Over the past decade, more airlines have introduced a long-haul premium economy cabin on board aircraft like the Boeing 777 and Airbus A350. It offers more room and comfort for passengers without the price tag of a seat up front — think of it as a Goldilocks middle ground in both space and cost.

These seats are cradle-like recliners, straddling the line between back-of-the-bus economy (and their upright seatbacks) and business-class beds that lie flat.

That means several more inches of recline, legroom, and width compared to their economy siblings. There’s also a larger seatback screen, an armrest for each passenger, and additional storage. Some carriers even include a footrest, privacy partitions, and a dedicated cocktail tray.

 Is it worth paying for premium economy on long-haul flights

American Airlines | Image credit: American Airlines

“I often pay for premium economy on long-haul flights for the additional space; it’s significantly more than what you get in economy, even extra-legroom economy seats, and I value that,” says Edward Russell, an aviation expert and journalist.

In terms of service, expect an elevated dining experience and more personalised attention from the crew — again, not quite at the level of business class, but decidedly more, well, premium than the economy.

Many airlines have had a premium economy cabin for years (and in some cases, a decade or more). American Airlines was the first US carrier to debut long-haul premium economy in 2016, and it’s a segment that’s surging across the industry. Later this year, American Airlines plans to introduce a new, second-generation premium economy seat with more privacy and double the in-seat storage space.

Other carriers are newer to this world. Emirates, for its part, only introduced a premium economy cabin in late 2022. In total, the Dubai-based airline will add 1,608 premium economy seats to its Airbus A380 fleet of 67 aircraft and 1,032 to its 53 Boeing 777 aircraft.

It’s important to distinguish between a true premium economy versus just an extra-legroom economy seat, says Russell. “You can determine if the airline you’re flying offers premium economy when you book. The seats are typically sold as their own separate class — like business or economy — whereas extra-legroom offerings are usually an added fee on the economy fare.”

In the coming years, airlines will continue to add more premium cabin seats, including a premium economy section. It’s a big money maker for airlines, but it’s not always good news — that often comes at the expense of a more cramped economy cabin.


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(Feature Image Credit: Delta)

This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com

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