FlyingWhut

Premium Economy Long Haul Smackdown!

I recently tried Air Canada’s long haul Premium Economy product for the very first time, and came away fairly impressed. Rather than going into details that you might already know, I thought it might be useful to compare AC to the other PE experiences that I’ve had. For reference, here’s all of them thus far:

Cathay Pacific – YYZ-HKG-YYZ – December/January, 2011-2015
Qantas – JFK-LAX-MEL, BNE-LAX-JFK – August, 2014
British Airways – YYZ-LHR, MRU-LGW – July, 2015
EVA Air – YYZ-TPE-YYZ – November, 2016
Lufthansa – YYZ-MUC-HND – April, 2017
Air Canada – YYZ-HKG, YVR-YYZ – September, 2017

I’ve rated these airlines across six categories, scoring them between 0 and 5 in each. The winner will emerge in the final tally of points, so let’s get to it!

Check-in

Air Canada – 5
EVA Air – 4
Qantas – 4
Cathay Pacific – 2
British Airways – 1
Lufthansa – 1

Air Canada gets top marks for a superior check-in experience; it seemed to me that Premium Economy passengers had full access to Business Class check-in counters—in Toronto and Vancouver, at least. As an added bonus the staff happily checked my bags through to a connecting oneworld reward flight in Hong Kong.

Cathay Pacific, EVA Air and Qantas all have dedicated PE check-in counters; the differentiator is that EVA also checked my bags through to a connecting oneworld reward flight in Taipei. Cathay Pacific doesn’t appear to have a consistent policy here; they wouldn’t check my bags through on a connecting EVA flight in Premium Economy but did so for a connecting Air Canada flight in Business. I guess you need to sit up front to get your bags checked through on CX?

British Airways and Lufthansa both get the lowest score for having no priority PE check-in.

Boarding

Air Canada – 4
EVA Air – 4
British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas – 3 each
Lufthansa – 1

Air Canada and EVA both offer “Zone 2” boarding—that is, after parents with young children, passengers with status and/or those flying Business Class. I must confess that on the occasions where I flew PE with BA, CX and QF I had oneworld status myself, so I wasn’t really paying attention to the boarding sequence. My bad.

To their detriment, Lufthansa has no priority boarding sequence whatsoever, other than to fling open the gates and say: “We’re ready!”

Seat

EVA Air – 5
Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, Qantas – 3
British Airways – 1

Most of the seats meet expectations of a premium PE fare, but EVA Air gets top marks for an especially comfortable seat. I managed to get a decent nap both ways on 15-hour flights from Toronto to Taipei and back; this has never been possible on Cathay Pacific, possibly because the crew is constantly waking you up to fasten your seat belts at the slightest sign of turbulence.

My British Airways flights were on older planes, neither of which had particularly pleasant seats.

Entertainment

Air Canada, Cathay Pacific, EVA Air – 4 points
Lufthansa – 3 points
Qantas – 2 points
British Airways – 1 point

AC, CX and BR all had better than average IFE systems. After years of flying Cathay Pacific, EVA’s video screen was a revelation—massive in size and HD as well. But Cathay’s 777s do have that bottom mounted camera that lets every passenger see takeoffs and landings, no matter which seat they’re in. In the same vein, Air Canada’s IFE has a simulated “cockpit view” with a pseudo heads-up display, showing altitude, speed, heading and more.

Lufthansa’s IFE was fine. Qantas has a smaller screen which pulls out from the arm rest. I’m not a huge fan of this; I find that looking downwards to watch a movie in a dry cabin gives me a runny nose that lasts the duration of the flight. And BA’s screen was so small and dirty as to be almost unwatchable.

Food

Lufthansa – 4
Air Canada, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas – 3
EVA Air – 1

Lufthansa gets a clear win in this category for offering katsu curry on a flight bound for Japan. The execution wasn’t perfect but it was definitely the right idea. AC, BA, CX and Qantas were all fine. EVA’s food was very basic with dishes that even my Chinese travel partner didn’t recognize.

Toilet

EVA Air – 5 points
Air Canada, Lufthansa – 4 points each
Qantas – 3 points
British Airways – 2 points
Cathay Pacific – 0 points

There’s no way to sugarcoat this… Cathay’s washrooms are disgusting. They don’t start out that way, of course, but very quickly into the flight the floor is soiled with toilet paper and god knows what else. No joke, I’m seen shoe marks on the toilet seat more than once. You can blame the passengers up to a point; beyond that it’s the flight attendants’ fault for not keeping the facilities clean.

At the other end of the scale is EVA. I swear that, as soon as someone used a washroom, an FA swooped right in immediately afterwards to clean it. Again, after years of flying CX I was so happy to use a clean toilet that I had to restrain myself from hugging the nearest flight attendant on my way out.

AC and LH get above average marks for having a nearby accessible washroom for extra space. Toilets on Qantas were fine, and dingy but serviceable on BA.

GRAND TOTALS

1st Place (tie): Air Canada, EVA Air – 23 points
3rd Place: Qantas – 18 points
4th Place: Lufthansa – 16 points
5th Place: Cathay Pacific – 15 points
6th Place: British Airways – 11 points

In my limited experience you can’t go wrong with either Air Canada or EVA Air. When I get the opportunity to try some more Premium Economy products I’ll be sure to let you know!

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One thought on “Premium Economy Long Haul Smackdown!

  1. Cat says:

    I dunno, after AC having some issues this week with daily radio systems (whut!?), I think my confidence with them lowered a bit…

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