a seat in a plane

Upgrades from economy to premium economy can be cheap and they can totally be worth it. Know that! It’s totally fine and good to buy these upgrades if you value a bit of extra space.

You just might not need to. More than ever, premium economy is being priced at such small margins over economy, it can make perfect sense to book premium from the get go. There are also a few reasons that can be extra beneficial for even better upgrades.

The magic upgrade in long haul travel is the upgrade from a seat to a fully flat bed, and that’s not one that economy to premium brings, but it is one that you can achieve with a move from premium to business class.

Here’s how to approach flight upgrades in 2022 and beyond, with travel chaos and changing perks galore.

a row of seats in an airplane

Economy To Premium Upgrades: Fees

Most countries define premium cabins as those in front of a curtain. Many countries now charge higher passenger fees for passengers who sit in these premium cabins. The fees cover things like airport facilities, immigration and infrastructure.

That curtain rule is mildly bad news, because it means an upgrade from the economy cabin to the premium cabin becomes more expensive as the new fees are added. You are crossing through a curtain, so you pay higher government fees.

An upgrade can totally still be worth it, but you’re basically getting hit with a bunch of extra fees on top of whatever the airline wants to charge for the better experience in premium economy.

What you should do…

It’s imperative to look at the difference in price between economy and premium before you book either, to get a ballpark on what a “good” upgrade price would be.

If the difference between economy and premium for a round trip is $500 versus $800 — you’re effectively paying $300 for a round trip upgrade.

It’s unlikely that even a one way upgrade to premium would go for less than $250 if you were to book economy from the start, so locking in a better experience round trip for just $300 or $400 more, could make a lot of sense.

a bed in a plane

Premium Economy Can Open Up Beds Too

Most airlines offer upgrade opportunities with miles from premium to business class. Few airlines offer upgrades from economy to business class. Upgrades from seats to beds are total game changers on long haul or overnight flights.

Cash price differences between premium and business class can be much wider than economy and premium, and that makes these elusive upgrades even more worthwhile with points.

The difference between economy and premium might be hundreds, but the difference between premium and business is often thousands.

Here are some of the best upgrade opportunities out there, from airline to airline. Upgrades can cost as little as 15,000 points one way from premium to business class, and can save thousands in cash if you work the system.

By booking a premium economy ticket outright, upgrades using miles and points can move you into business class right away if you play things cleverly. Since you’re already in front of a curtain by booking into premium economy, there’s typically no extra fees to pay either.

Airlines may still add modest surcharges, but there won’t be any further government imposed charges from premium to business class, which should keep the cash costs for any upgrades pretty low — and the upsides of business class very high.

a seat in an airplane

More Points For Premium Anyway

Booking premium economy from the start guarantees more than legroom, priority services and a quicker exit off the plane. Premium economy earns more miles and elite status credit with most programs, which helps perks stack up faster.

For people traveling with bags, premium typically includes at least one and often two, so any difference in price between economy and premium may be further justified by the savings from the checked baggage allowance.

Look Before You Book

Looking for a takeaway? Look no further, just look before you book.

Before booking a flight, look at the difference in price between economy and premium, and take things a step further by looking to see if any flights that work with your travel schedule happen to have upgrades available.

If they do, you can book premium and instantly upgrade to business one way, or round trip and lock in massive savings versus paying cash. Either way, you’ll earn more points and enjoy a comfortable flying experience.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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