Premium Economy: Not All Cabins are Created Equal

A number of international airlines have added a new class of service known as "premium economy." As the name implies, premium economy tickets offer a number of benefits not traditionally found in economy class, but fewer features than you'd find if you were seated in business class.

Because no US airline currently has a premium economy class—but many US airlines offer enhanced economy seats in the front of coach—premium economy is often a source of confusion for travelers. And that's not surprising. Not only do the offerings vary from airline to airline, but they can even vary from aircraft to aircraft on the same airline. How can you know what to expect?


Premium Economy Features

Premium economy class has several features that differentiate it from economy class and from the enhanced economy seats offered by many US airlines:

  • You'll pay more money. A premium economy ticket, which is sold as a different fare class from economy, may cost anywhere from 10% to 85% more than an economy class ticket.
  • You'll be seated in a separate cabin. Premium economy seats are more than just a few rows in front of the coach cabin. Your cabin will have its own flight attendants and will separated by a wall or curtain from the coach and business class cabins.
  • You'll have a more spacious and comfortable seat than those in coach. Premium economy seats typically have more legroom than economy class seats and recline further. You should also have more elbow room because there will be fewer seats in each row. It's not uncommon for premium economy seats to have lumbar support, a footrest and/or adjustable headrest.

Other features you may find in premium economy: Priority boarding, more frequent flyer miles, better food, an upgraded amenity kit, a power port at each seat and a personal TV screen that's larger than those in the coach cabin.


Airlines Offering Premium Economy Service

Examples of premium economy, and the name of product, include:

  • Air France: Premium Voyageur, Alizé, Seat Plus and Premium Eco
  • Air New Zealand: Pacific Premium Economy
  • ANA: Premium Economy
  • British Airways: World Traveller Plus
  • Cathay Pacific: Premium Economy
  • JAL: Premium Economy
  • Luftansa: Premium Economy
  • Qantas: Premium Economy
  • Virgin Atlantic: Premium Economy


Comparing Premium Economy Products

When you're comparing premium economy flights, be sure to check out SeatGuru's sortable Comparison Charts to help you identify the differences in in-flight amenities. Select the Comparison Charts section from the left-hand menu and choose Premium Economy Class. You'll be able to see:

  • What type of seat you'll be in
  • The seat's pitch and seat width
  • Whether the seat includes laptop power
  • The type of available in-flight entertainment
  • Whether the plane includes Wi-Fi

Flying Enhanced Economy on US Airlines

In contrast, US-based airlines primarily offer enhanced economy seating, as opposed to a separate class of service. These products include:

  • American Airlines: Main Cabin Extra
  • Delta Air Lines: Economy Comfort
  • United Airlines: Economy Plus

Enhanced economy class seating typically involves several rows of seats at the front of the economy class cabin. Seating in this section may be offered—on a first come, first serve basis—to economy class travelers with elite status as well as travelers who buy full-fare tickets. If space is available, other flyers in holding coach tickets may be offered the opportunity to sit in the preferred seats for a fee.

Travelers sitting in preferred seats within economy class may be among the first in the cabin to board the plane. The seats typically feature a few additional inches of legroom.