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Business Class vs Premium Economy: What is the difference?

how is business class different to premium economy

With many major airlines dropping First Class cabins (American Airlines, for instance) - Business Class, is their premier offering. 

Consequently, Premium Economy has become a more popular option. Airlines are introducing better, comfier seats, enhanced food & beverage menus, more elaborate entertainment systems, fancy amenity kits, favourable loyalty point schemes and - overall - a much, much more refined product than in Economy. Indeed, Emirates Premium Economy on its A380s rivals many Business Class offerings from other international carriers. Premium Economy is primarily aimed at families who want to travel long-haul well but cannot justify the greater cost of travelling in Business Class.

Premium Economy - of course - does not offer the superlative benefits afforded to Business Class passengers. As the adage goes, “you get what you pay for ….".

an indian woman sleelping in the emirates airbus 380 seat
Emirates Business Class

What is Business Class?

Business Class, designed for work and relaxation, offers comfort, restaurant-quality dining, facilities for work and leisure, and fully lie-flat beds. With excellent cuisine and luxurious amenities, it's the go-to for business and leisure travellers alike.

Airport facilities vary greatly depending on location, but Business Class travellers generally enjoy dedicated check-in facilities and security lines set away from the hordes of economy-class travellers, and they enjoy enhanced luggage allowances. Business Class lounges provide spacious areas to relax or work with a good selection of food from a buffet or à la carte menus. Some lounges offer self-serve Champagnes, beer and wines, while others provide a cocktail bar and bartender barista service.

Business Class lounges can be large spaces with seating for hundreds of guests. Facilities might include conference equipment, workstations with free high-speed Wi-Fi, and charging points throughout the lounge. Some lounges provide Spa facilities and showers with luxurious designer amenities, while others offer private sleeping rooms and daybeds. Family rooms, play areas and nursing facilities are often available for younger travellers.

Most Business Class lounges are open to eligible passengers with member airlines, frequent flyers with the appropriate membership or even pay-to-use availability.

12 Best Business Class Airlines in the World

British Airways - World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)
British Airways - World Traveller Plus (Premium Economy)

What is Premium Economy?

Premium Economy is positioned between Economy Class and Business Class. Premium Economy is usually only available on international flights as these are the flights customers will benefit most from the additional outlay of a Premium Economy ticket. First introduced by EVA Air in 1991, Premium Economy is an affordable way to ensure greater comfort with enhanced amenities and services over standard Economy Class. Ticket costs can be more than double that of a standard ticket but still far more affordable than a Business Class. As airlines increasingly opt for Business Class cabins as their premier product in favour of First Class, Premium Economy has become a more important consumer option for passengers wishing for more than Economy Class alone can provide. Many airlines offer Premium Economy, with Qatar Airways and Etihad being two notable exceptions. Still, with Premium Economy flying never being more popular with passengers, the availability and quality of the product are only likely to increase. 

27 Best Premium Economy Airline Cabins

Qatar Airways amenity kt
Qatar Airways

What is the main difference between Business Class and Premium Economy?

The main difference between business class and premium economy is the level of luxury and comfort they offer.  Premium Economy offers greater space over standard Economy Class with wider reclining seats and increased legroom, plus some added basic comforts but nothing like the Business Class experience. Some airlines may include priority boarding, increased luggage allowance, enhanced menu options or amenity kits on longer flights, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

In contrast, such enhancements are expected in Business Class, along with fully lie-flat beds, restaurant-style multi-course cuisine, sometimes created by celebrity or Michelin-starred chefs, complimentary Champagne, fine wines and excellent service. Many airlines now offer Business Class cabins with suites complete with sliding privacy doors – more akin to First Class experience or seats that convert to double beds or companion suites.  

Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge - Istanbul
Turkish Airlines Business Class Lounge - Istanbul

Key differences between Business Class and Premium Economy

Business Class vs Premium Economy: Pricing

Typically, Business Class tickets are considerably more expensive than Premium Economy tickets. The cost of Business Class tickets reflects the elevated service and enhanced hard and soft products. While Premium Economy tickets are, on the whole, significantly cheaper, prices can fluctuate dramatically depending on the flight dates and times and between airlines.

For example, a one-week return flight in Business Class from London Heathrow to New York JFK with British Airways on 19th January 2025 would cost over four times as much as the same journey in Premium Economy. A return flight to Los Angeles LAX with Delta on the exact same dates departing from London Heathrow has a difference of nearly three times the cost of the two ticket classes.

