Is it worth it? Airlines' premium economy class compared

Premium economy is a relatively recent concept and one airlines are increasingly adopting to bridge the gap between business class - generally too expensive for those without expense accounts - and economy.

American Airlines and Malaysia Airlines have both indicated that they are considering introducing premium economy next year, as the class continues to grow in popularity.

Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines, told Australia Business Traveller that the airline believes there is "a lot of opportunity there". Malaysia Airlines' Christopher Mueller meanwhile said the airline is also hoping to "increase the revenue per passenger in economy class".

How to get the best seat on a plane

Ever spent 15 hours stuck in the middle seat in economy class? Then this guide's for you.

In times when the price of a flight is falling and economy passengers are feeling the squeeze of more seats crammed into cabins, it makes sense to offer a slightly more luxurious experience for those happy to pay for a footrest.

For frequent fliers especially, little touches you wouldn't find in cattle class might make all the difference when persuading people to pay that bit extra for a premium ticket. Luxury handbags apparently inspired the premium seats unveiled by Singapore Airlines this year, where "attention to the stitching detail means no two adjacent seats will share the same design."

But as there is no industry standard for premium economy class, Telegraph Travel has asked each of the most popular airlines that offer it what a passenger can expect for their money.

In the table below we compare the most obvious benefits provided by a premium economy seat. Beneath that you will find a more thorough breakdown of what each airline offers those with a premium economy ticket.

Air France - KLM

Seat pitch and width: More legroom and up to one inch (2.5 cm) more room at knee level, so 40 per cent more space compared to Economy.
Meal options: The meal service has been upgraded, with a second hot dish added and new gourmet offer on flights longer than 8 hours. This is presented in eco-designed tableware created by the Catalan designer Eugeni Quitllet.
Do chairs recline or extend? Recline within a fixed shell.
Are any drinks free? Begin with alcoholic/non-alcoholic aperitifs, followed by wine and Champagne
Are snacks free? Various snacks are available throughout the flight, including a self-service buffet on longer flights. Meals start with crackers. 
Any boarding benefits? SkyPriority: priority from check-in all the way to boarding with security fast-track at selected airports.
Any luggage benefits? Check-in 2 x 23kg; carry-on 18kg (2 items + 1 accessory)
Any other benefits not covered above? Wide HD touch screen. Noise-cancelling headphones, power outlet, reading lamp. Travel kit: toothbrush, toothpaste, socks and eye mask. Soft wool blanket, feather pillow and blanket. Bottle of water.

Air New Zealand

Seat pitch and width: 42" seat pitch
Meal options: A selection of Business Premier options are served ifrom a menu designed with our consultant chef, Peter Gordon. Premium Economy passengers can expect to sample mouth-watering options, complemented by premium New Zealand wines. They can even order snacks direct from their personal entertainment screen.
Do chairs recline or extend? Fixed shell design – seat reclines within its own space.
Are any drinks free? Yes all drinks are free.
Are snacks free? Free snacks are available at the click of a button from the personal entertainment screen.
Any boarding benefits? There is a separate check-in for premium passengers.
Any luggage benefits? 2 pieces checked-in luggage, max 23kg. 2 pieces carry-on luggage.
Any other benefits not covered above? There is a unique cabin configuration of 2-2-2. Inner seats for couples are available with retractable armrests as well as outer seats angled for better privacy. In seat USB and iPod connections. 10.6" touch screen entertainment available from the moment you get on board to the moment you arrive.

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ANA

Seat pitch and width: pitch: 38", width 19.3" 
Meal options: Premium Economy meals are the same as in economy but followed by Business Class desserts. 
Do chairs recline or extend? The chairs recline and offer a 17 per cent larger seat than in Economy. They also have adjustable head, leg and foot rests. 
Are any drinks free? Yes, meals are accompanied by Business Class wines and sake. Sparkling wine is also available between meals.
Are snacks free? Snacks such as soup, and mini ramen noodles are available between meals.
Any boarding benefits? Priority check-in and luggage handling. Customers can also use Star Alliance partners' Business Class Lounge at Heathrow Terminal 2 and the ANA Lounge at Tokyo Haneda Airport.
Any luggage benefits? Passengers are allowed 46kg (2x23kg) of carry-on luggage. 
Any other benefits not covered above? A 10.6-inch LCD widescreen touch panel. A universal power port, USB port, large-size table and personal reading light. Sony noise-cancelling headphones. Extra amenities, including plush slippers, toothbrush, an eye mask and earplugs. More than 390 programmes of fully-digital AVOD (audio-visual on demand) movies, TV shows, ANA original programmes, music and games (available in all classes). A WiFi service is available on most European routes.

