Most airlines these days offer a version of premium economy, the middle ground between business class and standard economy, with roomier seats and, inevitably, a higher price. Particularly for long-haul flights, this more comfortable way to travel is an appealing option. Because each airline offers a different take on this tier of service, it can be tricky to decide if the splurge is really worth it (and, for routes that are served by multiple airlines, which carrier to choose). If you’re planning a lengthy flight, here are a few noteworthy options.
Qantas International Premium Economy
Best for: Stylish Travelers
Qantas International’s Premium Economy seats—designed by Marc Newson, the award-winner who’s also created style-centric items for brands such as Alessi and Cappellini—are arguably the world’s choicest. The seats are easy to relax in, too, created with ergonomics and comfort in mind. Newson is the airline’s creative director, so his sensibility touches other aspects of the cabin too, including the china on which the meals—overseen by Neil Perry, the chef behind acclaimed Aussie restaurants like Rockpool—are served. Admittedly, that sense of style can’t make the flight to Australia any shorter, but at least it promises to make it more appealing.
Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy
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Best for: Living Large
Virgin Atlantic’s Premium Economy cabin feels a lot like you’re flying in business class. After all, the seats are as wide as those in many business class cabins (21 inches) with a pitch of 38 inches to match. These seats also recline a couple inches more than most premium economy seats on other carriers. Travelers get dedicated check-in, dinner served on china with stainless steel cutlery, and a refined, gray felt amenity kit that you’ll actually want to take home.
Air France Premium Economy
Best for: Family Travel
Starting in June, Air France will introduce its upgraded Premium Economy cabin, with seats that are roomier—40 percent more space than standard economy seats, which are also being improved—and have more comfortable cushions and a customizable footrest. The updates are particularly kid-friendly, with tablet-inspired touch screens offering 1,000 hours of entertainment that starts during boarding. Plus there's what might be, for young travelers, the best Premium Economy perk: an ample supply of candy at the end of the meal service, tucked (in true French style) into a chic paper cone designed by Eugeni Quitllet, who trained under Philippe Starck.
British Airways World Traveller Plus
Best for: Business Trips
British Airways has upgraded its economy cabins with seats that recline more steeply and added the ultimate essential for business travelers to its World Traveller Plus cabin: an electrical outlet at every seat. There are also noise-reducing headphones to use with the personal entertainment screen (which has also been updated and enlarged), and, of course, more spacious seats. For those traveling with extra bags, the baggage allowance for this tier of service is particularly large, which includes two checked bags plus a carry-on and a laptop bag or purse.
United Economy Plus
Best for: Frequent Flyers
If you travel a lot, United offers an upgrade subscription to its Economy Plus seats. The airline sells a variety of subscription tiers, depending on whether you typically travel alone, with a plus-one, or in a group. Prices are steep, starting at $499, so this plan is really only worthwhile if you’re a regular flyer, though, of course, this class of service is available on a per-flight basis as well.