Premium Economy vs Economy

woman sitting in premium economy

What is Premium Economy?

Premium Economy is positioned between Economy Class and Business Class. 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.  

The 27 Best Premium Economy Airline Cabins

British Airways Premium Economy seats
British Airways Premium Economy 

What is the main difference between Premium Economy and Economy?

The main difference between Premium Economy and Economy lies in the seating experience. Premium Economy offers travellers more space with wider seats and extra legroom, providing a notable upgrade from the standard Economy class. Some airlines provide seats with additional reclining angles (not fully lie-flat) along with leg and footrests. You might enjoy perks like priority boarding, more luggage allowance, upgraded menu options with plated meals, and amenity kits on longer flights. The in-flight experience includes better entertainment facilities with larger screens and improved headphones, all in a quieter, smaller cabin compared to Economy.

Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy check-in
Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy check-in

Key Differences between Premium Economy and Economy

Premium Economy vs Economy: Pricing

Premium Economy tickets are - invariably - more expensive than standard Economy tickets from as little as roughly twice as much and by as much as over seven times the cost. However, prices fluctuate considerably even within the same airline, depending on the flight dates and times. Below we list some real-world prices to spotlight the price differences, using London Heathrow as the roundtrip departure point and with the same dates of travel between Monday, 8 May and Monday, 15 May 2023, with differing non-stop departure and return times. (Prices are accurate at the time of writing)

A one-week Premium Economy return ticket from London Heathrow to New York JFK will cost in the region of GBP722 with British Airways, while the same flight in standard Economy Class will cost GBP400. Virgin Atlantic will cost GBP922 in Premium Economy while the standard class costs GBP400.

Passengers on flights from London to Dubai will expect to pay GBP1,717 with Emirates in Premium Economy as opposed to around GBP593 in Economy.

A return flight between London Heathrow and Singapore using the same dates will cost approximately GBP2,262 in Premium Economy with Singapore AirlinesIn contrast, an economy ticket on the same flight will cost GBP1,123. Premium Economy flights with Qantas will cost approximately GBP2,886, while the Economy fare is around GBP1,156.

Lufthansa, operating under United Airlines, offers flights to Los Angeles LAX in Premium Economy for around GBP1,416 compared to GBP480 for the same flight in Economy.

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The above prices vary daily, and third-party bookings may prove cheaper. The search tool will help you find the most affordable Premium Economy options with the click of a button.

Premium Economy vs Economy: Seats

British Airways Premium Economy leg room
British Airways Premium Economy leg room

Most of us have experienced being crammed into a tight Economy seat, four abreast with knees touching the passenger's seatback immediately ahead, elbows bumping the seated neighbour with seats offering little or no recline and certainly no leg rests. The cabins are large, and the opportunities to have a restful flight are few and far between. Economy seats have a typical pitch (the distance from a fixed point of Seat A to the same point of Seat B directly in front) of around 81 centimetres (32 inches), and while some can be longer, in some cases, this leg space can be as tight as 71 centimetres (28 inches) on more regional flights. Seat widths are also the tightest in class, with most seats typically around 43 - 47 centimetres (17 - 18.5 inches) though some can be wider depending on the airline. The seat recline in Economy Class is limited, yet passenger comfort is significantly impaired if the seat in front reclines.

One of the main draws of Premium Economy is the added space afforded by the cabin design. Seat pitches are typically up to 18 centimetres (7 inches) longer with up to 5 centimetres more width and around 8 centimetres more recline. 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.

As airlines see the benefits and increased customer demand for higher-end Premium Economy cabins, the development and quality of Premium Economy products are ever progressing. This can only be a good thing for the consumer, and some airlines already offer seating specs similar, and sometimes better, to the old-style Business Class cabins. Below we list a handful of noteworthy premium Economy seats with many more, including the impressive new Lufthansa Group product currently being rolled out on Lufthansa and Austrian aircraft and already featuring on the SWISS Premium Economy cabins.

SWISS Premium Economy Seats
SWISS Premium Economy

Emirates offers an excellent Premium Economy cabin on the Airbus A380 at the front of the main deck with 56 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration, featuring plush leather seats with a pitch of up to 101.6 centimetres (40 inches), a width of 50 centimetres (19.5 inches), 20 centimetres of recline (8 inches) and 34 centimetres (13.3 inches) in-flight entertainment screens. Other perks include in-seat charging, a six-way adjustable headrest, calf rest and footrest and a fold-out woodgrain dining table and cocktail table. Emirates is currently in the process of retrofitting 120 aircraft with the Premium Economy product.

