Premium economy vs. business class: Are the differences worth an upgrade?

You may not remember the “golden age” of travel, but you probably remember when a small cabin on most airplanes was called “coach.”

That sounds a lot more interesting than the word “wealth,” which is being thrown around these days.

As airlines seem to continue to make the economy even more painful on long-haul flights, they will continue to improve the seats that many of us walk through on our way to our less comfortable seat.

Watching your favorite movie, listening to music or meditating can be great ways to deal with the current financial situation. However, traveling in business class may make you wonder if you can afford to fly in the best seat.

For many years the only option for most international flights would be business upgrades. Recently, many airlines have added a new feature to long-haul flights that they call premium economy (or something similar to their airline).

More accommodation translates to more prices and different benefits. This may sound good in theory, but it’s important to understand what to expect in economy or business class. Let’s look at both.

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What does premium economy get you?

Premium cabins are more common on international airlines, especially on American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

One of the biggest benefits of premium economy is location. An economy seat is not much bigger than an economy seat.

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Where you will notice the biggest difference is the distance between the seats around you. Most of the time you will have a space to rest between you and the seat next to you. This means you can’t accidentally bump into your roommate.

You will also see more legs. The chances of your knees hitting the seat in front of you when you’re in premium economy are slim to none. On top of that, you won’t find someone pulling on your seat to get out of their seat (although there’s always that passenger…).

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Improved food service is another benefit you will see in all luxury hotels.

As airlines begin to change their offerings after the worst of the pandemic seems to be behind us, cheap meals have become more attractive.

It is important to set reasonable expectations, however. This is still a combination of aircraft. On a long trip, you should expect a hot first meal. Most airlines offer similar services in both business and economy class.

In a luxury economy, you probably won’t have multiple courses and you probably don’t have china and silverware. However, the food should be better than what is served in economy class (if economy class food is served).

Most airlines provide a small second meal or snack before boarding long flights, although you may not be served any other type of food during the flight.

Some of the benefits of premium economy may not be game changers but they are nice to have. Airlines often provide check-in and check-out facilities, but rarely do they provide access.

Increased baggage allowance is very common, as well as bonus miles on paid tickets. In addition, in most cases, you will find a pillow and a beautiful blanket.

Related: How to switch from economy to premium economy without breaking the bank

What does business class get you?

Business events often begin before you even get on the plane. As you might expect, entry and exit are common.

You will also have access to airport check-in before departure, as well as between other connecting flights. Experiences in business lounges vary widely, from small, select menus to a la carte and vintage Champagne. It’s worth doing a little research on these benefits before you fly.

Business class on international flights is often the best seat on most airlines. There are a few airlines that still offer authentic products (I’m looking, Lufthansa) but the business class is usually as good as it gets.

Lie-flat seats with plenty of space are the standard these days for business class. In most cases, every passenger has a direct route, although a few new products, such as TAP Air Portugal’s business class A320neo, require window seat passengers to board someone else to get to the lavatory. Large screens provide a variety of entertainment options while you travel.

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Bedding is more than a luxury item. The duvet and pillow are table mats. In some cases, like United’s Polaris category, you’ll find cooling gel pillows and other extras.

Simply put, if you can’t sleep on business class bedding, you probably won’t sleep on a plane.

Food service is superior to premium economy. The first meal on a flight usually consists of several courses and may include other dishes such as caviar and salt carts.

There are usually several fine wines to choose from and excellent Champagne is available.

All the service in the business cabin will be much higher than the luxury economy. Flight attendants can check in and refill drinks several times during the meal.

Second meals are usually served on longer flights and are very similar to second meals/snacks served in economy.

Business travelers often receive a stipend and receive amenities when they board.

These kits contain essential items such as eye masks, earplugs, toothpaste and combs. Sometimes, the tools are perfect to have in your bag, like the ones made by Rimowa.

Finally, business fares often earn more miles than basic fares — and for good reason. You can pay double to fly at the very end of the flight.

Related: Are these airlines the best and worst for business travel?

Price difference between premium economy and business class

It can be very expensive to rent extra accommodation for your next trip. Although it was not always the case, the differences between wealth, wealth and commodity prices are some of the biggest things we have seen in the past.

At a higher level, you can expect to spend at least 50% more than the investment team to raise the value of your assets. In general, expect to pay 75% to 100% more.

Also, it can cost at least 75% less to be in the business class than the premium economy in long-term fights, with many popular options costing twice as much to get to the business class.

We looked at fares for popular European destinations like London and Paris from US cities including New York and Washington.

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Economy class tickets ranged from $500 to $800 round trip. Prices range from $1,100 to $1,600. Business class was as cheap as $2,600 round trip but went much higher for flights with better travel options.

If you’re considering premium economy or business class, make sure you’re paying for the ticket with a credit card that earns bonuses on airline bookings.

Platinum Card® from American Express offers 5 points per dollar on airline tickets booked directly with the airline or through Amex Travel. And, with Bilt Rewards’ new “Rent Day” promotion, you can earn 4 points per dollar on all travel purchases on the first day of the month.

Related: 7 business travel tips and tricks from 1st to 2nd

Bottom line: Should you add?

Based on current information, it can be very affordable to upgrade to premium economy or business class on your next trip abroad.

There are several factors to consider when making a decision. The length and time of your trip should be a factor.

The longer your flight, especially on an overnight flight, the more value you get from the extra space. This is obviously more important if you buy business class and get a good night’s sleep, even if you pay well for the privilege.

If you’re flying from New York to Iceland on a short red eye, the high cost of business class doesn’t make sense.

The cost of upgrading should also be considered.

Paying double the price of an economy ticket for a slightly better meal and extra lung room can put a strain on your future budget.

Finally, another thing to consider is whether there is a cost-effective way to proceed.

Some airlines, such as Hawaiian Airlines, allow you to trade up to a higher-priced cabin. Also, sometimes you can use miles to upgrade premium economy or business class for less than other currencies.

An upgrade to premium economy or business class often makes sense on long-haul flights.

You won’t find much difference in prices depending on the length of your trip. This means that you will get more money on long-haul flights to Europe, Asia and South America.


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