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Top 5 premium economy classes worth paying for

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

Interested in premium economy? From Singapore Airlines to Qantas, Skyscanner Australia reviews the cheapest and best premium economy airlines, so you can cherry pick a luxury seat from the best of the bunch.

Flying isn’t always the most glamorous activity. Waiting in long lines to board your plane, battling with other passengers for space for your cabin baggage, then watching your knees slide into the back of the seat in front of you while you play elbow tango with your seat neighbour are just some of the many challenges that can come with flying economy class. There is, however, a solution: premium economy.

Please note: This article was accurate at the time of publishing on 15 July 2021. Before your journey, be sure to check the latest official travel advice on Smartraveller.gov.au. Some airlines featured in this article may have paused travel to and from Australia, but might be worth considering for when it’s safe to travel again.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many airlines have suspended some onboard services to adhere to social distancing and safety measures.

View out the window of Sydney, Australia from a premium economy seat

What is premium economy?

Premium economy is a cabin class between economy and business class. It’s generally found on international flights, and popular short-haul domestic trips. Typical benefits include better seat selection during booking, wider seats and more legroom, prioritised check-in and boarding, plus premium meals, services and amenities. Premium economy offers more perks than economy class, and is typically much cheaper than business or first class.

Is there are difference between economy and premium economy?

There is quite a big difference between economy and premium economy, primarily in terms of space. Generally speaking, airlines give you roughly 12-18cm (5-7in) extra legroom space, 3-5cm (1-2in) extra seat-width space, and 5-7cm (2-3in) extra seat reclining space in premium economy seats. If you like to stretch out your legs (or are just tall) and hate fighting for elbow space, you’ll find upgrading will afford you more comfort in-flight.

Many travellers want to know: is paying for premium economy worth it? Well, we’ve put together a list of the top five premium economy airlines that we think are worth paying for.

1. Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines is a powerful name in the skies, but it’s also hitting review lists as one of the best premium economy airlines for good reason. As with everything Singapore Airlines does, their premium economy service is top tier, and certainly enough to make them worth bookmarking when you use our search filters.

Cloud Forest, Singapore

Seats: Each seat offers 96cm (38in) of legroom (compared to 81cm/32in in standard economy), along with the ability to recline 20cm (8in). There is also a calf and foot rest, as well as two USB ports, a universal power outlet, an adjustable reading lamp, and more storage space. Additional perks are Wi-Fi access, a 33cm (13in) high-definition entertainment monitor, and noise-cancelling headphones.

Dining: Passengers of premium economy on Singapore Airlines can enjoy complimentary wine or champagne, and make use of the airline’s exclusive “Book the Cook” service, where you pre-order your meal before you fly. Satay in the sky, anyone?

Extra features: Passengers will also have priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling.

Read more: 8 of the best business class airlines

2. Lufthansa

The premium economy class seats on the German airline, Lufthansa, boast of being up to 50% more spacious on all sides than your average economy seat. They’re also in a separate compartment to economy seating, which is perfect if you’ve always dreamed about being behind that taunting blue curtain.

Seats: Lufthansa’s premium economy seats have around 96cm (38in) of legroom and are a generous 45-48cm (18-19in) in width. There’s a footrest, a larger 30cm (12in) monitor and more storage space.

Dining: Lufthansa includes all meals and passengers are given a welcome drink as they board. Plus, in this cabin class, you’re served your meals with china tableware and real cutlery, which is a refreshing change from the airline standard of flimsy forks and knives.

Extra features: Premium economy passengers receive priority boarding and access to Lufthansa Business Class Lounges from €25. Lufthansa gives you additional baggage allowance of two checked bags up to 23kg each and a travel kit at your seat.

Read more: Which airlines offer the best economy classes from Australia?

3. Qantas

Passengers on Qantas’ premium economy class have a separate, dedicated check-in counter as well as priority boarding, much like most premium economy classes for the other airlines. Their standout feature is the private cabin that they equip with ergonomically designed seats that have a multiway adjustable headrest. Your body will thank you after the long haul, trust us.

