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What Is the Difference Between Economy & Premium Economy?

Updated May 01, 2018

Many airlines offer three different classes for air travel: First class, Business class and Economy class. Some airlines also offer a class between Business and Economy called Premium Economy. Premium Economy seats are mostly offered on international flights. There is not an industry standard definition for Premium Economy, so its benefits vary depending on the airline. Generally, Premium Economy offers more room than Economy and may include other benefits such as better service and in-flight entertainment.

Price

Premium Economy seats cost more than Economy seats. The price difference between an Economy and Premium Economy seat depends on varying factors such as the airline, availability and fuel prices. While the price may fluctuate, the cost of a Premium Economy seat is usually somewhere between the cost of an Economy and Business class seat on the same flight. Premium Economy seats can cost as low as an extra 10 to 15 per cent more than Economy to over double the cost.

Space

The one advantage offered by all airlines for their Premium Economy seats is more room. A seat's leg room is determined by its pitch, defined as the distance between the back of a seat to the front of the seat behind it. Virgin Atlantic's Premium Economy seats have a width of 21 inches and a pitch of 38 inches, while their Economy seats have a width of 17.5 inches and a pitch of 31 inches. Depending on the aircraft, United Airlines' Premium Economy seats have a width of 17 to 18 inches and pitch of 34 to 36 inches. Their Economy seats have the same width but a pitch of only 31 inches.

Entertainment and Food

Premium Economy seats may also have better entertainment systems and food service. Air France's Premium Economy seats have larger television screens than Economy. Additionally, their Premium Economy seats have individual reading lights and seat power. Air New Zealand offers their Premium Economy travellers a revamped menu that includes tapas items as well as a self-service bar.

Preboarding Benefits

Besides a better experience during the flight, travellers with Premium Economy tickets may have preboarding benefits. Air France's Premium Economy travellers have priority check-in. Air Qantas provides their Premium Economy travellers with priority check-in, priority boarding, priority disembarkation and additional baggage allowance. Virgin Atlantic offers priority check-in, priority boarding and a preflight drink.

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About the Author

Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Karen Lac has been writing since 1999. Her articles have appeared in “The Occidental Weekly.” Lac also works as a corporate concierge, helping clients with travel and event planning. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a Bachelor of Arts in politics, both from Occidental College.