Premium Economy is like flying used to be before the seats got smaller, or we got bigger, or both.
It is also reminiscent of old-style Business class seats, when they were more armchair than tech pod, before the airlines applied engineering and design magic to make the front of the plane convert to beds with fluffy blankets at the touch of a button.
This class between Economy and Business brings long distance flying back into the pleasure of travelling again rather than something to be endured between exotic locations.
It’s all about comfort, good service, food, wine, movies and a seat to stretch out in (and not squeeze into).
It starts at the airport at check-in where the queues are not worth mentioning at the premium counter, unlike Economy where the line announces sweaty delays in snakes and twists.
A Premium Economy ticket also comes with a 10kg extra checked baggage allowance.
After immigration, Premium Economy doesn’t come with a business lounge pass unless you are a Qantas Club member or Gold frequent flyer or better.
But boarding is a breeze with a separate entrance to the aircraft shared with Business Class passengers.
QF127 Sydney to Hong Kong
As a rule of thumb Premium Economy is about half the cost of Business class and twice as much as Economy.
But there are deals and occasional sales. Premium Economy can be had for less than $2000 return.
Premium Economy has its own cabin of 35 seats on the upper deck of the A380, just behind Business.
The cabin has a feel of space, with a two-three-two seat layout. Even the aisle feels wider.
For those who like window seats, there’s a large storage bin under the window.
The overhead storage is ample for larger carry on bags.
The toilets are shared with the Business class cabin.
26B, Upper Deck, Premium Economy Cabin on the A380.
This is where Premium Economy makes a big difference on a longer flight.
The seat, designed by Marc Newson and first launched on the Qantas A380 and B747 fleet in 2008, is wide and the leg room allows a comfortable stretch.
No knee crunch from the person in front of you. Lie on you side or on your back. Stretch out with plenty of legroom.
There’s also a leg rest which folds out from the seat. This is comfortable but for someone in a window seat it is a bit of a gymnastic feat to get out over stretched-out legs to the aisle.
The numbers: The seat is 19.5 inches (49.5cm) wide and has a pitch (an indicator of legroom) of 38 inches (96.5cm). In economy, the seat is 18 inches (48cm) wide with a 32 inch (81cm) pitch.
A boy, aged about 10, sitting in the next row looks like he is sitting in a giant’s chair.
One arm of the seat hides a tray, the other a video screen for in-flight entertainment.
The seat comes pre-loaded with a blanket; not those flimsy ones but a real weighty textile with a sheet sown on one side, and a proper pillow which can be fixed to the headrest.
Also a superior set of headphones, the same as handed out in Business.
And an amenity kit, within a Country Road Logo bag, including a toothbrush, eye shades and socks.
NOTE: This is not the same Premium Economy seat as the newer version on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner which does the ultra-long distance Perth to London run.
A member of the cabin crew takes my jacket to hang in a locker.
An advertised welcome drink is missing on this flight but one comes soon after takeoff.
The drinks trolley is stocked with the same wine offered in Business. I choose a 2015 Yering Station Chardonnay. The refills comes fast.
The lunch menu includes a selection of three mains plus a green salad.
The food is a key distinction of Qantas Premium Economy.
In the past I’ve brought along my own sandwiches when in economy on a long haul flight rather than play roulette with what may be available from the airline trolley.
This has proved to be a good strategy when at the back of the aircraft, the last seat in the row, next to the toilets. By the time the trolley arrives, only fish is left. Best not to risk that on a long flight.
However, the Premium Economy fare is well presented, comes with a large linen napkin, tastes like real food, and sits on real plates with cutlery (compared to plastic and tin foil in Economy).
I choose the beef brisket with spiced tomato and capsicum, roast pumpkin and corn cake. I eat it all.
The cheese ravioli with roasted tomato and Parmesan is also very good.
Plunger coffee and fresh tea is available on demand. And water bottles are topped up from a chilled jug.
Meals can also be booked online before the flight.
Toward the end of the flight a snack is served with a choice between pumpkin empanada with spicy tomato relish or stir fried eggplant with roasted red capsicum, sauteed mushrooms and egg fried rice. I take the fried rice, which comes in a small bowel. Delicious.
The return journey, an overnight flight on QF 128, serves breakfast.
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