If you're going to pay more for something, especially a lot more, it better be an extra sensory experience. You see, the idea of paying extra, just for a bigger seat, doesn't appeal to me. I want much more. I want a special check in, an extra baggage allowance, a better meal, better drinks, a much better seat and if you really want to make me smile, a lounge. Though I can't take credit for planting these brainwaves within the airlines, I can tell you which seats might well be worth the expense on your next long haul flight....
Air New Zealand:
If marketing could ever sell a seat it would be in the form of Air New Zealand's state of the art "Space Seat". The title alone does it for me. Fortunately, the full product backs up this badass seat. Oh and if you like New Zealand wine, you get a lot more of that sitting in one of these. It's worth noting that most Air New Zealand flights are very "long haul" and in my "expert" opinion, the longer the flight, the more worth shelling out.
Pre Flight: You pay a "premium" to feel special in Premium Economy and Air New Zealand reciprocates accordingly. Premium Economy passengers receive a dedicated Premium check in lane, an extra free checked bag and priority baggage handling ensuring you beat the rush after your flight.
In Flight: This is where Air New Zealand's Premium Economy takes flight with their truly inspiring "Space Seat" offering more privacy than any other "premium" product. On top of a neat seat, you receive a multi course meal from rotating highly regarded consultant chefs and a curated selection of New Zealand wines to make you forget you have twelve more hours of flying time. When you wake up from your haze there is also a nice amenity kit to help you refresh and sharpen up.
Mash together purple seats, domestic first class and Austin Powers and you end up with something along the lines of Virgin Atlantic's award winning Premium Economy. We just flew it and had a really great experience. Your benefits start at check in, but few beat the welcome glass of champagne while settling in to your seat...
Pre Flight: Every minute I am not waiting in line is worth something and Virgin Atlantic's Premium Economy features a time saving dedicated check in. Not only do you receive an extra checked bag, you also receive priority baggage handling to speed you out to your destination. If choosing seats matters to you, advanced seat assignments are also included. Nice. Some airlines don't even offer that in business!
In Flight: The flight starts off just right with a welcome glass of Lanson champagne. Premium economy offers a very civilized dining experience with a multi course menu, flatware and real glasses, not to mention a hand selected range of wine. Though there is no space technology involved, Virgin Atlantic offers a seat very much like a nice domestic first class seat with comfortable width, recline and a foot rest. If the champagne doesn't put you to sleep, the seat should. Oh, and the purple amenity kit with eye mask and beauty products should definitely do the trick.
Short of paying a kings ransom for business or first I want an extra sensory experience for my money and Japan Airlines does a pretty damn good job. Two words: lounge access. Minus the seat, Japan Airlines offers arguably the closest experience to business class without being in business class, paying for business class or having a flat bed. I'll take it, especially when departing Japan where you'll encounter their flagship top of the range facilities.
Pre Flight: A free checked bag is great, a dedicated premium economy check in is nice, business class bag tags are super, but lounge access is stellar and yes, you get all of the above. If you're departing Tokyo, Premium Economy passengers are able to access the Sakura lounge ensuring a steady flow of amenities (and drinks) from check in to check out.
In Flight: JAL has invested heavily in their new Sky Premium seat bringing an iPad sized screen, ample recline and power outlets to keep you amused on these long journeys. Though your main meal will be the same as the economy cabin, you'll benefit from better booze including a unique Brut as well as premium Shochu. Lets be honest, on a flight across an ocean it's the sleep that counts and after your Brut or Shochu, you can rest assured knowing you're seat has won awards for best premium economy design, most pitch and comfort; and for those beauty touches, the business class amenity kit is sure hard to beat. Nighty night.
If there's one thing you can count on the French for, it's culinary standards and sharp design. Ok that's two. Fortunately, when you pay more you get more with Air France's Premium Economy experience with perhaps the best ground product of any "premium" offering. It's VIP status all the way. You don't hear too many people complain about superior french wine either....
Pre Flight: Sky Priority is the highest level of ground service you can receive when flying on Air France, Alitalia, KLM or Delta. Sky Priority offers a private check in, expedited screening, priority baggage tags and a special boarding lane. Essentially, before your flight you'll experience the airport in the best way possible in a way very similar to business or first class. With perks come big egos and it's nice to know that you can bring a second bag along to fit yours.
In Flight: Softer, better, comfier, stronger. Though Daft Punk had a slightly different concept in mind, Air France's Premium Economy offers a far superior seat to those found in coach, again, much like a domestic first class seat. Anticipating your desire to avoid small chat, Air France includes a premium economy amenity kit complete with ear plugs. If standard ear plugs can't shut your seat mate up, the Bose noise canceling headphones for in flight entertainment should do the trick. Have a quality glass of French wine and fall asleep to the sound of silence.
Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you, the seat pictured directly above is in fact a business class seat. On top of skipping the regular lines, receiving better drinks and getting more personal service, another great benefit of booking premium economy is that quite often you can upgrade yourself one class up to business class. If one of these superb products pictured above won't cut it, look into using some miles to score an even better experience. If you're considering premium economy on your next long flight I would say any of the above are worth it at the right price.
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