separate cabin, which is closer to the front of the plane than economy. The seats are wider and offer more legroom than the seats in economy. In addition, passengers receive priority boarding, a more generous baggage allowance, two meals, complimentary alcoholic beverages, noise-canceling headphones for the personal entertainment system and an amenity kit.

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British Airways premium economy seats

For many passengers, the main reason to book premium economy instead of economy is the larger seats. And British Airways certainly delivers in this regard.

Compared with economy, British Airways World Traveller Plus gives you more space in all directions — more seat width, legroom and recline. Tall passengers can rejoice: British Airways premium economy provides 7 inches of additional legroom — measuring 38 inches of pitch vs. just 31 inches of pitch in economy.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

In addition to a substantial recline, British Airways premium economy seats offer a fold-out leg rest and a fold-down footrest.

Throughout the cabin, you'll find a large, fixed armrest between each seat. Although this slightly reduces seat width, it means that you shouldn't need to battle your neighbor for control of the armrest. At the front of each armrest, a cup tray provides enough space for two glasses. And you'll find a water bottle holder between the footrests in each seat pairing.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

Depending on the aircraft type, the British Airways premium economy cabin is either arranged 2-3-2 or 2-4-2. This means there are two seats by the windows and three or four seats in the middle column of seats. This arrangement makes British Airways premium economy a great option for couples traveling together who prefer to have their own two-seat row.

Each British Airways premium economy seat has a large, bright 12-inch touchscreen with seemingly endless entertainment options. This is a substantial upgrade from what British Airways offered prior to a recent cabin refresh.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

Below the in-flight entertainment screen, British Airways installed a storage tray. This provides a convenient place to store your phone, passport, boarding pass or other items you want nearby — but not in your pockets — while in-flight.

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Food and drink in British Airways premium economy

In addition to bigger and better seats, British Airways provides notably better food and drink service in premium economy compared to economy.

This elevated service starts before the wheels even leave the ground. Flight attendants pass through the cabin offering pre-departure beverages of orange juice or water, served in real glassware. Although sparkling wine is available in-flight, it's not available on the ground in the World Traveller Plus cabin.

In-flight, British Airways advertises that World Traveller Plus passengers get "two delicious meals, complimentary bar service including signature cocktails (or mocktail)."

Here's what that looks like in practice.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

Flight attendants pass through the cabin shortly after takeoff to provide a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. In my experience, flight attendants proactively provide doubles of alcoholic beverages. Plus, you'll get a choice of wine to go with your dinner.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

For meal choices, menus aren't provided to passengers. Instead, flight attendants note the meal options as they pass through the cabin. British Airways offers two options — typically one vegetarian and one meat-based meal. Meals are generally served with a salad, a packaged roll, a dessert and a choice between several types of wines — typically two reds and two whites.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

While the first meal is hot and meets premium economy standards, the second is generally a cold, packaged meal served in a brown paper bag. Although perfectly adequate, I haven't found this meal to be particularly "delicious" — falling short of what British Airways advertises.

Amenities and other perks of British Airways premium economy

British Airways premium economy doesn't just provide bigger seats and better meals. British Airways World Traveller Plus passengers also get better amenities and additional perks like priority boarding.

British Airways premium economy amenity kit, pillow and blanket

At boarding, World Traveller Plus seats are typically stocked with a small pillow, blanket and a plastic-wrapped package including noise-canceling headphones and an amenity kit.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

The British Airways premium economy amenity kit includes socks, an eye mask, lip balm, a pen, a toothbrush and toothpaste. Earplugs are available on request.

(Photo courtesy of JT Genter)

Other perks of British Airways premium economy

  • Extra baggage allowance: British Airways premium economy typically allows two free checked bags at no additional cost. Comparatively, some British Airways economy fares are "hand baggage only" and charge up to $175 each way for two checked bags.

  • Priority boarding: British Airways World Traveller Plus passengers board no later than Group 3 boarding. Meanwhile, economy boarding groups stretch to Group 9.

  • Universal power outlets: The recent refresh to British Airways economy cabins only provides USB power outlets in economy. However, you'll still find two universal power outlets between each pairing of World Traveller Plus seats in addition to a USB outlet.

How much is premium economy on British Airways?

Unsurprisingly, you can expect to pay more than economy — but less than business class — if you want to fly in the premium economy cabin on British Airways.

We did a fare search for a roundtrip flight from New York-John F. Kennedy to London and found that on the 7:35 p.m. flight, premium economy ($1,162) is more than double the cost of economy ($532) and only slightly cheaper than business class ($1,222).

A flight departing just 30 minutes later (and landing in London-Gatwick) was an even worse deal, offering a $608 premium economy seat, which was nearly triple the cost of economy ($233). Business class was significantly more expensive at nearly $3,000.

On the return leg, premium economy was $851, compared to $504 in economy and $1,540 in business class.

If you chose the more affordable outgoing option in premium economy, you’d be looking at $1,459 total for the round-trip flight, compared to $737 in economy. The cheapest round-trip business class option would cost $2,762.

