Airlines that offer premium economy awards: Price, availability and quality

Oct 4, 2021

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To sum up the last couple of years of airline seating trends: International first class is out, and premium economy is in. And while many carriers around the world have scrambled to introduce premium economy cabins into their long-haul fleets, booking this class of service as an award hasn’t been as straightforward. Specifically, many premium economy seats still aren’t bookable with partner miles.

In today’s post, we’re going to take a look at what airlines offer premium economy and how you can book these seats with points and miles.

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In This Post

What is premium economy?

As business class improved from merely a reclining seat to a fully lie-flat seat, this left a yawning gap between the no-frills economy section in the back — including some extra-legroom “economy plus” seats — and the very comfortable business class seats up front. Premium economy class was created to offer more comfort than coach, but at a lower price point than business class.

Related: Understanding the differences between economy and premium economy

Air New Zealand premium economy (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

But just like business class, there really aren’t standards for premium economy seats. Some airlines offer a much wider seat with generous recline, extra legroom and premium meals, while others might merely offer one or two of these features.

At its best, a premium economy cabin can rival domestic first class cabins. But at its worst, you have airlines that may market their same economy class seats with extra legroom as “premium economy” — with perhaps a little additional recline on long-haul flights.

In fact, there are many who would prefer not to be “upgraded” from their window or aisle seat in economy to a middle seat with extra legroom. Thankfully, few airlines are selling these extra legroom seats in economy as a truly different class of service.

When should you consider premium economy awards?

There are several reasons why premium economy awards can make sense. First, you might be short the miles necessary for a business-class award, leaving premium economy the best alternative to flying coach.

In addition, a premium economy award might represent a better value than business class, especially on shorter flights during the daytime — when you would never need a seat that turns into a fully lie-flat bed.

Finally, there are some times when business or first class awards aren’t available, leaving premium economy to be the best remaining option.

Related: 3 reasons to fly premium economy (and 1 reason not to)

Singapore Airlines premium economy (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Frequent flyer programs that offer premium economy awards

Airlines have been introducing premium economy seats for revenue travelers at a much faster rate than they have been offering these seats as awards. Premium economy awards are typically priced between economy and business class, but while some are closer in price to economy, others are uncomfortably close to business class.

Here are the frequent flyer programs that currently allow you to redeem your points and miles for premium economy awards on its flights and those of its partners.

Air Canada

Air Canada premium economy
Air Canada premium economy cabin. (Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

Air Canada offers a premium economy class on its long-haul flights. This product includes a wider seat, seven additional inches of legroom and premium meals. Other perks include an amenity kit, two free checked bags, priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling.

Awards

Aeroplan was one of the first frequent flyer programs to offer premium economy awards, but the pricing ranges from just a bit more than economy, to nearly the price of business. For example, premium economy awards to Europe can be as little as 15,000 miles more than economy and 10,000 short of business class.

That said, because Air Canada-operated flights have a range of prices within distance bands, the difference can vary significantly.

Although Aeroplan is normally great for booking Star Alliance partner awards, premium economy redemptions are not available on partner airlines.

Related: The best ways to maximize Air Canada’s Aeroplan program

Air New Zealand

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

This airline offers a seven-across premium economy cabin on its Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Benefits include premium meals, amenity kits and large seat-back entertainment systems. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

While Air New Zealand’s premium economy class appears top notch, its frequent flyer program, which is a Marriott Bonvoy transfer partner, is not known for offering much value — nor does it offer many award seats to Star Alliance partners. In fact, a search of flights in 2022 indicates that its premium economy product is not available for redemption via partner programs.

Alaska Airlines

While Alaska doesn’t offer a true premium economy service on its own flights (just Premium Class, which is extra-legroom economy), you can redeem Alaska MileagePlan miles for premium economy award seats on some of its partners, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Condor and Qantas.

Premium economy awards to Europe cost 42,500 miles (plus high taxes and fees) on British Airways and 45,000 miles on Condor. Cathay Pacific premium economy awards to Asia cost just 35,000 miles each way — a modest 5,000-mile premium over standard economy class.

