I compared economy and premium economy on British Airways one week apart, and for less than $200, I’d upgrade every time

$160 felt like a small price to pay for the premium upgrade.

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$160 felt like a small price to pay for the premium upgrade.
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Alison Millington / Insider
  • On a recent trip from London to Toronto, I flew in both economy and premium economy on British Airways to see whether the upgrade was worth it.
  • Ultimately, £125 ($163) felt like a small price to pay for a second checked bag, a wider, more comfortable seat, extra leg room, and better food.
  • While the upgrade can cost a lot more on some routes, it’s definitely worth checking what’s available next time you book a flight – I know I will be.
  • Make sure you choose a seat in the front row, though, so you can get up and down uninterrupted.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

First up was my eight hour economy flight from London Heathrow to Toronto Pearson. The seat — always an aisle whenever I have the choice — didn’t look like it had been upgraded in a while. It also felt pretty small, though it was comfortable enough.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Leg room was pretty tight, especially considering I had to stuff my second bag and boots under the seat in front of me because the overhead lockers were completely full.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Economy passengers were given a blanket…

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Alison Millington / Insider

…a pillow…

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Alison Millington / Insider

…and an envelope containing a pair of free headphones, though the airline asks you to leave a donation to its “Flying Start” charity.

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Alison Millington / Insider

The headphones didn’t seem to fit the entertainment system properly for me, and I had to keep swiveling the cord to be able to hear my movie.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Thankfully, there was a USB plug where I was able to charge my phone, as well as a remote to operate the TV with (though it was also touch screen.)

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Alison Millington / Insider

The movie selection was pretty decent, with a few good new releases I hadn’t yet had a chance to see.

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Alison Millington / Insider

I opted for “Aladdin,” which was distinctly average.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Pretty soon it was mealtime — at least for me. I normally order a low calorie meal whenever an airline has the option, because it tends to mean more fresh fruit and vegetables instead of weird, sugary puddings and cakes. It also means getting served before everyone else, which I’m a big fan of.

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The main dish — pasta with chicken and broccoli — left a whole lot to be desired, though the fruit bowl was nice.

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Alison Millington / Insider

The little side salad was also pretty tasty.

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Alison Millington / Insider

I washed it down with a mini bottle of Merlot — BA is more generous with its drink offering in economy than a lot of transatlantic carriers. During the flight I had a mini prosecco, two mini bottles of wine, some tea, and a (really terrible) coffee.

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A little while before landing, my low calorie “snack” arrived.

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Alison Millington / Insider

It was an extremely bland hummus, tomato, and lettuce sandwich as well as a mini box of raisins, which felt pretty big for a “snack.”

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Alison Millington / Insider

11 days later, I returned to London in premium economy, an upgrade which cost me £125 ($163) and included an extra checked bag. While I had to wait in the chaotic bag drop line in Toronto along with everyone else, I also got to board the plane before the economy passengers, which was nice.

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Alison Millington / Insider

I chose a seat in the front row of the cabin where the baby changing tables are located, which means more room. It looked far more modern than my economy seat, and was way more spacious.

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Alison Millington / Insider

I was impressed by the amount of leg room…

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Alison Millington / Insider

…and the fact I didn’t need to disturb anyone to get out during the flight.

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Alison Millington / Insider

A little foot stool popped out, which, combined with a slightly reclined seat, made the flight a little bit more comfortable.

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Alison Millington / Insider

There was also a place in front of me to store personal items — though the floor had to be clear before takeoff, meaning my purse had to go in the overhead bin.

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Alison Millington / Insider

The pillow was of much higher quality than the one in economy…

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Alison Millington / Insider

…and came with a matching blanket that was more like a bedspread.

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Alison Millington / Insider

A pair of cushioned headphones were waiting on my seat, a huge step up from the faulty ones in economy.

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Alison Millington / Insider

There was also an amenity kit in the same pattern as the pillow and blanket.

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Alison Millington / Insider

It was made using material from plastic bottles, which was pretty cool.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Inside, there was an eye mask…

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Alison Millington / Insider

…socks…

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Alison Millington / Insider

…a toothbrush and paste…

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Alison Millington / Insider

…and lip balm. I found the kit useful without being over the top.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Before takeoff, a flight attendant came around offering water or sparkling wine — and it was served in a real glass!

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Alison Millington / Insider

This was a big win. My missing painted nail (and lack of in-flight makeup) was not.

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Alison Millington / Insider

My TV screen was tucked away in one of the armrests, and was easy enough to pull out. I liked that I could position the monitor wherever I wanted.

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Alison Millington / Insider

A remote for controlling it was in the armrest to my left, but since it was touchscreen, I didn’t really need it.

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Alison Millington / Insider

The menus were more user-friendly than my entertainment system had been in economy, and the movie selection even seemed better.

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Alison Millington / Insider

There was even a duty free shopping menu.

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Alison Millington / Insider

I settled on “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” and the screen was big enough to properly enjoy it.

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Alison Millington / Insider

The cabin crew brought around a menu, so we had time to think about what we wanted. Beef short rib, coq au vin, and cheese pasta were on offer for dinner.

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Alison Millington / Insider

There were also a few cocktails available to order, as well as a range of spirits, wine, beers, soft drinks teas, and coffees.

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Alison Millington / Insider

I opted for another mini prosecco, since there was a real glass on offer. The pre-dinner snack was pretzels, the same as in economy.

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Alison Millington / Insider

My tray pulled out of my other arm rest, and I was given a real napkin, cutlery, and dishes with my meal. The presentation of the salad, coq au vin, and chocolate fudge cake wasn’t anything special.

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Alison Millington / Insider

The flight attendants came around offering warm bread rolls, which was a nice touch.

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Alison Millington / Insider

The coq au vin was surprisingly delicious and fresh tasting — a big step up from what I’d eaten in economy. The cake was also pretty good, though the salad was wilted and boring.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Soon before landing, we were offered a snack in the form of a Smoked Mushroom, Bechamel, Swiss & Egg Panini.

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Alison Millington / Insider

It wasn’t great, but I was still impressed by the flight overall.

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Alison Millington / Insider

Ultimately, £125 ($163) felt like a small price to pay for a second checked bag, a wider, more comfortable seat, loads of leg room, and better food, and I plan to fly premium next time I travel with BA.

While the upgrade can cost a lot more on some routes, be sure to check what’s available next time you book a flight – if you can go premium for less than $200 (especially in the front row where you’re uninterrupted), it’s definitely worth it.