Features

Which airlines have the best premium economy?

21 Mar 2018 by BusinessTraveller
United Airlines' new premium economy cabin, Premium Plus

It has taken many years, but finally premium economy is offered by the majority of long haul international airlines.

We have been following premium economy since it was first introduced. You can read many of our previous articles on this website. Have a look at the related articles at the bottom of this one for more on the history of premium economy, and the reasons there are so many different varieties.

Here is our round-up of the options, updated, so you can decide which is best for you. We will keep updating this, and also include more aircraft types where the seating differs significantly between aircraft types.

AIR CANADA

Premium economy passengers are fast-tracked through the airport and given a hot towel and welcome soft drink, followed by wine, beer, spirits and “premium” hot meals served on china with proper cutlery and glassware. As with most airlines here, you can check in two cases (23 kg each).

On the B787-8, there are three rows in a 2-3-2 layout (economy is 3-3-3).

  • WIDTH 18-20in/46-51cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 7in/18cm

Flight review: Air Canada B787-8 premium economy

Flight review: Air Canada B777-300ER premium economy

AIR FRANCE

Air France passengers can use Sky Priority channels in the airport, gain access to a lounge for a fee (economy passengers can’t), board at will by skipping the economy queue, and get their luggage back quicker on arrival.

The newest seat is found on the carrier’s B787. Air France says that it provides 40 per cent more space than in economy, and the fixed-shell design means that you won’t encroach on the space of the person behind when you recline. Premium economy passengers are provided with travel kits and there are cleverly designed grooves in the tray table to rest your iPad on (you also get 12-inch built-in screens).

  • WIDTH 19in/48cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 130 degrees

Flight review: Air France B777-200ER Premium Voyageur (premium economy)

AIR NEW ZEALAND

In somewhat of a backward step, the Kiwi carrier’s innovative Spaceseat, installed on the B777-300, was replaced with a more conventional premium economy seat in 2017. This seat has now been standardised across the airline’s fleet of B787-9 and B777-200 and -300 planes, the last of which flies Auckland-LA-London and has either a 2-3-2 or 2-4-2, depending on whether you are on a B787 or B777.

Despite the change, passengers still get premium check-in, priority baggage and boarding, and onboard amenity kits, meals and drinks, including wine from New Zealand.

  • WIDTH 19.3in/49cm
  • LEGROOM 41in/104cm
  • RECLINE 9in/23cm

Flight review: Air New Zealand B777-200ER premium economy

Flight review: Air New Zealand B777-200ER (refurbished) Premium Economy

ALITALIA

The Italian flag carrier launched its premium economy product in 2010, originally branded as Classica Plus but now simply know as Premium Economy.

Benefits include a separate cabin section with between 17 and 24 seats which recline to 120 degrees and offer up to 40 per cent more legroom (compared to economy); baggage allowance of up to two items weighing 23 kg, dedicated check-in desks and priority boarding; a night kit with blanket and pillow, and a 10.4 inch TV screen on B777 aircraft, and 10.6 on the carrier’s A330s.

  • WIDTH 19.2in/49cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 120 degrees

AMERICAN AIRLINES

AA launched its first premium economy product in 2017 on its B787-9s and B777-200s. It is now on many routes including London Heathrow, and we will be reviewing it next month (April 2018).  Included in the price is priority check-in, security, boarding and luggage, as well as “chef-inspired” meals and alcohol. Passengers can take advantage of spacious black leather seats, noise-reducing headphones, USB ports and amenity kits. Main Cabin Extra will remain.

  • WIDTH 19in/48cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 5-6in/12-15cm

ANA

The checked bags of ANA premium economy customers are fixed with a Star Alliance priority tag. Travellers also have access to the Japanese carrier’s lounge. Premium economy on the B777-300ER is in its own 2-4-2 cabin. Legroom is generous, at 38 inches – four inches more than regular economy – while the seat is 10 per cent wider, at 19.3 inches. The product is also installed on ANA’s B787s. Each seat has a legrest, footrest, 10.6-inch touchscreen, power outlet, USB port and connection for Apple devices, plus a reading light at shoulder height. Free sparkling wine is served, while desserts are from the business class menu. Also on offer are ANA special edition wines.

  • WIDTH 18.4-19.3in/47-49cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 21-24.5 degrees

Flight review: ANA B777-300ER Premium Economy

AUSTRIAN AIRLINES

Lufthansa Group carrier Austrian Airlines launched its premium economy offering on all of its long-haul services this year.