British Airways World Traveller Plus

Seat pitch and width: pitch 38", 18.5" wide
Meal options: Main course for lunch or dinner is offered from a choice of two of the meals featured on the Club World (business class) menu. It is served with fine china and linen napkins. Afternoon tea is also available for customers.
Do chairs recline or extend? They recline by up to 8".
Are any drinks free? All drinks, alcoholic or no-alcoholic, are free. A full bar service is provided for all cabins.
Are snacks free? All snacks are free in World Traveller Plus, in all cabins on long-haul flights and on request in economy.Any boarding benefits?No.
Any luggage benefits? A larger free baggage allowance of two checked bags, each a maximum of 23 kg (51lb).
Any other benefits not covered above? A 10.6 inch personal touch screen with noise-cancelling headphones. Personal in-seat power sockets compatible with UK/US/EU plugs, plus two USB sockets. A fleece blanket, amenity kit and hot towel service. A smaller cabin with a maximum of 35 seats per aircraft.

See also: Flight test - BA premium economy

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An airline with the best food, service and seats in the world? Traveller.com.au's writers name what their dream plane would feature.

Cathay Pacific

Seat pitch and width: Pitch is 38" and width is 19.5"
Meal options: Premium Economy passengers enjoy an enhanced onboard meal selection.
Do chairs recline or extend? The seat has an 8" recline distance to ensure passengers can relax in both sleeping and sitting upright position.
Are any drinks free? Premium Economy passengers are welcomed aboard with juice and champagne and receive a personal bottle of water for the flight. A selection of complimentary drinks are served throughout the flight.
Are snacks free? Additional complimentary snack choices include more fresh fruit, an energy bar and dessert.
Any boarding benefits? Priority check-in at dedicated counters and priority boarding before Economy Class passengers.Any luggage benefits? An increase in baggage allowance from 20kg to 25kg (weight system) or two pieces of baggage from 23kg to 25kg each (piece system).
Any other benefits not covered above? Premium Economy features a quieter, more spacious cabin than the traditional Economy Class, with between 26 and 34 seats per aircraft. The seat comes with a large meal table, cocktail table, footrest, a 10.6-inch personal television, an in-seat power outlet, a multi-port connector for personal devices and extra personal stowage space. Passengers receive an environmentally-friendly amenity kit. Larger pillows and noise-cancelling headsets are also provided.

See also: Flight test - Cathay Pacific premium economy

Lufthansa

Seat pitch and width: 38" pitch and 18"to 19" width, up to 50 per cent extra legroom.
Meal options: Served on porcelain tableware.
Do chairs recline or extend? 130 degree recline
Are any drinks free? Drinks are included within all Lufthansa fares
Are snacks free? Snacks are included within all Lufthansa fares
Any boarding benefits? No.
Any luggage benefits? Two checked bags up to 23 kg each.
Any other benefits not covered above? PC power for every seat. Water bottle and high-quality amenity kit. For an extra EUR 25 passengers can also enjoy the Lufthansa Business Lounges before departure. Economy passengers can bid for a premium upgrade using "myOffer" on the website.

Norwegian

Seat pitch and width: 46 inches and width 19 inches
Meal options: Two premium meals from a separate menu (dinner and a light breakfast) are included in long haul flights.
Do chairs recline or extend? The seats recline and there is extra legroom in front.
Are any drinks free? Yes fully complimentary.
Are snacks free? Two premium meals included.
Any boarding benefits? Priority check in desk, fast track security.
Any luggage benefits? Two items of 20kg checked luggage, plus hand luggage.
Any other benefits not covered above? Complimentary lounge access, blankets and headphones provided, plus free seat reservation.

See also: Flight test - Norwegian Airlines

Qantas

Seat pitch and width: 38"- 42" and 19.5"
Meal options: Choose from the Rockpool inspired International Premium Economy menu prior to select flights with Select on Q-Eat. During the flight they'll be able to enjoy a contemporary menu inspired by leading Australian restaurateur Neil Perry, all served on Marc Newson-designed tableware.
Do chairs recline or extend? The chairs recline by 9"
Are any drinks free? Yes, the on-board selection of drinks which include soft drinks, juices, water, wines and spirits.
Are snacks free? Yes
Any boarding benefits? Dedicated priority check-in counters and priority access to a dedicated boarding lane in selected international ports. Passengers can also check in online between 24 hours and two hours before their flight departs.
Any luggage benefits? 40kg allowance in Premium economy compared to the 30kg allowance in Economy.
Any other benefits not covered above? Noise-cancelling headsets and an adjustable,10.6 inch* personal, touch screen, for in-flight entertainment. Power outlets and USB connectivity are provided. Multi-way adjustable headrest and integrated leg rest with fold-out foot rest. Complimentary comfort kits are offered on selected flights - a handy zip-locked pouch containing eyeshades, toothbrush and toothpaste, as well as socks on request. On long haul flights, passengers are given a large cotton pillow and a blanket backed with a soft sheet.

