The Airline Upgrade Dilemma: Economy vs. Premium Economy

The Airline Upgrade Dilemma: Economy vs. Premium Economy

When it comes to air travel, the class you choose can make or break your journey. Whether you're a budget-conscious traveler or a luxury-seeking jet-setter, the decision between premium economy and economy can be a tough one - and there’s more to it than just the price! 

Before we dive into the nitty-gritty details, let's first define what we mean by premium economy and economy class (because it’s not always obvious!)

Premium economy is a hybrid between economy and business class, offering a step-up in comfort and amenities without breaking the bank. You’ll have a more comfortable experience that includes additional legroom, improved in-flight entertainment, meal options, etc. but without the eye-watering price tag of business class.

Economy class, on the other hand, is the most budget-friendly option, with fewer frills but still providing the essentials for a safe and comfortable flight. 

Think of premium economy as a way to upgrade your flight experience, while still keeping costs reasonable. It's a great option for travelers who want a little extra comfort, but don't want to splurge on a business or first-class ticket. Economy class, on the other hand, is perfect for budget-conscious travelers or those who prioritize cost over comfort.

Sit Back and Relax: Comparing Comfort and Amenities

Premium economy is not a huge upgrade from economy class, but does offer a few extra perks to make your flight more comfortable. One of the biggest differences between premium economy and economy is the seating and legroom. 

In premium economy, you can expect more spacious seats with extra legroom, making those long haul flights a little more bearable, especially for taller passengers and those with back or joint pain. While in the economy, seats are narrower and have less legroom, but are still comfortable enough for short to medium flights.

But comfort isn't just about legroom, it's also about convenience and the in-flight experience. Premium economy typically offers at least 2 checked bags, priority boarding, a smaller cabin, and amenity kits. Plus, you get more meal options and better in-flight entertainment. So, you won't have to settle for a sad, dry sandwich and a terrible movie.

And let's not forget about those little extras that can make all the difference. Premium economy often offers goodies like noise-canceling headphones, blankets, and pillows. So, you can arrive at your destination feeling fresh and well-rested, instead of feeling like you've just been through the wringer.

Breaking Down the Cost: Is Premium Economy Worth the Extra Bucks?

Now, let's talk about the elephant in the room: cost. You might be wondering, how much more expensive is premium economy compared to the basic economy class? Well, it all depends on the airline and the route, but on average, you can expect to pay around 1.5-3 times more for premium economy. 

For example, if an economy class ticket costs $500, a premium economy ticket for the same flight could cost anywhere from $750 to $1000. But before you start counting your pennies, let's see if it's worth it.

First, think about your travel style and budget. If you're all about saving money and have no problem sitting in a cramped seat for hours, then economy might be the way to go. But, if you're the type of traveler who values comfort, extra legroom, gourmet meals, or just traveling with more luggage, then the extra cost for premium economy might be worth it.

And don't forget to consider the length of your flight. If it's a short hop across the country, the extra cost for premium economy might not be worth it. But, if you're flying across the ocean for 10 hours or more, the extra comfort could make all the difference, especially on overnight flights. 

Fly More, Spend Less: How Premium Economy Affects Frequent Flyer Programs

The type of class you fly in can make a big difference in your frequent flyer status. Flying in premium economy may cost a little more upfront, but it can pay off in the long run with added frequent flyer benefits. And who doesn't love free upgrades and extra perks?

​​Frequent flyer programs reward travelers for their loyalty to a specific airline. The more you fly with them, the more miles you earn and the closer you get to elite status. Elite status means more perks, such as free upgrades, priority boarding, and access to exclusive lounges.

So, what's the catch? Usually, the more expensive the ticket, the more miles you'll earn. This is where premium economy comes in. While it's more expensive than economy class, it's often less expensive than business class. And, despite being a lower class than business, you'll still earn more miles than you would in economy.

For example, let's say you're a member of Delta's SkyMiles program. If you book a round-trip ticket from New York to Paris in economy, you'll earn a total of 5,510 miles. But, if you book the same trip in premium economy, you'll earn 6,930 miles – that's an additional 1,420 miles!

Another example is American Airlines' AAdvantage program. If you book a round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to London in economy, you'll earn 7,020 miles. But, if you book the same trip in premium economy, you'll earn 8,880 miles – that's an extra 1,860 miles!

Keep in mind, every airline's frequent flyer program is different, so it's a good idea to check out your specific airline's program to see how premium economy class affects your benefits. In general though, flying in premium economy can help you fly more and spend less on future trips.

Who has the best premium economy cabin?

The airline industry is constantly evolving and improving their premium economy offerings. But if you're looking for the crème de la crème of premium economy, then look no further than Emirates and Cathay Pacific. Emirates' premium economy cabin offers fully-reclining seats, gourmet dining, and ample legroom, making it a top pick for luxury-seeking travelers.

And let's not forget about Cathay Pacific, whose premium economy cabin boasts spacious seats with extra legroom, and a range of dining options, including dim sum and congee. It's no wonder that Cathay Pacific's premium economy has an almost permanent spot on the award boards.

Premium Economy vs. Business Class

So, you've got some cash to burn and want to upgrade your flying experience. The big question is, do you settle for the middle ground with premium economy, or go all out with business class?

Well, premium economy is like the Lexus of flying. It's not as fancy as business class, but it’s comfier than a Civic (aka economy).

While business class is like the Rolls-Royce of flying. You get to stretch out on a flat-bed seat with fluffy bedding, chow down on gourmet food curated by a fancy chef, lounge around like a boss at the airport. And if you're lucky, you might even get your own private cabin with aisle access, a privacy barrier, and a chauffeur to drive you to the airport (because walking is so yesterday). Oh, and those noise-canceling headphones? Standard issue in Business Class.

So, how do you score a deal on these fancy flying options? Easy-peasy: book in advance, be on the lookout for sales or promotions, and join the club to get notified about discounts. If you're feeling lucky, you can even try bidding for an upgrade, but we’re not making any promises there. 

Most importantly, do your research on different airlines, because the quality of these classes can vary greatly between airlines. It can sometimes be like comparing a 5-star hotel to a Motel 6.

We've put together a guide to give you a better understanding of the differences between business and first class. We've even done the research for you and compared different airlines' products, so you don't have to!

At the end of the day, the choice between premium economy and economy class is all about what works best for you. It all comes down to your personal preferences and travel goals.

If you’re looking for added comfort and amenities, premium economy is the way to go. However, if you’re more focused on saving money, economy class may be a better fit. Whichever class you choose, happy travels!

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Still have questions? Feel free to drop us a message on [email protected] and we'll be happy to help.

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