The B777-200 aircraft hold a total of 24 premium economy seats configured 2-4-2, while B767-300ERs contain 18 seats configured 2-2-2. Along with 38 inches of legroom, passengers can enjoy a footrest, 12-inch TV screen and individual power outlets and USB ports. Premium Economy class also allows travellers to check in two bags of 23 kg per person and provides a choice of three in-flight main courses. An amenity kit including ear plugs, socks and other necessities is also provided.

  • WIDTH 9in/48cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 40 degrees

BRITISH AIRWAYS

BA’s World Traveller Plus cabin comes in two forms, with a more modern product found on the B787, A380 and some B777s and an older one on the rest of the long-haul fleet. The pitch is seven inches greater than in economy, while the width is an inch more.

Upholstered in navy padded fabric, the newer seat has a footrest, a headrest with wings and a 10.5-inch touchscreen that can be controlled by a personal handset. Noise-cancelling headphones and an amenity kit with socks, an eye mask, ear plugs and toothbrush/paste are provided.

  • WIDTH 18.5in/47cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/ 96.5cm
  • RECLINE 7-8in/18-20cm

Flight review: British Airways A380 World Traveller Plus (premium economy)

Flight review: British Airways B787 World Traveller Plus

Flight review: British Airways B777-200ER World Traveller Plus

Flight review: British Airways B777-300ER World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)

CATHAY PACIFIC

On Cathay, premium economy flyers are greeted with a glass of champagne. The newest seat is on the airline’s recently introduced A350s, which serve Hong Kong-Gatwick among other routes. Meals are “light and healthy with an emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables”. Larger tray tables make working on a laptop easier, while 10.6-inch screens (12.1-inch on the A350) come with noise-cancelling headphones. Amenity kits are also handed out.

  • WIDTH 18.5-19.3in/47-49cm
  • LEGROOM 38-40in/96.5-101.5cm
  • RECLINE 8-9in/20-23cm

Flight review: Cathay Pacific A350-900 premium economy

Flight review: Cathay Pacific B777-300ER premium economy

Flight review: Cathay Pacific A330-300 Premium Economy

CHINA AIRLINES

The Taiwanese carrier offers eight rows of premium economy in a 2-4-2 layout on its B777-300ER aircraft. The fixed-back shell seat features a legrest, a 12.1-inch touchscreen, a water bottle holder, a drinks holder and a USB port. Designer Ray Chen has incorporated Chinese aesthetic touches throughout the aircraft, with the premium economy cabin featuring walls lined with a wood texturing effect.

  • WIDTH 19in/48cm
  • LEGROOM 39in/99cm
  • RECLINE 118 degrees

Flight review: China Airlines B777-300ER premium economy

DELTA AIR LINES

Delta will be rolling out Premium Select on long-haul aircraft later this year (2018). Before, it only had Delta Comfort+, which was an economy class seat with extra legroom. The new product will have adjustable rests for legs, feet, arms and head, 13.3-inch screens (nine inches in economy) and individual power ports.

The airline has collaborated with hotel brand Westin to supply Heavenly blankets, along with Tumi and Malin and Goetz for the amenity kits. Free Starbucks coffee will be available, along with complimentary craft beer, spirits and wine. Free seasonal meals will be served on Alessi tableware.

Premium Select travellers will qualify for Sky Priority security, boarding and bag delivery. The product will be available to book on the carrier’s new A350 aircraft, to be followed by its B777s, A330s and B767s.

  • WIDTH 19in/48cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 7in/18cm

EVA AIR

The Taiwanese airline was one of the first carriers to offer premium economy (branded Elite Class). Its product offers USB ports, plug sockets, mood lighting and 11-inch LCD touchscreens. Toiletries by Canadian brand Escents are also provided, along with pillow and blanket sets. Wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks are on offer, with meals served on chinaware.

  • WIDTH 19.5in/49.5cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 8in/20cm

IBERIA

Iberia’s premium economy offers a seat width of 19 inches (11.6 per cent more than in economy), a pitch of 37 inches (20 per cent greater than economy), 40 per cent more recline compared to economy, and a larger IFE screen (12 inches compared to nine in economy). Premium economy passengers also benefit from priority check-in and boarding, a larger luggage allowance, an upgraded meal service, an amenity kit and noise-cancelling headphones. It is being fitted on a total of 37 A330-300, A340-600 and A350-900 aircraft.