In contrast, a return flight to Singapore from London Heathrow on Singapore Airlines will be slightly over two and a half times the price difference. While a return flight from London Heathrow to Dubai on the same dates with Emirates prices Business Class tickets just over twice as much as in Premium Economy.  

a woman reading to her daughter in qatar airways business class
Qatar Airways

Business Class vs Premium Economy: Seats

Business Class Seats:

Overall, Business Class seats provide a spacious and comfortable environment to suit most travellers. Cabins are often configured with seats in a 1-2-1 layout, offering passengers good levels of privacy. Business Class seats on long-haul flights usually transform into lie-flat beds or recline nearly flat with feet and leg supports to aid comfort. The improved space provides table/desk space and cubby holes to store personal belongings. Many of the latest Business Class suites include sliding doors for complete privacy. 'Throne' seats with extra table space are popular among solo travellers, while couples and young families can often find adjoining seats that convert to a double bed, known as 'honeymoon seats.'

The difference between a good seat and a great one can turn a long-haul journey into an unforgettable experience that leaves you refreshed, relaxed and ready to take on whatever comes your way. Business Class travellers are faced with many seat design choices as airlines vie for pole position in the race to offer the best Business Class seats in the sky. Below are just a few of the best seats available today, with the promise of even more to come soon!

Arguably, the best seats in Business Class anywhere in the world are the highly-revered 'Qsuites' found on Qatar Airways' Airbus A350-1000s, most of the Boeing 777-200s and B777-300ERs and around half of the A350-900s. The innovative 'QSuites' are arranged as a quad in the centre section of the cabin. This allows passengers to travel solo, as a couple — with the adjacent seat transforming into a double bed, or as a family or small group of four with removal panels on adjacent seats and privacy doors, creating a social area and a place to dine together.

Singapore Airlines' lie flat bed in business class
Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is renowned for having one of the best overall Business Class products with bespoke seating on its long-haul fleet — among the roomiest Business Class beds in the sky. The centre seats of the Airbus A380 convert to double beds for passengers travelling together. Seats on the A350-900 and B777-300ER are some of the widest in the sky and are so spacious that a parent travelling with a small child can easily seat the child next to the adult. All Singapore Airlines Business Class seats are exceptionally comfortable.

Etihad Airway's long-haul Business Class cabins are luxurious, oozing elegant style with high-end finishes. The new Airbus A350s have a customised Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat that has to be one of the best Business Class products in the sky, offering the highest levels of comfort, state-of-the-art technology and aircraft performance efficiency. The Business Class cabin has 44 forward-facing suites with sliding privacy doors over eleven rows in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration.

No Business Class list is complete without mentioning any element of the hugely impressive Emirates Business Class. The Business Class cabins drip with flashy décor, and the new cabin on the upper deck of the Airbus A380 features Emirates' sleek new champagne-coloured leather upholstery and complimentary light-toned polished woodgrain finishings for the executive jet look, not to mention a personal mini-bar. The premium Economy cabin also deserves special mention at this point, looking more like a Business Class cabin, with stitched leather seating, wood panel finishing, and adjustable headrests, calf rest, and footrests.

a man sitting in Japan Airlines Premium Economy
Japan Airlines Premium Economy

Premium Economy Seats:

One of the main draws of Premium Economy is the added space afforded by the cabin design compared to the standard Economy cabin. Seat pitches are typically up to 18 centimetres (7 inches) longer with up to 5 centimetres more width and around 8 centimetres more recline. Still, they are generally far from the comfort of a fully lie-flat bed. Other seat perks might include leather upholstery, large fold-out tables, larger IFE screens, in-seat charging facilities, adjustable headrests, lumbar support, and footrests, depending on the airline and aircraft. Premium Economy cabins are likelier to have more seats across rows, typically 2-4-2 or 2-3-2 configurations, depending on the aircraft and operating airline. More seats may appeal to families or larger groups travelling together, but solo passengers will always have a stranger seated next to them in occupied seats.

Emirates  - The new Premium Economy cabin on the Emirate A380s is located at the front of the main deck of the superjumbo, with a total of 56 seats in a 2-4-2 layout. Three toilets have been dedicated to the new cabin. Features include up to 101.6 centimetres (40 inches) of seat pitch, 50 centimetres (19.5 inches) of seat width, 20 centimetres (8 inches) of recline and a 34 centimetres (13.3-inch) inflight entertainment screen. There is in-seat charging, a wide fold-out dining table and a side cocktail table. The seat is upholstered in "cream-coloured anti-stain leather with stitching details and a wood panel finishing similar to business class" and features a six-way adjustable headrest, a calf rest and a footrest. Premium Economy is being progressively rolled out to more destinations, including London Heathrow, Paris CDG, New York JFK, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Houston, Singapore, Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland and Christchurch.

