Paying a premium

Those in the airline-industry know were not surprised by the news that Emirates is introducing premium economy class on its 250-plane international fleet.

(alitalia.com)

What that means for travellers is, of course, an affordable option between economy class and business class.

While Emirates won’t be offering premium economy for at least a year, it’s reason for longhaul passengers to be a little excited if it’s anything like the product offered by other airlines.

I’ve been on a few premium economy flights — with Alitalia, between Abu Dhabi and Rome (although it seems not to offer that option on this route now, perhaps to fall into line with senior partner airline Etihad), and British Airways, from Dubai to London and London to Miami.

I got a great deal with the Italian carrier — at the time, two years ago, it was cheaper than full-price economy (perhaps because it was being phased out). The cabin was quite empty so, although there was a seat directly next to me, it was empty.

With both airlines, the seats were wider and there was more legroom. Alitalia gave me a small comfort pack, and both airlines had a better crew to passenger ratio, meaning a bit more attention when needed, and a slightly different (better) food option to that in economy class.

BA’s offering had similar perks, although I travelled in an old 747 to the US and, although the seat was in a separate cabin on the upper deck, it seemed as cramped as an ordinary economy seat. On the newer aircraft on the first leg, it was quite comfortable though, and well worth the higher fare.

The current Alitalia premium economy offers up to 40 per cent more leg room, priority check-in and boarding, more recline on seats and a special meal choice with premium coffee and liqueurs.

(qantas.com)

British Airways calls its product World Traveller Plus and its benefits over standard economy include wider seats with more legroom, “intimate” cabins, special meals with full bar service, noise-reducing headphones and a larger baggage allowance.

I’ve also heard ¬†good things about the premium economy seats on Emirates’ partner, Qantas, and about the Cathay Pacific product.

Of ¬†course, the elephant in the room is: will standards in normal economy class now drop? We have already heard of airlines introducing more seats into the “coach” cabin, so maybe it’s about to get even more crowded.

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