To many folks sitting in economy, those gorgeous flat bed business class seats up front feel far out of reach. If only they knew just how accessible those seats can be with a little bit of planning, strategy and miles. Well, that is of course unless their particular flight features Premium Economy. Not only does the cabin create further literal distance between the wary economy cabin and those pampered passengers up front, it creates yet another hurdle in making your way to the promised land.

a row of black chairs in a plane

“I’m sorry sir, you can only upgrade one class of service”. That’s the most likely thing you’ve ever heard when attempting to upgrade from Economy to Business Class on many leading international airlines. Premium economy is the best thing to happen to travel, because it’s a cost effective solution for improving passenger comfort and sophistication, allowing for a far more pleasant experience at a fraction of the cost for business class. It’s the smart solution for the old world frills that made international travel exciting. On the other hand, it’s the worst thing to happen, because for those accustomed to purchasing an economy ticket and using miles, certificates or cash to upgrade, it’s now the end of the road in most cases.

a seat with a table on it

Airlines have made incredible investment in their business and first class cabins, creating a cabin so exclusive that they would rather see it fly empty to preserve the prestige, than see clever folks (like myself) pay for economy and regularly find themselves up front. Premium Economy is the perfect formula for squeezing a few extra bucks out of almost every traveler looking for an upgraded experience, and throwing a major hurdle at you, me, and everyone who’ve gotten good at playing the game of collecting miles for upgrades. With a majority of airlines, if you’ve booked economy, the best you’ll be able to upgrade to in a standard situation is now Premium, and not business.  If you want to sit up front, you’ll have to buy Premium Economy, which is often a multiple of economy, as only one class of service upgrade is allowed. Of course, they’ll also continue to raise the amount of miles needed to make the next bump up to business, just to double down on you. If there is a silver lining, it’s that business deals are more common than ever. This year I booked almost every flight I needed in business for equal or less than the yearly average for economy. You’ve just gotta be quick…

two glasses of liquid on a white surface

The world of upgrades isn’t ending, but the broad doors which have welcomed us in are beginning to close. You’ll continue to see more restrictive fare classes from which you can upgrade, you’ll see more airlines institute a one cabin policy, virtually forcing you to pay for premium in the first place and you’ll see less availability, even when you do have the right ticket and miles. Is premium economy a great hurdle or a great helper? 

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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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