x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Flying British Airways economy just fine for Abu Dhabi to London

Not all UAE companies have the generous travel budgets that affords their executives the comforts of business class, so a little discomfort might be worth it.

New World Traveller on board the new Boeing 777-300ER. Nick Morrish / British Airways
New World Traveller on board the new Boeing 777-300ER. Nick Morrish / British Airways

Flying from Abu Dhabi to London Heathrow in a British Airways economy seat, you quickly realise just how many business travellers use the service on a regular basis.

Even before the check-in opens, a hardy group of passengers has already formed, predicting with long-accustomed accuracy exactly which desk will be used and disappearing off through security in a well-trodden routine.

Not all companies, particularly the smaller to medium enterprises, have the generous travel budgets that affords their executives the comfort of business class. So the key to getting the best out of your economy ticket at Abu Dhabi International is to ensure you have your bank card with you. Many of the emirate’s main banks allow customers access to airport lounges by simply showing a cash card.

This entitles bank customers to unlimited food and drink and to work in relative comfort away from the hustle and bustle of the main passenger terminal. Just remember to keep checking the handy departures board to maximise the number of free cafe lattes and fruit salads you can consume until just a few minutes before your boarding time.

The BA economy flight on a Boeing 777 jet is your standard flying experience. The configuration of three seats on either side of the airplane and three seats in the middle means there is little room to move, while trips to the lavatory are a cumbersome and awkward process.

Wedged into a window seat, I found I had a metal box obstructing my feet and there was very little space to stretch out while trying to sleep.

But with a departure time of 2.15am arriving in London at 6.40am, the flight did pass relatively quickly once the lights were turned off.

Most of the savvy passengers I encountered at check-in were armed with neck pillows and eye masks to hand, ready for the seven hours and 25 minutes of minor discomfort.

And with some business class flights costing up to five times as much as their economy equivalent, you can see why for so many business travellers – and the companies planning their travel budgets – the cheapest really is sometimes the best.

q&a christmas flight options

How much does it cost?

Looking ahead at flights back to the UK towards the end of the year, a British Airways return flight in economy departing on December 21 and returning on January 3 costs around Dh7,500, while the same flight in business class would cost around Dh24,000 according to the company’s website when accessed by The National.

How does that compare with other airlines?

By comparison, an economy saver flight at similar times with Etihad Airways over the Christmas period costs around Dh6,000 in economy saver and close to Dh19,500 with a business saver ticket, according to the company’s website. However, many of these flights include a stopover in Serbia or Dublin, adding several hours to the journey.

How much legroom is there?

According to BA, economy passengers get 30-31 inches of legroom for the journey. For the average adult this does equate to a pretty tight squeeze with knees often jammed against the seat in front.

Is there another option?

Yes, BA also offers a “premium economy” class where passengers enjoy 38 inches of legroom, a separate smaller cabin and the option of bringing two items of hand baggage. For the busy Christmas period, flights in this class were selling at around Dh11,000.

lbarnard@thenational.ae

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