Review: British Airways A380 Economy Class Daytime Flight (LHR-LAX)


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I genuinely don’t mind traveling across the Atlantic in Economy Class as long as three conditions are met – it’s a daytime flight, I’m booked into an exit row seat and I got a good deal on the fare. It’s because all three of those came together that I found myself boarding a British Airways A380 over the Holidays and settling in to my Economy Class seat.

The British Airways A380 Economy Class Cabin

You’ll find the Economy Class cabin (or “World Traveller” cabin as BA calls it) on both of the decks of a British Airways A380. Both sections offer a 3-4-3 seat layout and I was seated on the lower deck.

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

The exit row seats offer a considerable amount of leg room…..

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

..…and, as you can see, they offer my 6ft frame more than enough room to stretch out:

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

The bulkhead seats in the center of same row also offer a reasonable amount of leg room……

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

….especially compared to the regular Economy Class seats which start just one row back:

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

So, from a leg room point of view, the exit row seats are great….but there are downsides to these seats too.

While the regular Economy Class seats have their tray tables, IFE screens and IFE controls built into the seat ahead of them…..

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

…the exit row seats (including the seats in the center section) have everything built into the armrests:

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

This makes an already narrow seat a little narrower:

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

Because the screens, tray tables and IFE controls are built into the armrests the armrest are immovable and form a solid wall – you either fit into the seat or you don’t so this isn’t a seat for persons of size.

In this picture you can see the difference between an armrest in the exit row and one in a regular Economy Class seat quite clearly:

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

There are other things to be aware of too.

The pull-down changing tables ahead of the bulkhead seats gives away the fact that this is an area where you’re very likely to find very small children….and very small children don’t tend to be calm and quiet on long-haul flights.

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

There’s also no window to look out of (not an issue for me as I always book the aisle seat) and there is absolutely nowhere to store anything.

Exit rows have to be clear of all items for take off and landing (so all your belongings need to be in the overhead compartments) and, during the flight, the floor is the only place to keep anything you think you may need – that’s hardly ideal.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are lavatories just ahead of the exit row seats….

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

…and when people get in line to use the lavatories during the flight they won’t think twice about standing directly in front of you and blocking off your leg room.

I’ve also had instances (on American Airlines) where passengers have chosen to stand in the space ahead of my exit row seat and perform a series of stretching exercises. This is why my legs are almost always to be found fully extended when I’m in one of these seats.

On this particular flight I was seated on the right side of the aircraft and the lavatory ahead of me was curtained-off for Club World passengers.

This turned out to be a stroke of luck because, judging by the number of passengers I saw congregating ahead of the seats on the opposite side of the aircraft, I would have had a hard time getting any peace and quiet if the lavatory on my side was open to Economy Class.

While the lack of fellow passengers waiting to use the lavatories was a bonus this bit of luck was partly offset by something else.

There’s an entrance to, what I assume is, a crew rest area opposite the starboard lavatories and the crew on my flight went in and out with surprising frequency.

This resulted in a lot of curtain wafting which, in turn, saw the curtains brushing up against me and the passenger in the seat on the other side of the aisle.

Also, every time a crewmember opened the door to the rest area and then opened the curtain, a bright beam of light fell upon the exit row seats.

Both of these were just mildly irritating in a darkened cabin on a daytime flight but they would be incredibly annoying if one was trying to get some sleep on a nighttime flight.

Amenities

As this is Economy Class I’m writing about this is going to be a remarkably short section.

Upon boarding I found a thin blanket….

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

…and a packet with some basic earbuds on my seat:

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

The seats in the British Airways A380 Economy Class cabin all have universal power sockets (found under the seat)….

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

…and, to give credit where credit is due, the power did work for most of the flight.

Each seat also offers a USB charging point too – that was an unexpected bonus for me.

That’s it for the amenities list and, to be fair, that’s just about all you get in most transatlantic Economy Class cabins.

Note: Exit rows tend to get cold during the flight (sometimes very cold) and the British Airways blanket isn’t going to be of much help if you’ve decided to wear shorts and a t-shirt so dress appropriately for the exit row.

