When boarding a flight, you might notice yourself making your way through a cabin that doesn’t have lie flat beds like First but isn’t a tight squeeze like Economy. Well you’re probably looking at something called ‘Premium Economy’. It all started in the early 1990s when Taiwanese EVA Air introduced an extra class above economy, this was followed by Virgin Atlantic in 1992. Airlines saw Premium Economy as an opportunity to target travelers who don’t want to pay the price for a business class seat, but don’t mind forking out a wee bit more for a few extra ‘luxuries’ when flying.

As air travel has become more common over the last couple of decades, airlines have invested a lot into improving their product – particularly their hard product. What was once considered exclusively ‘First Class’ is now offered in Business Class. Typical long haul Business Class products now offer fully flat beds and guaranteed aisle access which makes offering First almost redundant for airlines – except on flagship routes. This leaves a space on the plane for a class somewhere between the rigid seats down at the back and the fully flat beds up at the front. A space for Premium Economy – The class made its real debut around 2007 when airlines like Qantas and Air New Zealand started offering it. The success has lead to a handful of Asian carriers launching the product like JAL, ANA, Cathay Pacific and most recently Singapore Airlines.

So, have you seen that option at booking? Tempted to try it out?

Why Premium Economy Is A Winner

You’ll have a dedicated cabin…

Cathay Pacific Premium Economy

Photo Credit: Luke Lai

You’ll be glad to know that Premium Economy cabins are curtained off from the other cabins giving it a more private feel. With a dedicated cabin comes a dedicated crew. Pictured above is Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy in a 2-3-2 layout vs Economy (behind) 2-4-2.

You’ll have more to drink….

Champagne or Sparkling Wine – start the flight feeling like a superstar (well kind of..) Premium Economy also has larger beverage menu with improved choices and quality over Economy.

You’ll get to spread out…


Photo Credit: Air New Zealand

Most airlines offer a larger seat and a deeper recline that hope to offer you more comfort inflight and a better sleep. Many Premium Economy products offer seats attached to a shell that will ensure your neighbour wont recline into your personal space. One of the most innovative products is Air New Zealand’s Space Seat that has two configurations. One angled for a couple and one angled outward for a solo traveler.

 Premium Economy PitchEconomy Pitch
Cathay Pacific38"32"
Singapore Airlines38"32"
British Airways38"31"
Lufthansa38"31"
ANA38"31"
JAL42"33"
Air New Zealand41"31-33"

You’ll get priority check-in and baggage collection (and other business class perks)

Priority Luggage

Photo Credit: Robert S. Donovan

In Premium Economy you’ll be able to take advantage of Business Class perks. Arrive at the airport and skip the queue with priority check-in desks. At the other end you’ll be on your way faster with priority baggage meaning your bags will come out faster. Another perk for ANA Premium Economy passengers is that you’ll have access to airport lounges.

You’ll be feasting on better food…

Lufthansa Premium Economy Meal

Photo Credit: Lufthansa

We all know that airline meals aren’t always the most palatable, but the airlines with Premium Economy services have made an effort to improve your meal enjoyment. A nice touch to Premium Economy meals are that the meals are served on crockery and linen. Aside from offering special dietary meals, many are also offering a wider choice of standard meals – provided that you make a selection online beforehand.

And Why It Isn’t…

You’ll be paying more…

Booking Credit Card

Airlines often tout that Premium Economy is only a small mark up from Economy, however that mark up is on a completely flexible fare. In terms of a ticket that has a bit of leeway vs a Premium Economy ticket it tends to be approximately double the cost. The table below illustrates the price difference on a random booking all made on the same day next year.

 Premium Economy Class PriceEconomy Class Price
Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong - New York)27,970HKD | 3609 USD11,690HKD | 1508 USD
ANA (Hong Kong - New York)26,992HKD | 3482 USD10,792HKD | 1392 USD
British Airways (Hong Kong - London)17,992 HKD| 2321 USD10,057 HKD | 1297 USD
Qantas (Hong Kong - Sydney)10,598HKD | 1367 USD 5888 HKD | 759 USD

You might just find yourself down the back… 

Economy Class

So you’ve just booked your flight on Premium Economy and then you glance at your itinerary and you see the word ECONOMY. Many airlines haven’t rolled out their Premium Economy product on all of their fleet. For example if you booked a flight from New York to Bali via Hong Kong. Your flight from New York to Hong Kong would be in Premium Economy but your flight would be in economy for the next 6 hour haul down to Bali.

What could you buy with the difference on your holiday?

Before you book check out the costs, check out what the airline offers for their Premium Economy product, read some traveler‘s trip reports and make a judgment on whether its worth it. What could the difference in fare costs buy you on your holiday if you were prepared to pull through with a little discomfort for 12 hours of your life.

What could you get in Hong Kong for the difference?

27,970HKD(Premium Economy)| 11690HKD (Economy)

A 1 week stay in a 5 star hotel

or

9 Scenic Helicopter Rides around Hong Kong City  

or

14 dinners at a 3 starred Michelin Restaurant

or

3 new iPhones

or

Another trip abroad (on Economy that is…)

Have you tried Premium Economy? What was the experience like?