Understanding the differences between economy and premium economy

Premium economy
aims to bridge the gap between economy
class and
business class
, and it can be an affordable way to ensure you
have a more comfortable journey. If you’ve never flow premium
economy before and are wondering what the differences will be and
if it’s worth the extra cash and/or points or miles, here are the
differences between British
(called World Traveller Plus or WTP) and Virgin
(called Premium), just as an example.

It is worth noting that it is most definitely “premium
economy” and not “business light” — all airlines’ premium
economy experience will be much closer to economy class than
business class. Don’t expect a seat that goes fully flat or
gourmet cuisine and Champagne — it’s much more like economy
class with a few more bells and whistles.

Here are some TPG reviews of premium economy on both British
Airways and Virgin Atlantic:

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)Singapore
Airlines A350 Premium Economy. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points
Guy)Check-in, baggage and boarding

Virgin Atlantic provides priority check-in for Premium
passengers, while British Airways does not for its World
Traveller Plus
(WTP) passengers. On both airlines, you can
expect greater checked luggage allowance in premium economy — two
checked bags with a maximum weight of 50 lbs. each, instead of the
standard one bag of 50 lbs. With Virgin, your baggage will also be
tagged as priority, so it should be delivered faster than standard
economy bags.

Both airlines offer priority boarding to premium economy
passengers, so you have a little extra time to settle in before the
flight leaves the gate. Be aware that all economy passengers will
board by walking through the premium economy cabin first, so if you
do decide to use the priority boarding and board nice and early,
hundreds of passengers will be trampling down the aisle to get past
you to reach the economy cabin.

Lounge access

Neither British Airways nor Virgin Atlantic offers
lounge access
to economy or premium economy passengers unless
they have the required elite status.

The seat and cabin

Perhaps the most noticeable difference between economy and
premium economy will be in your seat itself. You can expect a
slightly wider seat with one or two fewer seats per row compared
with economy, around four to five more inches of legroom and the
seat will recline noticeably further. It is still very much an
upright seat though — it doesn’t go anywhere close to
angled flat

Virgin Atlantic allows Premium passengers to select their seat
for free at any time, while British Airways does not unless you
have Executive Club or Oneworld elite status.

The premium economy cabin will be smaller than the economy
cabins — depending on the airline and aircraft type it may just
be four or five rows of premium economy versus dozens of rows of
regular economy. This will make the cabin feel more intimate, quiet
and exclusive.

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)Virgin
Atlantic A350 Premium Economy. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points
Guy)seats 20A and 20B in World Traveller Plus on the refurbished B777-200British Airways refurbished Boeing 777 WTP.
(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)Amenities

You’ll usually be provided with a small pillow blanket and
cheap headphones in regular economy class. You’ll receive the
same in premium economy although they will be slightly bigger and
better quality. You will receive a small, basic
amenity kit
in premium economy with Virgin and British Airways,
which you can expect to contain the following:

British Airways WTP. (Photo by Ben
Smithson/The Points Guy)Virgin
Atlantic A340 Premium. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points
Guy)In-flight entertainment

The seat-back screen in premium economy will generally be
slightly bigger than a standard economy seat, though the content
available (the number and type of movies, TV shows and games) will
be exactly the same as in economy.

Related: The
airlines’ moneymaker: Premium economy

(Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)Virgin
A350 Premium. (Photo by Emily McNutt/The Points Guy)Food and drinks

This is the area I have consistently been most disappointed by
in premium economy. The easiest way to explain the food is that it
is standard economy food served in slightly better containers.
British Airways promises its World Traveller Plus passengers that
they can expect a main course “from the Club World kitchen,”
meaning the same as business-class passengers receive.

Don’t get too excited. The cut of meat may be marginally
better than those down the “back of the bus” receive, but while
British Airways recently dramatically improved the presentation of
its Club World meals by plating them individually rather than just
reheating them in the container they were loaded in, unfortunately,
BA did not extend this service improvement to WTP passengers.

So while this is what an actual main meal in Club World looks

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)British
Airways Club World. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Here is what the “main from the Club World kitchen” in WTP
actually looks like:

Airways B777 World Traveller Plus. (Photo by Ben Smithson /The
Points Guy)

While here is the meal served to regular economy passengers on
British Airways:

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)British
Airways A350 WorldTraveller. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Other than the plates used, there’s not a huge difference
between economy and premium economy.

Over at Virgin Atlantic, it’s not much different. Here’s a
Virgin Premium meal:

Atlantic A330 Premium. (Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

And here’s a Virgin economy meal:

A350 Economy. (Photo by Jean Arnas/The Points Guy)

Similar food, just served differently.

Beverages wise, it is slightly better. On both airlines,
you’ll be served a welcome glass of prosecco, water or juice
during the boarding process that you certainly won’t receive in
economy. Singapore
actually has Champagne during the meal service for
premium economy, but with BA and Virgin, the beverages are mostly
the same as in economy.


You will usually have dedicated crew for your small premium
economy cabin. If not, they will at least serve your cabin before
making their way back to the economy cabin. This means you’ll get
your meal faster and the service may be slightly more personalized,
though don’t expect to be addressed by your name at each
interaction like you might in business or first class.

British Airways A350 Premium Economy. ( Photo
by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)(Photo by Daniel Ross / The Points Guy)Virgin
Atlantic 747 Premium. (Photo by Daniel Ross/The Points Guy)Mileage

You’ll earn more points or miles for a cash premium economy
fare than the equivalent in economy. Virgin awards 100% of miles
flown for the cheapest premium fares, while only awarding 50% miles
flown for discount economy. On British Airways, you’ll also earn
100% on a discount WTP cash fare, versus as little as only 25% on a
discounted World Traveller economy fare.

The same applies for your Tier
Points if you’re chasing elite status
— you’ll receive
more in premium economy than economy.

Bottom line

I’ve flown both economy and premium economy on the likes of
British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Norwegian and Singapore Airlines.
In my experience, premium economy is slightly better than economy,
but not by much. It is unlikely one person would have an amazing
experience in premium economy and another person have a terrible
experience in economy on
the same plane at the same time

For me, the slightly wider seat, more legroom and recline are
the best benefits. I’m consistently disappointed with the food as
it is so close to standard economy class food, just slightly better

Business class is where you’ll notice the real differences. If
you can splurge for premium economy over economy, then it’s a
slightly more comfortable ride, though set your expectations closer
to economy than business class.

Featured photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy

Source: FS – All-Travel destinations-News2
Understanding the differences between economy and premium