Worth The Upgrade? Etihad Premium Economy Vs Economy


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We compare Etihad Economy vs. Premium Economy or “Economy Space” seats 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 Etihad Premium Economy. Is it worth paying to upgrade your next flight to Premium Economy?

Etihad Airways has refitted and introduced Premium Economy seats on all of its Airbus A380 aircraft, on its Boeing 777s and 787 Dreamliners next year. Named “Economy Space”, these are regular Economy seats with an extra five inches of legroom compared to the rest of the Economy cabin.

The truth is that Etihad’s Premium Economy is more like the “Economy Plus” model of US airlines, where passengers have a standard economy seat but with extra legroom. This is not like Emirate’s full-blown Premium Economy, so when they are compared, Emirates is much, much better and always the Middle Eastern Airline to choose for Premium Economy.

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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. Etihad is aiming their Premium Economy at Economy Class passengers willing to pay more. 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 usually is, but in the case of Etihad’s Economy Space seats, it may not be.

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.

The only problem with Etihad Premium Economy is that their seats are the same as those in Economy, so you don’t get extra width or recline! Are you more likely to fall asleep on an Economy Space seat? I doubt there is much of a difference in your chances on the Etihad Economy Space seat. It is the extra recline that is crucial, and these seats don’t have the extra recline required to get some sleep. The recline is the same as in Economy.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Check-in

Etihad’s Economy Space seats do not have a separate Premium Economy check-in or priority boarding over Economy, so there is no advantage between these airline classes at check-in.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Lounges

When flying in Premium Economy, you don’t get access to any Etihad lounges for free, although you can often 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

The impression of the Economy Space cabin is underwhelming. Beyond branded headrests and extra legroom, the seats match the regular Economy seating. While these seats do have an extra five inches of legroom, the width of the seat is the same, which means there is no advantage when it comes to elbow space when you book Economy Space.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Entertainment

Expect an identical inflight video screen and 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. Etihad Economy Space seats have the same food and drink as regular Economy seats.

Economy vs. Premium Economy: Conclusion

Economy Space is not a great Premium Economy product. It does not include priority boarding, pre-departure champagne, or better meals. The in-flight service is identical to that in the rest of the Economy cabin. All you get is the extra legroom. Is it worth the extra money? If you are tall, maybe, if you are 5 for 7 like me, probably not…

To book Economy Space seats, log in to your booking via Manage My Booking and click on the “Buy Baggage & Select Seats” link under “Extras”. You will be able to see the available Economy Space seats for each flight and can pay the seat selection fee to reserve one of these seats for your flight.

Note: Benefits & upgrades subject to availability. Benefits offered correct at the time of writing. Terms & conditions apply. Enquire for more information. Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor. Posts may be sponsored by the proprietor or brand being appraised. All opinions remain our own & are in no way influenced.