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9 Airlines with Premium Economy Cabins Worth Splurging On

Condé Nast Traveler logo Condé Nast Traveler 6/28/2022 Jessica Puckett

It's not always easy to tell the difference between economy, economy plus, and premium economy. But premium economy, if done well, offers more than just a few extra inches of leg room. Think of the ideal premium economy as a kind of “business class lite” option, with better meals, fancier cocktails, roomier seats, and upgraded amenities such as dedicated check-in and access to more storage space. 

The list of these amenities—and airlines that offer them—is only set to grow, according to predictions from airline analysts, especially as passengers have been seeking out more space on planes. 

A few good rules of thumb to keep in mind when deciding whether to spring for that premium economy fare: Usually international carriers and long-haul routes have premium economy cabins that offer the most perks, with newer planes like the Airbus A350-1000 and classic wide-bodies like the Airbus A380, Boeing 777, and Boeing 787 Dreamliners typically sporting the majority of the best cabins.

Here are some of the best premium economy seats that are actually worth upgrading for. 

All listings featured on Condé Nast Traveler are independently selected by our editors. If you book something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission. This story has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Emirates new premium economy cabin is designed to emulate its business-class seats. © Courtesy Emirates Emirates new premium economy cabin is designed to emulate its business-class seats.

Emirates

One of the most anticipated premium economy cabins in the sky, Emirates debuted its version of the offering in 2021. This year, the seats are continuing to roll out to more aircraft. Specifically, on Emirates' latest double-decker Airbus A380 plane, the cabin can be found at the front of the first deck. The seats are currently open for booking on routes from Dubai to Paris Charles De Gaulle and London Heathrow; Sydney will be added to the list later this summer, and Christchurch, New Zealand, in December. 

For premium economy travelers, the perks start in the airport, with a separate check-in desk, larger carry-on bag allowance, and free seat selection. Inside the cabin, Emirates invoked the same design elements as the airline's iconic business-class cabin, such as cream leather with stitching details and wood accents. Passengers also get a large throw pillow, six-way adjustable headrest, calf-and-foot rests, and an in-flight entertainment screen measuring 13.3 inches wide, as well as a dining table with side cocktail table, and charging ports. 

As for in-flight dining, expect three-course dinners served on Royal Doulton china tableware with stainless steel cutlery. Emirates always includes a dish local to the flight's destination on the premium economy menu—like Thai pepper beef with jasmine rice and pak choi. Top it all off with a complimentary glass of wine or something sparkly like the vintage 2012 Chandon—one of the array of drink selections from the business-class wine list not available in regular economy.

Qantas's premium economy seats rival some business-class offerings. © Courtesy Qantas Qantas's premium economy seats rival some business-class offerings.

Qantas

Australian carrier Qantas's premium economy cabin—available on the airline's Boeing 787 Dreamliners and on retrofitted Airbus A380s—is completely separate from regular economy with seats in a two-three-two layout. Seats are wider and have more legroom than coach, but they also feature wider armrests with storage compartments, two USB outlets, an ergonomic headrest, and a foot rest. 

The “pièce de résistance,” according to Qantas, is the seat's recline function. “As the passenger pushes back in the seat, several sections of the seat shift, not just the back," says a description on the airline's site. Instead of simply reclining backward, the seat moves forward and up, so your legs and back are slightly elevated in a more comfortable position.

Premium passengers are greeted with a complimentary sparkling wine, cocktail, or juice upon boarding. Meals are served on custom-designed tableware. Other in-flight amenities include noise-canceling headphones, large pillow, 100 percent wool blanket, and a Napoleon Perdis–branded amenity kit. Passengers in the cabin also have access to a dedicated check-in counter and priority boarding.

Passengers booked into ANA's premium economy also get airport lounge access. © All Nippon Airways Passengers booked into ANA's premium economy also get airport lounge access.

All Nippon Airways

Fliers booked in premium economy class on All Nippon Airways will receive many of the same benefits as flying in the Japanese airline's plush business class. On international flights, premium economy passengers are guaranteed access to ANA's lounges at its major airports, including Haneda airport and Narita airport in Tokyo, Osaka's Kansai airport, and the Honolulu airport. The also receive priority baggage handling. 

ANA's newest premium economy seats, found on board its Airbus A380s, Boeing 787-10s, and Boeing 777-300ER planes, have a roomy 38 inches of pitch, a leg rest that supports the calf, massive 15.6-inch personal monitor, and an adjustable reading light attached to the headrest.

During the flight, those seated in premium economy can order from the business-class drink menu, which includes curated selections of Champagne, sake, red and white wine, Umeshu plum wine, and shochu. When meal time rolls around, passengers will be served the airline's beloved dishes that fuse Asian and Western cuisine, including its homemade bread served in business class. If you're still feeling peckish, choose from an array of petit fours usually reserved for business class only. 

A rendering of premium economy class on Virgin's Airbus A350 plane © Courtesy Virgin Atlantic A rendering of premium economy class on Virgin's Airbus A350 plane

Virgin Atlantic

Onboard Virgin Atlantic's sleekly designed plane interiors, there's a lot to celebrate—like the revamped Upper Class cabin on the airline's Airbus A350 planes with The Loft lounge. Not least among them is Virgin's premium economy cabin, simply called Premium, which is available on the carrier's A330-220 and A330-300 planes, its A350-1000s, and Boeing 797-9 Dreamliners. Seats in Premium are roomy: They're up to 21 inches wide (four inches wider than economy), have seven to eight inches of recline, and up to 38 inches of pitch. Each one also has a footrest.

