Cathay Pacific: Economy vs. Premium Economy

One of life’s big travel questions – is it worth paying the extra for Premium Economy?  Some airlines such as Air New Zealand and Turkish really do offer a premium product with nicer food, comfy chair and other frills.  On other airlines, the difference can be minimal and it’s really a question of expense.

CX Premium Economy LAX

CX Premium Economy HKG-LAX

As I’m based in Hong Kong, I often find myself flying my ‘home’ airline of Cathay Pacific.  Premium Economy is a fairly new addition on the Cathay Pacific fleet to a number of select destinations including London, Vancouver, LAX and Sydney.  Having recently flown both Economy and Premium longhaul on their Boeing 777-300, I thought I’d give you my take on it:

Why you might want to pay the extra

  • If the price difference between Economy and Premium is not too insane (as a rough guide, it tends to be approx. twice the price)
  • If you’re flying more than 10 hours
  • If you’re taking an overnight flight and need to sleep.  The recline is 8 inches as opposed to 6 inches on the new Economy seats.
  • If you like the feel of a smaller cabin.  Premium has typically approx. 30 seats depending on the aircraft.  You might also be guided by the size of your party, especially if you are in a ‘2’ as Premium seat configurations are 2-3-2 (Airbus A330) or 2-4-2 (Boeing 777).

    Cathay Premium Economy

    CX Premium Economy HKG-LHR

  • If you need a bigger seat.  The seats are certainly wider and have a seat pitch of 38 inches (6 inches more than Economy).  What’s a seat pitch I hear you cry!  That’s the distance between the back of your seat and the back of the seat in front. 
  • If you need a comfier seat as Premium definitely offers more padding for your bottom.  There’s a headrest that you can move around and a foot rest (or leg rest if you are the bulkhead).
  • If you like a slightly more attentive service whether that’s being offered a drink as you get onboard or receiving your meal faster than if you were in Economy
  • If you like a Vanity Pack although let’s be honest here, Cathay’s pack consists of things ALL passengers would have been given in the 80s; toothbrush, tiny toothpaste, eyemask, socks and ear plugs.

    Premium Economy Vanity Pack

    Premium Economy Vanity Pack

  • If headphones are important to you.  You get those nice noise cancelling ones in Premium, the same ones as they give out in Business no less!  My toddler pretty much destroyed the ones given to us in Economy…
  • If you need extra luggage allowance (25kg in Premium vs. 20kg in Economy)
  • If you like Priority Boarding (well.. after First/Business).  However you would get this anyway if you are a Marco Polo member or travelling with kids.  You’ll also disembark quicker (unless like me, your toddler will have left their teddybear and then you have to wait until the entire plane disembarks to go back for it).
  • If you want a greater chance of a free upgrade to Business.  Although the reality is if you’re travelling with kids, it’s not going to happen. 

Why you might not want to pay the extra

  • I reiterate here, paying extra for Premium can be expensive.  Do you really want to spend the extra money on 12 hours of your life?  A cheaper way to do it is to save those miles and book your Premium seat with them or pay for Economy and upgrade with miles.  The cheapest way to a great seat is to try to reserve the bulkhead in Economy, read about my recent experience here
  • If you need 3 seats AND a bassinet, you won’t be able to sit together.  In Premium economy, the bassinets are only available in the side bulkheads where there are 2 seats.
  • If you need the arm rest to move.  None of the armrests in Premium Economy go up although do bear in mind that this is also true of most seats in the bassinet rows of Economy.
  • It’s out of your control but there’s nothing worse than paying extra for Premium only to find Economy is empty and you’ve lost out on a row of seats to yourself!


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  1. Mrs ATWWAH

    I can definitely recommend premium economy on BA. We did it recently on the way back from Dubai, a day time flight, and it was just a bit nicer than economy. Although we used Avius points to justify the extra and BA had an offer on anyway.

  2. DanC

    Our experience with Premium Economy Cathay Pacific was that we were boarded LAST going to and coming back from HK. Yes, we had to stand for 40 minutes at LAX while we watched everyone including economy and crying babies board before us. Same at HKG except a shorter wait.

    1. Nicola

      Argh that’s rubbish!

  3. DanC


  4. Grant

    Air NZ premium economy is great – Cathay’s is rubbish. I buy CX ticket but fly NZ (they coshare from NZ)

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