Related: Maximizing redemptions with Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

American Airlines

AA premium economy
(Photo by Benji Stawski/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

American Airlines offers a true premium cabin on all of its widebody aircraft. The seat looks a lot like a domestic first class seat. However, it includes extendable foot and head rests, seatback entertainment, upgraded dining, a complimentary amenity kit, a pillow and blanket and two free checked bags. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

The best way to book American Airlines premium economy awards is typically directly through American’s AAdvantage program.

At the saver-level, the program charges 50,000 miles to Hawaii or Asia, 40,000 miles to Europe or South America and 65,000 miles to the South Pacific. That said, you can sometimes score lower rates through Web Specials.

HNL to DFW American award price
An American Web Special award to Hawaii. (Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Alternatively, you can book American Airlines premium economy awards using British Airways Avios, though the award rates will often be higher. Also note that on mainland domestic flights, premium economy seats are labeled as Main Cabin Extra so eligible elites can select them for free.

American also lets you redeem miles for premium economy awards on select partners. Specifically, you can redeem American miles for premium economy awards on Air Tahiti Nui, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Iberia and Qantas. These awards can be booked directly at aa.com and the award rates match what American charges for its own flights.

lax-ppt aa award
(Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Related: Maximizing redemptions with American Airlines AAdvantage

British Airways

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

The World Traveler Plus cabin offers wider seats, a better entertainment system, premium food options and additional baggage allowance. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

As with other awards, the British Airways Executive Club prices premium economy awards based on the distance flown and whether it’s a peak or off-peak date.

That said, they are always double the price of economy class and a bit more than half the price of business class. For example, award flights from New York-JFK to London (LHR) on off-peak dates cost 26,000 in premium economy while economy class is 13,000 each way and business class is 50,000. Thankfully, the difference in taxes and fuel surcharges isn’t too significant between economy and premium economy class.

You can also book premium economy awards on British Airways flights through programs like Alaska, American, Cathay Pacific, Iberia and Qantas. You can also redeem British Airways Avios for premium economy awards on any of these partners, except for Alaska.

AA premium economy award BA
(Screenshot courtesy of britishairways.com)

Related: Maximizing the British Airways distance-based award chart

Cathay Pacific

(Photo by Katherine Fan/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

Cathay offers a slightly wider seat with six extra inches of legroom and eight inches of recline. It also features an increased baggage allowance, more entertainment options and an amenity kit. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

Cathay’s Asia Miles program offers premium economy awards on its distance-based chart. These awards are appropriately closer in price to economy class than business class. For instance, award flights from Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong (HKG) cost 40,000 in premium economy while economy class is 30,000 each way and business class is 65,000.

 

As mentioned, you can also book Cathay Pacific premium economy awards with miles from partners like Alaska, American, British Airways, Iberia and Qantas. 

Asia Miles also offers premium economy awards on Oneworld partners American Airlines, British Airways and Qantas. 

 

Related: Which one is better? Cathay Pacific premium economy on the A350 and 777

Delta

(Photo by Benji Stawski / The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

Delta currently offers Premium Select on its A350s and A330-900neos and select Boeing 767-400s and 767-300s. It will also soon begin to roll out premium economy on its older A330-300s. It features adjustable head and footrests, as well as a larger screen than economy seats. You also get access to Sky Priority check-in, boarding and baggage delivery. For more information, see this guide.

Awards

The only way to currently book Premium Select awards is directly through the Delta SkyMiles program. Delta currently offers these awards for far less than the price of business class, you’ll often still be paying as many miles as you might for true business class awards on other airlines. For instance, a one-way Premium Select award from Detroit (DTW) to Tokyo (HND) could set you back 130,000 miles one-way.

dtw-hnd Delta
(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

Related: Everything you need to know about maximizing Delta SkyMiles award tickets

Emirates

Emirates premium economy a380
(Photo courtesy of Emirates)

Premium economy cabin

Emirates debuted its new premium economy product on newly delivered A380s in January 2021. The product will also be available on Emirates’ Boeing 777X aircraft once those enter service. Emirates is also considering retrofitting some existing A380s with the new seats but hasn’t officially announced any plans yet.

