Is Qantas Premium Economy Worth the Extra Money?

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.

That’s Entertainment

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.

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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. 

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Qantas Premium Economy Review

About the Author

As a journalist who loves to travel and is fond of a chat I'm oh so happy when I'm sharing travel tales and tips. When I'm not travelling or writing about it I can be found out and about with friends, curled up at home with a good book or watching an addictive tv show promising I'll stop after one more episode. Amanda on Google +

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  1. stephen rowe says:

    Qantas do not fly a 747 to Singapore so no premium economy possible.

    • Thanks for picking that up, Stephen! Obviously the original information Qantas sent my way was a tad out of date. I’ve now confirmed the latest info with them and changed it in the story.

      Appreciate you letting me know. Happy travels!

  2. stephen rowe says:

    Or Bangkok. ..just economy and business to Singapore and Bangkok

  3. A great article Amanda, always wanted to know if it is would be worth it. I like the idea of doing it on the long leg and back to economy on the shorter leg.

    • Thanks Bill! I’m with you, and think longer leg is a great idea. only slight problem is when you have to go back to real economy after knowing how good it is in premium 😉 I once got upgraded Sydney to Bangkok and then had to go back to my original economy seat for the next leg to Europe and it was a hard thing to do. If only we could do a shorter economy leg followed by a long Premium one both ways….

    • Linda Womble says:

      I fly from Los Angeles to Melbourne to visit family and flew economy the first time. Oh my. A 15 hour flight (non stop). I was told you could get up and walk around—not so. It was miserable. Next time I was able to get premium economy seating on sale. And, to me, it was like flying first class. It was on the 380. That’s all I have flown since. So worth the price to me. Although you are not supposed to randomly walk around, they didn’t seem to enforce those rules as much in premium economy where you are on the upper level of the plane.

      • Hi Linda I’m so glad you enjoyed the premium economy experience but that’s very strange that you couldn’t walk around in Economy. You should be able to stretch your legs as long as you aren’t getting in the way of service or anything like that so that’s strange that you were told you had to stay sitting down. But if you’re able to fly premium on those long flights I say it’s a great way to travel!

  4. I find premium economy really varies. Sometimes it is worth it and sometimes it isn’t. That’s great that you get the Neil Perry food in it though.

    • I really have to try some more of the premium economies out there. This was my first time, and it definitely made a difference with Qantas. Would be a shame to be on another airline where you paid the extra money but didn’t get that extra service or comfort.

  5. Thanks for your insight Amanda. I’m heading off with my Mum on a special ‘once in a lifetime’ trip together to Santiago .. I booked Premium Economy as a treat for both of us .. so I can spoil her a little .. I can’t wait after reading your article.. thanks again

    • Oh that is such a great treat! And having done it on exactly the same leg I know what a good idea that one is 🙂 How exciting that you’re doing Santiago together. I’m not sure if you spotted it already but I also did a piece on Bellavista, an area i loved.

  6. Thanks for your article. We are flying Tokyo to Sydney for the first time by Qantas Premium Economy, and I didn’t spot that we could pre-book our meals using Q-Eat, but your article pointed it out for us.
    Their website also says, “You can pre-order your meal from our menus, including an additional dish available as an online exclusive available to our customer travelling in Business and Premium Economy.”
    So we’ll even get a freebie out of it. Thanks again.

    • Hey Jay, that’s great news. So glad you guys got to book your meal, and get an extra one! Would love to know what you think afterwards. Happy travels.

  7. Darren McCarthy says:

    Terrific article. I have just booked Sydney>London via Dubai for March next year in Premium Economy and looking forward to it. One thing I noticed that the fares kept fluctuating over many hours…. but patience was rewarded with 2 Premium Economy Sale fares.

    • Thanks Darren, and glad you got those seats! It’s funny (well not if you buy at the wrong time) how those prices can fluctuate. So good if you can time it right 🙂

  8. Justin Walker says:

    Hi Amanda. Might be doing that exact flight at the end of this year and had one question: do the seats have a foot rest that comes out so you can stretch your legs and they’re slightly elevated (i.e. at an angle, similar to how you described the old Qantas business seats)?

    • Hey Justin, they do indeed have foot rests, the kind that come out from the bottom of your seat rather than a little bit of steel that’s under the seat in front of you. I hope you enjoy the trip and do let me know how it goes 🙂

  9. Fraser Gatty says:

    Hi Amanda, loved the article! Didn’t know you can pre-book your meal so thanks for the heads up. My wife and I will be flying Sydney to Dallas in Premium this December, our first time as we usually fly economy to LA, really looking forward to it. I’m also going to the UK next month but only economy, here’s hoping I might get an upgrade. ?

