The UK is one of the highest-demand markets outside of India, with dozens of carriers offering connections between the countries. Today, Simple Flying will take a look at the three airlines offering premium economy on direct flights to London: Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Vistara. Here’s our look at the options, using our own reviews, and which airline deserves your booking.
Starting with the most important factor: the seat. Vistara exclusively operates a fleet of Boeing 787-9s, which feature a new premium economy seat (the Recaro PL3530) with 38″ of pitch, 19″ of width, and 7″ of recline. A calf rest deploys from under the seat along with a footrest to offer some comfort during sleep Overall, the product is modern and spacious, putting it on par with the rest.
Virgin Atlantic currently operates the Boeing 787-9 on its India routes (Delhi and Mumbai) but has used the A350 in the past as well. The carrier arguably wins the seat round with its 21″ of width, 38″ of pitch, and 8″ of recline. With generous leather padding and a large footrest, this writer has personally found the Virgin product the easiest for sleeping during overnight flights.
British Airways flies a variety of planes to its five destinations (Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad). The 777 is the most common jet on routes, with the carrier recently refurbishing premium economy as well. The seats are comfortable, opting for a fabric cover instead of leather, and offer the same pitch as Virgin and Vistara. However, the aging IFE system gives the seat a dated look and leaves it slightly behind the pack.
Behind the seat, one of the draws of premium economy is enhanced service. This comes in the form of business-class-quality meals and amenity kits.
On long-haul flights, British Airways offers one main meal and one snack. The main meal comes plated in glass dishware along with metal cutlery but still comes with plastic wrapping and foil. The quality of the meal varies by flight, but British Airways’ presentation is close to its Club World offering, minus the dish-by-dish service. You can also expect a well-stocked amenity kit awaiting you at the seat.
Virgin Atlantic offers the same meal schedule on overnight flights from Delhi. The main comes in a glass dish and on one tray, with varied quality (breakfast is one to avoid on all three carriers). The sustainability theme also carries onto Virgin’s unique amenity kits, which are recyclable.
Vistara, the newest entrant, is yet to update its soft product in premium economy. The airline is currently offering economy class meals and no amenity kits to passengers. On this point, Virgin and British Airways are neck-and-neck in service, with personal choice accounting for any difference.
For a fair comparison, we will compare ground experience at each airline’s home airport.
Virgin Atlantic operates out of Terminal 3 of London Heathrow Airport, with separate queues for premium economy passengers. Check-in is usually a breeze, even with the document checks needed for COVID restrictions, and the dedicated section gives an exclusive feeling.
British Airways flies out of Terminal 5 for long-haul flights. Given the scale of the carrier’s operations, check-in can be extremely crowded and premium economy lines hard to find. However, with an army of staff nearby, the terminal is easy to navigate, but be prepared to wait many times, especially during the summer rush.
Vistara’s long-haul flights depart from Terminal 3 of New Delhi IGI Airport, with the carrier’s lanes spread out over the check-in rows. Premium economy has its own queue since each flight has its own desks, and the staff is helpful, making the experience fast. However, on full flights, it can be hard to navigate and find the priority lines.
Premium economy has fast become a key cabin for airlines, especially on routes such as India-London which attract a mix of business, VFR, student, and holiday passengers. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, and Vistara all offer competitive products, each playing to its strengths on timings and service.
Virgin’s biggest advantage is its cabin product and network beyond London, which covers much of the US. Read our full review of the 787 and A350 cabins to know more.
British Airways draws its customers from oneworld loyalists and those looking to fly globally from London. Definitely, the best-connected carrier from India, BA’s aging product is a challenge if you’re looking to fly direct. Read our full review of premium economy on the British Airways 777-200ER here.
Vistara is the new kid on the block, offering new planes and challenging the established rivals on price. While its hard product and domestic connections are excellent, the airline still has some work to do on the service side before it can lead the pack. Read our full review of premium economy on Vistara’s shiny new 787-9s here.
What do you think about the three airlines and their premium economy product? Let us know in the comments!