What’s The Difference Between Extra Legroom And Premium Economy Seats?

It’s often tempting to upgrade our airline tickets, without paying the eye-watering prices associated with business and first class. This is why airlines created improved conditions for customers such as premium economy and extra legroom. But what is the difference between these two seat classifications?

Premium economy
The premium economy seating on Air New Zealand flights was ranked highest by Skytrax. Photo: Air New Zealand.

Extra legroom

More and more airlines are offering seats that deliver extra leg room, with these often being located next to emergency exits. In exchange for a little extra space, you can expect to pay a small premium on your ticket, and this varies from carrier to carrier.

There are far too many extra leg room options to go over in this article, but we can discuss a couple of illustrative examples. Aer Lingus locates its extra legroom seats in the exit row of its aircraft and charges £14.99 for short-haul flights, and £59.99 for long-haul flights.

By comparison, Air Canada will charge as much as $200 for extra leg room on a long-haul flight, although it does confirm that its extra legroom seats come with an additional 4 inches of space. Air Canada also offers another perk to its extra legroom passengers, enabling them to board the aircraft earlier and exit sooner than other customers.

This particular perk is a rare one, though, as extra legroom seats usually offer little else other than the legroom itself. 6 inches seems to be an absolute maximum for this extra bit of space, but some carriers are particularly stingy with the extra legroom, and only offer as little as 2 inches.

Premium economy

You do get a little more for your money with premium economy. However, some passengers are rather skeptical about premium economy, suggesting that it is barely any better than economy seating, and often comes at a substantially higher price. Indeed, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have confirmed that premium economy is the most profitable section of the aircraft based on per square footage measurements.

Premium economy seating
Seats in premium economy are slightly improved over economy. Photo: Qantas.

That’s not a particularly inspiring way to begin a breakdown of what premium economy offers! But the good news is that this class of ticket does usually provide certain services that aren’t included in economy. The first of these is that premium economy seats are slightly wider than those in economy, while also delivering a greater angle of recline. However, you shouldn’t expect this to be too steep, as some passengers have reported that seats only recline an extra couple of inches, while they may be as little as half-an-inch wider!

Another common feature included with premium economy is a footrest, which can help the comfort of flights. Food is often noticeably better in premium economy, while it is common to serve what is provided on china, as opposed to the plasticky housing associated with economy. How good the food will be remains open to debate, but those traveling in premium economy should certainly expect an upgraded main course from the economy menu.

Premium economy airline
Qantas was also rated highly by Skytrax for its premium economy provision. Photo: Qantas


These little perks can be a selling point, but considering that premium economy attracts a mark up of anything from 50% to 150%, it is debatable whether it really represents value for money. For the record, in its 2018 survey of premium economy, Skytrax concluded that Air New Zealand, Qantas, and Singapore Airlines delivered the best premium economy service.