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An affordable yet dignified way to travel long haul…

As social media may inform you, through the magic of deals, points, miles and frequent flyer status, I’m often in the pointy end of the plane. But quite often I’ll need to be somewhere at a specific time and will need book a normal cash paying ticket – and when I do, it’s economy or premium. Last night I flew from New York to London on British Airways Premium Economy, and even though it’s not one of the most highly touted Premium Economy cabins, I couldn’t believe how good it was.

Backstory

In 2011, I  traveled more times between New York and London in Economy than there are months of the year. It was manic. At the time, the rock bottom prices you’d find would cost about $750 round trip. That was for standard economy. I often paid over $900. We’re now seeing exceedingly low economy fares, often under $500, and occasionally under $400! Economy is basically half the price it was only six/seven years ago – but unfortunately it’s about half as comfortable too.

Premium

At 6’3” “size matters”. Most airlines have gone in favor of 17” wide “slimline” seats which are about as comfortable as riding your lightly padded bicycle seat to London. On top of that, legroom has been diminished beyond comprehension. But for about $800, and sometimes even far less – I’ve been able to purchase premium economy lately. Compared to standard prices of $3000 and up for business class – it’s a bargain. Would it be worth a premium of $900 or more round trip over economy? Probably not, but if it’s competitively priced like the deals mentioned above – it’s a no brainer. The seat is wide, the headrest is like a pillow, the TV is bigger and the recline … is like actual recline. In fact, the seat is about an inch wider, which helps – but the recline and legroom is about 7” deeper in most good premium economy seats.

Sleeping

I woke up over the coast of Ireland this morning absolutely gobsmacked that I slept a great few hours on the plane, without a bed (or real champagne). With a decent pillow, blanket and plenty of legroom to loft myself into recline, I not once felt the “squeeze” so often talked about in air travel today. I don’t book premium for the “food”. Airplane food is almost universally poor, so I make a point to eat before flying. I did however enjoy a nice glass of prosecco before settling in to some sleep. Another benefit of many premium economy cabins is that they are small. Fewer passengers, less noise and with curtains at both ends, it feels very quaint and with less movement, decent sleep is easier to attain.

Upgrade

Another great reason for booking Premium Economy is upgrades. Many airlines only allow upgrades of one cabin class. Therefore if you booked economy, you’d only be able to upgrade to premium. But if you book premium, you can upgrade to business. Paying $800 round trip and upgrading using points can represent savings of thousands of dollars, versus paying for business class outright.

Do you choose Premium Economy when possible? What’s your favorite?