It’s safe to say Matt and I have caught our fair share of flights. On work trips, we find ourselves catching crazy numbers of flights, like 11 flights in 10 days, for example! Yep, we spend a lot of time on planes and have started to get a really good feel for what works and what doesn’t, especially when you find yourself flying long-haul in Economy. Those are the moments when, mentally and physically, you need more space but, if you’re like us, Business Class is out of reach. This is where Premium Economy comes in!
As part of our recent #SquadSQ trip with Singapore Airlines, we caught 10 flights over two weeks, experiencing different planes and three different cabin class types as we travelled between Australia, Singapore, South Africa and Seoul. Having never experienced Premium Economy before I was curious to see just what it was like, how different it was and whether or not it’s actually worth paying extra for. Today, I’m sharing all that with you! Here’s a look at Singapore Airlines Economy vs Premium Economy and my thoughts on whether it’s really worth it.
For a bit of context, we experienced Singapore Airlines Premium Economy from Brisbane to Singapore on-board an Airbus A350-900 (359) so bear in mind, individual cabin products may vary between plane types. Also, I didn’t have photos of Economy for this flight so the images used are courtesy of the airline.
But first, watch this…
When you’re spending hours in the same seat, it’s incredibly important you have enough space, comfort and support. Here’s a look at the seats in Premium and Economy, what they offer and how they compare.
There are 24 recliner seats in the Premium Economy we experienced, set out in a 2, 4, 2 formation. The seats were separated from Economy class, located in their own area toward the middle of the plane, behind Business Class. This layout immediately made me feel like I had more space and, if you can, you’d definitely want to select your seats in advance so you can get two together – one aisle, one window. That said, even in the middle where there are four seats, they seem to be coupled in groups of two. That’s where we sat and we were still really happy with our seats.
The actual seats in Premium were more comfortable and spacious than the seats in Economy. Each seat has a calf-rest and foot-rest built into it and reclines back really smoothly and easily giving you more space to spread out. The seat is also wider, so you have more room either side of you too. While it doesn’t recline all the way back, the seat certainly reclines further back than Economy and when the person in front of you puts their seat back, there’s more room between the row so their screen doesn’t end up so close to your face. In fact, I didn’t feel bothered at all by the person in front of me reclining!
Built into the seat are two USB ports and a personal reading lamp you can move and adjust with three different brightness setting. There’s also a proper power supply you can use to charge your laptop, for example, and extra stowage spots for your water bottle, laptop, headphones and other stuff. Long story short, the seat is definitely more comfortable and spacious than Economy. The only downside is you can’t lift up the armrests between seats so if you did manage to get a whole row of four seats to yourself, for example, you can’t lay down and sleep across all four for the whole flight.
There are 187 standard seats in Economy Class onboard the same plane set out in a 3, 3, 3 formation. We’ve previously experienced these on another flight from Brisbane to Singapore so I know all about how they actually feel! At times it can feel like Economy is Economy no matter who you fly with but, trust me, it isn’t. I’ve had some horror Economy experiences and Singapore Airlines ain’t one of them! They’re one of the few airlines getting it right and not designing tiny, torturous little seats that contort your body into a human pretzel.
I find the seats onboard Singapore Airlines Economy to be as spacious as you could hope for and the seats are comfortable too with a good amount of cushioning and back support. There’s a 4-way adjustable sculpted headrest which offers neck support and a new backrest cushion with bolstered sides for additional softness and comfort. If Premium just isn’t possible for you but you really do need more space, there are extra legroom seats available.
There’s a USB port for you to charge your electronics and, unlike Premium, you can lift up the armrests between seats. So, if the planets align and you find yourself with three sets to yourself you can lift them up and sleep across all three for an extra good rest. When I’m flying Economy with Singapore Airlines I usually bring my own normal size pillow from home and try to get a window seat so I can rest against it with my big pillow and get a few hours of shut-eye. One other thing, I find there’s a good amount of space between seats so when the person in front reclines their chair, the screen doesn’t end up 1 inch from your face – always helpful!
Not all entertainment systems are created equal. I’ve flown with some airlines who have a really limited selection of movies and tv shows to watch. When flying long-haul, that’s just not good enough, we really need a wide selection and variation of entertainment. Whether you fly Premium or Economy you’ll have access to the same KrisWorld entertainment system. There’s something like 1,000 entertainment options including movies, tv shows, music, games and apps and the movies and tv shows I saw are actually new! Yeah, so you’re not stuck watching Captain America for the 500th time. Here’s a look at the difference between Premium and Economy’s entertainment.
In Premium Economy, you’ll find a video touchscreen handset, and 13.3-inch HD enabled touchscreen monitor. The screen is noticeably bigger than the one in Economy and that’s important because you are a little further away from it with the extra space you get in Premium. You’re supplied with a set of noise-cancelling headphones, which is another great little perk of Premium. If you’ve not had the chance to try them yet when flying, they really do make a difference as they block out that constant hum from the plane so you can hear everything better.
