It can be tough having champagne tastes on a beer budget. Especially when you know how good that champagne tastes.
As someone who makes her living from writing when it comes to flying my budget is sadly more suited to economy than the pointy end of the plane, but thanks to the clever use of frequent flyer points and the occasional very lucky upgrade I know how sweet life can be in business and first.
Which is why I’ve been so curious about flying premium economy.
Around twice as expensive as economy but still half the price of flying business, premium economy is a great concept, and one that I was happy to experience on Qantas between Sydney and Santiago.
Getting Ready to Fly in Premium Economy
The special feelings start before you take your seat, with priority check in and a separate boarding lane (something I was able to enjoy in Sydney and can be found in some other international airports).
As you reach the premium economy cabin staff are ready to greet you with bubbles and a smile, so you get to be one of those annoying people who are sitting comfortably with a glass in your hand as the rest of the passengers trundle past to find their seats behind the curtain in economy.
Qantas premium economy only has between 32 and 40 seats in a private cabin, and has its own dedicated flight attendants who will soon be calling you by name to keep those special feelings rolling.
Getting Comfy in Qantas Premium Economy Seats
While you won’t get to lie fully flat like you can in business or first, a premium economy seat feels like heaven to those of us who normally fly the other kind of economy.
They’re a bit like the way business class seats used to be before airlines started putting flatbeds on planes, and Qantas’ premium economy seats are on par with what’s called business class ones on some other airlines today.
Ergonomically designed by Marc Newson and built by Recaro, they’re wider, have more legroom, and can go further back than economy seats. Let’s talk numbers…
Premium economy seats are 19.5” inch with a fold out let/foot rest, compared to 17.7” in economy.
The seats have a 9” recline which is 50% more than international economy, and up to 38’ seat pitch compared to 31” in economy (that’s the distance between the back of your seat and the back of the one in front).
The centre and side consoles are where your tray tables and inflight entertainment screens are stored, which means you have extra elbow room, reducing any jostling for the armrest with a stranger woes.
If you’re flying long haul, you can snuggle into large cotton pillows and cover yourself with bigger and fluffier blankets than you find in economy.
You even get to share the roomier business class bathrooms and don’t have to face those economy toilet queues.
There’s also a little amenity kit in a zip lock pouch with eyeshades, toothbrush, toothpaste, and you can request socks if your tootsies get cold.
One thing you won’t get is a pair of those Qantas pyjamas with the flying kangaroo on them, so do BYO or wear something comfy.
What’s on the Menu
Neil Perry’s Rockpool Group have designed a range of meals for premium economy passengers for lunches and dinners, while breakfast is continental.
The menu has just changed so I’ve included images of some of the new dishes on the Santiago to Sydney route, the barbecue pork salad with black beans, tomato and corn, and the grilled beef fillet with roast peppers, spinach, quinoa and vegetable risotto. Oh yum.
When it’s time to eat your table is covered with a linen cloth, meals are served on Marc Newson designed tableware, and there are Australian premium wines are on hand to compliment your meal.
There’s also a self-service bar area if you’d like to help yourself to snacks and drinks throughout the flight.
When it’s possible, I’m a fan of pre-ordering my meal on a plane as that way you not only get your first choice, you get more choices than they’ll have on the day.
You can pre-order in premium economy through Select on Q Eat. Just head to Manage Your Booking on Qantas sometime between seven days and 12 hours prior to departure.
There’s even a “no meal – maximise my rest” option if you know you’d rather sleep than eat.
Qantas’ on-demand in flight entertainment options are the same throughout the plane, with hundreds of options including new release movies and classics, TV series, CDs, games and radio channels.
You may have the same choices as those in economy, but in premium you’ll be watching on an adjustable 10.6” personal touch screen with noise cancelling headsets.
And before you pay for that movie at home, you can check out what will be showing on your flight on the Qantas entertainment guide.
Where You Can Fly Qantas Premium Economy
I may have only flown it for the first time recently, but premium economy is nothing new for Qantas.
They introduced the extra cabin class back on international B747s in February 2008, and then on their new fleet of A380s in August 2008.
These days premium economy is found on international A380 flights to London, Dubai, Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles, and on B747 flights to Santiago, New York, Los Angeles and Hong Kong.
Qantas says customers flying in premium economy range from business travellers and young professionals on holiday to people travelling for a special occasion.
I also found myself nodding and thinking ‘well played’ when I heard that a lot of people are treating themselves to premium for the longer Australia to Dubai leg and then going back to economy for the shorter flight to Europe or London.
So is it worth it?
While that’s something that only an individual can really decide based on their own budget, I’d say if you can afford it or have the points, do it. And have a glass of bubbles for me when you do.
This review is based on a lucky upgrade to Premium Economy after purchasing my own Economy fare.
Love flying? You may want to also check out my stories on Singapore Airlines Suites, the best seat in British Airways Club World, and what it’s like flying Cathay Pacific Business Class from Sydney to Hong Kong.