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Is Premium Economy Worth The Extra Cash?

Cathay Premium Economy

Is Premium Economy worth the cash?  The eternal dilemma faced by those pondering longhaul travel. I recently used airmiles to upgrade a round trip economy flight to Premium on Cathay Pacific.  This is a long, boring flight (12 hours), made particularly more arduous by the fact my return was a day flight.  I can’t complain too much though as I was without the kids.  However, the idea of a slightly more comfortable seat than my usual cattle class was particularly appealing.

To give you an idea of cost, an economy fare, London to Hong Kong roundtrip on Cathay costs approx. USD $1,000 (GBP 700).  A Premium Economy fare for the same leg costs approx. USD $2,000 (GBP 1400) which is double!  Now there are of course times when Premium fares are on discount or like me, you’ve used miles to upgrade. But the question is at double the price, is it double the fun?

Well to save you reading the whole post, I’d say if you are paying for the entirety out of your own pocket, at double the price, probably not.  The seat is more comfortable and there are a few fringe benefits but I don’t think a glass of sparkling wine on take off and a footrest is worth it.  However, if you can do it with some extra miles or there’s a special deal on then yes, it does make flying longhaul that bit more bearable.  As a side note, if you’re traveling with kids I’d save the cash and travel in economy as the arm rests (on the whole) don’t lift up.

Now let me talk you through Cathay’s Premium Economy experience

You get to use the designated Premium queue.  At Hong Kong there was a huge economy queue so skipping past this was a great result. However at Heathrow there were literally zero passengers waiting to check-in so there were no benefits.  Passengers can check in a bag weighing 25kg as opposed to 20kg for economy bags. (If you are a Marco Polo member then check these guidelines as you are entitled to a bit more).

Boarding

There is a designated Premium queue which gets you onboard slightly faster.  As you are closer to the front of the plane, you also get to disembark fairly quickly.

Onboard

Once you’ve sauntered past the First and Business cabins you realise that Premium is basically just a bigger economy seat.  For those that like hard facts, the Premium seat has a pitch of 38″ and width of 19.5″.  an Economy seat has a pitch of 32″ and width of 18.5″.  So really the big difference is in the pitch which is the space between a point on one seat and the same point on the seat in front of it.

Cathay Premium Economy

I was onboard Cathay’s 777-300.  Premium Economy is its own designated cabin with 34 seats that are 4-5 rows deep.  It does lend itself to the feel of a more elite club than the vastness of economy.  If you are concerned about baby noise, you still won’t escape it as Premium has a bassinet in front of 32H and bassinets literally four rows behind at the front of economy.

The seat configuration is 2-4-2.  I would be really annoyed if i had paid extra for Premium and was stuck in a middle seat.  To avoid this I phoned Cathay in advance to reserve a seat. If you can’t do this (I’m a Marco Polo member) then make sure you’re on top of that online check-in 48 hours in advance!  Have the Seat Map on SeatGuru open when you’re doing this so you have an idea of where to request.

The seat does feel spacious and has a footrest.  The seatback pocket is decent and there’s a small side table where you can place your drink/wine (no judgements my friends).  

Cathay Footrest

Frequent loo-go’ers will like the fact Premium has its own designated toilet.

Freebies

Airlines have slowly been scaling back their freebies.  In Premium you get nice noise-cancelling headphones and a limited amenity pack (contains socks, eyeshade, earplugs, and toothbrush and toothpaste).

Cathay Amenities - Premium

You also get a welcome drink before take-off although I was slightly disappointed to see no booze offered on the 09:40 departure!

There’s also the ubiquitous hot towel. I’m never too sure whether I actually like this, particularly when it goes cold but never mind.

Food

It’s the same gastronomical extravaganza as you would sample in Economy. I guess the only difference is that you get it slightly earlier.  If you are feeling peckish throughout the flight, head down to the galley where they’ve got free snacks like crisps and toblerone.

Cathay Premium Economy Dinner Cathay Premium Menu

Entertainment

Cathay Pacific is world-class in its onboard entertainment.  Box sets, documentaries, kids TV galore, it’s all there at the touch of the 10.6″ personal TV.

Cathay TV

In Conclusion!

I don’t think Premium Economy is worth double the economy fare but I do think it’s perhaps worth paying 50% extra.  Or do like I did and save up your air miles so it feels like it’s free.  I was particularly unlucky on my way out that whilst Premium was jam-packed, there was hardly anyone in economy.  They were all stretched out over an entire row, forming their own flat bad.  On my return, Premium was practically empty so I did have a whole row to myself.  I did learn that contrary to my original belief, the armrests in the middle of the middle row do lift so you can spread out over two seats.  However, I also learnt that when you try to concertina yourself over 3 and drink too much alcohol (I blame the 4 hour delay), you may end up requiring physio for a bad back.

2 comments

  1. Ryan Biddulph

    We do the economy bit Nicola but a little bump up in price seems worth premium. Doubling up on price? Maybe not so much. I’m weird; long flights feel fun to me. Like an event. I get watching my movies and writing my eBooks and get lost in an ADD haze LOL….

    Ryan

  2. Cest La Vibe - Travel & Lifestyle

    The food actually looks pretty good (considering that I don’t like airline food) but it’s a lot more expensive than economy!

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