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Is it worth upgrading to Premium Economy? – Comparing Norwegian Airways, Hi-Fly and Virgin Atlantic

Is Premium economy on flights worth it?

This is the question I’ve often pondered, but until you fork out the money to upgrade, you’re not going to know are you? Last year I flew three times to America accompanying Chris on work trips and the company has kindly paid for our return journeys to be Premium Economy. It was so exciting that first time! We all have wildly varying opinions as to what we spend our money on and what we save it on, but if you’re not sure if it’s worth paying extra to fly premium economy, then hopefully this will help….

Well, I think a lot depends on the airline, and as I’ve only experienced three different ones, I’m afraid I can’t compare them all. However, if you’re traveling with Norwegian Airways, then the answer is a resounding YES! I honestly couldn’t believe it when we were shown to our aeroplane seats – they were huge! And piles of leg-room. I could comfortably cross my legs in-front of me and I just didn’t think that was possible on a plane! The seats didn’t lie flat, but reclined a good way back and Chris and I both enjoyed a comfortable snooze. And Chris has never before been able to sleep on a plane! See my joy in the vlog from that week!

leg room in premium seats on Norwegian airways

Our most recent flight home was with Virgin Airways, and my answer to my question would be a resounding NO! However like I said, it depends what your priorities are. Yes, there was a little bit more leg-room, but honestly, only a little bit. My knees were still pressed up against my magazines in the pouch on the back of the seat in front. There was a bigger significance to the width of the seat, which made a difference as neither Chris nor I are skinny people so that was definitely more comfortable. More comfortable to pay the extra? I don’t think so. I mean, our elbows were still touching and we didn’t get our own armrest between us.

The second flight was with Hi-Fly. Now we only travelled with them because our flight with Norwegian was cancelled. I’ve got a feeling that Hi-Fly is a service only brought in for this situation and I’m not actually sure you can book flights with them directly. Anyway, their premium seats were definitely not as good as Norwegian, and the plane was older, and having expected the Norwegian flight, I was disappointed at the time (you can see so on this vlog), but the size of the seats and leg-room was still better than Virgin Premium Economy.

travelling premium economy

There is probably one vital difference between these companies and that is that on both Norwegian and Hi-Fly, there isn’t a business class or first class. Premium is all there is. So that’s probably why it’s a step-up from the Premium Economy on Virgin airways.


If your priority is service, then it was pretty similar for Norwegian and Virgin apart from one thing: With Norwegian we were allowed to use the lounge at JFK airport with access to free drinks and snacks and very food at premium lounge at Heathrowcomfortable seating while we waited. No such luck with Virgin unless we paid $70. (NB At Heathrow you are no longer given a lounge access with Norwegian unless you paid extra for a flex ticket.)
We had a shorter queue through security and boarded the plane before everyone else.
On the plane the extras are mainly with drinks , with a glass of sparkly wine or orange juice on arrival and offered a couple more during the flight. Also, the food is a bit posher! The staff are very helpful and attentive and there are more available per passenger to help. The best thing is how quick they whizz away your empty food trays when you’ve finished eating. It annoys me so much how long we’re left with a pile of rubbish on our laps in economy so you can’t do anything for ages – you can’t get up to go to the loo, you can’t get anything out your bag or get comfortable.

Apart from the food tray thing, none of the other things bother me that much. Unless there’s a free-for-all scramble for any old seat (and I don’t know if any airlines do that any more?) I don’t really see why getting on the aeroplane first is a bonus. I don’t drink much, if any, alcohol during flights (in fact this was the first time I ever accepted one and that was to help get over the disappointment of no lounge!) And the queues in the premium security looked just as long as the other one!

is premium economy worth the money?

So to sum up, for planes where there is a business class and/or first class; no I personally wouldn’t bother paying extra for the Premium Economy. If it’s an airline where there’s only a choice between Economy and Premium, then I’d definitely see if we could afford the upgrade for long-haul flights. My comfort during a flight is more important to me than the service side of things (although that is very nice, and makes you feel special), plus being able to sleep on an overnight flight. Norwegian gave that. Virgin Airways didn’t.

I hope that has helped make up your mind. Please add your Premium Economy experiences to the comments below. Happy travelling!

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