analytical Q May-Aug 2000 Sept-Dec 2000 Jan-Apr 2001 Discussion

The Diary
Anne Ku

14 March 2001 Wednesday




Reluctantly I decided to fly the incumbent, the world's favourite airline British Airways. The previous time, I was lucky enough to be upgraded to Club Class - very comfortable indeed. But this time, I instinctively knew that I would share elbow room in coach class.

Why was I reluctant? The ten hour journey from London Gatwick to Houston Intercontinental was direct but somehow it didn't appeal to me. There was no equivalent of a Premium Economy Class (Virgin Atlantic) - business class seats and service with economy class food. So I knew I wouldn't be treated like royalty.

Yet as I queued in the 30 minute line, I noticed passengers of all ages, including a very old lady who had trouble getting her bag off her suitcase. Poor thing! There was no one there to help her. I was in the middle of the queue and couldn't get out. Across from the World Traveller queue was the empty Club World lane. Even emptier was First Class.

Once inside the open plan aircraft, I noticed we didn't get individual screens like on Virgin Atlantic. I explained to my neighbours that flying Virgin was not just to get from A to B, but an experience. It was to be entertained by ten different movies. Here on BA, we don't get a choice. The television set is either too far or too close.

The service is different, too. It's very formal and distant, whereas Virgin is informal and personal. I was upgraded once to Upper Class, whereby a lady in white walked around asking what kind of therapeutic treatment I desired.

In terms of price, the fully flexible economy return on BA is more expensive than the fully flexible premium economy on Virgin. I had considered flying business, but BA's business is so, so much more than KLM's. So in the end, I decided to get the cheap, restricted, nonrefundable direct flight on BA. It was the only carrier that served nonstop and direct to Houston and Baltimore. My time off the air was more precious than my comfort in the air.

15 Dec Seat Width and Pitch