Premium economy is not a new concept, but for many airlines it’s a brand new “product”. As major airlines seek to compete with low cost carriers on price by densifying economy cabins – aka making margins in the back borderline unbearable – the cabin in between the pointy end and the back has become increasingly hallowed ground, and for travelers, better value than ever. Many airlines launched “true” premium economy cabins in 2018, which makes this the year the best year to play around. Here’s why you care…
There’s no telling how long it will last, but for now – premium economy is being priced at levels similar to what would’ve been considered the very best economy cabin prices only years ago. In 2015, paying $700 for a transatlantic economy ticket, or $900 for a transpacific economy ticket would’ve been entirely palatable, and many would’ve considered these prices a total steal. If you look at offers currently available as of today on some of the world’s best premium economy setups, you find…
- $950 San Francisco to Hong Kong Premium On Singapore Air Round Trip.
- $666 Dublin to New York Premium On British Airways Round Trip.
- $823 Los Angeles to Shanghai On Delta Premium Select Round Trip.
- $770 Kuala Lumpur To Tokyo On ANA Premium Round Trip.
There’s no sign of things changing anytime soon. Mainland Chinese airlines are launching by the day and new low cost startups are flooding markets throughout Europe, South America and the USA, with innovative looks at a more premium experience. More competition = lower prices to come.
Most travelers, even luxury travel focused executives, tend to agree that a day flight in premium economy is plenty palatable. For the price, many corporate and personal travel policies certainly prefer it. Despite the occasional flash sale in the $1000’s, business class beds still retail beyond $3000 for most long haul routes and bridging the gap with a product that’s essentially as nice as short haul first class (or better) with enough space to work, type and stretch out within reason is the new frontier.
Increased competition has not only brought lower prices, but much better premium economy experiences, too. Select airlines, including ANA even provide lounge access and fast track passes for premium economy customers. Virtually every leading premium economy cabin allows priority boarding, additional checked baggage (which helps justify cost) and improved food and beverage programs; but now airlines are separating themselves with high end headphone partnerships, exclusive amenity kits as well as improved bedding and pillows.
Though premium prices are impressively low and represent great value, they regularly demand twice the going rate of great discount economy fares, which leaves many travelers wondering – why bother? The answer: a vast majority of airlines only allow upgrades to the next cabin. Buy economy, the farthest you can go is premium – but buy premium and you’re a few miles or credit card points from business. And yes, you’ll almost always earn more miles back too.
For those forced to adhere to the constraints of their wallets, or picky corporate travel policies, a great deal on premium economy is one of the best ways to fly business – provided you’ve been a clever traveler (or spender) and have collected miles along the way. Extremely low premium fares from Europe to the US currently allow travelers to fly business from $660 and 40,000 miles round trip by buying premium for $660 and upgrading using miles. That’s extraordinarily good value.
Featured image: Virgin Atlantic A330-200 Premium Economy.