4 ways to save money on British Airways premium economy

There are a few ways to save money when booking the Traveller Plus cabin on British Airways.

1. Get $65-$200 off as an AARP member

If you’re a member of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), when you book a roundtrip transatlantic flight on British Airways, you can save $65 off economy or premium economy seats and $200 off business class. Although $65 isn’t a huge discount, it could help offset the difference between economy and premium economy.

Although AARP is a nonprofit organization that offers money-saving benefits for Americans over 50, you do not need to be 50 to join. You just need to sign up and the benefits are yours to enjoy. The standard cost of the membership ranges is $16 per year, but the price could be lower depending on how long you want to commit.

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Check Cashback Monitor to see if there are any shopping portals offering bonus points for signing up for an AARP membership.

2. Book a British Airways flight through a shopping portal

Another way to save money on your premium economy fare on British Airways is to purchase the ticket through a shopping portal. Browse through Cashback Monitor to see what the current savings are.

The search result shows that Top Cashback is offering up to 1.51% cash back on British Airways. However, you need to look at the details to make sure that the flight qualifies for the discount.

Clicking on the Top Cashback link shows that the discount on long-haul flights is only 1.01%. So, if you were to book a $1,000 premium economy ticket and click through Top Cashback, you would earn $10.10 in cash, which isn’t much but still provides some savings.

3. Use a British Airways credit card to save 10% and statement credits

The British Airways Visa Signature® Card offers several money saving perks on purchase of British Airways flights.

Cardholders get a 10% discount on all British Airways flights originating in the U.S. You would need to book the flight on and use the promotion code CHASEBA10. Assuming you book a $1,000 premium economy ticket, you’d save $100 off that flight.

Cardholders who book award flights to London can earn statement credits of $100 in economy and premium economy and $200 in first and business class. The statement credits can be earned three times per year, maxing out at $600. To earn the credits, cardholders will need to use the British Airways Visa Signature® Card to pay for award taxes, fees and carrier surcharges on the award flight.

This is a useful benefit, especially since taxes and fuel surcharges on British Airways award tickets can be extraordinarily high.

Use Avios to book a premium economy ticket on British Airways

If you have British Airways Avios, you can also use those points to book an award flight. Here’s an example flight search from New York-JFK to London-Heathrow showing three available classes:

If we compare the pricing, in economy, the ticket costs 25,000 Avios + $100 in taxes. Premium economy costs 42,500 Avios + $280 in taxes. British Airways adds on high taxes and fuel surcharges so you’ll need to weigh the price in miles (+ taxes) against a cash ticket.

Using our $608 premium economy flight example from above, if you were to pay for this seat in Avios, you’d extract 0.8 cent per mile ($608 - $280 / 42,500). NerdWallet values British Airways Avios at 0.8 cent per mile when redeemed for economy fares. This probably isn’t the highest value per point you’ll find at the premium economy level, but it’s about the same number of points that you would expect to pay in economy. If the flight in cash was more expensive, using Avios for the award ticket would be much more justifiable.

Another factor to consider is that British Airways used a distance based award chart, so the cost of the flight in Avios will depend on how far away your origin is from your destination.

Frequently asked questions

British Airways premium economy is found on all long-haul international aircraft. This includes British Airways:

  • Airbus A350-1000 aircraft.

  • Airbus A380-800 aircraft.

  • Boeing 777-200 and 777-300 aircraft.

  • Boeing 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10 Dreamliner aircraft.

British Airways passengers can upgrade to premium economy using cash or Avios — either in advance or at the airport. However, you cannot purchase an upgrade once onboard. The cash upgrade price generally depends on the route and availability. However, Avios upgrade prices are set based on the Avios award price difference between the two cabins.

Thanks to a recent cabin refresh, the British Airways cabin now appears fresh and sharp. British Airways premium economy consists of four to nine rows of seating — depending on the aircraft — and is found between the business class and economy cabins. Each row is configured with two window seats on each side and either three or four seats in the middle section.

Yes, British Airways premium economy earns more British Airways Avios — or miles if you credit flights to another mileage program. When crediting flights to the British Airways Executive Club, you'll earn Avios at a rate of 100% or 150% of the flight miles, depending on the fare you book. Comparatively, you earn as few as 25% of flight miles when booking economy fares.

Likewise, American Airlines flyers earn up to four times more base AAdvantage miles when booking premium economy than economy. Since Loyalty Points are based on mileage earnings, you'll also earn quadruple the elite status credits. These extra miles and elite status credits can help justify the increased cost of premium economy for those debating if it's worth upgrading.

Is British Airways premium economy worth it?

British Airways premium economy represents a significant step up from economy. You'll get a bigger seat with extra legroom and recline. Plus, passengers get better food and drink options along with extra perks like priority boarding and extra baggage allowance. And mileage collectors and elite status members will appreciate earning extra miles and elite-status credits.

(Top photo courtesy of British Airways)

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