Premium fliers get a dedicated check-in and bag drop line, plus priority boarding. Once aboard, passengers are handed a complimentary welcome glass of bubbly. Dinner includes a starter and main course served on china and paired with white or red wine. Post-meal, passengers are offered dessert and an after-dinner liqueur served with coffee. Select flights also include Virgin's signature afternoon tea service, featuring sandwiches, tea cakes, and warm scones with jam and clotted cream.

Singapore Airlines' premium economy seats come with perks like “book the cook.” © James D. Morgan / Getty Images Singapore Airlines' premium economy seats come with perks like “book the cook.”

Singapore Airlines

Singapore, known for its over-the-top first-class suites, also has a solid premium economy product available on its A350, A380, and Boeing 777 planes.

Seats are spacious with up to 19.5 inches of width, an eight-inch recline, as well as a calf and foot rest. Each spot also has two USB ports and a 13.3-inch screen that comes with noise canceling headphones. There are also individual stowage areas specially designed for a water bottle, laptop, and headphones. While most of the seats are in a two-four-two layout, the airline's A350-900ULR planes have six single seats available, which would give the experience more of a business class feel.

Premium economy passengers have access to additional meal and beverage choices, including Singapore's famous “book the cook” service, which is available in premium economy flights out of 26 cities. This service allows customers to choose from in-flight meals created by the airline's International Culinary Panel and reserve them up to 24 hours in advance. (Note: This is temporarily suspended in premium economy due to COVID-19.) Customers also receive priority check-in, boarding, and baggage handling.

The premium economy seat on Scandinavian Airlines' A350 plane © KRISTOFER SAMUELSSON PHOTOGRAPHY / Courtesy SAS The premium economy seat on Scandinavian Airlines' A350 plane

Scandinavian Airlines 

Swedish carrier Scandinavian Airlines also has a premium economy product worth cashing in for. Dubbed SAS Plus, the cabin class is available on the airline's A330, A340, A350 planes.

Seats are laid out in two-three-two or two-four-two formations, depending on the aircraft. On flights to the U.S. and Asia the seats are larger than regular coach, to the tune of 18.8 inches wide and 38 inches of pitch, according to Seat Guru, and they come with a full leg rests and a 12-inch entertainment screen. SAS Plus fliers also have access to free Wi-Fi onboard and order from an enhanced three-course menu. 

In addition to priority check-in, boarding, and baggage handling, SAS Plus passengers receive numerous airport perks, including access to a “Fast Track” airport security line (where available) and admittance to SAS lounges, which are in every major Nordic hub, as well as Paris-Charles de Gaulle, New Jersey's Newark airport, and Chicago O'Hare.

Cathay Pacific's premium economy class © Courtesy Cathay Pacific Cathay Pacific's premium economy class

Cathay Pacific

While Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific's business class consistently ranks among our favorites, its premium economy on its Boeing 777 and A350 planes is also worthy of attention. 

Set in a separate cabin in a two-four-two layout, seats have ample space with up to 20 inches of width and up to a whopping 40 inches of pitch, according to Seat Guru. There are also full-length calf rests and leather-padded footrests on the A350s and Boeing 777-300ERs, and a larger tray table. Additionally, there's a separate mini cocktail table, which can hold passengers' complimentary welcome drink received upon boarding.

Premium economy fliers order from an upgraded menu, are given priority boarding, and have access to dedicated check-in counters at select airports.

Latam blocks the middle seats in premium economy to give passengers more room. © Ignacio Galvez/LATAM Latam blocks the middle seats in premium economy to give passengers more room.

Latam Airlines

While the seats in Latam Airlines' premium cabin are only slightly roomier than regular economy—with a bit more leg space and recline—the airline blocks out the cabin's middle seats so passengers have more elbow room. Plus, a ticket in the cabin comes with on-the-ground perks like premium check-in and premium boarding; premium economy fliers on international routes within Latin America are also permitted access to the airline's VIP airport lounge. The separate premium economy cabin is also set within the first rows of the aircraft with a dedicated lavatory and reserved overhead bin compartment for carry-on luggage. 

The separate Air Canada premium economy cabin is on many of its international and domestic routes. © Brian Losito/Air Canada The separate Air Canada premium economy cabin is on many of its international and domestic routes.

Air Canada

Passengers upgrading to Air Canada's premium economy cabin will find a wider seat with 18 to 20 inches of width (depending on the aircraft), seven more inches of leg room for a total pitch of 38 inches, a deeper recline, a footrest, a larger seatback screen, and power outlets and USB ports at every seat. The cabin is arranged in a 2-3-2 layout for a less crowded feel. The separate cabin is available on the airline's Boeing 777-300, Boeing 787-8, and Airbus A330-300 planes flying both domestic and international routes.

Meal service on flights departing North America consists of a main dish designed for the cabin by Air Canada's “culinary partner” Chef Jérôme Ferrer, as well as a side salad, bread roll, and dessert. On some flights, the meals come in a pre-packaged box, and on longer routes dishes are plated on tableware. 

On the ground, the upgraded experience affords priority check-in, priority boarding, and priority luggage handling (the ticket also allots two free checked bags).


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