Premium economy: is it business class?

Home » Premium economy: is it business class?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a look at quite a few business class products this year, and really, I think I like what I see.

I’ve been on Korean Air’s fully flat product, which is an incredibly solid product and I thoroughly enjoyed my flight, and my enjoyment wasn’t hindered by the fact that I got amazing food on the flight..


Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Business Class Cabin

I’ve been on THAI’s angled flat product, which was rather solid for a three hour flight. I loved the seat, and thought the whole experience was on par to my expectations and to the competition.


THAI Airbus A330-300 Business Class Cabin

Then I’ve been on Dragonair’s recliner/lazy-Z product, and while both legs I was on had amazing service, I wasn’t really sure if it was above a premium economy product from a comfort standpoint.


Dragonair Airbus A330-300 Business Class Cabin

Last April I experienced my first taste of premium economy. I found the seat really comfortable, the recline sufficient, the food good, and there were many business class touches.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Premium Economy Class

I believe that the pillow, blanket, headphones and padding all beat (or was equivalent to) that of the Korean Air and Dragonair business class pillows, blankets, headphones and seat padding.


Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Premium Economy Class Pillow


Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Business Class Pillow and Blanket

So where does premium economy stand?

Well, it entirely depends on the airline, but I do believe that when it comes to premium economy, no airline strikes a perfect balance between economy and business class. I mean, on one hand, you have Air New Zealand’s older fleet, where premium economy is literally glorified economy (same seat width, same pillow, same blanket…just maybe a slightly different amount of legroom and a different coloured seat. Congratulations on making it to premium economy).

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200ER Premium Economy Class Cabin (courtesy Business Traveller)

Then you have Qantas, whose premium economy could sub for business class on Dragonair’s older fleet.

Qantas Airbus A380-800 Premium Economy Class Cabin


Dragonair Airbus A320 Business Class

I’d say that a wider seat really makes the difference between premium economy and economy, though a flat bed (or maybe even an angled flat) does make a difference between business and premium economy.

But we’ve all heard of those friends that swear by recliners over angled lie flats…would they take Cathay Pacific’s premium economy over THAI’s business class at a similar rate?

Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300ER Premium Economy Class Cabin (courtesy Business Traveller)


THAI Airbus A330-300 Business Class Seats

It comes down to service, I guess.

On Cathay Pacific, premium economy has the same meals as economy, though Cathay Pacific’s economy meals in general are delicious.

*Jasons Edit: Alvin hasn’t flown long haul premium economy on Cathay Pacific. Don’t blame him. However, in my experience, there are always business class entreé selections during the first meal service on long haul flights.*

Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Premium Economy Class Meal (courtesy Business Traveller)

I’ve had awesome meals on all my business class flights, from perfectly cooked chicken, to medium rare steak, to two servings of delicious “Phuket pineapple strudel”.


Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Business Class Meal

From a meal standpoint I guess I know what I’d choose.58880704

From a service standpoint, my business class experiences trumped my premium economy experiences (for obvious reasons), so I think I have that in the bag for what to choose too.

But business class (and maybe premium economy) is all about the seat…


China Eastern Boeing 737-700 Business Class

What are my thoughts?

If business class is a small premium over premium economy, it makes sense, as you still get a much better experience.

But if it’s a longhaul flight and business class is five times the price of premium economy, I think that premium economy (unless it’s a glorified economy seat like Air New Zealand, in which case go in with caution) should be an easy way to travel.

So is premium economy business class?

No…not yet.

(courtesy Tenor)


  1. You are so spoiled! You should come to the U.S. and see what ‘First’ Class is like on a 2 hour flight. You’ll be lucky to get a bag of chips and a stale salad.

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