Pre­mium econ­omy im­prove­ments are tempt­ing pas­sen­gers away from busi­ness class. Jenny Southan finds out how the air­lines com­pare

Business Traveller - - NEWS -

A round-up of what air­lines have to of­fer in pre­mium econ­omy class

With typ­i­cal long-haul busi­ness class cost­ing £3,000 re­turn, hav­ing the op­tion of more af­ford­able pre­mium econ­omy seats is cer­tainly ap­peal­ing. Bridg­ing the gap be­tween econ­omy class and top-tier cabins, pre­mium econ­omy gives pas­sen­gers added ben­e­fits such as queue jump­ing in the air­port and, in some cases, free cham­pagne and lounge ac­cess, as well as more space.

Th­ese days, most ma­jor air­lines of­fer a stand­alone pre­mium econ­omy prod­uct – not just econ­omy seats with ex­tra legroom. This year, Amer­i­can Air­lines and Delta are fi­nally in­stalling pre­mium econ­omy cabins, and it’s ru­moured that some of the Mid­dle East­ern air­lines will fol­low suit. But how much bet­ter is the ex­pe­ri­ence than reg­u­lar coach class? We com­pare 16 air­lines so you can de­cide…

AIR CANADA Pre­mium econ­omy pas­sen­gers are fast-tracked through the air­port and given a hot towel and wel­come soft drink, fol­lowed by wine, beer, spir­its and “pre­mium” hot meals served on china with proper cut­lery and glass­ware. As with most air­lines here, you can check in two cases (23kg each).

The B787-8 cabin has three rows in a 2-3-2 lay­out (econ­omy is 3-3-3). In my 2015 re­view (see busi­nesstrav­, I said: “Pre­mium econ­omy feels spa­cious with a good amount of legroom (seven more inches than econ­omy), and looks stylish. Seat-back screens (mea­sur­ing 11 inches – two inches more than in econ­omy) and uni­ver­sal power sock­ets are avail­able to every­body. Amenity kits con­tained socks, an eye mask, tooth­brush, tooth­paste and ear plugs. Footrests made it more com­fort­able.”

AIR FRANCE Air France pas­sen­gers can use Sky Pri­or­ity chan­nels in the air­port, gain ac­cess to a lounge for a fee (econ­omy pas­sen­gers can’t), board at will by skip­ping the econ­omy queue, and get their lug­gage back quicker on ar­rival.

The new­est seat is found on the car­rier’s B787. Air France says that it pro­vides 40 per cent more space than in econ­omy, and the fixed-shell de­sign means that you won’t en­croach on the space of the per­son be­hind when you re­cline. Pre­mium econ­omy pas­sen­gers are pro­vided with travel kits and there are clev­erly de­signed grooves in the tray ta­ble to rest your iPad on (you also get 12-inch built-in screens).

AIR NEW ZEALAND In some­what of a back­ward step, the Kiwi car­rier’s in­no­va­tive Space­seat, in­stalled on the B777300, is to be re­placed with a more con­ven­tional pre­mium econ­omy seat by Novem­ber. The prod­uct will be stan­dard­ised across the air­line’s fleet of B787-9 and B777200 and -300 planes, the last of which flies Auck­land-LA-Lon­don. The new seat will be 2-3-2 or 2-4-2. Pas­sen­gers will con­tinue to get pre­mium check-in, pri­or­ity bag­gage and board­ing, and on­board amenity kits, meals and drinks, in­clud­ing wine from New Zealand.

AMER­I­CAN AIR­LINES AA launched its first pre­mium econ­omy prod­uct this year on its B787-9s and B777-200s, ini­tially on routes from Dal­las to Madrid, Paris, Sao Paulo and Seoul, and ChicagoParis, for a lim­ited time. By the end of the year it will be avail­able from LA to Tokyo Narita, Auck­land and Syd­ney. In­cluded in the price is pri­or­ity check-in, se­cu­rity, board­ing and lug­gage, as well as “chef-in­spired” meals and al­co­hol. Pas­sen­gers can take ad­van­tage of spa­cious black leather seats, nois­ere­duc­ing headphones, USB ports and amenity kits. Main Cabin Ex­tra will re­main. WIDTH 19in/48cm | LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm | RE­CLINE 5-6in/12-15cm

