Airline passengers are choosing to fork out more than $2000 for premium economy seats, lured by extra legroom and attentive cabin crew service.
The New Daily spoke to several travel agencies across Australia, who said there was a “surge in requests” by travellers to snap up premium economy flights.
Brett Goulston, owner of Blue Dot Travel in St Leonards, NSW, said passengers were increasingly looking for extra comfort, particularly on long-haul flights.
“If you’re on a long-haul flight and you’re cramped at the back in economy, it’s not pleasant. So we’re definitely seeing an increase in requests for it,” Mr Goulston told The New Daily.
He said Qantas, Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific were among the major airlines offering the service.
“It offers that in-between of business and economy and there’s definitely a niche and growing market for it,” he said.
Michael Schischka, manager at boutique travel agency Mary Rossi Travel in Sydney, said passengers were spending more than $2000 to $3000 more on premium economy flights.
“It gives them a smaller cabin, extra crew, the meals can be similar to economy meals but the seats can be larger with better recline,” Mr Schischka told The New Daily.
“More and more savvy travellers are approaching us asking for premium economy and comparing it to the price of business class.”
What the Australian airlines offer
Qantas and Virgin Australia’s premium economy features additional leg and elbow room as well as personalised service from the cabin crew.
In terms of cost, it’s almost half the fare of business class for some international and domestic flights, as prices vary depending on the season.
Seats on Qantas’ premium economy are designed by industrial designer Marc Newson.
Passengers also get a dedicated check-in, priority boarding, and premium food and in-flight entertainment options on both airlines.
Earlier this year, Air New Zealand took out the Skytrax world airline award for best premium economy, knocking Qantas to second place.
‘Touch of luxury’
Consumer expert Dr Gary Mortimer said passengers wanted a “touch of a luxury” without having to pay for business fares.
“For a business-class ticket for one person, you can upgrade your family to premium economy, so it’s about that trade-off and in the end the families are happier and everyone wins,” Dr Mortimer told The New Daily.
Airline Intelligence Research managing director and former Qantas chief economist Dr Tony Webber said more airlines were beginning to offer the service.
“It’s an excellent way for airlines to boost their yields and the response from passengers shows the demand for it,” Dr Webber told The New Daily.
“I don’t think we’re going to see this from low-cost carriers just yet but it will continue to grow on full service airlines.”
He said premium economy also appealed to a proportion of the population who were obese.
“By virtue of a growing population that’s bigger, wider and taller, I think it’s an excellent option because you have that extra leg space.”