Air New Zealand Premium Economy Editors Review

July 07, 2014

Premium Economy. It’s that small cabin that sits between Business and Economy Class that we, the travelling public know the least about. It’s a somewhat new concept and many airlines don’t have it. Generally speaking, Premium Economy is 30 per cent more expensive than Economy and 70 per cent cheaper than Business Class. Many airlines have been afraid to introduce it fearing business passengers will downgrade but the experience has been that economy passengers upgrade. This was my first time in Premium Economy and like so many people I didn’t really know what ‘the deal’ was with Premium Economy. I was keen to answer a question I get asked all the time – “What’s it like and is it worth it?” 

Seats and cabin
Boarding the 777-200ER aircraft and entering the Premium Economy cabin with no expectations I first saw the seats – they were the same as Economy in a 9 abreast seating configuration. I took my seat and then the differences started to emerge – a 40 inch seat pitch giving me oh so much leg room, 50 per cent more recline than in economy, a bottle of water, a leg rest, foot rest, in-seat power, blanket, pillow and the same amenity kit as that received in Business Class. On the flight to Auckland with a half full cabin we were given a pre take off drink however on the flight out of Auckland with every seat taken on a very full flight the drinks weren’t served until just after take-off. Like Business Class the lights were dimmed immediately after service on the night flight and left off until just before the refreshment service about 45 minutes before landing. Premium Economy passengers and Business class passengers share the same bathrooms and like Business Class the cabin is separated by a curtain from the other cabins.
I should point out that the Premium Economy Spaceseat on the 777-300ER aircraft is quite different to the 777-200ER which I was reviewing. The design of the Spaceseat means that the person sitting in front of you can’t recline into your personal space. The seats that run through the inner space of the cabin have been designed for couples, so they can easily talk together, or turn to face each other to share a meal. The seats on the outer space of the cabin are angled away from each other more to cater for those who prefer to keep to themselves during the flight.

Food and beverage
This is where I was really taken aback. Many airlines that tout a Premium Economy product serve the same food as in Economy but not on Air New Zealand. The meal service and quality is very similar to that of Business Class. You are initially served the entrée and dessert on a tray with a linen napkin and silverware. The crew then come around to serve you your choice of breads from the bakery basket. The entrée is cleared from the tray and shortly after your requested main meal is served. I should point out that just like in Business Class there is no plastic up here – it’s all china, silverware, glass and fantastic large sized mugs for tea and coffee. The drinks menu is extensive and staff are happy to recommend a wine to go with your meal. Hot towels are also handed out before every meal service. So essentially the only difference between the meal service in Business Class and Premium Economy is a linen tablecloth and a choice of dessert – that’s it.
On night flights the crew offer a pastry and hot beverage prior to landing but on day time flights they serve a beautiful and filling afternoon or ‘High Tea’ – just like in Business Class. Again a tray with the linen napkin, silverware and a bowl of fruit salad is served. The cabin crew then come around with a variety of finger sandwiches as well as warm scones with jam and cream. Enjoying High Tea whilst watching a movie at 36000 feet – I’d definitely found my happy place.

In flight entertainment
Every seat in Premium Economy is equipped with a touch screen TV featuring on demand entertainment. Air New Zealand provides an endless menu of TV shows, movies, documentaries and music which can be enjoyed gate to gate. All viewing is enhanced with a set of comfortable noise cancelling headphones.

Customer Service
I spent a lot of time praising the customer service in my Business Class review and the service in the Premium Economy was no different. The passenger / cabin crew ratio was obviously different but the service was still superb – efficient, friendly, professional and as personalised as it could be with more passengers. Once again the cabin crew tailored their approach to each customer. I was sitting next to a young guy and he was affectionately referred to as “mate” by the male attendant rather than “sir”. As appears to be the case on every Air New Zealand flight I take there was a sporting team on board. The cabin crew treated them like any other passenger- had a bit of fun with them where appropriate but treated all passengers of equal importance.  

Final word
Having now experienced Premium Economy I struggle to understand why every long haul full service airline doesn’t have this product. Premium Economy as a dedicated private cabin makes perfect sense and whilst the prices vary depending on time of year and demand it is great value for money and the perfect compromise between Economy and Business especially on a long haul flight.
So my answer to the question “What’s it like and is it worth it?”
“If you’re travelling with Air New Zealand, Premium economy is basically Business class without the bed and absolutely worth it.”

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Sharon flew as a guest of Air New Zealand.  See our Business Class Review here