Travellers look forward to comfort, priority treatment on SIA premium economy

Passengers hope to get more comfort and priority treatment when Singapore Airlines starts its premium economy class.

Premium service is one of the perks of premium economy class, available on a number of airlines. Singapore Airlines will introduce it next year. -- PHOTO: EVA AIR
Premium service is one of the perks of premium economy class, available on a number of airlines. Singapore Airlines will introduce it next year. -- PHOTO: EVA AIR

A flight to Paris last year changed Ms Nicole Han's perception of flying long-haul.

She flew Premium economy on Air France.

"I had flown to Europe once before on economy class and had an extremely uncomfortable journey. I'm not a fan of flying in general and neither is my mother.

"So for our trip to Europe last year, we decided to bump ourselves up," says the 25-year-old assistant manager at an education company.

She adds: "Business class was a big leap in terms of price, but premium economy was still affordable."

Premium economy is an in-between class and, as the name suggests, typically offers more comfort than economy class, such as more legroom, additional baggage allowance, better meals and extra amenities.

Singapore Airlines announced last week that it would offer such a class starting next year, joining a long list of carriers such as Cathay Pacific, EVA Air and Qantas. EVA Air was one of the earliest airlines to introduce premium economy, in 1992.

Fares can range from about 40 per cent more to as much as double what economy class costs.

To enjoy the perks of premium economy, Ms Han and her mother paid $3,000 each on Air France - almost twice the price of economy, but she says it made a world of difference.

She says: "We had a lot more legroom, the seats reclined further and came with leg-rests, and there were just the two of us in our row, instead of the usual three-seat configuration."

She adds that premium economy passengers were given a compartment at the side of the aisle for their bags.

She says: "Our bags were always within reach, not in the overhead compartment, which was nice. I would definitely do it again - the flight was so much better."

Student Anita Balakishnan received a pleasant surprise when Australian carrier Qantas bumped her up to premium economy on a flight to Brisbane in January this year.

"The seats were wider and reclined a lot further. There were also some touches of business class - when you first get seated on the plane, they serve you champagne and they set your tray with a tablecloth and cutlery," says the 27-year-old.

She enjoyed the flight more and adds that though she is not usually able to sleep on flights, she fell asleep in the premium economy seat.

However, she says she would not fork out the extra cash for a similar trip.

She checked and found out that she would have to pay $700 to $900 more for the upgrade, depending on the date of travel.

"If I were taking an 18-hour flight, it would be worth it, but this one was too short," she says. It takes 71/2 hours to fly from Singapore to Brisbane.

While perks such as more drinks and a bigger variety of meals may attract some travellers, 1.8m-tall David Chang's only concern is the legroom.

The 62-year-old, who owns a manufacturing firm, flew in EVA Air's premium economy class and said the difference was "very noticeable".

He adds: "I've taken a lot of long-haul flights in economy class and it's especially terrible when the person in front of you leans back. Not all the legroom in economy cabins is standardised either and within the same airline, planes can have different configurations."

He cannot remember how much he paid for his flight to the United States but says it was roughly double the price of the economy-class ticket, which was on sale.

He adds: "Any flight longer than seven hours is uncomfortable for me if I don't have enough legroom. I also found that I suffered from less jet lag when I flew premium economy, as I could rest better."

Travellers say they hope the national carrier's new premium economy class will combine the best aspects of existing offerings and go a step further.

Sales manager Melvin Loh, who has flown in EVA Air's premium economy class, says he hopes Singapore Airlines' premium economy class will have the same generous seat pitch and angle of recline that EVA Air's seats have.

"It was very comfortable and I know that not all airlines' premium economy classes are so spacious," says Mr Loh, 42, who topped up his economy fare by $500 to fly to Vancouver five years ago.

Ms Han says that "it would be a dream" if Singapore Airlines offered its premium economy travellers priority boarding on flights leaving from Changi Airport.

She adds that she and her 59-year-old mother were able to join special queues in the Paris airport as premium economy customers to get through immigration more quickly.

"It was a bonus to be able to cut off the economy passengers," she says. She adds that better meals, comparable to business- class meals, would be a plus. On her Air France premium economy flight, they enjoyed meals that included a steak dish.

Ms Balakishnan says she also hopes for an "express pass" of sorts, both in Changi and other airports, when Singapore Airlines introduces its premium economy class.

She says: "It would be nice not to have to stand in line at immigration upon landing and just go straight to a priority line."

Singapore Airlines' vice-president of public affairs Nicholas Ionides says the airline does not want to reveal the features it will offer in premium economy just yet.

"We would prefer to keep our competitors guessing for now," he says. "But rest assured that we will have a very competitive offering, featuring more space, amenities and convenience."

Singapore Airlines' announcement is good news for business travellers whose companies' travel policy might not permit business class, says Mr Andrew Wong, regional director for TripAdvisor Flights and SeatGuru.

He says: "It is good value when the budget isn't big enough for a business-class ticket, which could be double or triple the cost of premium economy. Yet a premium economy seat will provide more comfort and the ability to work in-flight.

"Singapore Airlines connects some very long routes. A 38-inch seat pitch, a smaller cabin and more amenities can make a huge difference to arriving in better shape."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.