Airlines Articles - Premium Economy vs Economy
Emirates Premium Economy

Air New Zealand passengers enjoy luxury leather seats with 50 per cent more recline than in Economy at 22.9 centimetres (9 inches). Seats have generous 12.7-centimetre (5 inches) armrests and leg and foot supports. The seat pitch is 104.1 centimetres (41 inches), with a seat width of 49 centimetres (19.3 inches). Premium Economy is available on the airline's long-haul Boeing 777-300ER in a 2-4-2 configuration and 787-9 aircraft with a 2-3-2 configuration.

Delta brands its Premium Economy as Premium Select and is available on the airline's Airbus A350, A330 and Boeing 767 aircraft and is physically located between the Delta One and Comfort Plus cabins. The comfortable-looking memory foam leather upholstered seats are arranged in a 2-4-2 configuration with more space than the standard offerings. Seat pitch 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.

Airlines Articles - Premium Economy vs Economy
Delta Premium Select

Iberia - Most of the airline’s long-haul fleet is equipped with the new Premium Economy seat, which is in a 2-3-2 or 2-4-2 configuration. This means that there is always a middle seat that you will want to avoid unless travelling with a companion. The two seats on the window side of either aisle are always the best options. Select a bulkhead seat if you want to assure no one reclines into your space, but be aware that you’ll need to stow carry-on bags in the overhead locker for takeoff and landing. Between rows, expect 94 centimetres (37 inches) of space with seats measuring 44-47 centimetres (18-19 inches) wide depending on the plane. The seats recline 18 centimetres (7.1 inches), and there are adjustable headrests and footrests. While these are no match for Business Class, they do provide more stretching room and comfortable recline than economy class. There are convenient water bottle holders and large entertainment screens, too. 

Iberia Premium Economy
Iberia Premium Economy

Iberia - Most of the airline’s long-haul fleet is equipped with the new Premium Economy seat, which is in a 2-3-2 or 2-4-2 configuration. This means that there is always a middle seat that you will want to avoid unless travelling with a companion. The two seats on the window side of either aisle are always the best options. Select a bulkhead seat if you want to assure no one reclines into your space, but be aware that you’ll need to stow carry-on bags in the overhead locker for takeoff and landing. Between rows, expect 94 centimetres (37 inches) of space with seats measuring 44-47 centimetres (18-19 inches) wide depending on the plane. The seats recline 18 centimetres (7.1 inches), and there are adjustable headrests and footrests. While these are no match for Business Class, they do provide more stretching room and comfortable recline than economy class. There are convenient water bottle holders and large entertainment screens, too. 

Iberia premium economy entertainment system

British Airways - British Airways fly a combination of Airbus and Boeing aircraft, with World Traveller Plus available on each long-haul aircraft. Even the original iteration of the Premium Economy seat has plenty of space. It varies depending on the aircraft, but expect a wider seat – typically 18.5 inches (47 centimetres), more leg room with a pitch of 38 inches (97 centimetres), including a foot and leg rest, lumbar support, a recline of around 8 inches (20 centimetres), a small side table and headrest with adjustable wings for better resting positions. Unfortunately, many seats have equipment for the entertainment system that impedes your legroom, which makes it challenging to store carry-on bags or wiggle your feet around during the flight.

Premium Economy vs Economy: In-flight service and entertainment

Another key difference between the two classes worth considering when contemplating the extra cost of a Premium Economy seat is the enhanced in-flight service and entertainment. Some long-haul flights in Economy class are good. However, Premium Economy is a step up with features that include bigger in-flight entertainment screens with noise-cancelling headphones. Passengers will typically enjoy a wider variety of movies, television shows, music and audiobooks and access to high-speed Wi-Fi. There will often be a dedicated crew for the Premium Economy cabin. If this isn't the case, the cabin crew will always serve the Premium Economy cabin before the main cabin.

man using in flight entertainment system in SWISS Premium Economy
SWISS Premium Economy

Qantas offer shared PC Power, and passengers can make calls and send/receive text messages on the airline's Airbus A380s in-flight telecommunication service (at a charge per message or call). The IFE system contains the latest movie releases, TV box sets, audiobooks and more. In addition, passengers can view thousands of hours of entertainment by downloading the Qantas Entertainment app on their own devices.

Austrian Airlines provides passengers a welcome drink on boarding and a bottle of water from the attentive crew. Premium Economy passengers receive noise-cancelling headphones with 12-inch in-flight entertainment screens (30.5 centimetres) containing over 350 hours of feature films, television series, documentaries, and music. Each seat has power outlets, charging ports, and an IFE screen hand controller.

