The Perks of Flying Premium Economy
Prefer life at the front of the plane, away from the other sardines, but don’t have the budget for First or Business Class? Enter Premium Economy.
Bridging the gap between standard Economy and Business, this mid-class option is all about delighting in those little luxuries and experiencing a more enjoyable journey; without the hefty price tag of the upper classes. But what benefits do you get with your upgraded ticket? And which airlines offer the best value for money? Here’s your chance to check out the perks of flying Premium Economy.
The most important perk of flying Premium Economy, especially if you’re on the tall side, is undoubtedly the bigger seats. More often than not they’re wider and have a few extra inches of seat pitch (the distance from one row to the next; between 38-40 inches compared to 30-32 in most economy classes), which means more legroom. If that’s not enough, Qantas offers pitches up to 42 inches on selected flights. Some airlines let you put your chair back further too – Air New Zealand for example, offers 50% more recline than its Economy offering, while Cathay Pacific offers eight glorious inches of tilting.
Not only are you likely to get more space, but comfort is a big draw too. Singapore Airline's Premium Economy seats are more akin to Business Class than Premium, while Virgin Atlantic’s are more like plush leather armchairs than traditional aeroplane seats – they come complete with headrest, footrest, pillow and blanket too. And whether you prefer aisle or window, Virgin lets you select your seat for free.
You may not be too bothered about being first in line, but it can take a lot of the stress out of your trip. Sailing through check-in, bag drop, security and baggage reclaim can make or break an airport experience. Singapore and Cathay Pacific even offer priority boarding, so you’ll be first on the plane and enjoying the premium perks on offer before you've even uttered the word 'luxury'. You (and your luggage) will usually be first off the aircraft too and be on your way to your destination hotel before everyone else.
Better food and drink
Meals are typically of higher quality in Premium Economy and they’re usually included as part of your ticket too – especially on long-haul routes. Sometimes you can even expect a three-course fine dining experience: like with Air New Zealand’s chef-inspired menu, complemented by a range of wines from the country. British Airways’ (BA) Premium Economy equivalent, World Traveller Plus, along with Virgin and Qantas, take it one step further by providing fine china, real cutlery, table linen and linen napkins with your meals.
As for beverages, you’ll often get a free drink when you board – Virgin and Qantas offer a free glass of bubbly after take-off, while Cathay Pacific will keep you hydrated with complimentary bottles of water. Meanwhile BA offers an all-inclusive meal and bar service throughout the flight, providing a range of premium beers, wines and even spirits.
Fancy something more exotic? Singapore Airlines offers the standard soft drinks, tea, coffee, red and white wine, beer and spirits, and welcome Champagne, as well as a selection of 'mocktails' and cocktails, including the classic Singapore Sling. It's a great accompaniment to the airline's new 'Book the Cook' service.
Dedicated cabin crew
Ever flown Economy and felt like you just didn’t get enough attention? Well most Premium Economy classes will eliminate that feeling with a dedicated cabin crew, in your own private section of the plane. If you didn’t feel fancy before, you will now.
If you struggle to get some shut-eye when you’re in the air, then this perk is ideal: Cathay Pacific, Virgin, BA, Singapore and Qantas all provide comfort/amenity kits. These typically include a pair of socks, an eyeshade, ear plugs, a toothbrush and toothpaste – perfect for getting some much-needed kip on night flights. Air New Zealand provides a pack too but, even more lavishly, also offers a range of specially-selected skincare products in its Premium Economy bathrooms.
Increased luggage allowance
Packing for an extended stay? Or just an overpacker? There’s no need to fear those pesky excess baggage fees when you opt for Premium Economy. Some airlines, like Cathay Pacific or BA, offer a greater allowance for your luggage and even the flexibility to carry more than one bag. World Traveller Plus lets you take two bags on board (a full-size cabin bag plus a laptop or handbag) and also check up to two bags in the hold – double the allowance for most Economy services.
Move over Netflix: aircrafts are the new home of on-demand entertainment. With Premium Economy you can expect your own seat-back screen, packed with hundreds of hours of the latest movies, TV shows, news and songs. Air New Zealand, Cathay Pacific and Qantas even have a USB port so you can hook up your own device, while BA screens have nearly doubled in size. Singapore Airlines is the big daddy here though: its entertainment screen is 13.3 inches, the largest offered by any airline in Premium Economy. The vast majority of airlines will let you drown out the plane noise and any background chatter with complimentary noise-cancelling headphones too.
Travelling on business or just want to keep busy on your flight? Qantas, Singapore and Air New Zealand are just three of the many airlines now offering in-seat power in their Premium Economy cabins, so you can keep your laptop or other devices fully charged. And if you need to get in touch with a colleague or loved one and just can’t wait until you land: Qantas’ entertainment system allows you to place a call or send text (SMS) messages. Now that's impressive.