Friday, 5 May 2017

Is QANTAS Premium Economy Worth the Extra Cost?

QANTAS Premium Economy
During the many, many years David and I wandered the globe with our two sons, we would sit in the back of aeroplanes fantasising about the years ahead when, no longer needing to buy four airline tickets for every trip, we might be able to afford to travel in comfort in the pointy end of the aeroplane. Naively, we imagined the cost of four tickets in economy class would be about equal to two in business class - premium economy had not yet been invented.


We were wrong! Either that, or somebody changed the rules. Today business class on a long haul flight can be anything up to 8 times the cost of an economy ticket.  Although we have on the odd occasion tasted the intoxicating elixir of business class travel, the many thousands of dollars we save by resisting this temptation allows us to stay in some very nice hotel rooms instead. Given the choice, we would rather sleep in luxury at our destination than have a lay flat bed on the journey over. Whilst economy class has improved over the years, particularly with the introduction of the A380, it is still a long way from being a pleasant experience. This is where premium economy comes in. We fit the target profile: economy class passengers who are happy to pay a little bit more for the privilege of not feeling like livestock on their way to market.

What you get with premium economy.


More seat room 


The big drawcard of premium economy is having more space to stretch out. I could give you statistics on exactly how much extra width and leg room you get (about 15 cms) but frankly if you are anything like me it will mean very little. Suffice it to say that the seat goes back further, there is more legroom and there are a lot more centimetres from one arm rest to the other than there are in the seats at the back of the bus. You might wish you had a lie flat bed on night flights, but during the day you have more than enough room to be comfortable. 

The only real drawback is when the seat in front of you is fully reclined. For some reason it feels worse in premium economy to have your little patch of the sky trespassed on by the guy in front. The only solution to this, apart from luck, is to pre-book your seats early enough to select the front row behind the bulkhead.

QANTAS Premium Economy seats
There is more leg room but it can still feel squashy if the guy in front reclines his seat.

Your own cabin


The separate cabin, partitioned off by curtains, allows the stewards to lay on the personal service and make you feel less like one of the herd.  Expect to be greeted by name and given a pre-flight orange juice or champagne. Neither of these adds much to the experience for me but for some bizarre reason David is a great fan of the OJ. He feels very left out if he doesn't get it.


Orange juice on an A380
Orange juice anyone?

Separate check-in and priority boarding


This seems to vary according to the airport you depart from. It isn't always available at airports outside Australia. 

Better meal service


The meal service is generally more pleasant than in economy. The smaller cabin size means those in the last row don't have to wait too long for their turn. The white tablecloths, china plates and real cutlery make quite a difference but I honestly don't think the food is that much better. When we first flew premium economy in 2010 business class food was served, but that changed a few years ago. If good food is what you are after, I would go to a restaurant instead, because you are never going to get a gourmet experience 40,000 or so feet in the air.

David assures me the wines are superb - definitely his area of expertise rather than mine.

QANTAS Premium Economy food
Premium Economy food: The china plates and real cutlery are a nice touch..

Entertainment 


The screens are larger and the noise cancelling headphones are a big plus - you can actually hear the movie soundtracks. The power points and USB ports on some of the newer aircraft are also a bonus.


What you don't get with premium economy.


A lie flat bed


By far the biggest difference between premium economy and business class is the ability to recline the seat into a flat bed.  If, like David and I, you fly as a couple you might prefer the premium economy seats during the day. They haven't followed the business class trend of creating isolated cocoons for each passenger. This means you can talk to your travelling partner without having to crane your head around a separating screen. On long night flights however nothing compares with being able to lay back in a flat bed.


QANTAS A330 Business Class seat
An A330 business class seat. It converts into a reasonably comfortable bed at night.

Access to the lounge


If you want access to the lounge you will have to join the QANTAS club because this is something you won't get with your premium economy seat. Instead you get to wait at the gate, where there are never enough seats, with everyone else.

Express passes for a quicker trip though customs and immigration


Don't expect an express pass with your premium economy ticket. For that privilege you are going to have to fly business.


Is QANTAS premium economy worth the extra cost?


If you have enough frequent flyer points to splash out on an upgrade then go for it, otherwise it depends on your destination. On some routes the extra cost is so much greater than an economy ticket I would advise sticking to the back of the bus. On other routes the extra cost isn't too bad. For example, you can buy an economy ticket from Sydney to Los Angeles for about $1200, while a premium economy ticket will set you back a whopping $4400. However on the Sydney to Santiago route premium economy only costs an additional $950. Sydney to Johannesburg is equally competitive. Sydney to London is not.


