It’s rare when a new class of travel is launched, so I looked forward to my flight to Delhi and back. Was it Premium enough?
The Pre-Boarding extra’s you get
- Your own checkin queue. It was empty when I got there.
- 35kg baggage allowance, 5kg more than economy.
- For boarding there is a separate queue, which was shorter than the super priority one.
First impression – the cabin
A separate cabin with just 4 rows of a 2-4-2 configuration on the A380. So looks much less crowded. In fact you have to walk less than the much larger business cabins. The 777 and A350 have a 2-3-2 configuration thats even better. Some routes like to London fly both the A380 and the 777, so try to choose the 777 flight if you flying Premium. I used the loo before take-off and thought it was even better than in Business! Alas, it was too good to be true as it was the First Class loo. You can use it before take-off as the curtains to First are drawn back and the crew don’t stop you. The actual Premium loos are shared with economy in the A380.
The all important Seat
The seats were brand new in a great grey and orange colour combination. On the seat was a fluffy looking grey blanket. And a large orange pillow
The seat back in front of you has a wide 13.3 inch TV screen. There is a retractable leg-rest, but you get than in economy as well on such flights. Between the seats in front is a pouch for your mobile with a charging outlet nearby. I settled into 32C (second row, aisle seat on the left), noticing there wasn’t much storage space. The sleeve below the TV screen was full with magazines. In fact even most economy seats have extra storage pouches outside the magazine sleeve.
Moving on, in the arm rest is the remote control. The headphones were superb, and the socket is between the armrests at the back. I didn’t notice it till after the flight, but at the bottom between the seats are pouches for a bottle of water.
Reclining the seat.
I didn’t find any lumbar support, so used my pillow. The 8 degree recline is good, though not enough for me. I used a 2nd pillow behind my head, but it felt too bulky, so I had to put it lengthwise on the edge of the headrest. When you stretch out, your legs fall on the calf rest that opens out, and your feet on the retractable leg rest below the seat in front. I found that awkward. The front row seats had the leg rest built into the calf rest, and it looked more comfortable. However, these seats cost USD50 extra per flight, unless you have an infant with you and are using the bassinet seat.
Snacks and the Meal
The ads show a wonderful champagne flute, but we were served our beverages in the normal plastic glasses used in economy. The nuts given out are the ones served in business, though I actually prefer the “Muruku” served in economy on flights to India!
The meal had 3 choices as opposed to 2 in economy. I found later we could Book the Cook (pre-order a meal chosen from a selection). The starter and the dessert were the same as in economy, neither to my liking. I binge on bread when I travel and was disappointed there was no choice, as stated in the ads. The wholemeal bun served wasn’t ideal for me. My meal preference of Indian vegetarian didn’t come, but I was OK as I wanted to try the chicken biryani. It was tasty, though once again the chicken wasn’t marinated well enough to my taste.
Inflight Service and Entertainment
The beverage and meal service was quick and efficient. When I pressed the call button sometime during the flight, I got no response for some minutes. I put it off and pressed it again, hoping that a new “ping” in the galley would draw their attention. That didn’t work either. This was the only glitch in the otherwise good service.
I watched 2 great movies and 2 episodes of a new TV serial I really like, John le Carre’s The Night Manager. They keep the TV running even after landing, so that is a plus.
After a 5 hour 5 minute flight we landed at 8.05PM India time, just ahead of schedule. We probably got off before many business passengers on the upper deck as we were first off when the main deck airbridge docked. I didn’t get a chance to check out the Premium Economy priority baggage arrival, but that is bonus when you want to get home soon.
The Return Leg – a Red Eye
I thought I had checked everything out on the flight to Delhi, including trying to sleep. But I discovered a lot more on this flight. The cabin was just half full, so I moved to the 2 side seats in the last row. There was no one next to me, and no one in front, so perfect. Also, the window seat being next to the bulge of the A380 fuselage means there is lots of extra space next to you – much more than on other planes.
My idyll was spoilt by a passenger who came and sat in front of me and immediately pushed back his seat. I moved again, to the front row where the 4 seats in the middle were empty. I discovered that the 2 middle seats of the middle section have armrests that can be raised, so I had a very wide seat. Lying down length-wise, I stretched my feet over the armrest and watched more episodes of The Night Manager. The other passengers eyed me enviously!
As its a night flight, you get an amenities kit with socks, toothpaste & brush. The socks, orange to match the overall look, were very comfortable.
When dinner came, I found a choice of bread as advertised, though missing on the Singapore-Delhi flight. I also got my Indian vegetarian meal. Catered from India, it was superb. The starter and dessert was different from the other meals, and much better.
I am a compact 5 feet 6 inches in height, so was able to curl up into the foetal position and slept 3 hours in my 2 middle of middle seats after dinner. Woke up fresh in Singapore.
The best seat to choose
More space and a brand new, well designed seat is the key thing in Premium Economy. Choosing the best seat in an already better cabin can make a big difference to your flight. The front row side seats have a built in leg rest that fits better and of course all the extra space in front. Costs USD50 extra, worth it for a long flight. Else any window seat so you can enjoy the space between your seat and the window in an A380. If travelling with kids, middle section is good as you can raise the armrests and let them stretch out.
How much does this Premium Cost?
If you use points, its 50% more than economy. If you are paying its generally 100% more.
The cabin, seat, headphones, TV screen and about 25% extra space was good. The service and food (if you don’t order a special meal) was as good as economy. If you are flying long haul, with kids, are a senior citizen, a large person or do not have priority status with the airline, Premium Economy is worth it.
Many airlines offer this, including Singapore, Cathay, Air NZ, Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, Lufthansa, Air France, Qantas. Japan Airlines. US airlines like American, United, Delta have something called Main Cabin Extra on similar lines. The product of course differs across airlines and there is a good comparison.
Hope this helps in planning your trips. Let me know your Premium Economy experience and safe travels!