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Premium Economy – the End of Business Class?

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Most carriers, like Qantas, were at first sceptical about the concept of ‘premium economy’. They worried it would destroy their business class market, as business travellers may opt for a similar experience for much less money. However, the people have spoken and the slightly better seats are making airlines a lot of money, due to the space-by-cost mathematics that most carriers work off.

British Airways introduced the premium economy trend before Qantas caught on in 2008. Now European carrier Lufthansa has finally caved to consumer pressure and will be offering premium economy seats between the end of 2014 and start of 2015. Australians have been big fans for a while, with nearly all carriers sporting the new class, including Virgin Australia and Jetstar.

So what is premium economy?

Generally, premium economy means 2-5 extra centimetres of seat width, 5-8 extra centimetres of seat recline, a more adjustable seat, leg rests, a bigger screen, laptop power points and better food. They also tend to be 85% more expensive than a typical economy fare, but can drop as low as 10% more expensive if you bag a last minute deal.

Is it that different?

Interestingly, this new ‘premium economy’ class is actually more like the business class of yesteryear.  Comfort and price-wise it is similar to the business class of the 1980’s and 1990’s, but as aircraft carriers have endeavoured to make their trips more comfortable to entice customers, a chasm between economy and business class has grown.

Premium economy is finding fans among business travellers whose employer’s travel plans do not allow business class travel. It can also be a great choice for those willing to shell out a little extra to ensure comfort on a long haul flight.

So what is the main difference between business class and premium economy these days – apart from the price? Two words: lie-flat beds.

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