Man looking out the window at sunset inside an airport

Seats: The legroom and width measurements for Qantas are above standard. The space to stretch your legs clocks in at about 96-106cm (38-42in), whilst the elbow room is at 48cm-56cm (19-22in). You can also recline up to 23cm (9in) overall, and utilise the footrest. The in-flight entertainment screen is 25% larger than those in economy seating, and comes with noise cancelling headphones. USB and power outlets are provided.

Dining: Everything is gratis, and the modern menu is designed by Australian chef Neil Perry. There are a host of excellent domestic wines to choose from, and again, you can banish thoughts of flimsy plastic cutlery. Snacks and soft drinks can be enjoyed from a self-serve bar on some flights.

Extra features: Each passenger gets a travel-sized comfort kit and a hefty 40kg baggage allowance.

Read more: How to book business class flights for cheaper than you’d think

4. Cathay Pacific

Cathay Pacific has focused their premium economy class seats on legroom, and providing those tantalising extra amenities that travellers crave in an upgrade.

Seats: Cathay Pacific’s premium economy seats have 96-101cm (38-40in) of pitch, and 47-49cm (18.5-19.5in) of width. You get 20cm (8in) of recline, plus leg- and footrests. There’s a large tray table, and a smaller cocktail table when you don’t need the bigger one. Plus, you can look forward to a 30cm (12in) monitor, USB ports, power outlets, and access to WiFi (for a small charge).

Dining: You’ll be welcomed onboard with a glass of champagne and get to choose food and drinks from an upgraded menu. Cathay Pacific also offers premium economy passengers the chance to order a Betsy beer which has been brewed specifically to enjoy at 35,000 feet.

Extra features: Premium economy passengers get an additional baggage allowance of up to 35kg, either in weight or the number of pieces to check in. You’ll also get a sweet (and environmentally friendly) amenity pack.

Woman travelling through airport

Read more: 10 ways to get a free flight upgrade

5. ANA

This leading Japanese airline’s premium economy ticket holders will enjoy all the extra room they could want while flying, but in a flash of pure genius, they’ll also supply you with complimentary lounge access.

Seats: ANA’s premium economy seats offer 17% more room than their economy counterparts. We’re talking 96cm (38in) pitch, 49cm (19.3in) width, and extendable footrests. WiFi service is available on a lot of routes, and you’ll find access to USB ports, power outlets, noise cancelling earphones, and a 27cm (10.6in) entertainment screen.

Dining: The meals are the same as those served in economy class. But if you have a sweet tooth you’re in luck because desserts come straight from business class.

Extra features: One of the best extras is access to the ANA lounges, which you can access all around the world. You will also receive priority check-in and baggage handling.

FAQs about premium economy

What’s the difference between economy and premium economy classes?

Although what you’re offered in a premium economy seat varies from airline to airline, it’s essentially a mid-range option between economy and business class. Premium economy seats tend to be wider and offer more legroom. Meals and snacks are often served from an upgraded menu. The cost of a ticket in premium economy is slightly higher that the same flight taken in economy class.

Do premium economy travellers get lounge access before their flights?

In most cases, lounge access is reserved for business and first class passengers. ANA is an exception to this, offering lounge access to premium economy travellers at Haneda Airport, Narita Airport, Kansai Airports and Honolulu Airport.

Are drinks included in premium economy?

As with most flight details, drink inclusions depend on which airline you book with. Cathay Pacific offers champagne on arrival, Singapore Airlines has champagne or wine for premium economy passengers, and Lufthansa includes all drinks in the fare.

Can’t wait to fly more comfortably? Use Skyscanner Australia to book your flights, so you can see how much premium economy is worth on each airline, making sure you snap up the cheapest premium economy seats on the market. Keep ahead of the trends by signing up for our newsletter, so you know when airlines are launching new services.

We can also help with hotels and car hire, if you want to just get everything sorted quickly. Plus, use our mobile app if you’re on the go.

All of this information is useful in a world without travel restrictions. At the moment, Australians are limited to domestic flights and trips to New Zealand. Keep up to date with news about the Australian borders opening on our page, When can Australians travel again?.

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