Premium Economy: The Nuances of Comfort and Cost


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The term “Premium Economy” has been floating around the aviation industry for a while now. It promises a middle-ground experience that’s a cut above Economy but not quite Business Class. But what does it really offer, and is it worth your investment? Let’s dissect the details, including a look at how this class came to be and the points game involved.

A Brief History of Premium Economy

Premium Economy is best described as “Economy-plus” rather than “Business-minus.” While it offers a range of perks to make your flight more comfortable, it doesn’t quite match the level of service you’d get in Business Class.

The concept of Premium Economy emerged in the early ’90s, with airlines like Virgin Atlantic and EVA Air among the pioneers. Initially introduced as a response to the growing gap between Business and Economy classes, it aimed to offer a middle-ground option for travellers who wanted more comfort without the Business Class price tag. Over the years, the class has evolved, with airlines adding various perks and amenities to make the experience more appealing.

What do you get?

  • Added Comfort: For example, Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy seats come with a calf rest, a feature you won’t find in their Economy seats.
  • No Lie-Flat Luxury: Unlike Business and First Class, Premium Economy seats generally don’t go fully flat.
  • Varies by Carrier: British Airways serves an additional food item and offers metal cutlery and china, while Economy meals come wrapped in tin foil and with plastic cutlery.
  • Price Range: Premium Economy fares are somewhere in between Economy and Business Class, ranging from a 50% to 100% price increase over Economy.
  • Group Variances: For instance, with British Airways, you’re in a higher boarding group, while with Cathay Pacific, you still board with Economy.

The Value Proposition: Is Premium Economy Worth It?

What You’re Paying For

  • Comfort: If you value extra legroom and better seat features, especially on long-haul flights, Premium Economy can make a world of difference.
  • Budget: While it’s more expensive than Economy, it’s significantly cheaper than Business Class. It’s a good compromise for those willing to spend a bit more for added comfort but not willing to splurge on Business Class.
  • Amenities and Services: Upgraded meals and priority services can enhance your overall travel experience.

What You’re Not Getting

  • Lie-Flat Seats: Unlike Business Class, Premium Economy seats usually don’t go fully flat.
  • Lounge Access: Don’t expect to get into those exclusive airport lounges.
  • Personalized Service: The level of service is better than Economy but not as personalized as Business Class.

The Points and Miles Game

One often overlooked advantage of flying Premium Economy is the potential to earn more airline miles and elite status points. This can be a significant factor for frequent flyers looking to climb the loyalty ladder. The higher cabin class usually translates to a faster accumulation of points, which can be a game-changer for those eyeing elite status or future upgrades.

Insider Tips

The Final Verdict

Premium Economy offers a substantial upgrade from standard Economy, but it’s not on par with Business Class. Whether it’s worth the extra cost depends on your priorities—space, comfort, and a few extra amenities, or the full luxury experience. Factor in the points game, and you might find that Premium Economy is the sweet spot you’ve been looking for.

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