Note: I have focused in this post on QANTAS premium economy because I have first hand experience of it.  I understand that Air New Zealand and Lufthansa are also quite good. Don't assume other airlines' premium economy classes will be the same high standard.

Tell me what you think. Is premium economy worth the extra cost? Have you flown premium economy on QANTAS or another airline?

Note: This is not a sponsored post. David and I have always paid our own way when flying.

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Premium Economy

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42 comments:

  1. I can never sleep on planes and long for the day when I win the lottery and can fly flatbed all the way. In the meantime, we are trying Premium Economy with Virgin Atlantic for the first time this month and I'm hoping a little bit of extra room will make a difference. Worth a try! #Wkendtravelinspiration

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    1. I would be interested to hear what you think of Virgin Premium Economy. Early next year David and I are flying Singapore P.E so I might come back and add an addendum to this post with a comparison. The one I would really like to try is P.E on the Dreamliner. It is going to start up next year from Perth to London. The problem is we live in Sydney so it might be a while before I get to try it.

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  2. I have flown in premium economy with BA and Virgin when my company paid. I would not pay for it myself. I like to say it is a lot more economy than premium. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. A friend of ours flew premium economy with BA recently and was very unimpressed. I do think it varies a lot between airlines.

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  3. I have never flown premium economy yet but hopefully can do so soon just to experience it. Though I must say qantas is not one of my favourite Airlines

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    1. I think everyone has their favourites and sadly, one or two bad experiences can turn you off an airline forever. I wouldn't fly Aerolineas Argentinas long haul again if I was paid to do it.

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  4. Many years ago I was lucky to be seated in what I suppose was South African Airlines premium economy. Larger seats but everything else was the same. For the 10 hour flight to Africa it was nice having the extra space - but had I had to pay extra for it, I don't think so.

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    1. David and I like the larger seats, probably because economy seats are so narrow and small but it depends a lot on the price. We won't pay a huge premium.

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  5. For me Premium Economy is definitely worth the extra money. The sad thing though is that when it first started the difference in price between Coach and Premium Economy was only a couple of hundred dollars for a roundtrip ticket. Now it's way over $1000 (I'm talking about the Transatlantic flights) and if you fly more than once a year .... well, it adds up. However, the oder I grow the more I need comfort on these long haul flights. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. There were some great deals on Premium Economy when it was first introduced but as it becomes more popular the price does seem to be increasing. As I have said though it depends a lot on the route. The price is quite competitive to some destinations.

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  6. I would consider taking premium economy over the cattle class seats but not at extreme price differences. On long hauls, I usually can't sleep so I pace up and down the plane. The value of the larger seat and more leg room is not as much for me as it is for others.

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    1. It sounds like you are in the same boat as us. It depends on the price. If the cost is competitive then we love it but not if we are paying a small fortune for the privilege of a larger seat. I cheat on planes and take sleeping tablets. It is the only time I take them but I am absolutely wretched if I don't.

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  7. Would be nice, just once in my life to fly in premium economy, business or first class. Just once. But then I'll probably get hooked! Thanks for linking up with #TheWeeklyPostcard!(www.caliglobetrotter.com)

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    1. Haha - that is the problem. We have flown Business Class a couple of times and it is no fun returning to the back of the bus. Then I remember how much we save and it helps a lot - lol!

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  8. We have flown premier economy and it was worth the extra. For our long haul to asia we try and fly on an A380 and get the two seats together on their own upstairs and this feels like you are being spoilt too! One day we would love to fly business class but will need to save up hard for that!

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    1. Those upstairs A380 seats are without doubt the best economy seats on the plane. They are hard to get though. David books earlier than just about anyone else on the planet and he has trouble getting them. I think they are often held back for tours or groups or the beautiful people or something. We have taken to paying the extra for the window and aisle exit row seats in the same section when we can't get the ones you are talking about. They are great but cost a fair bit. We avoid 747s as much as we can because they don't have those seats.

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  9. On our flight to Mauritius (Condor Airlines) we took the offer of upgrading at the airport for $200 each to get premium economy. It was the best $200 I've spent in a long time.

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    1. I can honestly say I haven't even heard of Condor Airlines, let alone flown it. I want to go to Mauritius one day though so I will remember the name and check them out.

