Q&A: Travel unravelled

Q. I am planning a visit to New York in early November and wonder if there is anything to choose between British Airways and Virgin Atlantic using their Premium Economy rate? Having had a very uncomfortable BA flight to Singapore recently in economy, I am not doing that again, ever. Trailfinders are offering a very good deal at the moment from Heathrow to New York for £900 return in Premium Economy. M James, Esher, Surrey

A. Virgin's Premium Economy and BA's World Traveller Plus are very similar: an extra seven inches of legroom, wider seats, and other enhancements ranging from dedicated check-in to fancy inflight entertainment and catering. On the relatively short flight between Heathrow and New York you would probably have an excellent experience in either.

If you think you can sense a "but" approaching, you are right. Booking a Premium Economy seat outbound from the UK is far worse value than inbound. That is because Air Passenger Duty doubles from £67 to £134 as soon as you seek anything better than basic economy.

APD applies only to the outward leg, so you could go economy out/Premium Economy back. Coming home, the vast majority of flights are overnight, when you are likely to appreciate the extra comfort more. On ba.com for early November, the price of such a trip falls to £621 return.

Another option worth considering: the premium for World Traveller Plus on the inbound leg is £194 at present. But if you turn up at the airport in New York with an economy ticket and ask at the BA desk to buy an on-the-spot upgrade to World Traveller Plus, it could well cost $250 (£167) or less. Few travellers seem to know that at-airport upgrades are usually available at a reasonable price.

If, on the other hand, you are comfortable with paying £900-ish for a return, then consider buying an actual business-class ticket on Kuwait Airways' Heathrow-JFK link. The current fare at kuwaitairways.com is £945 return. Don't expect the full flat-bed experience offered by mainstream transatlantic airlines, nor any inflight alcohol, but it is certainly the cheapest business-class option you will find.