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An Upgrade Worth Having

Britiah Airways World Traveller Plus

Nearly all airlines have started "nickel-and-diming" passengers in the economy (coach) cabin. Short haul (and some medium haul) flights are perhaps the worst for this and in addition, on some airlines, there is a move to reduce the seat pitch, cramming more people into each row.

So, what can you pay for, that, instead of being for something that was erstwhile included in the fare, gives you, the traveler, more comfort? What can you pay for that gives you a material benefit and eases the burden of your journey?

Step forward, British Airways (Yes, them!)

I spent some time playing around with fares to New York. The best you can hope for as an economy fare, in May, is £534.37. That is, a fare of £165.00 and taxes and "charges" of £369.37. (in this case, I needed out 15 May, back 25 May). This was shown as the cheapest fare available, direct.

Before I go on, here is a bit of technical stuff: Behind the scenes, all airlines use letters to designate various booking classes, each class having a particular set of conditions and restrictions applicable to each. These conditions may be an advanced purchase requirement, the length of intended stay, "Saturday night stays", restrictions on changes and/ or refunds to name a few. On British Airways, there are about 11 different coach class letters' worth of fares, in premium, 3 and about 5 in business class. These letters read from right to left, where right is the bottom of the fare-food-chain and left is the top.

As you travel up the fare food chain (that is, as the aircraft or flight gets filled up) then the prices in economy start to rise - and you only need to go 2 letters worth of fares to the left and something interesting happens - the (coach class) fare goes from £534.37 to £927.37. BUT the really interesting bit, is what is going on in the Premium Economy fare - which, on the flights in question is £839.37. Both fares are non refundable, you have to stay a Saturday night and both carry costs - quite hefty costs - if you need to change anything.

Many people become fixated on "economy" (coach) and neglect even to have a look at what is going on in the Premium cabin. Some firms do have policy restrictions which limit the use of any cabin other than Coach; if your firm is one of them, then one can but suggest that such a policy is reviewed.

You do not have to buy a Premium Economy seat both ways. You can travel out in Coach and back in Premium. In my example, that would cost £649.37, only £115-odd more. Given that you get 2 bags in Premium and only one in Coach and an extra bag would cost £60 - then, for £55.00, you get much more room, dedicated check-in, a much better seat and meal .... and, and.... Across the pond, for your money, you are getting a real benefit on a "red-eye". It can be tricky to arrange this sort of ticket other than either through British Airways directly or, of course, through your (traditional-style) travel agent.

The differential is quite marked when you move to business - out economy back business class would cost £1693.37.

The deals available in the Premium Economy cabin, though, are not to be missed.

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