Every traveller knows the pain of cattle class. The cramped seating. The pitiful entertainment choices. The food (or is it?) with the nutritional value of warm plastic. And the crying babies. How could we forget the crying babies?
Now that you’re feeling sufficiently nauseous, let’s talk about the alternatives. If you’re in for a long flight and you can afford to bump yourself up to business, do it without hesitation. If you can’t, relax – you won’t be forced to sit with the herd, thanks to a little thing called premium economy.
More and more airlines are jumping on the premium economy bandwagon (Emirates are set to join the party in 2020), offering perks like wider seats, more legroom and enhanced onboard catering in special seating. On the ground, premium economy passengers are often treated to priority boarding and Business lounge access. Sound good? We thought so. Book your next adventure in one of these top-tier premium economy seats.
Arguably the best premium economy product on the planet, Emirates’ premium economy – which recently became available on the Sydney – Dubai flight route – is an absolute game changer. On both the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 777, Emirates’ Premium Economy has a seat pitch of up to 40 inches (101.5cm). That’s better than most airlines’ premium economy seats, with many others having more like a 38-inch pitch. Emirates’ premium economy seats are also quite wide, measuring 19.5 inches (49.5cm) across. They also have a recline of eight-inches (20cm). On top of that, naturally, there’s at-seat power, a generously sized dining table and a drinks table on the side.
The coolest feature though is the ‘cradle’. This isn’t quite a bed, but the footrest cradle helps keep your legs up, almost as though you were lying flat. In terms of price, Emirates’ premium economy looks to sit roughly half way between economy and business class. Emirates’ A380 Premium Economy also offers a signature experience unmatched in the industry, with a dedicated airport experience and check-in areas exclusive to the Premium Economy passengers; luxurious, non-stain cream seats with more legroom and footrests; dining experience with elements inspired by Business Class; and Emirates’ award-winning entertainment ice.
Air New Zealand
Air New Zealand enjoys putting itself at the forefront of in-flight innovation, and its ink coloured, luxury leather premium economy seat seats are no exception. Expect a large reclining chair which, with 41” of seat pitch (double the standard economy pitch), is amongst the biggest in its class. There’s also a leg rest, a 5” armrest separating you from your snoring neighbour, and 9” of reclining space, so you can comfortably take a snooze when you’re bored of watching movies on your 11″ touch-screen.
Forget the horse power of their engines: Cathay Pacific has blown reviewers away with their premium economy offerings. Especially good for the work hard/play hard types, the seats are equipped with in-seat power sockets, USB sockets and a wealth of entertainment options. The list of perks is long, but a few of the highlights include a mini cocktail table, champagne offered before take off, noise-cancelling head phones, Jurlique beauty products, an expansive entertainment selection, and food you might actually order in a restaurant.
Lufthansa introduced a premium economy product to their long haul fleet in 2014 and haven’t looked back since. The seats offer 50% more room than what you get in economy, plus a centre console between seats that offers an armrest for each passenger. Just imagine a flight with 0 time spent elbow wrestling. Odd, no? But definitely a positive… Passengers in premium economy are also able to check a second item of luggage at no extra cost and get to eat off porcelain tableware like real adults.
Widely regarded as one of the best premium economy offerings in the biz, Norwegian Air Premium Economy is one sought-after experience, in which you will be treated like a Business class guest, given lounge access at the airport where you can indulge in beverages, snacks and Wi-Fi—and this is all before we get onto the cush under your tush. The seat in the Premium Economy cabin is, to say the least, impressive. So much so that one is tempted to compare it to a Business class seat on another airline. Don’t believe us? Try before you buy. Norwegian’s Premium seats have a seat pitch of 109cm-117 cm (43″ to 46″) and legroom of 140 cm (55″) versus the economy cabin seat pitch of 78 cm (31″) which is fixed but in a reclined position.
You have Marc Newson and David Caon to thank for the exceptional experience in Qantas premium economy class. The award-winner and Australian industrial designer’s work has resulted in comfy as anything ergonomic seats, real china on which the meals (overseen by the chef responsible for acclaimed Aussie restaurants like Rockpool) are served, footrests (at every seat), moveable TV screens and a generous 40” seat pitch. Essentially: everything you want on the long haul flight (bar an upgrade to Business or First).
According to Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti, the exclusive premium economy cabin on Virgin Australia flights isn’t meant to be ‘economy plus’ but ‘business lite.’ The service more than lives up to that moniker, with noise cancelling headphones, reading lights, the infamous RED entertainment system, better meals and an amenity kit that includes an eye mask, ear plugs, socks, lotions, a toothbrush and toothpaste.
There’s good news and there’s bad news. The bad news is for Air Canada’s economy class: the airline switched from 9-seats-across to 10-across, meaning less space and more passengers. The good news is for those looking for an upgrade: that move made room for a new premium economy class, a separate cabin with more legroom and more recline (better luck next time, economy). Passengers in those seats are entitled to both priority airport services and premium amenities onboard.
Singapore Airlines’ premium economy seat, made by experts and clad in leather, is 19.5 inches wide on the Airbus A380 and 18.5 inches on the Boeing 777-300ER. On both jets the seat pitch is 38 inches—significantly above the average 32 inches of economy. Oh and don’t forget the 8-inch recline option, calf-rest and foot-bar for long-haul flights. The centrepiece of Singapore Airlines’ new premium economy seats, however, is the stunning 13.3-inch full HD touchscreen, paired with active noise-cancelling headphones to provide the ultimate in in-flight entertainment.
British Airways jazzes up the name of its premium economy seating – World Traveller Plus – and, thankfully, hypes (and delivers) up everything else about its service to match. All the upgrades you expect are there: more spacious seats, noise-reducing headphones, an amenity kit, an enlarged personal entertainment screen, three-course meals, complimentary bar service and, perhaps most importantly in our modern digital age, a personal in-seat power supply so your favourite iDevices will never go hungry.
Alitalia isn’t an airline you hear about often, but Classica Plus could change that. Each passenger gets an individual 10.6-inch IFE screen, a drink prior to departure, and the option to upgrade to premium economy on board. All menus are designed by Gualtiero Marchesi’s Alma International School of Italian Cuisine. For added indulgence, your meal begins with a hot towel and concludes with dessert topped off with an espresso upon request. Because Italians don’t mess around when it comes to dining and drinking.