American Airlines expands Premium Economy to these routes
Credit: Courtesy of American Airlines

With airlines around the world adding premium economy cabins, you can now fly long-haul in relative comfort for about 20 to 40 percent more than a full economy fare. But is it worth it?

If your budget is flexible, but doesn’t stretch all the way to business or first, then premium economy is generally a very good buy.

It is a practical option for business travelers whose corporate policies ban business class bookings, for small businesses, and for entrepreneurs. It is also a great way to treat yourself on your honeymoon. Premium economy is ideally suited to anyone who wants to travel further and more often, without burning through a travel budget in a single trip.

But buyer beware: There are economy class cabins in the market only pretending to be “premium.” You’ll get extra legroom and perhaps a few perks like added luggage allowance and priority boarding, but you’re basically flying in economy class at the front without crushing your knees.

So how can you be sure whether you’re getting the full premium experience for your more-than-economy-but-less-than-business budget?

Sometimes it’s as easy as double-checking the price. If it sounds like too much of a bargain, it might be an Economy “extra” fare. To be sure that you’re buying the right ticket check out the product on the airline site, and find answers to these four key questions:

1. Does your ticket buy a special seat?

This is a standard requirement for true premium economy. You should expect a wider seat with greater recline, leg rests and an adjustable head-rest. You should also expect more leg-room, but that is a common feature on economy-plus-but-not-premium-cabins.

2. How well will that movie play?

A larger (often better resolution) in-flight entertainment screen is another common feature of Premium Economy. Premium Economy seats are wider than standard economy seats so airlines have room to improve your cinematic experience.

3. Who else is in there?

The operative word in a premium economy cabin is “cabin”. It should be a relatively separate space, with dedicated service. Sometimes that means a secluded section at the front of Economy class, but most often there is full separation with a divider wall.

4. How much love are you getting?

Airlines offering premium economy cabins, even some offering “plus,” will at least give you a little keepsake amenity kit for the journey, and often a dedicated menu. You should also expect special attention at the airport and in the cabin.

After all, you're paying for “premium,” so you should get your money’s worth.