tripcentral.ca president Richard Vanderlubbe talks about his recent experience flying to Europe and why flying Premium Economy is worth the extra pennies:
I recently booked and flew Premium Economy on Air France from Toronto to Paris and returned onboard their Boeing 777-200 series aircraft. The experience was excellent.
I’m 6 foot 3 inches with a lot of my height in my legs. Economy seats on most airlines send me directly to my chiropractor for a few sessions upon my return. Some airlines are much worse than others, and for a long haul, I do everything I can to ensure I get legroom: upgrading to business class if the price is reasonable, using points, booking premium economy or at the very least, choosing exit row seats.
The fare was $400 more than the regular economy fare – $200 in each direction. This gave me priority check in (I also hate lines), 2 pieces of free checked priority luggage, and priority boarding (first crack at overhead bin space). The flight was seven hours, so you figure I paid $200/7 = just less than $30 an hour for comfort, a better meal, and more attentive service.
“It was ergonomically superior to any economy seat I’ve had in the past.”
Normally I have less legroom in a bulkhead seat – not having the legroom underneath the seat in front of me – but this space was ample. The seat was excellent – not only more legroom but a superior seat in construction and width. It was ergonomically superior to any economy seat I’ve had in the past. It didn’t actually recline into the space behind me, but sort of slid forward allowing for excellent back and lumbar support.
The seat had its own pull out TV screen for in-flight entertainment in addition to the seat tray. Sure it would have been nice to be upgraded to the business class cabin where the seats recline almost flat, or completely flat on some aircraft. The difference in price when you’re travelling after tax money, paid for personally, and not on points – well, Premium Economy was just fine.
A funny interaction took place with the flight attendant, where he offered us a few different choices of wine in small personal sized bottles. I asked if there was any extra cost, not having looked into quite that level of detail in advance, and he retorted with a smirk in a Parisian accent “No sir, not today. Today you are flying on Aih-Frawnce and you don’t have to pay anything more.” Premium economy offers the superior service lost since the “Golden Age” of air travel combined with a far superior ergonomic seat than that era.
How do you find Premium Economy at a decent price?
Consumers looking at flights online will see prices, logos, and flight times – and weigh those variables in their decision making about which airline to choose. There are real differences between airline levels of service, seat pitch, meal and baggage charges, and policies. It is less of a Coke-Pepsi commodity choice (admittedly, many people have strong preferences between Coke and Pepsi – but you catch my drift). I used to be addicted to Coca Cola (not Coke), kicked the habit many years ago, and now am proudly addicted to coffee.
Premium Economy choices are even trickier. It’s best to deal with one of our travel agents to sort out the real differences in the fares. For the small fee we charge, you will be sure to get the right service for your comfort. There are differences even within airlines based on the aircraft type and size, so an inside scoop from a travel agent can prove useful. Nothing about my Premium Economy fare helped my seat on Air France’s connecting flight from Paris to Nice. The Airbus 320 we had had one class of very tight seats. At the very least, I still had priority check-in, priority boarding, priority luggage, and luckily I was seated in Row 1 (typically the first few rows) for a quick exit from the sardine can in the end, making the time before I was able to stretch my legs even shorter!
Overall, I found Air France’s transatlantic Premium Economy class comparable to Air Transat’s Club Class. The service on Air Transat’s Club is a bit more attentive and I’d say the food is a bit better. If you’re tall like me, suffer from any medical issues, or if you’ve worked hard and want a little bit of comfort in an otherwise mostly uncomfortable ride, consider Premium options.
Whether they are Transat’s Club, Option Plus, Sunwing Elite, Premium Rouge, WestJet Plus – and a whole myriad of offerings on international airlines – it is well worth it. You’re heading on a nice river cruise, tour, or even an all-inclusive vacation – it adds a lot to the experience to start your vacation in shorter lines and not being crammed in a cattle car.
Ask our agents for help with Premium Economy, other upgrades, or even securing exit row seats for a small fee. Your back will thank you.