The Ins & Outs of airline seats: Premium economy vs. economy

Are you trying to make a decision between economy vs premium economy tickets? Discover the ins & outs of these seats and when it’s worth it to pay a little more.

Are you trying to make a decision between economy vs premium economy tickets? Discover the ins & outs of these seats and when it’s worth it to pay a little more.

By Jessica Freedman

premium economy vs economy class

Especially on business trips, it is important to choose the right seat for your airline trip. A distinction is often made here between premium economy and economy. In this post we will explain to you what the difference is between these two seating options and how you can decide which is the better option for your business trip.

The Basics: premium economy vs. economy

The Premium Economy category, which may also have a different name on some airlines, is a travel class offered by many airlines. It usually falls between standard economy class and business class in terms of price, comfort and available amenities.

There is no standard definition of premium economy among airlines and varies significantly between domestic and international flights, as well as between low-cost or regional airlines and other airlines. Sometimes the premium economy class is limited to increased legroom, but the most extensive versions can include features that would otherwise be associated with business class.

Economy Class, on the other hand, is the lowest and most cost-effective seat class in air travel. On short-haul flights there are often no extras included in the price, and on long-haul flights the service is limited to a seat, fold-down table, a screen with access to in-flight entertainment and meals.

The lowdown on Premium Economy

On average, you can expect Premium Economy tickets to cost approximately 1.5 to 3 times more. The big selling point for premium economy tickets is more space. The seats are, on average, four to twenty centimeters wider than economy class, and the rows are further apart, providing a few centimeters’ more legroom. Most premium economy seats recline and many have footrests.

The truth of the matter, all of these factors depends on which airline you fly with. The benefits offered by low-cost airlines are rather limited. At Emirates, for example, the benefits of premium economy start at the airport, with a separate check-in counter, a larger carry-on baggage allowance and free seat selection.

Other Premium Economy features

Passengers also get a large pillow, a six-way adjustable headrest, calf and footrests and a 13.3-inch wide in-flight entertainment screen, as well as a dining table with a side cocktail table and charging ports. There may also be fast track offers for security checks at the airport itself.

At Lufthansa, premium economy travelers enjoy up to 50 percent more space on all sides and a cocktail table in the armrest and have access to drinks and a travel set. British Airways offers a larger seat with more legroom and reclining space. In addition, passengers receive better food and beverage options as well as priority boarding and additional baggage allowance.

Comfort and space of economy vs. premium economy

In the economy category, seats often seem a bit narrow and are on average 78cm wide (30 in). Business class seats are far more luxurious with a width of 150cm (60 in) and more. Premium Economy fills the large gap in between and typically offers a seat pitch of 96cm (38.5 in), a wider seat and fewer seats in each section.

Typically, the premium economy class offers around 12-18 cm (4-7 in) of additional legroom and five to seven cm (2-3 in) of additional backrest. Especially on long-haul flights, every centimeter counts and you’ll probably have more space than on a regional short-haul flight. In addition, the premium economy area is often separated from the economy area and offers you more privacy on business trips. This may help you sleep better and also prevent jet lag symptoms.

Amenities and services

There can be significant differences between the various Economy and Premium Economy categories when it comes to food and drinks. This is not always the case on short-haul flights, but on long-haul flights, for example, the food is served on real porcelain plates instead of plastic bowls and you have a wider range of dishes to choose from depending on your taste. Some airlines even have their own chef on board for Premium Economy and Business Class guests.

Most Premium Economy offers include priority boarding for passengers, as well as additional checked and carry-on baggage. This can prove to be particularly practical on longer business trips.

On long-haul flights, passengers in premium economy class usually have access to a wider range of in-flight entertainment and niceties such as noise-canceling headphones, while the offerings in economy class may be limited. However, this usually does not apply to short-haul flights.

Additional benefits of premium economy

In addition to the advantages mentioned above, the Premium Economy category also offers other advantages. This means passengers have access to better customer service and are treated with priority. At the airport you can often use premium lounges, which is a big plus, especially on business trips.

On the plane itself, small amenities such as fresh towels, care kits and headphones are often handed out. And you can often find plugs and USB ports on the seats. This means you can continue to work and stay productive even on longer flights.

Who should opt for premium economy?

Premium Economy is most suitable for business travelers who want additional comfort for their air travel. It might not be worth it on short-haul flights, but on long-haul flights, the extra space and greater choice of entertainment and food and drink can make all the difference.

If you, as a business traveler, value additional service and amenities, then Premium Economy is exactly the right choice for you. The seating class is cheaper than Business Class, yet you will enjoy a better and more comfortable travel experience and have enough space in the cabin to work or relax on long-haul flights.

When economy makes sense

In some situations economy makes more sense. If your company is specifically looking to save money on business travel, the economy category makes sense as it is the cheapest airline ticket. Even on regional or short-haul flights, Premium Economy is often not worth it, as the additional amenities for Premium Economy are usually limited to the seat width and legroom.

Passengers who travel alone and only take hand luggage with them do not necessarily benefit from the additional luggage allowances of the Premium Economy category, especially on short-haul flights. Here it is certainly more worthwhile to book an economy flight ticket for business trips and use a few tricks and tips to improve the flight experience in this category.

For example, you should choose a seat that may offer you more legroom and your own travel pillow for sleeping. It’s also a good idea to invest in noise-canceling headphones to get better rest. Many streaming providers also allow you to download your favorite series via an app, so you can get along very easily on the plane even without in-flight entertainment.

Making the decision: factors to consider

Making a choice between Economy and Premium Economy depends on various factors. As you have already read above, Premium Economy is particularly worthwhile on long-haul flights, as you benefit from more advantages there. Therefore, the flight duration is definitely relevant when making a decision.

It also depends on your company’s priorities. If cost savings are your top priority, you should definitely choose economy for your business trips. If the comfort and personal preferences of business travel are a priority, Premium Economy is a good choice. This category may also be more suitable for business travelers with special requirements (e.g. medical needs).

premium economy class seating airplane

Is Premium Economy worth-it? 

As we saw above, the differences between Premium Economy and Economy lie primarily in price and comfort, as well as the checked baggage allowance. When choosing a flight ticket category, you should consider what is most important to you for a short or long-haul flight. You should also not ignore possible advantages through frequent flyer programs, as cost savings can also be made when choosing your seat. You can also consider booking flights with a travel management platform like GetGoing which is full of travel deals that will help you save big.

As the airline industry continues to evolve, it is expected that seat category offerings will continue to change. It is therefore worthwhile for business travelers to pay attention to seat offers on the airlines of their choice and to take a close look at what advantages they would enjoy in premium economy compared to economy.

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