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  10. I've never flown on Qantas, and it sounds like its version of Premium Economy is much classier than on the American carriers we fly. My long-legged husband is always willing to pay the extra for Premium Economy for the extra space between rows. As my sons have started hitting 6 feet tall, they enjoy it as well. I'm short, so it doesn't matter as much for me. All those other things that you describe from the upgraded meal service and the welcome drinks is something that we don't usually get in Premium Economy. #WkendTravelInspiration

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    1. There is a vast difference between airlines when it comes to both premium economy and business class. For shorter domestic flights I wouldn't usually bother. We also have a 6'2" son and he loves to complain about the lack of room in economy when we are paying for the ticket - lol!

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  11. I would love to fly premium economy on long flights but I skip it kind of the same reason. I want to be able to use the extra money on experiences on the place I am visiting. I am tall, so, economy is not necessarily pleasant for me. My husband is shorter and he seems to have no problems. Maybe one day! #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. I don't think economy is a pleasant experience for anyone but it does seem to be worse for tall people.

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  12. I usually go for the cheapest flight option. I'd rather spend the money at the destination!
    Http://www.mommatogo.com
    #weekendwanderlust

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    1. Up to a point I agree with you but I don't mind spending a bit extra to make a long haul flight at least tolerable.

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  13. Thanks for sharing. This is something I often wonder about. It's good to know that's probably not always worth the cost.

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    1. It is easy to envy those at the front of the plane when you are squashed in at the back. I would rather be with a group of family and friends up the back than on my own at the front.

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  14. I've never flown Premium because, like you, I'd rather use my money on experiences or lodging once I get to my destination. But I do fantasize about a lie flat bed - and think, someday! But when it comes time to anti-up, I never splurge.

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    1. Haha - David and I use frequent flyer points when we have them for the lie-flat beds. I don't think we have ever paid for business class.

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  15. I think its more the length of the flight - 8 hours being the optimum Max! Tossing up whether to pay the extra on Premium Economy last time I flew Australia to the UK I tried splitting the trip so spent an additional $300 on accommodation and taxis at Dubai going and Singapore on the way back - Arriving in the morning, spending the day out walking sight seeing, a good nights sleep and back for the second stint was a way more enjoyable experience and which didn't break the bank with the cost of a PE fare :)

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    1. We thought we might try breaking the trip next time too. I am just about over spending 22+ hours on a plane.

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  16. Hi Lyn. I totally agree with you. Sometimes, premium economy is worth the extra $$ or points to make your trip more enjoyable. Other times, it's priced way out of line and isn't worth the small perks that you get. Thx for sharing this info with us.

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    1. The thing that surprises me most with premium economy is the fact that it can be very competitively priced on some routes and quite expensive on other routes. Unfortunately the route we fly most often, Sydney to Los Angeles and New York City, is one of the pricey ones.

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  17. Thanks for the info. We have flown in Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines, and appreciate the extra legroom. But it depends a lot on which plane you get, too. Newer Boeing seats seem smaller, so the extra pitch is not as impressive. We have found pretty competitive pricing on some routes, too. Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

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    1. You are right about it depending on the aeroplane. We find the A380s much more comfortable than 747s. Each airline has its planes fitted out to suite its own requirements too, so for example, an Emirates A380 isn't laid out the same way as a Qantas one.

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  18. I have never flown premium economy, so I was very interested in the information you provided. I'm like you though, I would rather save on my flight and have more money when I arrive at my destination, so it may be some time before I try the upgrade. :-)

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    1. Our business class travel has been solely funded by frequent flyer points but I confess we have paid for premium economy on the odd occasion.

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  19. Never flown premium economy so thanks for sharing this to give me an idea of what is included and what point it is worth trading up to. Not on the cards any time soon, but worth knowing all the same. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. You never know when you might get the chance for an up-grade.

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  20. When premium economy is affordable, it is always my go-to choice. On a long-haul flight, it can be pretty pricey.

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    1. On short haul I don't care all that much but I do like the extra room on long haul - if we can get it for a reasonable cost.

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  21. I agree with you and often upgrade to premium economy when it's reasonable on longer flights. I'm tall so I really appreciate the little bit extra room and pampering. My dream is to fly in one of those planes that offers a separate "cabin" just for you. That would be heaven.

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    1. I have a friend who more or less lives on aeroplanes and he has experienced the separate rooms a couple of times. He says they are fantastic but there are still limitations. For example you can't have an ordinary shower. The amount of water you can use is so restricted it is more a matter of a quick soapy slash.

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