Premium economy vs split business/economy ticket?

By David Flynn, October 31 2011
Premium economy vs split business/economy ticket?

One of our readers posed an interesting question last week. His employer is soon sending him on a business trip from Melbourne to London, and was offering a choice between not just airlines but which class he’d travel in.

Option 1 is to fly with Qantas in A380 premium economy all the way.

Option 2 is to fly with another carrier but have the trip split into business class on the way to London and economy class for returning home.

Another factor weighing into our reader’s decision is the possibility of using Qantas Frequent Flyer points to upgrade from premium economy to business class. The extra space would be welcome, he says, as he’s 1.9m tall!

His choice is certainly one to ponder. Our own take? We suggested that premium economy might be the better bet, especially using the advice in our Best Seats article on booking a premium economy seat with the most legroom.

(As our article details, on the Qantas A380 those are seats 38J and 38K, which are located  at an emergency exit so there’s plenty of room to stretch out; and 34A, 34B, 34J and 34K, which are bulkhead seats immediately behind business class).

Qantas A380 premium economy seats are good enough that we’d rather make the very long Kangaroo Route hop both ways in these seats, rather than relax in business class on the way there but be crammed into economy on the way home.

But it has to be said that if you're on a tight schedule and need to hit the ground running with your first meeting in London on the morning you arrive, then a fully flat-bed in business class is going to give you the sleep you need.

As for upgrades, the problem is that Qantas still provides no way to guarantee your upgrade request.

Qantas will provide earlier notice of international upgrades from December – with up to 48 hours' advance notice, sent by SMS – – but unlike some other airlines you can’t ‘book’ an upgrade and know for sure that it’s yours.

So no matter how much ‘homework’ you do on seat availability, and regardless of how cleverly you time your flights for when there should be maximum availability of business-class seats, the risk remains that for whatever reason you won't be upgraded.

(Also, if you’ve got an upgrade in mind, make sure your travel agent or travel manager books a ticket class which is upgradable, as some of the cheapest fares can’t be upgraded no matter how many points you throw around.)

That was our take on this reader's choice, but we're interested in yours: do you agree that premium economy and the shot at an upgrade is the best way to go? Or does it make more sense to stick with the certainty of business class on the way to London, even if that means a long flight home in economy?


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 59

One option could be to fly on SQ business class to London and then back in Economy and if he was willing to pay US$100 then he could pre-book an exit row seat on the return trip. 


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 582

I would do the split fare. Spend the shorter Melbourne-Asia leg on a late afternoon/evening flight, watch a movie and have dinner, then get a proper sleep and breakfast in Business... 

Paying for his own extra legroom in Y would be a good option...


01 Dec 2010

Total posts 3

Well after the debacle of the weekend I am much less inclined to trust QF,instead I would take BA World Traveller Plus all the way,I think BA16 is a 777 flight from SYD-SIN connecting to BA12 which is a 747 for the rest of the journey,some of the BA 74's are getting a little long in the tooth but I think I could cope with it.


15 Apr 2011

Total posts 582

That's over - there won't be any more groundings... Besides BA Y+ is the biggest waste of money - same money as QF but with Y service and a much older seat/plane...

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 667

That pricing situation hasn't been my experience except when BA is selling Qantas Premium Economy. BA (and Virgin Atlantic) PE is usually 2x economy, while Qantas' is around 3.5x. That held out when I checked prices recently) too.

I think BA PE is competitively priced compared to Qantas given the lower level of seat & service. But I think the really competitively priced one is Virgin Atlantic, which has 2-3-2 on an A340-600 and some of the best PE seats out there.

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