Transport : Airlines

I find travelling long-haul in economy tough. It was not so bad what I was in my 20’s but now I am older, I have the funds to upgrade and a not-quite-so-youthful body that suffers when subjected to long-haul economy seats. I almost always choose to upgrade to Premium Economy, and when funds allow, Business Class.

Just like in my top 10 best Business Class airlines, not all Premium Economy offerings are the same. I review the best Premium Economy airlines in the world below. Top of my list comes Norwegian Airlines. Billed as 1980’s Business Class, the seats on Norwegian offer significantly more leg room than any other Premium Economy with 46″. With a modern fleet and excellent prices (if you book early enough) this is the winner. Virgin Atlantic comes in second with a very average 38″ of leg room, but a wider seat width of 21″.

The American airline companies are new to the Premium Economy game and will be launching their versions within the year. American Airlines has already started selling AA Premium Economy seats on its Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.

Delta Air Lines already offer Comfort Plus with extra leg room but will be launching a complete Premium Economy cabin called Delta Premium Select (pictured above) on long-haul aircraft later in 2017. Expect 38 inches of pitch, up to 19 inches of width and up to seven inches of recline with adjustable leg rests and head rests. They will also be including a Westin Heavenly® In-Flight Blanket with pillow and a TUMI amenity kit featuring Malin+Goetz Travel Essentials. A fresh, seasonal menu will be presented with Alessi serviceware designed exclusively for Delta. There will also be an up to 13.3-inch, high resolution in-flight entertainment screen, noise-cancelling headphones and in-seat power ports along with Sky Priority service, which includes faster check-in, accelerated security, priority boarding and expedited baggage service will also be included.

United currently offers Economy Plus with a 37-inch seat pitch, five inches more than economy, but this currently has no other advantages over the normal economy seats.

1. Norwegian Airlines Premium Economy

The facts: 19″ seat width, 46″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Priority boarding, reclining seats with lots of leg room, new fleet of lovely long-haul Dreamliners, complimentary pre-flight access to the No1 Lounge in Gatwick and other airports, prices (from £649 one way from London to New York) and Norwegian Rewards cashpoints loyalty program. A PremiumFlex seat costing around £1,200 plus taxes will earn 20% of this price in cashpoints which means receiving a credit towards future flights of £246.
We don’t like: The limited (but expanding) route options – Currently long haul is offered on flights to/from U.S., Thailand, Singapore and Caribbean.
We have reviewed Premium Economy on Norwegian Airlines.

2. Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy

The facts: 21″ seat width, 38″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Priority boarding, wide reclining chairs with footrest, the enhanced menu offering served on china with stainless steel cutlery, the snack bar on the new 787 aircraft with free snacks and drinks that you can help yourself to, the fact you can book your seat on Virgin Flying Club miles which you can collect at Waitrose and earn via their credit card.
We don’t like: The very average leg room.

3. Air New Zealand

The facts: 19.3″ seat width, 42″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Separate checkin, the look of the leather Spaceseat and the decent recline, the menu designed with chefs, Peter Gordon and Michael Meredith and complemented by premium New Zealand wines, amenity kit with Antipodes skin care pawpaw and with an avocado lip balm – more than you get on other airlines.
We don’t like unimpressive leg room.

4. British Airways World Traveller Plus

The facts: 18.5″ seat width, 38″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Jolly British Airways Biggles pilots, the menu (three-course) with options from the business class menu served on china with linen napkins and that it is easy to collect Avios at Tesco or with the Lloyds Avios credit card.
We don’t like: The lack of priority boarding, the thin seats at 18.5″ which are not very comfortable and the very average leg room.
We have reviewed British Airways World Traveller Plus.

5. Qantas Premium Economy

The facts: 19.5″ seat width, 38-42″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Priority check in and boarding, decent seat width and pitch, the menu inspired by leading Australian restaurateur Neil Perry, all served on Marc Newson-designed tableware. Food being served on porcelain tableware, 130 degree chair recline.

6. Cathay Pacific Premium Economy

The facts: 19.5″ seat width, 38″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Priority boarding, tasty food.
We don’t like: The very average leg room.
We have reviewed Cathay Pacific Premium Economy.

7. Singapore Airlines Premium Economy

The facts: 18.5-19.5″ seat width, 38″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Priority boarding and checkin, eight-inch recline with there is a calf and foot rest, and headrest and wings.
We don’t like: The very average leg room.

8. Air France – KLM Premium Economy

The facts: 19″ seat width, 38-40″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: That meals are presented in eco-designed tableware created by the Catalan designer Eugeni Quitllet, self-service buffet on longer flights, SkyPriority which is priority from check-in, security fast-track and boarding at selected airports.
We don’t like: The very average leg room.

9. Lufthansa Premium Economy

The facts: 18″-19″ seat width, 38″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Food being served on porcelain tableware, 130 degree chair recline.
We don’t like: Average seat size and leg room.

10. ANA Premium Economy

The facts: 19.3″ seat width, 38″ leg room, free drinks, free food.
We like: Priority check-in and luggage handling, Premium travellers can also use Star Alliance partners’ Business Class Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2 and the ANA Lounge at Tokyo Haneda Airport and the complimentary slippers.
We don’t like: Premium Economy meals are the same as in economy but with Business Class desserts.

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You may also be interested in my review of United Vs Delta Vs American Airlines: Which Has The Best Business Class and the best airlines to travel to Europe in Business Class.