2019 was dubbed the ‘Year of Premium Economy’, but did it live up to its expectations? Depending on your business travel policy, Premium Economy can be a preferred option for short-haul or frequent travel, offering added comfort to standard Economy without the high costs of Business Class. But with fares ranging from anywhere between 30% to double the cost of Economy, is the premium experience worth the price?
Here we review how this offering has evolved in 2019, and which airlines are leading the industry.
History of Premium Economy class
First introduced in 1992 by Eva Air, Premium Economy was designed to bridge the gap between standard Economy and Business Class. It originally involved a purely in-air experience, with extra legroom and wider seats. Today’s product is much more advanced, with an exponential uptake from airlines around the world competing to offer the best end-to-end experience for premium travellers.
Premium Economy in 2019
While Premium Economy has been around for almost two decades, this year we saw many big players jump on-board, such as United Airline’s Premium Plus that took flight from 30 March 2019. With increased market competition, many airlines are revolutionising their premium products to stay ahead of the game.
If you haven’t yet experienced Premium Economy class, you may be wondering what makes it different from Economy. Typically speaking, Premium Economy seats offer 5-7 inches of additional legroom and wider seats with a greater recline. Depending on the airline and route, passengers may also receive a separate catering menu and extended entertainment offering.
In the past year, airlines have introduced angle-flat seats in Premium Economy (not quite fully flat), boosting the comfort levels for those longer-haul flights. But there is plenty of room to grow, with angle-flat seats offering 100 degrees of recline compared to the 180 degrees of First and Business Class.
But what about the on-ground experience? Our recent survey data shows that speed of processing is the most important part of our customers’ airport experience. This is where opting for a Premium Economy product can help by offering private screening areas for faster security checks, as well as priority boarding and expedited baggage delivery.
Leaders in the Premium Economy space
Qantas – Premium Economy class with Qantas offers a dedicated check-in counter, priority boarding as well as a generous 40kg baggage allowance. The cabins are spacious, the seats are large, ergonomically designed and have plenty of legroom. The drinks trolley is hosted by a Sommeliers in the Sky crew members the menu has been chef designed, and passengers are provided with an amenities kit supplied by a well know cosmetics brand.
Virgin Australia – While Virgin Australia does offer Premium Economy, is only available on its Boeing 777-300ER planes between Australia and LAX. The service includes a 2x23kg baggage allowance, which can be increased for Velocity Frequent Flyer Silver status members and above. Priority check-in and lounge access are dependent on status as well. While perhaps not as luxurious as some other carriers, seats and leg room are spacious and passengers are served an a la carte menu by dedicated staff.
Singapore Airlines – Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Class offers priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling as well as 35kg checked allowance and two carry-on pieces. Seats are a spacious 19.5” with a 125° recline in a dedicated cabin with 2-4-2 configuration. The in-flight entertainment is extensive, and passengers are provided with active noise-cancelling headphones. The ‘Book the Cook’ service offers meals created by international chefs that can be booked up to 24hrs prior to departure.
United Airlines – Known as Premium Plus (not to be confused with Economy Plus), United’s premium product offers priority boarding and security line access, complimentary alcoholic beverages and a recliner-style seat with double the recline of traditional Economy class. While there’s no lounge access included, passengers can check in two free standard checked bags. Having only launched little over six months ago, United will be adding Premium Plus seating to one aircraft every 10 days until 2020.
British Airways – World Traveller Plus is BA’s premium seating product, offering similar perks to its peers including double the baggage allowance, newly-crafted menus and larger, more comfortable seats than Economy. There is a personal entertainment system with noise-cancelling headphones and priority boarding.
Air Canada – Also ranked in the top five of Premium Economy Class airlines, Air Canada has released a new product this year matching Virgin’s seat pitch of 38 inches. Seat functionality includes power plugs and USB ports for charging devices and on the ground, passengers can enjoy priority boarding, check-in and baggage handling.
Delta Airlines – Arriving with the launch of Delta’s A350 aircraft in late 2017 came the airline’s first premium seat product, Premium Select. While the seats are slightly narrower than some of its competitors, the retractable footrest provides added comfort with up to 7 inches of additional recline compared to Economy. There is a dedicated Premium Select cabin crew on-board, and passengers receive Sky Priority check-in, security screening, boarding and expedited baggage delivery.
Is it worth it?
According to our customers, travelling in comfort was ranked the best part of a business trip. While Premium Economy today doesn’t offer a fully lie-flat bed, daytime flyers can benefit from the extra perks such as more comfortable seating, tastier meals, special amenity kits and speedier airport processing.
In short, here’s the top things to consider before purchasing a Premium Economy fare:
Research the type of aircraft you are flying on, as Premium Economy may differ in size and comfort.
If flying overnight, does the seat recline enough to allow for a better night’s sleep?
Is the fare an upgraded Economy ticket? If so, check the fare restrictions before booking.
While we have seen a significant improvement in the overall Premium Economy experience, there is still a lot to look forward to in this fast-evolving concept.
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