The product is pretty competitive with 19.5″-wide leather seats featuring 8” recline and 40” pitch. Each seat has an adjustable headrest, calf and footrest, along with a 13.3” entertainment system. 

Awards

Unfortunately, there’s currently no way to book these seats using cash or miles. Until more of the airlines’ aircraft feature the premium economy cabin, it will be surprising and delighting its frequent flyers and full-fare economy passengers with complimentary upgrades.

Flying Blue (Air France and KLM)

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

KLM has taken a Delta-like approach to premium economy by offering what it calls Economy Comfort seats with a little extra legroom and recline, yet it doesn’t appear to offer these seats for awards. Air France on the other hand, offers a true premium economy cabin with extra legroom, recline, a footrest and an amenity kit. For more information on Air France premium economy, read our latest review.

Awards

Unfortunately, premium economy awards on Flying Blue are priced very close to business class. However, Flying Blue often releases premium economy seats as part of its Promo Rewards, and it’s a transfer partner of several programs including  American Express Membership RewardsCapital One milesCiti ThankYouChase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy.

Iberia

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

You can find Iberia’s premium economy product on long-haul flights operated by the Airbus A340-600, A330-300 and A350.  The seats come with at least 37 inches of pitch, offer a good amount of recline, footrests and crisp seatback entertainment screens. Passengers receive a small amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones and upgraded meals. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

The best way to book Iberia premium economy awards is typically by redeeming through Iberia’s own Iberia Plus program. Redemption rates vary based on the time of the year you’re traveling and the distance, but just to give you an idea, peak season premium economy awards start at 35,000 Avios and off-peak awards start at just 25,500 miles each way from U.S. east coast cities. The taxes and fees are generally lower than on British Airways and you can transfer points to Iberia from programs like American Express Membership Rewards and Chase Ultimate Rewards.

Booking an Iberia Avios award
(Screenshot courtesy of iberia.com)

You can also redeem American Airlines AAdvantage miles for Iberia premium economy awards. One-way awards from the U.S. to Europe cost a flat 40,000 miles.

Iberia premium economy award AA
(Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Japan Airlines (JAL)

JAL Premium Economy 787-9
(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

JAL’s premium economy is only offered on some of its wide-body aircraft. It features a slightly wider seat, extremely generous legroom and an amenity kit. The meals themselves are the same as economy, though you get better snacks and drinks. What makes JAL’s premium economy stand out the most is that it also includes lounge access — something most premium economy products don’t offer. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

JAL’s award charts list awards on the premium economy flights that it operates, not those of its partners. One-way trip from North America to Japan in premium economy are a good value at 32,500 miles as opposed to 25,000 for economy class and 50,000 for business class.

You can also book JAL premium economy awards through partners like British Airways and Qantas, but not Alaska.

Miles and More (Lufthansa, LOT Polish, Austrian, Brussels, SWISS and others)

(Photo by Brendan Dorsey/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

Lufthansa, LOT, Brussels and Austrian offer premium economy seats on all of its long haul aircraft. These products offer a slightly wider seat than its economy class, which is close to a domestic first-class seat in width and legroom. On all of the airlines except for Brussels, premium economy passengers also get extra perks like amenity kits and upgraded bedding and dining.

Swiss is also in the process of rolling out its own brand-new premium economy product, which will have a fixed-shell design and be found exclusively on the 777-300s. It’s now bookable for travel starting early 2022.

Awards

Miles and More charges a flat 40,000 miles each way for premium economy awards between the U.S. and Europe, regardless of the carrier. That’s roughly halfway between economy and business class awards. Unfortunately, like other awards with these airlines, the fuel surcharges on these redemptions can be high.

As of now, you can’t book premium economy awards on these airlines through other Star Alliance partners or vice versa. Miles & More miles are also much harder to earn than other airline miles.

Swiss premium economy award
(Screenshot courtesy of miles-and-more.com)

Related: The best ways to travel to Europe using points and miles

Qantas

(Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

Qantas has premium economy sections on its Airbus A380 and Boeing 787 aircraft that offer a slightly wider seat and more legroom than standard economy. Other perks include dedicated check-in, priority boarding, an amenity kit and upgraded dining. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

Qantas does offer awards in its premium economy section using its own miles, which is a transfer partner of the Citi ThankYou rewards program, American Express Membership Rewards and Capital One Miles. However, Qantas miles are not terribly valuable as it charges a whopping 81,300 miles each way for a premium economy ticket from Los Angeles to Sydney.