In Economy, you’ll find an 11.1-inch wide touch-screen monitor and a video touch-screen handset. Importantly, the screens in Economy offer good-quality vision so you can actually see what you’re watching. Again, I’ve had horrible experiences where the screen is just so small and the quality is so poor you may as well be watching static. The entertainment system is easy to navigate and the standard issue headphones do a good job, though I do recommend bringing your own noise-cancelling headphones to use if you can as they really do make a big difference.
With no other way to get something to eat, we’re always at the mercy of the airline when it comes to food. Here’s a look at the difference in meals between Premium and Economy and some insight on how Singapore Airlines food actually tastes.
Our meals in Premium came out looking similar to how they do in Economy but slightly fancier. You have access to the same range of meal types as you do in Economy and, in addition, can reserve your main course from a number of Premium Economy ‘Book the Cook’ dishes up to 24 hours before you fly. These are fancier meals designed in collaboration with top chefs from around the world and, you guys, you can match your food with wine and champagne – yasss! Book the Cook meals include options like fettuccine seafood mornay, Hainanese chicken rice and banana bread with vanilla mascarpone. After our main meal was done the Singapore Airlines staff came around with actual Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, which was a nice little perk we really enjoyed.
In addition to the onboard meal options, you can also choose from the airline’s range of special meals (just as you can in Premium). These include options like Hindu, Kosher and Muslim meals as well as low-fat, gluten intolerant, vegetarian, vegan and diabetic meals. I’ve ordered every vegetarian meal type and, of all them, the vegetarian Indian meal is always my favourite as it’s really authentic, flavoursome curries served with roti or naan. In my experience, the food onboard Singapore Airlines in both Premium and Economy is great! There’s a good selection served which, for me, usually includes fresh fruit, salad, rolls and a tasty main course served with a dessert. The food onboard, in both Premium and Economy, is fresh and flavourful. I’ve caught a lot of flights with Singapore Airlines and there’s only been one meal I didn’t like and that was just because I personally don’t like couscous!
If you’re paying extra for Premium Economy you want to feel the difference and there are a few ‘extras’ that really give you that special experience. Premium Economy has it’s own check-in lane at the airport, so you get those ‘Omg, I’m so fancy’ vibes and Premium passengers are invited to board ahead of Economy. Onboard extras include things like comfier seats, fewer people around you, more functional aspects within the seats, a bigger screen, fancier pillow and blanket, noise-cancelling headphones, access to Premium Economy’s Book the Cook menu and, of course, the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream!
I also just need to take a moment to talk about the service because I haven’t yet. When it comes to great service nobody beats Singapore Airlines. They just don’t! And, here’s the thing, it doesn’t matter if you’re in Economy or Business, the service is the same. That same level of genuine care, kindness, attention to detail and professionalism carries throughout the entire plane, no matter where you’re seated. In my opinion, that’s what makes Singapore Airlines such a great airline – the service is consistently a cut above the rest.
So, is Premium Economy really worth it?
One of the big factors in deciding if it’s worth spending the extra money on Premium Economy is, of course, how much it’s going to cost you. I did some research on the Singapore Airlines website hoping to find a standard, ball-park figure for how much the price difference actually is. Turns out, it varies and, I assume, the cost depends on things like the time of year you fly, where you’re going and so on. This is actually really good because it means you can potentially scoop up a bargain (yep, I’m a thrifty gal!)
For example, I found the price difference between Premium and Economy for a one-way flight from Brisbane to Singapore in October varied anywhere from AU$260 and AU$600 up to AU$960. If you’re flexible with your dates and times, you could find yourself paying AU$260 for all the Premium Economy comforts and extras I mentioned above which make a big difference when flying long-haul.
We caught a day flight from Brisbane to Singapore and Premium Economy was the perfect situation for it. The more spacious, comfortable seats meant our bodies felt better and we arrived in Singapore feeling fresh. Just being able to recline the seat back further and snuggle into the fancy pillow and blanket made all the difference – we could spread out and get really cosy. Having more space to stow our belongings gave us more leg room too! The bigger screen and great range of movies meant the time passed really quickly and the noise-cancelling headphones helped block out all that ambient plane noise.
My dad makes the argument that, when flying overnight, he prefers to roll the dice on Economy and hope he gets two or three seats to himself so he can lift up the armrests to sleep. On an overnight flight when he has to work as soon as he arrives, I get it. But it is a risk and if you go with Premium, you’re guaranteed a certain amount of space and while the seat doesn’t lay back flat, it does recline further and you have more room. Just something to consider.
At the end of the day, you really do notice the difference between Pemium and Economy. I was worried Premium would be very similar to Economy and while there are similar aspects, the difference is noticeable where it matters – space, comfort and all those little extras you crave when you’re in Economy. While we probably wouldn’t be able to afford an extra AU$1,800 for the two of us to fly Premium one-way, we could afford AU$500.
So, my advice is to be flexible with your travel dates and times and look out for a great rate on Premium because it really is worth splashing out on if you can afford to do it. If you were travelling on your honeymoon or celebrating a big event or milestone birthday, for example, it would be one of those things that make your trip that much more special. Of course, if you’ve got the budget and the price difference doesn’t bother you then, my friend, Premium Economy it up because it is awesome!