A very new popular way to fly on long-haul flights is in Premium Economy – this cabin class features more amenities and benefits, along with a comfortable extra-large, wide recliner seat in the sky. The Premium Economy experience has significantly improved over the past few years – many airlines began to offer this new cabin to passengers who frequently requested a more comfortable way to fly – not at a Business Class price.
Premium Economy Overview
Not all airlines offer Premium Economy – just like some airlines do not offer First Class, while most airlines offer both Economy Class and Business Class. Premium Class is meant to bridge the gap between Economy and Business Class travel – at an affordable cost. Most airlines price their Premium seats closer to Economy Class fares rather than Business Class prices. It is important to note that most airlines only offer true Premium Economy on long-haul flights.
The Premium seat varies from airline to airline, but it generally is an extra-large, wide recliner seat with more legroom. Think of US domestic First Class, but better. Premium seats do not go fully flat, but they do recline significantly more than Economy Class seats. The cabin configuration is usually in a 2-4-2 or 2-3-2 arrangement on wide-body aircraft.
A Premium ticket comes with elevated benefits and while it is up to each airline to decide what’s included, most of these tickets offer the following:
- premium/priority check-in
- two free checked bags
- complimentary seat assignment
- lounge access for a reduced fee
- priority boarding
The benefits on these tickets are correctly integrated and aligned with this class of service; some airlines may offer more benefits.
While the airport experience might be similar to that of an Economy Class passenger, the main difference is in the sky. In addition to the superb and comfortable seat, a Premium ticket will often include:
- welcome drink (water, juice, or champagne)
- dedicated and elevated menu featuring more dining options
- a drink menu with more choice than in Economy Class
- drinks and meals aren’t served in plastic containers
- more comfortable and thicker pillow and blanket
- bottle of water at your seat
- larger entertainment screen
- better quality headphones
The amenities featured on the aircraft are different than those of Economy Class, and more tailored to this premium travel experience.
When it comes to earning miles for these premium tickets, most frequent flyer programs will award you between 100% – 150% miles based on the distance flown (revenue-based programs will award you miles based on your ticket price). While Economy Class mileage earning can sometimes be 0% – 25% for the cheapest tickets, Premium tickets usually award you at least the full distance flown (all depending on your fare and frequent flyer program).
These premium tickets have been great for qualifying or renewing frequent flyer elite status because they can often be found for a great deal and award plenty of miles. For example, take the following flight prices for a round trip from London to New York:
- Economy Class: $500
- Premium Economy Class: $800
- Business Class: $3,800
- First Class: $6,500
Note that these are the cheapest prices I was able to find on a random date. The Economy Class ticket is the cheapest but will only award you 25% miles based on the distance flown vs. the Premium ticket will award you 100% miles based on the distance flown only for a price difference of $300 (in addition to a much better flying experience).
Redeeming Miles for Premium Economy
Redeeming miles for travel in Premium is tricky – that’s because not every airline offers the product, and those that do, might restrict what you can redeem your miles for. Generally speaking if you are using the miles of the airline you are wanting to fly, you obviously will be able to. However, the issues begin when you’re wanting to use a partner airline’s miles – even if that partner airline offers Premium redemptions on their own flights, more often than not, you won’t be able to use those miles on another airline for travel in Premium Economy.
Redemptions in the miles and points world have often been only focused around Economy, Business, and First Class. Premium Economy Class is a relatively new development and there aren’t any alliance-wide rules on how those tickets should be handled, so as of now, it is up to each airline. It is best to check with your loyalty program for details on how you can redeem those miles.
All in All
Premium Economy is one of my favorite ways to fly on 5 – 8 hour daytime flights, where sometimes I may want to work and don’t necessarily need a lie-flat seat or all of the additional amenities/benefits. If a flight is generally over 10 hours, Business Class is preferred – but those short hops between New York and London, for example, are perfect for Premium.
While the flying experience is significantly elevated and much better than that of Economy Class, I think one of the most powerful Premium Class benefits is the ability to earn 100% miles based on the distance flown when crediting to some frequent flyer programs, all because these tickets can often be found at a great price.