If you’re reluctant to buy a business-class ticket but don’t want to squeeze into economy for a long-haul flight, try premium economy. Dozens of airlines, including Qantas, Virgin Atlantic and America, and British Airways, have introduced this new cabin class, offering some of the comforts of business—priority check-in, an average of five to seven inches of additional legroom and seat width, bigger personal TV’s, and better in-flight services (more meal options; amenity kits)—at a reduced price. We found a round-trip premium economy ticket on British Airways from New York’s JFK to Heathrow in September for $1,356—nearly $1,400 less than the business-class fare. (Coach, it should be noted, was a wallet-friendly $577.) On Qantas, round-trip premium-economy tickets from Los Angeles to Sydney in September were $3,129, almost a whopping $12,000 less than those in the business/first cabin. And this October, Air France is launching its Premium Voyageur class, with 20 percent more legroom than in economy and wider seats with adjustable head- and footrests. The starting cost? $1,457 round-trip from JFK to Paris. But buyer beware: The benefits of premium economy vary significantly between carriers. Virgin Atlantic’s premium seats, for example, are 21 inches wide with a pitch of 38 inches (the larger the pitch, the greater the legroom), while some Air New Zealand seats are only 17.5 inches wide with a 35-inch pitch. So do your research before booking, either by checking seatguru.com, which offers detailed comparisons of airlines’ cabins, or by calling your carrier directly.
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