Interview: Iberia’s CCO on new premium economy seat

JAPAN AIRLINES

JAL’s Sky Premium fixed-shell seat has a generous 42 inches of pitch, a legrest, a headrest with wings, and a privacy divider at head height. The 12.1-inch touchscreen can be controlled via a handheld remote. In-seat power is provided. A significant perk is having lounge access at Tokyo Haneda and Narita, and London Heathrow.

  • WIDTH 19in/48cm
  • LEGROOM 42in/106.5cm
  • RECLINE Undisclosed

Flight review: Japan Airlines B777-300ER premium economy

LUFTHANSA

Lufthansa’s seat is not in a separate cabin but, depending on aircraft, is up to an inch wider than in economy, with about four inches more room at the side thanks to a wide armrest and a centre console. Seats have adjustable footrests, power sockets, a USB port, an 11- to 12-inch screen, and a small stowage area for glasses or a phone. There is no priority boarding or check-in but select lounges can be used for a fee. A “fruity” welcome drink is offered on board.

  • WIDTH 18-19in/45.5-48cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 40 degrees

Flight review: Lufthansa B747-8 premium economy

NORWEGIAN

Those flying long-haul with Norwegian will find B787s fitted with five rows of Premium seats arranged 2-3-2. Seat pitch is 46 inches, compared with 31 inches in economy, although seat recline, while greater in Premium, remains minimal. Travellers get lounge access plus fast-track security and boarding. They don’t have to pay to reserve seats, and drinks and a three-course dinner and breakfast are served free (you need to pay and order in advance in economy).

  • WIDTH 19.5in/49.5cm
  • LEGROOM 46in/117cm
  • RECLINE 9-10 degrees

QANTAS

Qantas has a new premium economy seat on its B787s. Smartly upholstered in charcoal grey with touches of “burnt caramel”, the seat reclines into a Z shape with a hammock to support your feet, while a thick pillow slots on to the fixed-wing headrest to cushion you as you sleep. Seatbacks have 13.5-inch screens, plus slots for your own tablet. There are also USB sockets and pods for storing water bottles.

  • WIDTH 19.5in/49.5cm
  • LEGROOM 38-42in/96.5-106.5cm
  • RECLINE 9in/23cm

SINGAPORE AIRLINES

Configured 2-4-2, SIA’s new premium economy seat has lots of thoughtful details, such as slots at the base of the central armrest for water bottles, cup holders above, calf and footrests that fold out, two USB sockets per person, and 13.3-inch HD monitors. Take your pick from three meal choices on board, or pre-order a special option from the “Book the Cook” menu. Champagne is complimentary, and fast-track check-in, boarding and baggage handling are rolled in as well. Travellers can stow one piece of checked luggage to 35kg.

  • WIDTH 18.5-19.5in/47-49.5cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 8in/20cm

Flight review: Singapore Airlines A380 premium economy

Flight review: Singapore Airlines A350-900 premium economy

Flight review: Singapore Airlines A380 Premium Economy Class

UNITED AIRLINES

United has announced that it will introduce a premium economy cabin, called Premium Plus, on its international flights later this year, though most details have been kept under the wraps. It is confirmed that Premium Plus will give passengers more space as well as amenities including upgraded china dinnerware, free alcoholic beverages, an amenity kit and a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow.

VIETNAM AIRLINES

Vietnam Airlines offers Premium Economy on both the B787-9 and A350 aircraft, each varying in their seat dimensions (see below). Both aircraft include 30 cm entertainment screens and spacious luggage compartments. Premium Economy passengers can take advantage of priority check-in and amenities like pillows, blankets and toiletries on the plane. Complimentary drinks and spirits are also offered in-flight.

B787-9

  • WIDTH 18in/46cm
  • LEGROOM 42in/107cm
  • RECLINE 7in/18cm

A350

  • WIDTH 19in/48cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 8in/20cm

Flight review: Vietnam Airlines B787-9 premium economy

VIRGIN ATLANTIC

One of the originators of premium economy, Virgin’s product is now called Premium. The seat has 10.5-inch touchscreens and broad central armrests with a flat section for drinks. Passengers either have footrests or a supportive ottoman cushion behind the bulkhead. When boarding, a glass of prosecco and a newspaper are offered and, later, a choice of post-prandial liqueurs. Amenity kits are provided on night flights.

  • WIDTH 21in/53cm
  • LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm
  • RECLINE 8in/20cm

Flight review: Virgin Atlantic B787-9 premium economy

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BTUK September 2018
BTUK September 2018
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