Premium Economy – The New Oxymoron of Air Travel

Premium economy cabins are now in many major airlines across the world. This all started about 20 years ago with Eva Air and their economy premium product called Evergreen Deluxe. They created a cabin with a 38 inch pitch, separate check-in counters at the airport and a special meal just for the Evergreen Deluxe passenger. It was nowhere near business class but it certainly made you feel better on long journeys and travelling in economy. I think they struck a good compromise and clearly Eva started a trend that still keeps getting bigger.

Virgin Atlantic Soon followed suit. Their premium economy offering was a little bit more fun with a glass of champagne before take-off, separate meals. dedicated check-in areas and an overall experience that was really a class above economy.

The success of these two carriers’ pioneering efforts led to other airlines following suit. British Airways seemed a little bit scared that they would be jeopardizing the loss of their business class passenger so they made it quite clear from the get go this is still economy class. They don’t provide anything extra other than the seat being slightly larger, a special meal and a dedicated check-in counter. It’s not the best product.

Air Canada has a 37 inch pitch , Air China ranges 36 to 37 inches, Air France is at 38 inches and New Zealand is at a whopping 42 inches. Meanwhile All Nippon Airways offers 38 inches, Cathy Pacific has 38 inches, Eva has now increased theirs to 40, Japan Airlines comes in with a brilliant 42 inches and Qantas offers a fairly standard 38 inches. Turkish Airlines has a great product in premium economy but they only offer it on certain routes and the carrier has been making noise about replacing it altogether.

Air New Zealand surpasses all of other carriers as of today. Not only do they have the largest seat pitch which is 42 inches (tied with Japan Airlines) but they also feature up-to-date technology. Their seats can face each other so you can dine with the person sitting next to you or they can be separated so that you have the feeling of being in your own individual seat. The cabin’s slick white décor gives a freshness and a spacious feeling to make New Zealand’s premium economy feel like a top class product.

With many airlines cutting first-class in favor of just a business class offering, premium economy will be the future of air travel. And why not, this is an affordable way to have a little bit more space and feel a little bit more special on a long overseas without having to spend $5000 or more per ticket.

In my opinion premium economy cabins will be on the rise. Longer flights with bigger aircrafts means more time on a plane and airlines will have to step it up. I believe airlines will have to make being onboard a nicer experience just like Virgin Atlantic and Air New Zealand already do. It’s about making the passenger feel that they are actually getting a great meal and great service. For as much as I like my layflat beds in business or first, it’s not always about the space , it’s also about the experience. Remember it wasn’t that long ago that the Thai Airways business class offered a 38 inch seat pitch.

Most of us have great, memorable flights when the crew are friendly and make it enjoyable for us. So with the right attitude and the right product mix, premium economy can be make us feel like we’re being pampered and help us to enjoy the journey.

I don’t believe airlines will compromise their business and first class passengers as there’s just too much revenue earned per mile by these premium products, but if the carriers can increase the average ticket price paid by tourist travelers and those business flyers on a budget by simply offering a better hard and soft product, then I think it’s a win-win for both passengers and airlines alike. And for this reason alone I think premium economy cabins are definitely the future of air travel.

Daniel - Living GreenDaniel Green, the Model Cook is a Celebrity Chef known for his healthy approach to food and living well. With TV, books, magazines and live appearances, Daniel spends his time helping fans to cook better, feel better and live better. He’s also an avid traveler and a self-confessed Foodie.

To contact Daniel or learn more visit or follow on Twitter @themodelcook.

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