Flying Economy, Premium Economy or Business Class – Every Airline is Different

Many readers will fly economy class for holidays and often also for business travel in these constrained business times but sometimes you’ll have extra budget available – is it worth it spending extra to fly premium economy or business class instead? Another point to consider is that seats sold as Economy, Premium Economy and Business Class vary a lot between different airlines.

Regardless which type of ticket you buy, make sure you visit Seat Guru to find out which seat numbers in particular rows on your flight are the best ones to pick when doing online check-in.

It’s also worth checking out the Skytrax World Airline Awards to see which airlines are the best in terms of service, cabin and region of operation.

Flying Economy Class

All economy class seats are not the same, even on the same route between airlines that codeshare and sell seats on each others flights.

As an example Delta and Virgin Australia codeshare flights between Sydney to Los Angeles but use quite different aircraft and difference in service levels is noticable. I flew to the USA in a Delta 777-200LR plane and back in a Virgin Australia 777-300ER plane.

Virgin Australia Plane Flying in At Sunset With Lights

Given the choice I would definitely try to make sure I was on a Virgin Australia plane next time as it had better food, self service snack and water refill bar, a much newer in flight entertainment system and noticeably more legroom as well as seat width space.

Generally speaking flying on a newer, bigger plane will be a lot more comfortable both in terms of space and less noise generated by the plane. Smaller planes used for domestic flights tend to have slightly less legroom regardless of which country you’re flying in eg: Alaska Airlines across the USA or Qantas across Australia.

Flying Premium Economy Class

Airlines market Premium economy as Economy “Plus” rather than Business “Minus” in order to keep their profit margins intact.

However realistically it’s a much easier option to negotiate with your boss to spend a few hundred dollars extra to upgrade to Premium Economy if travelling for a work trip long haul compared to the much higher cost of a business class ticket which typically costs several multiples of an Economy ticket.

Premium Economy at it’s most basic for airlines like United, whose Economy Plus tickets simply give you up to 5″ inches more legroom for a little more money eg: $150.

United Airlines plane flying overhead

For other airlines like Cathay Pacific there is a bigger difference in price from economy eg: $500 but the extra expenditure gets you priority boarding, 6″ inches more legroom, deeper seat recline angle, separate seating area from Economy, better food and inflight entertainment.

Flying Business Class

Obviously the cost of a business class ticket is likely to be in the vicinity of 4-5 times the price of economy so you’re unlikely to be flying at the pointy end of the plane unless you are a highly ranked enough employee to justify the expense or are going on holiday and have a lot more expendable income than the average Australian.

What you get for a Business class ticket can vary wildly from Jetstar Business class which is basically a premium economy product marketed as Business to higher end carriers like Cathay Pacific which have a large network of airport lounges to use pre/post flight, lie flat beds to let you sleep, bigger inflight entertainment screens, a wide choice of food and beverages, snacks etc.

Boarding Jetstar Airbus A320 aircraft

Flying Business class is clearly more comfortable than Economy or Premium Economy and you’d hope so considering the expense.

Out of the dozens of flights I’ve been on during my life the only time I’ve managed to sleep at night for almost all the flight is on Cathay Pacific Business class where the lie flat bed had enough space for my 6ft 3″ length body to stretch out fully. I measured the space and my guess is you could sleep stretched out up to a height of about 6ft 9″.

Cathay Pacific Airbus A330-300 Nose

Note: The majority of flights mentioned on this page were part of work or holiday trips paid for by me. I flew as a guest on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong recently Premium Economy one way and Business return. Last year I flew to Japan on Jetstar International Business Class as a guest of Panasonic.


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