What's the best premium economy seat between Australia and the USA, you ask?
After our rankings of the best trans-Pacific business class seat, we turned our spotlight on premium economy, which offers a significant upgrade from the economy experience without the high price of a business class fare.
With 38 inches of legroom against a tight 32 inches in economy, and a typical 8 inch recline, premium economy seat provides enough space to stretch your legs almost straight out.
Five airlines will sell you a "better than economy" seat across the Pacific:
- Air New Zealand
- Virgin Australia
But those seats are definitely not all created equal -- so join us to find out which one will gain you that all-important working and sleeping space on the long 12+ hour trans-Pacific leg.
Air New Zealand Spaceseats
For the long trek, Air New Zealand's spacious Spaceseats (on their Boeing 777-300 plane only) are fantastic. Spacious and futuristic, they're designed with both single business travellers and pairs in mind in a 2-2-2 layout.
(Yes, we know these seats only fly from Australia to Auckland on some routes, but for business travellers who value comfort on the longer haul over hours-in-transit, they're seriously popular. Seek them out if that sounds like you.)
Qantas' Premium Economy is still among the best around.
With comfortable seats, the usual amount of premium economy space, decent food and the chance to sit in the quiet upper deck of an Airbus A380 in a decent 2-3-2 layout on some routes, it's one to pick.
Read more: if you're on Qantas' A380, you might be on the refurbished upstairs layout while all the Red Roo's superjumbos are refitted. Check out our detailed, seatmap-laden article on the changes and how to figure out which plane's on your flight.
Virgin Australia's seat is very similar to Qantas', although the footrest is fold-down rather than fold-up if that's important to you, but it does have a USB outlet for powering your gadgets and watching movies if you want more than just the usual power point.
It's laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration on Virgin's 777s, which is fairly average for premium economy, and with one extra seat in the middle compared with Qantas.
Air New Zealand (747 and 777-200)
Air NZ uses an older, more traditional premium economy recliner on its older planes. This is great (and very private) on their 747 planes, but is in a relatively cramped nine-across 3-3-3 layout on the 777-200s -- the same as economy, but with slightly wider seats and more recline.
We'd pick the upper deck premium economy seats on the jumbo in a heartbeat, but the 777-200 cabin layout is a bit of a pain.
United & Delta
These US airlines don't actually have a premium economy seat. They use the extra-legroom economy class that's the same seat in the same layout as it is down the back, just with a few extra inches of legroom.
So don't be persuaded by your travel bookers that this is premium economy if that's what your corporate policy allows. Instead, fly Air NZ if you're a United/Star Alliance loyalist or Virgin Australia if you're a Delta frequent flyer to earn miles and get a more comfortable ride out of it.
What's your personal ranking? Is Air NZ's Auckland connection a dealbreaker for you, or is it no worse than transiting elsewhere? Share your experiences in a comment below.
About John Walton
Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.