As an avid traveler and native German living in New York City, I have endured many long hours crammed into a tiny seat in the economy section of the aircraft. Every time I board a long-haul flight, I look with envy at those passengers in First and Business Class, sprawled out on their big seats, knowing that, unfortunately, this style of travel is well beyond my financial means.
On a recent trip to Hong Kong, I was invited by Cathay Pacific Airways to sample their new Premium Economy Class on the 12-hour maiden voyage of their new Boeing 777-300ER from the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington. We were welcomed with champagne and orange juice as we settled into the intimate cabin, as one might expect when enjoying first or business class travel. As part of the Premium Economy experience, we enjoyed wider seats with a bigger recline, a footrest, and more leg- and storage room – a great improvement on regular economy seats. A 10.6-inch personal television featured many popular movies, TV shows, and other entertainment – and noise-canceling headphones made sure that I didn’t have to strain to understand the conversations (however, I found on the return trip that some of the older headphones are not as efficient as the brand new ones we received on this delivery flight). The seats are also equipped with a power outlet and multi-port connector compatible with most popular gadgets.
I am a bit of a geek for airplane food and always curious what kind of obscure meal will be served. So, I was pleasantly surprised that we received the same choice of three meals as Business Class passengers, and the seared fillet of sea bass with lemon dill tarragon caper sauce, potatoes, and sautéed spinach was by far the most gourmet meal I’ve ever had on a flight, rivaling many restaurant-cooked dishes.
Finally, passengers also receive priority boarding, an increased baggage allowance (which is especially helpful for a city like Hong Kong, which offers a plethora of shopping opportunities), an amenity kit, and larger pillows.
For the benefit of more comfort, space, and personal attention, you should expect to pay around 60-70 percent more than a regular Economy Class seat. (For example, a flight from New York City to Hong Kong this fall will cost around $1200 in Economy and $1900 in Premium Economy). However, you’ll save around 75 percent as compared to a $7600 Business Class ticket for the same route.
Launched in February 2012, Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy cabin consists of 26 to 34 seats per plane. In the U.S., Premium Economy is currently available on all flights departing New York (JFK), San Francisco, and Los Angeles, with Chicago flights scheduled to receive the new class in January 2013. Internationally, it’s currently available on flights from Toronto, Vancouver, Sydney, London, Johannesburg, Frankfurt, and Paris, and more destinations will be added in the near future.
My verdict: Thanks to the roomier and more advanced seats, I actually managed to sleep pretty comfortably for around five hours, and arrived in Hong Kong feeling a lot more rested than I normally would traveling in Economy Class. Considering that long-haul flights are always a special purchase and never cheap, I’d definitely recommend Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy class to those travelers that would like some extra comfort but may not be able or willing to splurge on a business class ticket.
For more information on Cathay Pacific and their new Premium Economy Class, click here.