Premium economy seats

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions
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seat comfort seems to be a key driver for airline customer satisfaction so why can’t a normal economy seat reflect the size growth of passengers?

The rise of a new class of seat called premium economy is meant to provide more space and comfort to the airline passenger. But these seats are only really available if you are travelling long-haul. On a two-hour trip to Alicante or even a four hour one to Tenerife, you won’t have such an offer. There you may have the opportunity of paying slightly more to reserve an exit row seat. For more room you will need to fly the equivalent of business class.

With long-haul airlines, it isn’t a matter of charging thirty of fifty pounds more. Airlines are bleeding passengers dry as the difference in price between an economy class seat and a premium economy seat is huge. That is because few of us pay  the standard price for an economy seat; we end up buying what is sometimes called a deep economy class ticket which is much less than  standard economy fare. Nonetheless, airlines are not being really honest when some claim that a premium economy ticket is only about 15% more than a n economy ticket. They are comparing prices to the most expensive economy ticket they have on sale.

If, next week, I buy an economy ticket next week from Heathrow to Los Angeles on American Airlines, it would cost £490. A premium economy ticket would cost me over four times as much, £2,034. If I flew on British Airways the difference between the two tickets is £595 and on Virgin Atlantic an economy seat costs £489.87 and a premium economy seat, £1,443.87, a difference of over £950. United Airlines has no premium economy class.

So for an inch or two more leg room I have to pay, in some cases more than double the economy seat price. What am I getting for my money? With some airlines such as British Airways, premium economy doesn’t entitle you to check-in at business or first class lines though given how short passenger queues at airports have become this is no real benefit. It needn’t give priority boarding either.

airline seats – we aren’t all the same size and the average person is bulkier than they were fifty years ago

Only two things matter; the leg room and the width of the seat but these depend more on the plane being used –and some cases its age – rather than which airline you fly on.

Take British Airways. Whichever plane you fly, you get width of 18.5 inches and a seat pitch of 38 inches. Fly economy and it is a width of 17.5 inches and a seat pitch of 31. Fly the old Boeing 767’s that BA still has and the measurements will be about an inch less. Virgin Atlantic’s economy class tickets offer the same width and seat pitch measurements as BA. In premium economy class, the width of the seat is 21 and the seat pitch is 38.

With American Airlines, depending on the plane, the seat width can be anywhere between 17 and 18.5 inches with the seat pitch ranging from 30-38 inches. In premium economy the width is only 18-19 inches and the seat pitch varies from 36-38. In this case it isn’t worth paying extra when the seat may only have marginally more room than the economy one.

If you are considering paying more to travel premium economy, check the seat measurements with seatguru before deciding whether paying the additional amount is worth it.

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