ANA The checked bags of ANA pre­mium econ­omy cus­tomers are fixed with a Star Al­liance pri­or­ity tag. Trav­ellers also have ac­cess to the Ja­panese car­rier’s lounge. Pre­mium econ­omy on the B777300ER is in its own 2-4-2 cabin. Legroom is gen­er­ous, at 38 inches – four inches more than reg­u­lar econ­omy – while the seat is 10 per cent wider, at 19.3 inches. The prod­uct is also in­stalled on ANA’s B787s. Each seat has a legrest, footrest, 10.6-inch touch­screen, power out­let, USB port and con­nec­tion for Ap­ple de­vices, plus a read­ing light at shoul­der height. Free sparkling wine is served, while desserts are from the busi­ness class menu. Also on of­fer are ANA spe­cial edi­tion wines. WIDTH 18.4-19.3in/47-49cm LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm RE­CLINE 21-24.5 de­grees

BRI­TISH AIR­WAYS BA’s World Trav­eller Plus cabin comes in two forms, with a more mod­ern prod­uct found on the B787, A380 and some B777s and an older one on the rest of the long-haul fleet. The pitch is seven inches greater than in econ­omy, while the width is an inch more. Up­hol­stered in navy padded fab­ric, the newer seat has a footrest, a head­rest with wings and a 10.5-inch touch­screen that can be con­trolled by a per­sonal hand­set. Noise-can­celling headphones and an amenity kit with socks, an eye mask, ear plugs and tooth­brush/ paste are pro­vided. WIDTH 18.5in/47cm | LEGROOM 38in/ 96.5cm | RE­CLINE 7-8in/18-20cm

CATHAY PA­CIFIC On Cathay, pre­mium econ­omy fly­ers are greeted with a glass of cham­pagne. The new­est seat is on the air­line’s re­cently in­tro­duced A350s, which serve Hong KongGatwick among other routes. Meals are “light and healthy with an em­pha­sis on fresh fruits and veg­eta­bles”. Larger tray ta­bles make work­ing on a lap­top eas­ier, while 10.6-inch screens (12.1-inch on the A350) come with noise­can­celling headphones. Amenity kits are also handed out. WIDTH 18.5-19.3in/47-49cm LEGROOM 38-40in/96.5-101.5cm RE­CLINE 8-9in/20-23cm

ANA pas­sen­gers can use the car­rier’s lounge and their checked bags will be fixed with a Star Al­liance pri­or­ity tag

CHINA AIR­LINES The Tai­wanese car­rier of­fers eight rows of pre­mium econ­omy in a 2-4-2 lay­out on its B777300ER air­craft. The fixed-back shell seat fea­tures a legrest, a 12.1-inch touch­screen, a wa­ter bot­tle holder, a drinks holder and a USB port. De­signer Ray Chen has in­cor­po­rated Chi­nese aes­thetic touches through­out the air­craft, with the pre­mium econ­omy cabin fea­tur­ing walls lined with a wood tex­tur­ing ef­fect. WIDTH 19in/48cm LEGROOM 39in/99cm RE­CLINE 118 de­grees

DELTA AIR LINES Delta will be rolling out Pre­mium Se­lect on long-haul air­craft later this year – be­fore, it only had Delta Com­fort+, which was an econ­omy class seat with ex­tra legroom. The new prod­uct will have ad­justable rests for legs, feet, arms and head, 13.3-inch screens (nine inches in econ­omy) and in­di­vid­ual power ports.

The air­line has col­lab­o­rated with ho­tel brand Westin to sup­ply Heav­enly blan­kets, along with Tumi and Malin and Goetz for the amenity kits. Free Star­bucks cof­fee will be avail­able, along with com­pli­men­tary craft beer, spir­its and wine. Free sea­sonal meals will be served on Alessi table­ware.

Pre­mium Se­lect trav­ellers will qual­ify for Sky Pri­or­ity se­cu­rity, board­ing and bag de­liv­ery. The prod­uct will be avail­able to book on the car­rier’s new A350 air­craft, to be fol­lowed by its B777s, A330s and B767s. WIDTH 19in/48cm | LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm | RE­CLINE 7in/18cm

EVA AIR The Tai­wanese air­line was one of the first car­ri­ers to of­fer pre­mium econ­omy (branded Elite Class). Its prod­uct of­fers USB ports, plug sock­ets, mood light­ing and 11-inch LCD touch­screens. Toi­letries by Cana­dian brand Es­cents are also pro­vided, along with pil­low and blan­ket sets. Wine, beer and non-al­co­holic drinks are on of­fer, with meals served on chi­naware. WIDTH 19.5in/49.5cm | LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm | RE­CLINE 8in/20cm JA­PAN AIR­LINES JAL’s Sky Pre­mium fixed-shell seat has a gen­er­ous 42 inches of pitch, a legrest, a head­rest with wings, and a pri­vacy di­vider at head height. The 12.1-inch touch­screen can be con­trolled via a hand­held re­mote. In-seat power is pro­vided. A sig­nif­i­cant perk is hav­ing lounge ac­cess at Tokyo Haneda and Narita, and Lon­don Heathrow. WIDTH 19in/48cm | LEGROOM 42in/106.5cm | RE­CLINE Undis­closed

LUFTHANSA Lufthansa’s seat is not in a sep­a­rate cabin but, de­pend­ing on air­craft, is up to an inch wider than in econ­omy, with about four inches more room at the side thanks to a wide arm­rest and a cen­tre con­sole.

