Back to Basics: A Review of British Airways Economy on the 777 from London to Abu Dhabi
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To kick off the launch of The Points Guy UK with a splash, we thought we would do a review of a British Airways flight in all four cabins at the same time: First, Club World (business class), World Traveller Plus (premium economy) and World Traveller (economy).
We drew straws to decide who flew which class, and I drew the shortest straw of them all — economy. Still, I was more than happy to be heading off from London (LHR) to Abu Dhabi (AUH), no matter the cabin I was flying in.
You can often find nonstop return flights in World Traveller for under £300.
To redeem Avios for a return ticket, we were looking at taxes and fees alone of £283, which was only £10 short of the actual cost of the ticket itself — without even factoring in the £296 valuation of the extra 26,000 Avios. In other words, using Avios to book a return ticket didn’t make sense here.
However, as is commonly the case, booking a one-way ticket with legacy carriers in pretty much any class always works out to be more expensive than booking a return. We planned on flying home with different airlines for review purposes, so this is where using Avios became advantageous to us, as the cost of a one-way ticket was over four times the cost of a return, at £1,380.
The 13,000 Avios (or approximately £148, as per TPG’s current valuations) plus the taxes and fees of £192 made this a perfect example of where your points really could save you a significant amount of money — in this case £1,040! We paid for the taxes using the British Airways American Express Premium Plus Card to take advantage of the 3x Avios for booking with British Airways.
Entering into Heathrow’s Terminal 5 took me straight into the huge, British Airways-dedicated check-in hall, which seemed pretty quiet. There were no queues.
You can now check in and tag and send your baggage yourself. At least theoretically. On the day I was travelling, the baggage machine didn’t seem to work, and one of the customer-service agents struggled too, so I ended up doing it the old-fashioned way at the check-in desk.
The flight to Abu Dhabi was due to depart from the C gates, which meant catching the shuttle, basically a train ride from Heathrow to Heathrow. I’m not the biggest fan of departing from any gate that’s so far that I have to take a train to get there.
Cabin and Seat
Each economy seat had a pitch of 31 inches and measured 17.5 inches in width. It was actually quite comfy for an economy-class seat, and the adjustable headrest definitely reduced the amount of head roll going on when I was trying to get a bit of shuteye.
The cabin was pretty clean and tidy, though it did feel dated (the bird was 21-years-old, after all). When the tray table was down, it restricted movement quite significantly despite it not even being really all that big — there was just enough room to squeeze in my 15-inch laptop
There were six washrooms available for the 122 passengers that this aircraft could accommodate in its economy cabin. As the flight was pretty empty, I didn’t find myself having to wait in a queue, and the washrooms remained nice and clean for the duration of the flight.
Amenities and IFE
When I boarded the plane, there were a plastic-wrapped pillow and blanket waiting for me, and upon first impression they seemed nice and new. However, once I removed the items from the plastic, they did not feel particularly luxurious, in fact, they felt a bit generic and cheap. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad that I had any of those items for a long-haul flight, but they were very, very basic.
I was impressed with the headphones, as oftentimes in economy airlines hand out terrible in-ear earphones that feel cheap and don’t stay in your ears. However, British Airways economy passengers get actual over-the-head headphones, which make a big difference. But these certainly were not noise-cancelling.
The seatback screen was a little smaller than the smallest iPad model, so not big by any stretch of the imagination, but adequate for what I needed. There was so much choice of films, series and documentaries that it actually made it difficult for me to choose what I wanted to watch.
Some of the technological advancements like live TV and tail cam that some airlines have adopted haven’t quite made their way to British Airways. Granted, these aren’t essential elements, but for some people, especially when flying in economy with limited dining service and space, a comparably poor inflight entertainment offering might be enough for someone to decide to fly with a different carrier.
I paid £15 for Wi-Fi for the duration of the flight, and the speed was actually not too bad. I still found this slightly overpriced, considering the Internet connection was not perfect and definitely was not fast. But the fact that I could actually connect while flying was amazing, so for British Airways finally catching up, I give a thumbs up.
Food and Beverage
Meals for Purchase
I do believe economy passengers are supposed to receive menus with meal choices printed on them as opposed to having to decide on the spot when a member of crew asks for your meal preference, however I didn’t notice a menu in my seat area, nor was I offered one.
BA is obviously a legacy carrier, so food in economy was free, but predictably basic — the expectations for economy food are much lower than in higher classes. On this particular flight, it was chicken and pasta, which wasn’t terrible, but not particularly good — that’s really all you can ask for in economy.
But little touches like having a dessert make economy meals a much nicer experience. The member of cabin crew who served me must have realised how much I enjoyed the desert, and I was offered a second portion. How nice is that?
Alcohol was included as well, and I thought I’d go for one of my favourites, a Bloody Mary which I concocted myself with a glass of tomato juice and a small bottle of vodka from the trolley.
There's not much interaction between passengers and crew in economy, but I don't have many complaints about my experience on this flight.
I have flown in all four classes of service with BA, and my experience with the call button is usually the same in each of them — useless. I’ve had positive service experiences overall, but the call button is just something that doesn’t seem to be a thing at the airline, whereas many other airlines will take it seriously, even in economy class.
The cabin crew was friendly. My experience from most British Airways cabin crew is that when the flight is on the quieter side, they often perform better and give much better service. A couple of hours after the main meal service, I flagged down a member of the cabin crew (strong eye contact worked here, not the call button) and asked for another Bloody Mary. About two minutes later, I was handed not one, but two! No complaints there whatsoever.
When flying in economy, you really just want to get to your destination, with as little discomfort as possible. British Airways lets you achieve that. With a little more space in economy (compared to other 777s), a friendly, attentive crew and little touches like over-ear headphones, the experience isn’t half bad.
And, I made it to Abu Dhabi, just like the rest of the team, without being any worse for wear. That’s a win in my book.
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