Have you ever sat on a gruelling long haul flight, wedged into economy class like a sardine, and said to yourself about halfway through; I would give anything right now to upgrade my seat. I know I have, and so for this next upcoming sojourn to London I thought I'd be one step ahead of my usual self and organise said upgrade in advance. While this is a business trip, business class felt like a big, indulgent and costly leap. So I looked to the next best thing; Premium Economy. It was going to be three times more expensive than my regular economy seat but it was definitely feasible. So, was premium economy really worth it? Here's my experience.
Flight: Melbourne to Dubai
I checked in online so my "check in" process at the airport only called for a bag drop and a print out of my boarding pass. I stood in a long line for 5 minutes at the bag drop area before remembering I had premium economy right of way. Girl ain't got no time for lines! Zoomed straight through and into customs then the departure lounge. Unfortunately the lady at check in forgot to give me my fast track pass to get through customs (part of the perks of premium economy) so there was a long wait here but lesson learnt: ask for it next time.
Access to the Qantas lounge is not included for the premium economy flyer. Best to use your Qantas Club access here if you have it. The amount of money I've saved on bored retail splurges alone has made the lounge more than worth it...
Admittedly I did feel like a bit of an arse marching past the ridiculously long line of people waiting to board economy. This feeling rapidly dissipated once distracted by the gross lack of line at boarding through premium economy and straight onto the plane. It was well and truly gone when I settled back with a pre-take off bubbles (Katnook Estate Founders Block sparkling white).
Whilst I didn't exactly need to eat a second dinner, I thought it would be rude not to sample our midnight dinner. I hadn't pre-ordered my meal as you can do on premium economy, instead happy to see what I felt like at the time. At this time I felt like meat. Lamb, to be precise. This was pull-apart, no knife required lamb, accompanied by a peppery side salad with balsamic & olive oil vinaigrette from Birch & Waite. I matched my lambert with a Haselgrove Switch GSM (2013) from McLaren Vale although the Wynns Coonawarra Shiraz (2010) may have been a wiser option with lamb. The veggies were a tad on the soggy side, but what can one expect from pre-prepared meal?
The chocolate mousse salted caramel fudge by Kitchen Food Company was fantastic, even for a savoury fan such as myself. Very light and fluffy and paired exceptionally well with the GSM.
The dining experience
There are the nicer touches like linen table cloths and napkins, silver cutlery and food served in crockery as compared to foil. Then there's the inflight self serve snack bar if you feel like getting up and about. Or just ask for any of the refreshments available throughout your flight. You won't go hungry, and you can eat on your schedule - not theirs.
As we inched towards Dubai, we had the breakfast regular breakfast choice of hot breaky (scrambled eggs, sausage, grilled tomato, hash brown); or continental - fruit platter with cereal. The eggs were on the powdery side but the tomato and mushrooms made up for it, and the staff had also kindly given me the fruit platter when I couldn't decide between hot or cold breakfast. The passionfruit and pineapple went down a treat.
This is what truly blew me away. On long haul flights with Qantas, it's always a bit of pot luck as to how the service is going to be - particularly on the Australian leg. But the service on this flight in premium economy was outstanding (as you'd hope for three times the price). Along with welcoming each guest personally by name, our host, Tony, took extra special care to make sure we were happy. Is my water bottle empty? Why yes it is - a fill up would be great. Can't decide which wine to have with my meal? Sample each! Thank you, kind sir. The service was light, accommodating, the right level of chatty and, most importantly but frequently forgotten, kind.
In the air
As you're on the upper deck, the "roar" is less for a quieter rest inclusive of sound cancelling head sets. They weren't entirely sound cancelling but they did a pretty good job. With a wider seat, a lower head rest (I'm never tall enough to reach them in economy), an extending footrest, wide centre console (no elbow wars) and a lower recline, it was easier to get a good, solid rest.
But is it worth the money?
This largely depends on why you're traveling. I had to hit the ground running so wanted to be fresh and alert. I was also only going for two weeks so needed to make the most of my time there. Regardless of this, when it comes to a long haul flight, no one wants to arrive in their destination feeling like they've aged 10 years or suffer the consequential evil jetlag which, I feel, comes from a lack of overall rest and hydration. For me, I felt human, refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of my trip on arrival to Dubai. Premium economy was absolutely worth my investment.