As coach class continues to squeeze fliers tighter and business- and first-class fares remain out of reach for most travelers, there's a growing demand for "premium economy" seating, a separate section that's a step up from coach in terms of space and amenities but doesn't (ostensibly) cost a small fortune as many premium cabins do.
This week, Singapore Airlines unveiled its premium economy class section that will take to the skies in August, and it looks pretty impressive. Each seat will offer 38 inches of pitch compares with 32 in standard economy and the ability to recline eight inches, plus a calf rest and foot bar. Passengers, who will have priority check-in and boarding, will have access to two USB plugs, a universal power plug and Wi-Fi, plus 13-inch high-definition monitors that come with noise-canceling headphones.
Passengers will be served sparkling wine or Champagne -- and have the option of using the airline's premium "Book the Cook" service that allows passengers to preorder their meals. The price? Singapore's Straits Times reports fares are expected to cost about 20 percent more than an economy ticket.
Lufthansa also debuted its new premium economy offerings in October, with seats that are wider and feature more legroom, 38-inch pitch and power ports. Premium economy passengers get two free checked bags, plus access to Lufthansa's business class lounges for about $32.
Both Singapore's and Lufthansa's premium economy cabins are identifiable as separate compartments from economy class -- something that's typically not the case with U.S. carriers. Unfortunately for American fliers, most premium economy sections on the likes of American and United offer a little bit more legroom, but not much else. And they're not even specifically separate cabins. Typically the premium economy seats are just at the front of the economy section.
So which other international airlines offer a premium economy experience worth paying for? I've highlighted some of the best below:
This airline took top honors for premium economy in 2014's World Airline Awards, and for good reason. While the seat size varies depending on which aircraft you're on, seat pitch is a whopping 41 to 42 inches with nine inches of recline. Fliers get complimentary amenity kits and priority check-in and baggage handling.
Another airline from down under deserves praise for its premium economy section. Passengers have a separate, dedicated check-in counter and priority boarding. The private cabin features ergonomically designed seats that have a multiway adjustable headrest.
Richard Branson's airline amps up the comfort with leather seats that are 21 inches wide and offer 38 inches of pitch. You also get a headrest, footrest and lumbar support -- plus power ports at your seat. What's more, unlike some airlines, Virgin's premium economy is available across its entire fleet.
This award-winning airline is consistently recognized for its luxury cabins, but its premium economy isn't half bad, either. Passengers get eight inches of recline, along with leg and footrests. Seats have 38 inches of pitch, plus a full tray table and a smaller cocktail table when you don't need the bigger size. Fliers also get additional baggage allowances, either in weight or piece number. And you're greeted with a welcome drink and a hot towel when you board.
The World Traveler Plus section, as BA's premium economy section is known, is available on all its long-haul planes. Passengers get an extra free bag to check (though no priority boarding or check-in), plus three-course meals served on real china. More importantly, seats have 38 inches of pitch and are 1-2 inches wider than the ones in coach. Newer planes have in-seat power, as well.