Premium Economy was first introduced by EVA Air in 1991 and was quickly followed by Virgin Atlantic in 1992 where we saw a new cabin class emerge between economy and their “Upper Class”. The premise for this new offering was more leg room and wider seats. British Airways followed by offering their World Traveller Plus product in 2000.
But what is Premium Economy? It is a travel class offered by some airlines, positioned in price, comfort and amenities between economy and business class. It is not a term that is standardised among airlines and it is usually only available on mid to long haul flights. For some airlines the only difference is extra leg room, on others you will get more benefits such as additional baggage allowance, better meals, extra amenities and separate check in desks to avoid long queues.
Some of the major airlines which offer a Premium Economy product are Air Canada, Air France, Air New Zealand, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Qantas, SAS, Turkish Airlines (which has the biggest legroom available at 48 inches) and Virgin Atlantic. Singapore Airlines plan to introduce their version in 2015.
Aimed initially at the leisure traveller to offer more comfort for the long haul journey, Premium Economy is becoming more popular with the business traveller especially in recent times where travel budgets are squeezed more and more. With some organisations wanting to be seen as cutting costs – the Premium Economy seat is the perfect way to offer employees more legroom at a fraction of the cost.
Does Premium Economy offer value for money?
Well it’s certainly not business class, but the difference in fare between economy and premium economy can vary so much, depending on advance notice, how busy the flight is, whether you book last minute, whether airlines offer a discounted upgrade rate at check in etc.
What is noticeable is that none of the Middle Eastern carriers offer premium economy. Is it because they believe their economy product is high quality and excellent value for money?
Could it be because they can often offer Business Class fares which are better value for money than a Premium Economy fare from airlines who may operate non-stop to Asia, Africa, Australia and New Zealand?
What would rather you do, given that the World Traveller Plus fare ranges from £1069.98 to £2826.98 between Glasgow and Bangkok, with Business Class fares on a Middle Eastern carrier starting at £2025.48?
Whatever the answer, it gives business travellers and travel managers more options when it comes down to booking mid-long haul fares.