Comfort is not the word that comes to mind when travelling economy across the Pacific so when a chance to upgrade a fourteen hour flight between Auckland and Los Angeles to Premium Economy comes along it’s worth grabbing.
Among Air New Zealands plethora of flight classes the airline offers a premium economy Spaceseat service on its long haul Boeing 777-300 services.
With extra space and legroom along with an improved food menu, the service is a step up from basic economy but is it a suitable substitute for the more expensive business class?
At first view, the premium economy seats are certainly more spacious than United’s business class with the cabin being six abreast in a 777-300 as opposed to eight on the US carrier’s service.
The seats themselves have a strange positive feedback system where it’s necessary to push the seat into the position you want. The recline on the seat also isn’t as far as expected being not a great deal more than standard economy.
Although the recline isn’t great, the leg room and space for working is excellent with no problems such as the passenger in front of you reclining into your face or mangling your laptop.
One major advantage Air New Zealand’s premium economy has over United’s business is the ample elbow room; the wide cushion beside your seat gives plenty of space for placing drinks, books and other inflight paraphernalia, something really useful on a 14 hour flight.
Stretching out however isn’t so easy, the seats are nowhere near lie flat with additional leg room provided in small well in the back of the seat in front. Within that well a small bean bag is provided to give extra leg elevation.
Alongside the seat is some more storage space where at the start of the flight the airline provides a bottle of water. Be careful putting anything valuable on this ledge as it can fall down behind the seat, in my case I lost a set of eyeshares although the basic amenities kit provided another pair.
The food provided is a big step up from standard economy with the serves being more generous with wider choices. The smaller cabin also means faster service and Air New Zealand have avoided United’s mistake by providing sufficient toilets for the Premium Economy section.
Once the food is packed away the real test of the flight is how well one can sleep, particularly on a 14 hour flight that crosses the International Date Line (your arrival time in Los Angeles is earlier than the time you departed).
Unfortunately the rest isn’t that great, the poor recline still makes it hard to sleep and the bean bag isn’t enough to give your feet much elevation. While it’s better than normal economy, you aren’t going to get a great night’s sleep.
The night’s sleep is where business class wins out; the ability to lie flat gives you the opportunity for a decent slumber while Premium Economy will still leave you sore and tired.
On balance, Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy is a good upgrade if want to pay extra for a bit more comfort or, like this writer, have points to squander.
If you’re travelling for work and the need for a good sleep before arrival is important, then premium economy won’t replace the benefits of a lie flat seat in business.
Paul travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Salesforce, the upgrade was part of a points redemption.