British Airways' World Traveller Plus cabin (the name of its Premium Economy class) comes in two forms, with a more modern product found on the Boeing 787, Airbus A380 and select B777s. The seat recline is 18 centimetres (7 inches) more than in Economy, and the seat is 2.5 centimetres (1 inch) wider. Upholstered in navy padded fabric, the newer seat has a foot and leg rest, lumbar support and an adjustable headrest for added comfort. Passengers are entertained by tilting seatback HD IFE screens, and all seats have power outlets.  

Delta brands its Premium Economy as Premium Select and is available on the airline's Airbus A350, A330 and Boeing 767 aircraft. The comfortable-looking memory foam leather upholstered seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration with a seat pitch that offers 96.5 centimetres of legroom (38 inches), 48 centimetres (19 inches) of width, and a recline of 18 centimetres (7 inches). Further comfort comes from adjustable leg rests and footrests.

Japan Airlines JAL's Sky Premium (Premium Economy) fixed-shell seats emphasise functionality and privacy. The seat in front of you does not recline backwards, encroaching on your space, and the seats slide within their shell to obtain a reclined position. A 3-step adjustable footrest and an ample padded leg rest, with an adjustable headrest, add to the comfort levels. A sizeable drop-down table is perfect for laptops or dining; a neat centre divider offers added privacy.

a meal served in SWISS business class
SWISS Taste of Switzerland - amazing cuisine that changes with the seasons

Business Class vs Premium Economy: Food & Drinks

Aside from a superior hard product, the increased cost of a Business Class ticket reflects the elevated in-flight meal service and beverage menus compared to Premium Economy. The meal service is one of the most anticipated elements of air travel. It can significantly impact the overall passenger experience, with the question of quality and service frequently at the forefront.  

Business Class cuisine is significantly more exclusive and memorable an experience than the fare served in its nearby Premium Economy cabin. Indeed, it is not unusual to find Business Class airlines serving top-quality cuisine created by multi-award-winning or Michelin-starred chefs or have a full meal service served by 'flying chefs' and wine lists curated by some of the world's best sommeliers. Another perk of Business Class is often the ability to "dine on demand" from an à la carte menu, providing a fine selection of choices.

SWISS International Air Lines has the award-winning 'SWISS Taste of Switzerland' dining concept, with new menus launched every three months from renowned chefs and restaurants of the 26 cantons of Switzerland. Signature dishes showcase fresh, regional and seasonal ingredients with a modern interpretation of classic haute cuisine. Premium Economy passengers also savour a delicious regional three-course meal service.

Turkish Airlines Business Class passengers on select long-haul flights will have gourmet food prepared on board by flying chefs, most of whom have worked in some of the best restaurants in the world. Menus feature traditional Turkish delicacies and contemporary cuisine using the finest, freshest ingredients. Meals are beautifully presented on stylish tableware.

Japanese airline All Nippon Airways - ANA - has collaborated with a team of internationally renowned chefs to create The Connoisseurs – a collective of Michelin-starred, award-winning chefs, ANA chefs, and Sommeliers specialising in Japanese, French and fusion cuisine in ANA's premium class cabins. Beverages are also carefully curated by a team of experts, including Olivier Poussier, who was voted The Best Sommelier of the World in 2000 and Yasuyuki Kitahara, who became the 4th World Sake Sommelier winner in 2014.

an air hostess speaking to a woman while she is served dinner in Qantas Business Class
Qantas Business Class

Australian flag carrier Qantas was the first airline to pair with an established restaurateur in 1997 when the airline teamed up with renowned Australian chef Neil Perry of the Rockpool restaurants. International Qantas Business Class customers enjoy a contemporary selection of locally sourced seasonal dishes – from light bites to a complete dining experience upon request, with an exceptional selection of wines and Champagne.

Passengers in Premium Economy generally do not experience such lavish trappings but still benefit from an elevated meal service compared to Economy, with complimentary wines and premium brand beverages. Many airlines provide a gourmet plated meal service with quality ingredients and the ability to choose from a menu – in a scaled-down version of the Business Class service. Airlines on shorter routes may offer pre-packaged meal boxes.

For the first time, Air France is offering a menu designed by a Michelin-starred French chef in the long-haul Premium Economy cabin on departure from Paris. Frédéric Simonin is the 19th chef to work with Air France in 2023. The airline provides its long-haul Premium Economy passengers with a “signature menu” full-course gourmet meal service, beginning with a glass of Champagne and a tasty appetiser. The main course is a selection of two choices, followed by a cheese plate, sweet dessert, coffee or tea and digestif. 

Air New Zealand passengers receive a three-course meal service presented on a single tray with fresh and high-quality ingredients with a modern Kiwi twist. New Zealand wines from some of the most awarded local winemakers complement the meal service.

World Traveller Plus passengers on British Airways enjoy a complimentary glass of sparkling wine after take-off, followed by a starter, main course and dessert presented on a single tray. Other snacks and drinks are available upon request. Wines have been curated by Master of Wine Tim Jackson. A wide selection of special meals can be ordered at least 48 hours before departure from the airline's website.

