Aviation: Flying Premier Economy from Hong Kong to Vancouver, Is It Worth the Extra Cash?

Pacific Northwest Travelogue Part 1

Planning a trip from Hong Kong to Vancouver, Michael Taylor decides to try Cathay Pacific’s Premium Economy. The ticket is twice the price of economy and one-third cheaper than Business. Is it worth the extra cash?

Cattle Class was out of the question. I made up mind a long, long time ago that when I reached a certain age, I would not fly Economy Class on a long-distance flight. And I reached that age about 15 years ago.

Given the choice between being stuffed in an uncomfortable seat (and listening to screaming children) for 10 or more hours and staying home, I’d rather stay home.

So when I contemplated flying to Seattle by way of Vancouver to visit nephew, I had 2 options: flying Business Class or not going.

A quick on line check of the fares, and I decided that Business Class was simply too expensive. I was not going to splash out more than HK$30,000 (nearly US$4,000) on an airline ticket – no matter how much I wanted to go.

That’s when I discovered a 3rd option, something that Cathay Pacific Airways calls ‘Premium Economy’. The fare was roughly halfway between Economy (HK$9,000) and Business (HK$31,000).

“That’s within my comfort zone,” I thought. And I booked the ticket.

Fare Comparison

Fares vary from day to day. For the purpose of comparison, I checked the round trip fares between Hong Kong and Vancouver on a random date this month. This is what came up:

  • Economy Class HK$9,000 (US$1,154)
  • Premium Economy HK$20,750 (US$2,660)
  • Business Class HK$31,000 (US$3,874)
  • First Class HK$88,430 (US$11,337)

I paid slightly less than the fare listed here because I booked through an on line ticket agent.

Their Promises and My Comments

Their promise: “dedicated check-in counters and priority boarding at the gate. You’ll also be able to pack more – or bring more home – with an increased baggage allowance: from 20kg to 25kg (weight system) or two pieces of baggage from 23 kg to 25 kg each (piece system).”

My Comment: Since I’m a member of the Marco Polo Club, I already have access to the dedicated check-in counter and priority boarding. The extra weight allowance, however,   is a significant advantage.

Their promise: “a spacious and cosy cabin of 26 to 34 seats. There’s more room between your seat and the seat in front of you, 8 inches of recline to make resting and sleeping more comfortable, and the headrest has 4-way movement for excellent support of your head and neck.”

My comment: the seat was very comfortable, and this was my main concern. But it didn’t recline as much as I would have liked.

Their promise: “hundreds of selections on your StudioCX inflight entertainment system.”

My comment: I did watch 2 movies. Then I discovered that I could view episodes of 2 of my favourite shows. I’ll definitely watching on m return flight to Hong Kong. My only question is: do Premium Economy passengers have more choices or is entertainment standards across all classes?

Their promise: “larger meal table makes working and dining more of a pleasure, and a cocktail table provides more room during the meal service. There is extra storage space for all those personal items you’d like to keep close at hand.”

My comment: larger but still not large enough. I did not have as much elbow room as I would have liked at meal time. There was, however, sufficient room to work on my computer.

Their promise: “an environmentally friendly amenity kit with socks, eyeshade, earplugs, and toothbrush and toothpaste. And our food and beverage service includes a welcome drink and a hot towel, a selection of enhanced entrées, complementary bottled water, and a wide variety of snacks.

My comment: I thought the amenity kit was pretty basic. I did, however, enjoy the pre-departure glass of champagne and being given a bottle of water at the get go. Given a choice of 3 main courses, I opted for the steak, and it was excellent, as was the salad. 

The Verdict

I’ll give it a thumb’s up and, yes, I will fly Premium Economy on my next long-haul flight – mostly because of the comfortable seats. I also enjoyed the food. However, there were a few things that could have been better.

I was surprised that we were served dinner AFTER the economy class passengers. I hadn’t eaten before the flight, expecting to eat on board. I don’t believe we were served dinner until a good 2 hours after take-off.

And I think the dessert was a little disappointing. Most airlines serve ice cream to economy class passengers. This was nothing special.

There was no second trip through the cabin refilling wine glasses or offering  coffee or tea. And the snacks appeared to be equally available to all passengers – nothing special for flying Premium Economy.

Overall, the flight attendants seemed over-stretched as they were attending to both Economy and Premium Economy passengers. Considering the difference in fare, I would have expected a little more attention from staff. 


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