Premium Economy: Qantas vs Virgin

Ahead of a trip to the USA, one member is deciding between flying Premium Economy on Qantas or Virgin Australia. Both airlines offer Premium Economy from Australia to Los Angeles. With prices almost identical, which airline is the better option?

I have a trip coming up in June to LAS (BNE-LAX-LAS) and will likely fly on PE. I have never tried Premium Economy and was wondering what your experience/review/ comparison of these 2 products might be..

Premium Economy offers an affordable middle-ground between Economy and Business class. The seats are wider than regular Economy seats, while offering extra legroom. Passengers also enjoy a more personalised on-board service, including superior meals, drinks and amenity kits.

Qantas flies across the Pacific using a mix of Boeing 747s and A380s. Virgin Australia operates a small fleet of Boeing 777s. While both carriers are said to offer a quality Premium Economy product, there are a number of small differences that differentiate Qantas from Virgin.

In terms of hard product, our members are almost unanimous in spruiking Qantas. The seats are said to be more comfortable, featuring a leg rest as well as superior in-flight entertainment options. Qantas also wins for superior catering. Qantas’ Premium economy meals closely resemble those offered in Business class on domestic flights. However, a number of members believe the service from the cabin crew is superior on Virgin Australia.

QF over VA anyday for hard and soft product. I’ve found the crew on VA generally tend to be better, but food and drink is not.

In my experience’s VA FA’s treat you like a special guest, VA seem to have two dedicated to PE. QF FA’s seem to have the attitude … “unghh.. I’ve gotta do PE”, they do the minimum then disappear (I have not been able to discern if QF have any dedicated to PE or not).

Virgin Australia also wins if you’re chasing elite status. The number of status credits earned for Premium Economy flights on Virgin Australia is higher than Qantas. Coupled with lower status retention rates and family pooling, Virgin seems better suited to anyone looking to earn status.

VA are pretty generous with their SC’s (120 for BNE-LAX) and it’s easier to earn status.

One member suggests considering Air New Zealand. New Zealand’s national carrier flies from Australia to multiple cities in the United States via its Auckland hub. The Premium Economy Space Seat on Air New Zealand is a well-regarded product, and discounted fares are regularly available. Virgin Velocity points and status credits can also be earned.

Depending on when you’re going, check out NZ too as they can have some good fares (BNE-AKL-LAX-LAS, so an extra hop, but more SC’s on VA).

Discuss your Premium Economy preferences HERE.


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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]