We compare Air France Economy vs. Premium Economy to find out whether it’s worth paying for the upgrade. We review the cost, seat, food, check-in, and airport lounge you’ll experience if you book Air France Premium Economy. Is it worth paying to upgrade your next flight to Premium Economy?
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Price
If the price is your biggest factor when making the decision on which class to fly in, you should probably choose to fly Economy. After all, the entire plane will get to its destination, whichever class you are sitting in. Air France is aiming their Premium Economy at Economy Class passengers willing to pay more for an all-round better travel experience and more space. Prices are competitive, and although more, they are not anywhere near the shocking price tag of Business Class.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Why Upgrade?
Following on from my comments about the price, you may wonder whether it is worth upgrading from Economy to Premium Economy at all! Well, it is. The biggest reason to upgrade from Economy to Premium Economy is to get some sleep, or at least some rest, particularly if you are flying on an overnight flight.
For overnight flights, being stuffed in a sardine-tin, with little space to move and next-to-no recline, means that sleep is difficult. Or impossible.
When I fly in Economy, I find, if I do manage to nod off, the fact that my head then droops to one side because of the lack of seat recline means that I almost always wake myself up as soon as I drop off.
The result is that you can feel pretty grotty after an Economy flight by the time you get to your destination. This matters if you are potentially ruining the first day of your trip because you haven’t spent the extra on upgrading your flight.
Even if the price is your biggest factor when choosing between Economy and Premium Economy, Premium Economy can mean that you avoid wasting a day of your holiday, which may ultimately be worth more than the price difference.
Unfortunately, the seats in Premium Economy on Air France are surprisingly uncomfortable and make it very difficult to sleep, so any extra expense on a Premium Economy ticket may not help you get to sleep at all. Many reviews suggest that there is no more chance of getting to sleep in this thin seat that lacks padding than on a seat in Economy.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Check-in
Air France has a separate SkyPriority Premium Economy check-in over Economy and priority boarding over Economy, so there is a nice advantage at check-in and before you board. In fact, Premium Economy passengers are allocated SkyPriority Zone 2, so you board the plane right after those seated in Business Class.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Baggage
You get two free checked bags when traveling in Premium Economy, which is a big bonus.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Lounges
When flying in Premium Economy, you don’t get access to any Air France lounges for free, although you can pay a hefty fee for access on booking or once you are at the airport. Alternatively, If you have not paid for Business Class or First Class, you can still access lounges at this airport for a fee or for free if you have a Priority Pass. Get an unlimited Priority Pass with the Amex Platinum card, or you can also access most Priority Pass lounges for free using the free American Express Gold with its two free Lounge Club passes. To get extra referral points and advice on these free-lounge-access cards and more, have a read of our best credit cards for luxury travel.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat Design
As an example, Air France’s 777 has 28 seats in its Premium Economy cabin in a 2-4-2 layout. The Premium Economy seats are 19 inches wide with 38 inches of pitch, 2 inches wider than in Economy, and 6 more inches of legroom. The downside of these seats is a lack of padding, which makes them fairly uncomfortable for long periods of time.
For me, the extra elbow room in the Premium Economy seats enables me to work more comfortably on my laptop. The extra recline also enables me to sleep for a short period, a crucial reason choosing to fly Premium Economy if you are flying overnight.
Positives on Air France are definitely are the extra legroom and the footrest and the extra seat width for working. But the Premium Economy seat, which is the same as that used on Aeroflot, is simply too hard to be comfortable and very, very difficult to sleep on.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat Pitch
There are around 38 inches of pitch, up to 6 inches more legroom than the Air France Economy seats.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Entertainment
Expect a larger inflight video screen and, hopefully, noise-canceling headphones.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Food & Drink
A big bonus traveling on British Airways in Premium Economy is that you get Club World standard meals (with fewer choices) served on proper crockery with a real napkin.
While Air France does not promise the BA Business Class meals to their Premium Economy passengers, expect better catering, with better main meals, drinks, and refreshments than those in the Economy cabin.
You don’t usually get offered a drink before takeoff, but once you are in the air, Champagne is free of charge.
There tend to be two choices for the main meal; a chicken and a Mediterranean pasta dish. Both come with a side of cheese, bread, ham, grilled artichoke, and melon, and a mousse cake dessert. The meal is served on china plates but looks and tastes only OK and nothing special.
Breakfast is worse, with a plastic-covered processed muffin, plain yogurt, and a sealed Minute Maid orange juice. While nothing in this meal is horrible, it is lazy when compared to the Premium Economy food offered by other airlines.
That said, the relatively small number of Premium Economy seats almost always results in a better level of service with more crew assigned per passenger, even if the food isn’t much better than that in Economy.
Economy vs. Premium Economy: Conclusion
- Width 19in/48cm
- Legroom 38in/96.5cm
- Recline 130 degrees
- Two Hold Bags (23 kg each) vs. 1 in Economy
- Dreadfully uncomfortable seats
Air France Premium Economy is not worth the extra cost. The food is not much better than that in Economy, and the seats are positively uncomfortable, arguably not much better than Economy and certainly not worth the extra cost.
The positives are the intimate cabin size, private toilets for the Premium Cabin, and, of course, the extra width and legroom, but with the uncomfortable seat, it is hard to argue that this Premium Economy is worth it.
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