Seats have ad­justable footrests, power sock­ets, a USB port, an 11- to 12-inch screen, and a small stowage area for glasses or a phone. There is no pri­or­ity board­ing or check-in but se­lect lounges can be used for a fee. A “fruity” wel­come drink is of­fered on board. WIDTH 18-19in/45.5-48cm LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm RE­CLINE 40 de­grees NOR­WE­GIAN Those fly­ing long-haul with Nor­we­gian will find B787s fit­ted with five rows of Pre­mium seats ar­ranged 2-3-2. Seat pitch is 46 inches, com­pared with 31 inches in econ­omy, al­though seat re­cline, while greater in Pre­mium, re­mains min­i­mal. Trav­ellers get lounge ac­cess plus fast-track se­cu­rity and board­ing. They don’t have to pay to re­serve seats, and drinks and a three-course din­ner and break­fast are served free (you need to pay and or­der in ad­vance in econ­omy). WIDTH 19.5in/49.5cm | LEGROOM 46in/117cm | RE­CLINE 9-10 de­grees QAN­TAS From next month, the Aussie car­rier will be in­tro­duc­ing a new pre­mium econ­omy seat on its B787s, fly­ing do­mes­tic routes to be­gin with, fol­lowed by LA and Lon­don. Smartly up­hol­stered in char­coal grey with touches of “burnt caramel”, the seat re­clines into a Z shape with a ham­mock to sup­port your feet, while a thick pil­low slots on to the fixed-wing head­rest to cush­ion you as you sleep. Seat­backs have 13.5-inch screens, plus slots for your own tablet. There are also USB sock­ets and pods for stor­ing wa­ter bot­tles. WIDTH 19.5in/49.5cm LEGROOM 38-42in/96.5-106.5cm RE­CLINE 9in/23cm SIN­GA­PORE AIR­LINES Con­fig­ured 2-4-2, SIA’s new pre­mium econ­omy seat has lots of thought­ful de­tails, such as slots at the base of the cen­tral arm­rest for wa­ter bot­tles, cup hold­ers above, calf and footrests that fold out, two USB sock­ets per per­son, and 13.3inch HD mon­i­tors. Take your pick from three meal choices on board, or pre-or­der a spe­cial op­tion from the“Book the Cook”menu. Cham­pagne is com­pli­men­tary, and fast-track check-in, board­ing and bag­gage han­dling are rolled in as well. Trav­ellers can stow one piece of checked lug­gage to 35kg. WIDTH 18.5-19.5in/47-49.5cm LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm RE­CLINE 8in/20cm VIR­GIN AT­LANTIC One of the orig­i­na­tors of pre­mium econ­omy, Vir­gin’s prod­uct is still very pop­u­lar. The seat has 10.5-inch touch­screens and broad cen­tral arm­rests with a flat sec­tion for drinks. Pas­sen­gers ei­ther have footrests or a sup­port­ive ot­toman cush­ion be­hind the bulk­head. When board­ing, a glass of pros­ecco and a news­pa­per are of­fered and, later, a choice of post­pran­dial liqueurs. Amenity kits are pro­vided on night flights. See page 21 for a re­view of Vir­gin’s B787-9 pre­mium econ­omy. WIDTH 21in/53cm | LEGROOM 38in/96.5cm | RE­CLINE 8in/20cm

From next month, Qan­tas will be in­tro­duc­ing a new pre­mium econ­omy seat on its B787s

Delta has col­lab­o­rated with ho­tel brand Westin to sup­ply Heav­enly blan­kets, and with Tumi and Malin and Goetz for the amenity kits

Clock­wise from top left: Delta; JAL; Lufthansa; EVA Air

Clock­wise from left: Amer­i­can Air­lines; ANA; Cathay Pa­cific; Bri­tish Air­ways

Clock­wise from above: Air Canada; Air France; Air New Zealand

Clock­wise from top left: Nor­we­gian; Qan­tas; Sin­ga­pore Air­lines; Vir­gin At­lantic

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