    • Hey Fraser, I haven’t done Sydney to Dallas yet but would love to head over there, and that’s such a long flight this is the perfect time to treat yourself to Premium. And oh yes, how great would it be if the upgrade gods smiled on a trip to the UK! Keep those fingers crossed 🙂

  10. Elizabeth gillard says:

    I am going premium economy to dallas in august a treat for my 70th birthday. Look forward now after reading your review

    • Oh I’m jealous! I’ve never been to Dallas and would love to go sometime, and you’re doing it in comfort too.

      Enjoy the trip and do let me know how it goes. Happy travels!

  11. Hi….I am flying Brisbane/Sydney/Santiago then onto Lima Peru (my son lives over there). I’ve been twice before in economy (last time was after having a nasty fall the week before my flight and was wheelchaired everywhere…. I must say though, Qantas looked after me exceptionally well, even moving the gentleman seated next to me (2 seater) so I could stretch and elevate my leg.. I was quite comfortable the whole trip, thank you Qantas). The old leg is still not the best but I am going again later this year and noticed the fares around $1800/1900 ….BUT for another $700/800, I can go Premium Economy….. hmmmm do I really have to think about that one!

    • Hey Mary, sorry to hear about the leg but great to hear that Qantas took such good care of you. As for the flight back over to Santiago I think you’ve already answered your own question there! Would be great to treat yourself. And I love Santiago and Peru. Enjoy!

  12. Few more routes with Premium Economy are the B747 services to Tokyo Haneda, Johannesburg and San Francisco, plus also the seasonal flights to Vancouver.

    What they class as premium economy varies a lot between the airlines. I think Qantas has one of the best but at the other end of the scale with US based carriers all you get is extra legroom and nothing more (but they charge less for it!).

    • Hey L2, that’s a very good point about ‘premium economy’ varying wildly between airlines. Qantas was actually my first premium economy but when I’ve walked through the premium economy of some others I have thought ‘is that it?’. To me those are extra legroom seats rather than premium economy product, but every airline is different so definitely worth checking things out before you pay extra. And thanks for the tips on the extra routes as well 🙂

  13. Jo O'Brien says:

    I am flying out tomorrow to London Heathrow from Melbourne, then on to Belfast. Spent the extra coin for a premium economy return ticket and scored myself an upgrade to business for 66.000 points for the first flights. Best decision ever! Qantas is hands down the best for PE. Other airlines make you weave through econ to use the loo and the seats aren’t as generous.

  14. If you go Premium Qantas, don’t expect to get fed. The older cabin crew staff on night flights will tell you it’s a ‘no meals flight’ and they just feed people in Business. It’s a rort and they are stinking lazy. I complained, the airline checked and apologised. All I got was 2000 FF points. HOPELESS.

    • Hi BK that sounds very strange indeed and nothing at all like the premium economy experience I had. We were well fed and taken care of so yours doesn’t sound normal at all.

  15. Michael j lewis says:

    Wife and i flew Qantas A380 to London Premium economy, quite frankly found it a big disappointment, service was great and yes food served on a linen table cloth , bubbly and orange juice, how ever the seating arrangement was diabolical, when the people in front of you fully reclined their seats , we found it required us to be a contortionist to exit our seat, our arm rests made it almost impossible to exit without disturbing the sleeping passengers in front. Qantas really need to look at this problem, we flew Premium economy on Air New Zealand and the seating arrangement was fantastic, we could exit without disturbing anyone.

  16. If the seat in front is fully reclined, then it’s impossible to exit your seat if you are in a window seat. On my last flight I noticed at least Five passengers using the armrests as stepping stones in order to exit their seat. And as for meals, two of the beef meals were inedible. Only one third of a glass of wine was offered with each meal. Qantas seem to be cutting back on drinks.

  17. Marlene says:

    Same here also felt let down. I asked for an upgrade and they had 2 seats left in Premium economy. I did not get it for free and had to pay quite a hefty amount. But I figured its a long trip from South Africa to New Zealand and would probably be worth it. We stopped over in Sydney and from there we all flew economy. So it only covered premium economy from SA to Sydney and not Sydney to Auckland. I was not aware of that though. Nonetheless no bubbly was offered to us. They did not even inform us of the free bar / snacks or use of the better bathrooms. I used economy bathrooms not even knowing of any of the premium economy amenities. In fact, when I flew over the previous year in the economy class we could help ourselves to snacks during the flight in the economy class gully. This was great and you did not feel that you were bothering the hostesses the whole time. You could stretch your legs whilst getting a snack, For the price difference (x2 as much as the economy class) I did expect a bit more. In the end the only difference was the legroom and the cabin in the premium economy was less crowded due to seating configuration being much less.

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