In Flight Entertainment

The screens for the IFE were perfectly ok and, unlike the screens in the British Airways 747 Economy Class cabin, these are perfectly watchable.

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

The screen was a touchscreen so there was no real need to take the controller out of its nest in the armrest ….especially as the screen responded pretty well to touch.

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

The IFE offering on the British Airways A380 is actually quite impressive with a very good selection of movies and TV shows (including box sets).

You can find out what British Airways is offering onboard by visiting this section of the airline’s website.

Food & Drink

Take off was at 4:10pm UK time or 8:10 am PT

15 minutes after take off we were offered our choice of wine, beer, sodas, juices, tea, and coffee.

The crew started the service from the exit row (it was the first row in Economy Class) so passengers further back would have had a longer wait.

Lunch/Dinner was served 50 minutes after take off and there was a choice of chicken casserole or pasta – I chose the chicken

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

It may not have looked all that appetizing but, as Economy Class meals go, this wasn’t bad at all.

The chicken casserole was hot, it had flavor and it was edible.

The cous cous was fine……

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

…. and the salted caramel desert was hugely calorific…. so it was pretty nice.

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

The biggest test the meal passed was the Joanna test – she had the same meal as me and ate it all so it must have been ok!

After lunch/dinner and 1 hr 20 mins after take off the flight attendants came around with tea and coffee.

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

3 hrs 10 mins after take of the flight attendants were in the cabin again – this time offering water or apple juice.

Almost exactly 5 hours after take off (3 hours 40 minutes after dinner ended) we were, once again, offered the choice of water or juice…but this time there was a snack box too.

BA calls these a “movie snack box”…..

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

…presumably because this is the kind of stuff people buy when they go to the theatre/cinema?

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

More juice and water was offered around 7 hours into the flight and, around 9.5 hours into the flight the flight attendants came around with the final service of the flight – a choice between, what the crew called, a chicken wrap or a mozzarella wrap with tea or coffee.

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

I went for the chicken option again but it turned out not to be a wrap at all….

British Airways A380 Economy Class (World Traveller)

…if anything it was a warm flatbread-melt of some description.

It wasn’t terrible but it also wasn’t very good.

Thoughts

Negatives:

  • The seat cushions were a bit hard and the seats were noticeably narrow
  • The near-constant stream of cabin crew members in and out of what I’m still assuming was their rest quarters got irritating after a while.
  • The lack of storage around the seat is unhelpful….but then this is an issue with just about every exit row I’ve been in so it’s not BA specific.

Positives:

  • The crew were very friendly and polite. It was interesting to note how everyone was regularly addressed as “Sir” or “Madam” as I’m not sure I’ve seen that in Economy Class on too many airlines. On the US carriers you’re often lucky to get a grunt!
  • The legroom in the exit row was excellent (I can’t say the same for the other rows of Economy Class – they looked tight)
  • The main meal of the flight wasn’t bad at all and the number of times the crew came around to offer refreshments was very good.
  • I wasn’t a fan of the snack box or the last meal on the flight but the fact that the airline keeps people fed throughout the flight has to go down as a positive
  • British Airways makes the best tea in the sky 🙂
  • The IFE selection was very good.

British Airways A380

Bottom Line 

Amazingly this really wasn’t a bad flight at all….and I say that as someone who’s well known for bashing BA on a frequent basis.

The crew were charming, the food was edible (mostly) and, despite the hard seat cushions, I don’t recall being in much discomfort during the flight.

It’s important to note that I’m not particularly large around the waist and yet I still noticed how narrow and tight the seats are, so there will be a number of people (larger than I) who will find them uncomfortable.

Also, bear in mind that this was a daytime flight. I think my overall thoughts on the flight would have been different had I been trying to get some sleep and the crew had kept waking me up each time they went in and out of their quarters.

Still, I should end on a positive note as the crew deserve that at the very least:

As Economy Class flights go this wasn’t bad at all and it’s actually gone a long way to reassuring me that I’m right not to dread long-haul flights at the back of the plane…as long as they’re in the daytime.

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