Airlines Articles - Premium Economy vs Economy
Austrian Premium Economy

British Airways brands its Premium Economy as World Traveller Plus, offering a separate cabin with fewer seats, more space, and a more restful environment than an economy World Traveller cabin. Passenger seats have a tilting HD IFE screen and noise-cancelling headphones to enjoy the extensive library of the latest new release movies, TV programmes, documentaries, music, audiobooks and games to keep all the family entertained. Seats also have power adapters to keep individual devices powered throughout the flight. 

SWISS, with its all-new Premium Economy seating, also boasts a large state-of-the-art 15.6-inch (39.6 centimetres) IFE screen containing contains the latest Hollywood films, TV series, music playlists, podcasts and audiobooks. Children are also catered for with a large selection of games, films, cartoons, and the SWISS Kids music playlist.    

British Airways Amenities pack
British Airways Amenities pack

Premium Economy vs Economy: Amenities

While passengers in Economy Class will receive a sealed blanket and pillow and basic headphones for watching the in-flight entertainment, Premium Economy passengers will likely get a product upgrade – softer, more luxurious feeling blankets, larger and more supportive pillows, better quality headphones, access to Wi-Fi, and an amenities kit containing the essentials to make the journey more comfortable such as a mini toothbrush and toothpaste, ear plugs, eye mask and moisturising creams. Some airlines offer the same amenities kits as Business Class, including designer-branded products and collectable kit bags. Premium Economy cabins will have exclusive use of lavatories, and on the ground, benefits may include increased baggage allowance, speedy boarding, and access to airport lounges.

Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) brands its Premium Economy as SAS Plus and offers its passengers a decent Premium Economy product, including free Wi-Fi, which operates at a reasonable speed. Add to that additional benefits such as fast-track security and use of SAS airport lounges throughout Scandinavia and farther afield, including New York Newark airport and Chicago O'Hare.   

Finnair is one such airline to offer Premium Economy passengers versatile designer amenity kits by Finnish design house Marimekko. These stylish collectable pouches come in various designs and colours and contain L:a Bruket almond/coconut softening lip balm, chamomile/lavender moisturising face cream, and a sleep mask designed by Marimekko and earplugs and a toothbrush. 

American Airlines Amenity Pack
American Airlines Amenity Pack

 American Airlines offers international Premium Economy passengers speedy check-in, security, and boarding. In the air, passengers are handed amenity kits from its partnership with respected designer and lifestyle brands Shinola and D.S & Durga. The kits contain the same contents as those provided to passengers in Business Class, but the bags are slightly smaller. Expect a comfy pair of flight socks, a face mask, tooth brushing kit, ear plugs, moisturising cream and even a branded pen.

Air France Inflight Dining
BA inflight dining

Premium Economy vs Economy: Food and drinks

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. And there are significant differences between Economy and Premium Economy, which may be enough to sway the pendulum towards a Premium Economy ticket. Economy class typically offers a limited selection of pre-packaged meals, usually including a vegetarian option and a small range of snacks and drinks. On the other hand, Premium Economy passengers are likely to receive complimentary drinks, including premium brand alcoholic beverages and a gourmet plated meal service with quality ingredients and the ability to choose from a menu. This will not be on par with the extremely high standards of the Business Class cabin but is a significant premium step up from Economy.

Virgin Atlantic offers one of the best in-flight meal services in Premium Economy. Choose from a selection of hot dishes served on stylish chinaware and enjoy post-meal treats such as afternoon tea or a tempting range of snacks from the Wander Wall for those peckish moments. Passengers are first welcomed aboard with a glass of fizz or orange juice, while a comprehensive selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are available once airborne. Sample dishes from the menu include BBQ pulled pork and, spinach & ricotta tortellini. Accompany the male with a white, red, or rose wine option or enjoy a tasty Brewdog beer or Cobra lager on select routes.    

All Nippon Airways (ANA) has an excellent Premium Economy service, with drinks available from the Business Class menu, including Champagne, high-quality sommelier-curated red and white wines and Japanese sake. The cuisine has been expertly created by the airline's "Connoisseur" master chefs. Premium Economy passengers can also enjoy the homemade bread and petit fours typically served in the Business Class cabin. Sample dishes include Japanese-style beef & pork hamburger, steak, deep-fried chicken with Soy-based sweet sauce and grilled chicken Teriyaki over steamed rice. Menu options will vary depending on the route.

