If you’re looking for something more comfortable than Economy but more affordable than Business or First class, Premium Economy can be an excellent compromise.
More and more airlines have introduced Premium Economy products in recent years. This product is particularly attractive to many Australians, especially when flying to Europe or North America, as these are extremely long flights to suffer in the discomfort of an Economy seat. Although you’ll never get a lie-flat bed in Premium Economy, it is a pleasant upgrade over cattle class.
The Premium Economy Product
In Premium Economy with most airlines you’ll receive a wider, more comfortable seat with better legroom. In general, you’ll also receive a higher baggage allowance, priority check-in and priority boarding.
On some airlines, it really is just an “Economy Plus” product as the level of service is barely differentiated from Economy class. But on other airlines, it’s more of a “Business Lite” service without the lie-flat bed. These airlines offer better in-flight meals, more personalised service and other benefits to differentiate the experience.
One of AFF’s resident travel agents, madrooster, joined me on the latest episode of the ‘AFF on Air’ podcast to discuss the concept of Premium Economy. According to madrooster, airlines with a superior “Business Lite” style of product include Qantas, Virgin Australia, Air New Zealand and Singapore Airlines. On the other hand, airlines such as Japan Airlines and ANA offer a better seat with meals and service closer to Economy. That said, both of these airlines offer excellent service in Economy anyway.
One benefit of flying Premium Economy on Japan Airlines or ANA, however, is that lounge access is offered on these tickets. This is an unusual perk for Premium Economy passengers. With Japan Airlines, for example, Premium Economy passengers have access to the Qantas Business Lounge in Sydney or the Marhaba Lounge in Melbourne.
Cheap Premium Economy Fares to Europe
In general, you can expect to pay around double the cost of Economy but about half the price of Business class for a Premium Economy seat. But this can vary quite substantially between airlines.
One of the best deals to Europe in Premium Economy is currently with Japan Airlines. For around $2,500 return, you can fly with JAL from Melbourne or Sydney to Europe via Tokyo. But there are some catches. Premium Economy is not available year-round out of Melbourne. And if you’re flying from Sydney to Europe, you’ll probably need to stop overnight in Tokyo. Additionally, you’ll need to change airports in Tokyo from Narita to Haneda if connecting through to London. But if you’re able to make this work, it’s a very good deal. Japan Airlines also partners with Finnair, so you can connect through to most major European airports via Helsinki.
Qantas may have a very good Premium Economy product, but it can incredibly expensive unless you book well in advance and happen to get a good sale price.
Madrooster suggests that Cathay Pacific, British Airways and Singapore Airlines may have better pricing and availability than Qantas, while still having very decent products. Singapore Airlines, for example, currently has some good sale fares from Australia to multiple European destinations in Premium Economy.
China Airlines has some exceptional Premium Economy fares to Europe during sales. In the past we’ve even seen China Airlines prices as low as $1,523 return. The main downside is that you may have to take a long layover in Taipei due to misaligned schedules.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Premium economy to London
AFF ON AIR Podcast
In the latest episode of AFF on Air, the official Australian Frequent Flyer podcast, travel agent Alan Lam (a.k.a. madrooster) joins AFF Editor Matt Graham for an in-depth discussion about travel to Europe and North America in Premium Economy. Listen now for free on AFF or simply search for "AFF on Air" in Apple Podcasts, Spotify or wherever you normally listen to podcasts!