See also: Flight test - Qantas premium economy

Singapore Airlines

Seat pitch and width: Width between 18.5 and 19.5 inches, pitch (legroom) 38 inches.
Meal options: In addition to the onboard menu, customers can also select from the new Premium Economy Book the Cook meal pre-order service. Dishes must be ordered at least 24 hours in advance.
Do chairs recline or extend? Each leather seat has an eight-inch recline. In addition, there is a calf and foot rest, plus a headrest and wings. The seat has been designed in conjunction with UK designers James Park Associates with inspiration coming from luxury handbags. 
Are any drinks free? All drinks on board Singapore Airlines are complimentary in both the economy and premium economy cabins. In premium economy, customers can also enjoy Champagne. 
Are snacks free? All snacks onboard Singapore Airlines are complimentary and may include crisps and chocolate, or sandwiches and fruit.
Any boarding benefits? Priority check in, bag tagging and priority boarding is standard for all Premium Economy customers. 
Any luggage benefits? A baggage allowance of 35kg is offered - an increase on the standard economy allowance. Bags will be priority tagged to ensure prompt delivery at baggage reclaim on arrival. In addition, customers in premium economy benefit from increased frequent flyer mileage when they fly.
Any other benefits not covered above? Enhanced in-flight entertainment experience. Available are noise-cancelling headphones and a large 13.3-inch full HD monitor. Amenity kits.

See also: Flight test - Singapore Airlines economy

Thomas Cook 'New Premium' service

Seat pitch and width: 35 inch pitch, 19.7 inches width
Meal options: Same meals but included in the price. Outbound is always James Martin, inbound from the US is not James Martin branded but the same high quality.
Do chairs recline or extend? Recline
Are any drinks free? Complimentary alcoholic drinks, except champagne.
Are snacks free? One snack prior to take-off service plus a light meal/snack prior to landing.
Any boarding benefits? Choose seats online prior to departure. Check-in & Bag Drop open from 4pm-10pm at Manchester Airport. Separate premium check-in (not including Holguin in Cuba). Priority lane at Manchester Airport. Separate premium boarding.
Any luggage benefits? 30kg checked in baggage allowance – non US routes; two pieces of 23kg checked in baggage allowance (46Kg total) – US routes. 10kg hand baggage allowance. Premium baggage is the first baggage taken off the plane.
Any other benefits not covered above? Amenity Kit. Premium pillow and blanket. Head-set for the in-flight entertainment system. Complimentary activity for kids under 7. Newspaper or magazines. Additional content on the in-flight entertainment system.

Thomson Airways

Seat pitch and width: Seats are 38", economy is from 32".
Meal options: Premium Economy passengers receive a four-course meal.
Do chairs recline or extend? Yes, seats have a larger recline than those in economy.
Are any drinks free? All drinks are free in Premium Economy and long-haul Economy. But Premium Economy passengers also receive a free glass of sparkling wine before take-off.
Are snacks free? Pre-landing light bites are complimentary.
Any boarding benefits? Premium Economy passengers are entitled to priority boarding.
Any luggage benefits? A larger luggage allowance of 23kg.
Any other benefits not covered above? UK airport lounge access; fast-track security; larger TV screen in seat back; duvets and pillows on night flights; noise-cancelling headphones; complimentary newspapers/magazines.

Virgin Atlantic

Seat pitch and width: 38 inch seat pitch, 21 inch seat width
Meal options: The menu is an enhanced offering served on china with stainless steel cutlery and a choice of three entrees, including a vegetarian option.
Do chairs recline or extend? Chairs recline and there is a foot rest.
Are any drinks free? Sparkling wine on boarding then all drinks are free throughout the flight.
Are snacks free? All snacks and meals are free. On the new 787 aircraft there is a Wonderwall in the galley area which houses snacks and drinks. Customers are encouraged to stand up, stretch their legs and help themselves to anything they would like.
Any boarding benefits? Priority boarding after Upper Class customers.
Any luggage benefits? Premium Economy customers can check in two suitcases up to 23kg each. Customers also receive priority luggage reclaim.
Any other benefits not covered above? Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy is a completely separate cabin with dedicated crew. There are also dedicated check-in desks at all locations.

See also: Flight test - Virgin Atlantic premium economy

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The Telegraph, London

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