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Premium economy: all you need to know

Want the amenities of business class without the hefty price tag? Premium economy class might be just what you’re looking for. But what exactly is premium economy, and just how premium do things get? Read on to find out.

Please note that many of the airlines mentioned below have temporarily suspended flights due to the coronavirus pandemic. This article is here for your information, to arm you with knowledge and inspire you until it is time to spread our wings and travel again.

What is premium economy class?

As a way to offer more choices and more legroom to passengers, airlines started offering more seat fares with upgraded services. The term was first used by Taiwan’s EVA Air in the early 1990s, and the trend continued with Virgin Atlantic, TWA, and United Airlines, which created an “economy plus” option in 1999.

Premium economy vs. economy

Premium economy is sweeping through the airline industry as a way to offer larger, more comfortable space during your flight. This relatively new class of air travel can be related to old school business class compared to the regular economy class: bigger seats, extra legroom, better meals, and overall better service in a dedicated area near the front of the plane. What started as an in-between class on international flights, quickly became a favoured way to travel.

Quick breakdown of premium class benefits

  • Greater recline in your seat
  • Wider seats
  • Extra legroom (and a foot rest!)
  • Hot towel service and other small amenities and extras
  • Complimentary wine and alcoholic beverages
  • Larger in-flight entertainment screen
  • USB ports and places to share your devices

Premium economy: FAQs

What’s the difference between economy and premium economy?

One of the main point differences between economy and premium economy is the comfort level. In premium, you’ll enjoy wider seats, 5-7 inches, on average; more legroom, better entertainment choices with personal screens, tastier food from an exclusive menu, power outlets, priority boarding, and more attentive service in a dedicated area. Please note that premium seats might not be available on all flights as this elevated class is dependent on the aircraft flying your chosen route.

How much more does premium economy cost?

In most cases, the price increase from economy class to premium can be 30%. The difference between premium economy and business class is around 50-65%, depending on your route and when you book the flight. As with Business or First class, there’s always the possibility to get an upgrade for free, especially if you are a loyal customer to the airline you’re flying with!

Which airlines offer the best premium economy experience?

For the best premium economy experience, airlines with the top-rated reputation for service, price, and comfort will usually hit the mark. Below are the airlines with the top premium airline seats available.

  • Virgin Atlantic
  • Air Canada
  • WestJet
  • United Airlines’s Economy Plus
  • Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy
  • Singapore Airlines Premium Economy Class
  • British Airways’ Club World

Airlines with premium economy seats

Here’s all you need to know about the best in premium economy class, and what’s included by your favourite airlines.

Air Canada’s premium economy

Air Canada typically offers premium economy seats on selected domestic and international flights. The features of this class vary depending on the aircraft. For example, on their Boeing 777-300, seats are 20 inches wide. On the Airbus A330-300, the seats are 18 inches. Not only are the seats bigger in premium but they also offer a 38inch pitch, which means you can lean back further and stretch out more.

The larger sizing goes for personal, in-seat screens too. On the Boeing 787-8, the screens measure 11 inches. Yet on the Boeing 777-300, they are 10.4 inches. You’ll get free headphones that you can keep, too.

Note that Air Canada’s international economy class typically includes free meals, drinks, blankets, pillows, and in-flight entertainment. WiFi is also only available on some flights, and you’ll be charged for it whether you fly economy or premium economy. Some other perks in Air Canada’s premium economy cabin: priority boarding, complimentary gourmet meals, drinks, and alcohol, pillow, blanket, and an amenity kit; and the option to check two bags, for free.

Air Canada Rouge

Air Canada’s low-cost subsidiary, Air Canada Rouge, offers a premium class too. Remember, the Rouge fleet are re-purposed Air Canada planes, hence the lack of built-in screens. But don’t worry, Premium Rouge passengers get an iPad, plus all the added bonuses you’d expect in this class: priority check-in and boarding, checked baggage, dedicated cabin, wider seats, better meals, drinks, and a devoted flight attendant just for this class of service.

WestJet premium economy

Canada’s favourite low-cost carrier would not dream of their loyal passengers missing out on a better service. As a result, there is WestJet premium economy. To keep up with everyone else, you’ll get WestJet’s in-flight entertainment, higher quality meals, wine, beer, liquor, soft drinks, tea, and coffee; and all the other premium perks you’d expect. Download the WestJet app on your device (phone, tablet, or laptop) so you can access WestJet’s in-flight entertainment system, known as WestJet Connect.

Air Transat Option Plus

To get extra perks without flying Business or First Class, Air Transat’s added an Option Plus upgrade option to all economy passengers. Features include a free piece of checked baggage (23 kg), priority boarding and baggage handling, check-in options at an exclusive counter, and on-board perks like a free Comfort Kit, alcoholic beverage, and a meal or snack from their Bistro Menu.

Premium economy on Virgin Atlantic Canada

Richard Branson is a pretty classy guy so, as a rule, you’d expect his 60 (and counting) businesses to be as well. And they are. Virgin Atlantic, which flies to/from the UK, Asia, South Africa, and the Middle East, offers seats in their premium class cabin. Accordingly, you’ll receive the expected bonuses but the Branson brand takes it to the next level with a glass of bubbly wine upon boarding. Now that’s classy.

Economy vs. premium economy: the takeaway

To discover which aircraft and airlines offer economy, premium economy, Business, and First class seats, check out Seat Guru. Type your chosen airlines and travel dates into the search engine and a list of their aircraft and seat choices will display, so you can choose your best seat.

More travel information from Skyscanner