If you're a frequent flyer, you know the difference between economy class and business class. Now, there's a new option: premium economy. But, what is premium economy? More importantly, are the upgrades that come with a premium economy seat worth the added cost? Below, we break down what premium economy is and what you need to know to make an informed decision.
What Premium Economy Means
The premium economy class is basically what it sounds like — economy seats with premium perks. This class is for travelers who don't want (or need) business class seating but would like more privileges than those afforded by economy class.
Premium economy seats are becoming increasingly popular on international flights, when passengers want added comfort but don't want to pay thousands of dollars extra for business class benefits. If you're preparing for a long-haul flight, you may decide it's worth upgrading. This way, you'll arrive at your destination refreshed rather than bleary-eyed.
What to Expect With a Premium Economy Seat
In general, you can expect several perks when you book a premium economy seat. You won't enjoy as many amenities as a business class ticket will provide, but you'll find yourself traveling much more comfortably.
First, you'll get extra legroom. According to Skyscanner, premium economy seats have as much as 5–7 additional inches of legroom per seat. This can be a substantial benefit if you're tall. The extra legroom is also helpful when you just want to stretch out while watching a movie or taking a nap during your long flight.
Along with providing more space and legroom, premium economy seats also provide additional space on each side of your seat. Wider seats also provide you a larger personal space and reduce the sensation of feeling cramped.
Better Food and Entertainment
Several airlines provide a separate entertainment and food menu to guests who fly in premium economy class. For a long flight, having access to good food and a better selection of movies can make the trip significantly more enjoyable. This can be especially true if you're traveling with picky eaters or kids who could use some motivation to sit still for a long overseas flight.
Some airlines even offer free spirits or wine to premium economy travelers.
In addition, the entertainment screens tend to be larger in premium economy class than they are in regular economy. This can also add to your enjoyment of watching certain types of movies. Imagine watching Avengers: Endgame on a small screen. Enough said.
Some airlines include free Wi-Fi for their premium economy passengers. If you need to get work done, or you just want to be able to browse through your social media accounts when you're flying, this can be a nice bonus.
Better Seat Location
On most airlines, premium economy seats are located in front of economy seats. Business-class and first-class seats, of course, will be located in front of premium economy seats. That said, you won't be seated in the back of the plane and be one of the last passengers to disembark after the plane lands.
For many passengers, seat location may make little difference on a direct flight. However, if you're on a connecting flight with a short layover or you're traveling with young kids raring to get off the plane at the end of a long flight, seat location absolutely matters. Being able to get off the plane quickly can be enough of a perk to justify the increased cost of a premium economy ticket.
Faster Check-In and Boarding
Some airlines, such as American, provide premium economy guests an added incentive to upgrade by making the flying process easier. When you choose premium economy on an American domestic or international flight, you'll enjoy speedy check-in, security, and boarding. You'll also be guaranteed access to your checked bag ahead of economy passengers. All of these additional upgrades can make the added cost of a premium economy ticket worthwhile.
Free Checked Bags
Some airlines, such as Air Canada, offer premium economy customers up to two free checked bags when they make the upgrade. The savings from not paying for checked bags alone may well be worth the added cost, especially when you consider all the extra perks you get with a premium economy seat.
How Much Does the Premium Economy Upgrade Cost?
Like any type of travel upgrade, there's no hard and fast rule for how much it will cost to upgrade to a premium economy seat for each trip you take. On average, you'll pay anywhere from $15 to $200 extra, depending on your destination.
Percentage-wise, premium economy seats can be 85% more expensive when you book your trip far in advance. As the date gets closer, however, you can upgrade your seat for as little as 10% more, if there are still seats available. This is one situation where it can pay to procrastinate, provided you don't wait too long.
Bottom Line: Is Premium Economy Worth the Upgrade?
The short answer is, it depends. If you can upgrade for only 10% more than the price of your ticket and have a more enjoyable flight plus a better check-in/boarding experience, you may decide the upgrade is worth it. If you have to shell out an extra 85%, however, for extra legroom and additional movies, you may decide to spend your money on other privileges, such as a nice massage at a luxurious spa (after you land).
Premium economy upgrades vary from airline to airline, so be sure to review what your particular airline is offering with the upgrade. Prices will also vary. So, even if you decide it's not worth the cost to upgrade this time, you may decide otherwise in the future.