Instead, you’re usually better off booking Qantas awards through a partner like American Airlines, which charges a flat 65,000 miles one-way for premium economy awards between the U.S. and the South Pacific.

Qantas AA premium economy
(Screenshot courtesy of aa.com)

Other partners you can book Qantas premium economy awards with include Alaska Mileage Plan, British Airways Executive Club and Cathay Pacific Asia Miles.

Singapore Airlines

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

Singapore’s premium economy seats offer eight inches of recline and you can even use their Book the Cook program to pre-order premium dishes up to 48 hours before boarding. It also offers priority check-in and an amenity kit.

A passenger on a flight aboard the A350-900ULR — the airplane also serving the longest nonstop flight in the world, from Singapore to New York — was overheard by a TPG reviewer describing the seat as the “closest I’ve ever been to business class.“ For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

As with any other premium cabin flights, Singapore doesn’t release premium economy awards to any partners. However, you can book them directly through Singapore KrisFlyer. One-way premium economy awards between the U.S. and Singapore cost 68,000 to 73,000 miles, and the carrier’s fifth-freedom flight between New York and Frankfurt costs 47,000 miles.

Singapore Airlines JFK to FRA premium economy award ticket
(Screenshot courtesy of singaporeair.com)

The airline partners with all five of the major transferable point programs — American Express Membership RewardsChase Ultimate RewardsCiti ThankYou RewardsCapital One and Marriott Bonvoy — though the transfers aren’t instant.

Related: The top 5 premium-economy cabins in the sky today

United

(Photo by Zach Honig/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

United’s Premium Plus seats look a lot like what you’ll get in domestic first class but with a larger recliner and HD seat-back entertainment system. Passengers also receive a Saks-branded pillow and throw blanket, headphones, an amenity kit, premium dining and additional baggage allowance.

This product is currently offered on all Boeing 787-10s, 777-300ERs, international-equipped 777-200s and some 767-300s, 787-8s and 787-9s. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

United sells premium economy awards exclusively through its own MileagePlus program. Rates can vary significantly from one flight to another due to the program using dynamic pricing on all awards. Sometimes premium economy awards can be as little as 10,000 more miles than economy, while other times they can be almost the same price as a saver business class award.

Unfortunately, you can’t redeem United miles for partner premium economy awards yet.

United Premium Plus award
(Screenshot courtesy of united.com)

Virgin Atlantic

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Premium economy cabin

Virgin offers premium economy seating across its entire fleet. The cabin offers upgraded seating, entertainment and dining options as well as an amenity kit, two free checked bags and free seat assignments. For more information, read our latest review.

Awards

You can book Virgin Atlantic premium economy awards either directly through Virgin’s Flying Club program or Delta SkyMiles.

Virgin charges just 17,500 to 27,500 points each way for premium economy awards between the U.S. and U.K. during the standard season, which is the cheapest way to cross the Atlantic in premium economy. Plus, Virgin miles are easy to earn since the program is a 1:1 transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Citi ThankYou.

Virgin Atlantic Premium Economy award from JFK to LHR
(Screenshot courtesy of virginatlantic.com)

The only drawback to booking with Virgin Atlantic Flying Club is that the taxes, fees and fuel surcharges on these awards can be steep (think $250 to $500 each way). You can potentially pay lower fees by booking through Delta but you’ll spend at least 70,000 miles on the award.

Delta Virgin award
(Screenshot courtesy of delta.com)

Bottom line

While Oneworld carriers are making progress toward making premium economy awards bookable through partners, the same unfortunately can’t be said for Star Alliance and SkyTeam.

In most cases, your premium economy experience will likely be closer to economy class than business class. As such, you probably shouldn’t pay too much of a premium if you decide that you want to splurge on one of these seats. In most cases, when the difference between premium economy and business class is small, you’ll be better off spending the extra miles and booking business class outright.

Additional reporting by Jason Steele.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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