JAL Inflight Dining
JAL Inflight Dining

Singapore Airlines is well known for its superb customer service, especially in Business Class and First Class. Premium Economy goes a long way to reaching those same high standards, not least from Premium Economy passengers having access to the acclaimed "Book the Cook" service available on flights from 27 cities, including London, New York, Paris, Tokyo, and Sydney. Alternatively, passengers can select from a choice of three delicious meals onboard. Meals have been specially created to reduce insulin spikes, aid digestion, and help passengers to feel fuller for longer.

Air France combines quality and originality with a quality 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. Wines have been carefully selected by Paolo Basso – voted 2013's best sommelier in the world. A second light snack or breakfast is served on longer flights before landing.  

Airlines Articles - Premium Economy vs Economy
Air France Premium Economy

JAL –  inflight menu varies according to the route. Passengers flying long-haul including the USA, Europe, and Oceania can enjoy a menu from the Sky Wellness Kitchen and Tanita Café - a concept cafe which promotes mental health, with dishes designed to ‘please the body’ including a salmon and millet short pasta bowl. Premium Economy passengers can enjoy Champagne (Vollereaux Brut Reserve N.V.), wine (JAL has its own range of wines blended using five different French grape varieties created by Okoshi Motohiro), beer, Japanese sake and Japanese shochu (a distilled liquor that is more popular than sake in Japan), whisky, gin, vodka, brandy, and plum wine. There are juices (including JAL’s signature Skytime peach and grape mix), soft drinks, tea (including Ayataka, a Japanese cooled-green tea) and coffee. 

Airlines Articles - Premium Economy vs Economy
JAL Premium Economy

Economy vs Premium Economy on International Flights

Premium Economy is usually only available on international flights. With the extra time in the air, these are the flights that customers will gain the most benefit from the additional outlay of a Premium Economy ticket. The aircraft supporting Premium Economy cabins are typically newer and wider, such as the Airbus A330s, A340s, A350s, and A380s and Boeing 777s and 787 Dreamliners. There will, of course, be exceptions to this, depending on the airline. Added benefits on the ground may include increased baggage allowance, preferential check-in lanes and speedy boarding, and only occasionally, access to airport lounges. Other perks are likely to include earning bonus points/miles and less of a hit to redeem points for an upgrade from Economy compared to an upgrade to Business. Many airlines offer a bidding system for cash upgrades.

two women chatting in British Airways World Traveller Plus, Premium Economy
British Airways World Traveller Plus, Premium Economy

Is Premium Economy Worth it?

Premium Economy is worth the additional cost for some more than others. It is a more subjective test than asking the same question of a Business Class upgrade, which simply means upgrading if you can afford it.

If more seat space and basic added comforts are essential to an individual who cannot afford the cost of a Business Class ticket, then the answer is yes. If a customer thinks they will receive an elevated service more akin to a Business Class cabin, then the answer is no, because that is not what they will receive.

Flight times and dates of departure can have a considerable impact on the added cost of upgrading. Do your research and consider alternative airlines which offer better deals.

Airlines are increasingly embracing the appeal of Premium Economy cabins and ever-improving the product. And just with the battle to secure Business Class customers, consumers might ultimately be the winners with a viable, more affordable alternative.

ANA Premium Economy Check-In
ANA Premium Economy Check-In

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Business Class Vs Premium Economy: Difference Explained



Premium economy can cost twice to three times as much as a basic Economy ticket but look out for those price spikes. We found prices up to seven times that of a standard ticket, with the same airline offering tickets at twice the cost on a different day of travel.

It depends on your preferences and budget. Premium economy offers more comfort and better service than economy, but at a higher cost. Decide based on your priorities and willingness to spend.

Yes, seats in Premium Economy are larger than those in Economy – Both in width and available legroom.

The legroom is typically much better in Premium Economy with added footrests, and sometimes the seats are made from more luxurious materials (Emirates as an example), but only sometimes.

Yes – As a general rule, the more you pay for a ticket, the more miles you'll earn. Check with the airline before flying to see precisely what you'll earn.

Premium Economy does not guarantee lounge access, though some airlines like SAS offer this perk.

On long-haul flights, meals and certain drinks are included in both classes. Premium Economy will also offer complimentary premium alcoholic beverages outside of meal service.

Economy Plus is generally a seat towards the front of the main cabin with added legroom. It is positioned as a product between Economy and Premium Economy and priced accordingly. There is sometimes more ticket flexibility.  

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