Finally, Emirates pamper Premium Economy passengers with an elevated three-course meal service served on Royal Doulton tableware with stainless-steel cutlery, paired with vintage wines and a sparkling Chandon carefully curated by Emirates wine experts. Additional vintages are also available from the Business Class menu, plus delightful chocolates and liqueurs.

air canada business class meal
Air Canada

Business Class vs Premium Economy: In-flight service & Entertainment

Both Business Class and Premium Economy enjoy good standards of in-flight entertainment on long-haul flights, with large high-definition touchscreens, noise-cancelling headphones and more likely than not having the same entertainment content. Of course, the exact content varies between airlines. Many of the latest suites in Business Class offer state-of-the-art in-flight entertainment screens with Bluetooth connectivity. At the same time, both cabin classes are likely to have Wi-Fi connectivity.

Business Class cabins will always have a dedicated cabin crew catering specifically to Business Class passengers, while Premium Economy flight attendants may also cater to the Economy cabin – though this will always be after serving Premium Economy passengers.

Air New Zealand amenity kit
Air New Zealand amenity kit 

Business Class vs Premium Economy: Amenities

Designer-branded amenity kits are now commonplace in Business Class and are something of a collector's item for frequent flyers. Once something of an afterthought, modern Business Class amenity kits contain luxury cosmetics and fragrances from high-end cosmetic retailers, often focusing on the unique healing properties of native ingredients. The travel packs also have essential travel items such as dental kits, eye shades, travel socks and combs to counteract the effects of long-haul travel. Many airlines also provide pyjamas and slippers to complement the soft, luxurious pillows and bedding.

Premium Economy passengers will also likely receive basic amenity kits containing travel essentials such as moisturising creams, toothbrushes and toothpaste, earplugs and eye masks. While these kits are, on the whole, less designer than the high-end kits offered in Business Class, they still provide welcome relief from the stresses of long-haul flying. Some airlines, such as Air New Zealand, have partnered with skincare companies to produce unique and exclusive products for Business Class and Premium Economy passengers.

an airhostess standing in the emirates premium economy cabin
Emirates - arguably the best Premium Economy in the sky today!


Is Business Class worth the extra cost over Premium Economy?

The two cannot be compared as like-for-like products. Business Class offers a significantly more elevated experience than Premium Economy, which, in itself, is a significant step up from Economy Class. For this reason, Business Class is worth the extra cost, especially on long-haul flights.

Is Business Class more luxurious than Premium Economy?

Yes, Business Class is more luxurious than Premium Economy. The Business Class experience is typically far more exclusive and luxurious than the Premium Economy experience. The seats on long-haul Business Class flights generally convert to spacious lie-flat beds, the cuisine and service are of restaurant quality, and customers are often provided with luxurious designer amenity kits. Premium Economy passengers receive elevated products and services over standard Economy class but not to the standard offered in Business Class.

Do the seats in Premium Economy lie flat?

Seats in Premium Economy do not lie flat. As a rule, seats in Premium Economy recline rather than lie flat, often with the added comfort of foot and leg supports.

Are the legroom and seats better in Business Class than Premium Economy?

Yes, the legroom and seats are better in Business Class than Premium Economy. Airlines consistently push the boundaries with the design, functionality and privacy of Business Class seats, and spacious, private suites are becoming increasingly available to Business Class passengers. Premium Economy seats provide significantly more leg space over Economy Class seats – however, the cabins are busier than in Business Class, with more seats, making for a less relaxed environment.     

Can you earn frequent flyer points in Business Class and Premium Economy?

Yes, you can earn frequent flyer points in Business Class and Premium Economy. Business Class and Premium Economy tickets earn frequent flyer rewards that vary according to the individual airline. Generally, the more you pay for a ticket, the more miles you'll earn. Every frequent flyer program is unique, so always check your airline's website for the exact points allocation.

Can you use lounge access with Business Class and Premium Economy?

Business Class passengers invariably have access to comfortable and well-equipped Business Class lounges. Premium Economy does not guarantee lounge access, though some airlines like SAS offer this perk.

Are meals and drinks included in Business Class and Premium Economy?

Yes, meals and drinks are included in Business Class and Premium Economy. Gourmet meals and premium-brand alcoholic drinks, including Champagne, are significant incentives for Business Class passengers and contribute significantly to the higher cost of the tickets. Premium Economy passengers will also receive complimentary food and drinks, though the quality, choice and service will not match that of Business Class. searches hundreds of travel sites simultaneously to help you find the best premium flight offers. also compares all the major hotel suppliers to give you the very best prices in the finest hotels.

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