Travelore Tips: Premium Economy Seats Worth The Upgrade
Virgin Atlantic launched the "premium economy" concept in 1992 to woo cost-minded business travelers—and the service hasn't changed much in the decades since. Not that that's a bad thing; the dedicated check-in and bag drop ensure exclusivity from the very beginning, and the purple leather seats boast a width of 21 inches, one of the biggest in the business. The airline also offers some of the best Premium Economy dining options, including a multi-course meal and after-dinner drinks.
Courtesy Virgin Atlantic
If you need a cocktail to help you relax during a flight, Japan Airlines's Sky Premium class has you covered: The expanded beverage selection includes champagne, sake and sochu, among other offerings. This is in addition to the the TUMI amenities kit and the unique slide-down seat design inside individual shells, which prevents passengers in front of you from reclining into your lap. The perks start well before you board: pre-boarding lounge access is included.
Courtesy Japan Airlines
The airline's recently updated World Traveler Plus cabin now includes more comfortable seats outfitted with greater recline capacity and adjustable head- and footrests. Noise-canceling headphones and a fleece blanket only add to the comfort level. Plus, the entire dining experience has been improved: A three-course lunch or dinner includes some items from the business class menu, as well as snacks and cocktails. And if that's not enough, meals are served on actual china.
Courtesy British Airways
A team of Australian hospitality experts is involved in the high-quality (and chic) premium economy experience aboardQantas. The cabin's wide seats also have a pitch that ranges from 38 to 42 inches; they come with adjustable ergonomic headrests designed by Marc Newson and built by Recaro. And menu, designed by chef Neil Perry, is complemented by fine Australian wines. There's also a self-serve snack bar as well as beverage service throughout the flight, starting with a welcome drink.
Air New Zealand
Known for being one of the most innovative airlines in the world (have you seen the epic Hobbit-themed safety video?), Air New Zealand's Premium Economy Spaceseat (available on its 777-300 aircraft) is otherworldly. The stylish, white leather seat (outfitted into its own shell) is quite striking: It has two center seats, which allow passengers to face each other over an extra-wide armrest. It's perfect for traveling couples, who can enjoy a dinner date at cruising altitude.
Every trip on Cathay's Premium Economy cabin starts with a hot towel and a glass of bubbly (or juice, if you so prefer), hinting at the enhanced food service for the flight (including tasty meals and a variety of snacks). The seats, which have an eight-inch recline, end on either legrests (if you're in the front row) or three-position footrests. Amenities like noise-canceling headphones, fancy bathroom soaps, eco-friendly amenities, and the oversized pillows add to the luxurious experience.
Courtesy Cathay Pacific
A dedicated check-in desk plus priority baggage handling at the destination streamline the pre- and post-flight experience when you've booked a Classica Plus ticket. The ergonomic seats are fairly wide at just under 19 inches, and the leg rests and 120-degree recline add to comfort of the product. Because you're flying Italian, the food and beverage perks are delicious: You're served a welcome drink, a traditional antipasto, and Italian wine, before capping the meal off with a shot of espresso.
The lesser-known sister airline to British Airways only has one route: New York City (from either JFK or Newark Airport) to Paris' Orly Airport and back. Its Premium Plus category is all about intimate luxury thanks to a 2:2 configuration. The seats—with chic leather accents—recline to a comfortable 130 degrees. With the 47" pitch, it's difficult to find a more spacious premium economy seat flying the friendly skies. Bonus: Everyone on the plane has access to an entertainment-packed iPad.
Like JAL, ANA offers premium economy travelers lounge access in Tokyo plus in several airports in the U.S. and Europe. In the air, you'll be treated to seats that are nearly 20 inches wide, with both lumbar support and a foot rest. The meal service is technically the same as what you would get if you flew economy, but there are added treats such as red and white wine plus dessert from the business class menu. Don't forget to sift through the amenities kit; slippers are included.
Now that Thai Airways has ceased flying through the U.S., American travelers looking to board the airline have to get Europe first, with the most convenient connections via Scandinavia. Flights from Stockholm or Copenhagen to Bangkok are selling the last five rows of the business cabin on a Premium Economy ticket, meaning you get to travel the 11-hour flight in a lay-flat seat with the airline's economy service. Pricing here is roughly half the business rates and won't include the fancy dining options, which shouldn't be a big deal if you're spending most of the time sleeping.
Courtesy Thai Airways
Contributed by Chadner Navarro, www.cntraveler.com