It has been three decades since Taiwan’s Eva Air introduced the first premium economy services in 1992, and the concept is still new to many travelers. While it can bear no comparison to business and first class, the cost can almost double a standard economy fare, but for what benefits? Extra legroom, more baggage, better amenities, and even airport lounge access may make the higher price tag worth it.

More cabin space

Many airlines with premium economy for long-haul routes offer different perks, but the most appealing upgrade they all include is extra room. The additional space is usually the biggest attraction for travelers considering the upgrade.

Most economy class seats have around 30-32 inches of legroom between the row in front, but premium offers up to 40 inches of separation. Each airline is slightly different, but Emirates is notably one of the best. According to the Dubai-based carrier, the premium service is offered on its flagship Airbus A380 aircraft.

In 2020, the airline revealed the first images of the cabin, and after a long soft launch that made it hard for passengers to book the service, customers can now purchase the upgrade on some of its longest routes.

The seat features eight inches of recline, 38 inches of pitch – to which Emirates says on its website it can go up to 40 inches – and the seat cushion measures at 19.5 inches wide. Simple Flying has a review of Emirates’ premium economy from London to Dubai.

Emirates Airline premium economy

Emirates made its premium economy service available for purchase in August. Photo: Emirates Airline

British Airways premium economy customers, dubbed ‘World Traveller Plus,’ are offered 38 inches of pitch and a slightly less seat width of 18.5 inches on its A350-1000 and A380-800 aircraft.

Most premium economy offerings include leg and footrests, adding to a spacious illusion and significantly enhancing comfort.

Luxurious dining

This isn’t guaranteed on all premium economy flights, but many airlines offer far better dining experiences, real cutlery, and crockery with meals than plastic or paper in economy.

While it doesn’t seem like much, having real cutlery does make the flying experience much more luxurious. British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Germany’s Lufthansa are vocal about their fine china dining.

My project-1 (4)

Virgin Atlantic offers restaurant style meals for premium economy passengers. Photo: Virgin Atlantic

Aside from sometimes receiving better meals and a wider variety of foods, some airlines also offer a beverage on arrival – resembling a hotel experience. On board Virgin’s Boeing 787, A350, and A330 aircraft, premium economy passengers are welcomed with a glass of champagne.

Australia’s flag carrier Qantas also offers complimentary sparkling wine, juice, or even a cocktail on its 737 Dreamliner or A380 premium economy aircraft. Lufthansa offers a non-alcoholic welcome drink and a bottle of water already placed on the customer’s seat.

More amenities

Most economy passengers can find a blanket, pillow, and earphones on their seats for long-haul flights. Some airlines, like Korean Air, may even offer slippers. But premium economy customers can expect a little bit more to make passengers feel refreshed after a long flight.

Japan Airlines, based in Tokyo, on top of basic amenities, offers premium economy passengers a toothbrush set, a moisture mask, earplugs, and an eye mask on all its routes between Japan and Europe, America, Canada, Australia, Southeast Asia, and Delhi. Slippers are also available on all routes, according to the carrier.

Cathay Pacific also provides an ‘environmentally friendly’ kit featuring socks, an eyeshade, earplugs, a toothbrush, and toothpaste on all long-haul routes.

Since 2016, Qantas has partnered with fashion brand Country Road for its aesthetically pleasing amenity kit. The kit includes an eye mask, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, and even the noise-canceling headphones business passengers receive.

Qantas Amenity Kit

Qantas partnered with Country Road in 2016 to create a stylish amenity kit for Premium Economy customers. Photo: Country Road

Access to airport lounges

This privilege is not available for most premium economy customers, but in Japan, it is. Usually, special lounges are only accessible to business and first-class customers or if they are part of the airline’s loyalty program. But two airlines in Japan offer the luxury to their premium economy customers.

All Nippon Airways (ANA), also based in Tokyo, allows premium economy passengers on ANA-operated international flights access to lounges in Haneda Airport, Narita Airport, Kansai Airports, and Honolulu Airport. The lounges have varied services, such as comfortable chairs, a bar, and dining.

Japan Airlines also offers similar services. Passengers at Haneda Airport, Narita Airport, and Kansai Airport can access the lounges.

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More baggage

Often travelers will pay a fee – sometimes extremely costly – for extra baggage allowance but don’t realize it may be worth just upgrading to premium economy to snag it for free.

However, this is another perk exclusive to a few airlines. Germany’s Lufthansa allows passengers to check in two items of baggage, each weighing up to 23 kilograms (51lb), twice as much as its economy fare. Plus, its loyalty HON Circle Members and Senators get a third bag weighing up to 23 kilograms.

British Airways’ World Traveller Plus customers can carry three bags that weigh up to 23 kilograms each. Passengers can bring a handbag guaranteed to stay in the cabin, a cabin bag that may need to go in the hold depending on remaining space, and the standard checked-in suitcase. Economy class only includes one cabin bag and one checked bag.

Cathay Pacific offers a similar incentive. For premium economy, customers can check two 23-kilogram suitcases plus cabin baggage.

While this might be an advantage for some airlines, others offer just as much baggage for a standard economy fare, so it’s always worth checking.


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