When you think of economy airline tickets, what comes to mind? Child-sized seats with dirty upholstery, endless hours trapped next to a screaming baby or in front of a champion karate kicker. However, many airlines are redefining economy by offering ‘premium economy’ cabins. The latest of these is the Hong Kong Cathay Pacific Airline.
Premium economy customers get larger seats, better service and more entertainment options. The exact benefits change from airline to airline, but popular offerings include noise-cancelling headphones, electrical outlets at or near the seats, a free snack bar and increased luggage allowances. It’s not first class, but it sounds at least tolerable, unlike the coach class that we all know and dislike so intensely. Cathay Pacific joins several different airlines in adding an expanded economy service, including Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Qantas. These types of cabins became popular when the economic downturn first hit, as more and more companies began to cut corners by using economy tickets instead of business class or first class.
The cabins enjoyed a surge of popularity during the financial crisis’s lowest points, as business travelers downgraded from business in an attempt at frugality, although many have now returned to the business, or even first, class cabins. After all, a person who travels long distances on a regular basis needs to have the most comfortable experience possible, and coach is certainly not that.
While economy seems to be improving a bit, first class is getting even more luxurious. American Airlines recently released information on their new ‘turn down’ service for first class and international business class passengers. A flight attendant will come and prepare your bed, using a quilter pillow topper and offering a pair of pajamas and a set of slippers. When you wake up, you will be offered an amenities kit with high end Dermologica personal care products with which to freshen up.
Flying is an occasion in which you truly get what you pay for. Even premium economy classes will not offer a range of benefits and creature comforts even close to what is offered by business and first class. If you are considering giving up business class for premium economy, make sure you know exactly what kind of flight you will be offered and what kind of amenities will be offered to make your experience more comfortable. Different airlines have a different definition of ‘premium economy’. For example, United, Delta and JetBlue all offer an upgraded economy that simply includes a few more inches of leg space.
When it comes to flying, nothing will ever replace first class. However, it is encouraging that the other classes of flying are cleaning up their act a little. This gives discerning travelers more viable choices and also raises the bar for first class amenities. Airplanes seem to be stripping down their flights lately, offering increasingly less in terms of space and creature comforts. It is encouraging to see a trend moving in the opposite direction.