Over the past few years, airlines have created the premium economy class to meet the demands of its customers for a class between cramped economy and expensive business. This premium class is offered on international flights due to generally long distances traveled and customers’ desire for little bit more leg room. Air France is one carrier that recently revamped its premium economy class and we tested the offer on our recent trip from New York to Portugal.
Flight: Premium Economy from NY JFK connecting at Paris-CDG airport with the final destination arriving in Lisbon on Boeing 777-300ER.
Lounge Access: None. Non-business passengers do not have lounge access.
Priority Line: Premium class customers have Sky Priority access which really is the only perk to the economy premium class. Sky Priority is reserved for Premium, Business and First class customers. You will enter through the expedited passport, customs and boarding line. Sky Priority is worth it if you have a connecting flight in Paris. The passport and security line is very short for Sky Priority which is necessary for going from the arrival terminal to the connecting terminal for inter-Europe flight. Charles De Gaulle Airport can be a maze and requires a lot of walking to get to your connecting flight. We saw only two passport control windows open (1 for Economy and 1 for Sky Priority) at passport control. The economy line was very long and slow. People were frustrated by the long line as they needed to get to their connecting flight.
Luggage: AF luggage maximum for hand luggage (carry on + personal) is 35lb. No one checks your carryon bag weight like they do in Economy. Premium Economy luggage has Priority tags so that you can get your luggage first. However, my Priority luggage came out last in Lisbon while the other Priority luggage came out first, almost making me wonder if I got the famous AF’s lost luggage service.
Food: Premium economy class is slightly better than Economy on the international flight. For my flight from JFK to CDG, we were served marinated shrimp and scallops on a bed of ratatouille with either chicken with mild spicy red curry, jasmine rice with vegetables and Japanese furikake garnish or shell pasta with lobster sauce and vegetables. The chicken was average and my companion had the shell pasta which turned out to be “mushy”. Wine was offered, but beyond that there are no additional services.
Seat: The Premium Economy seat’s distance to the seat in front of you is narrow by international standards. The seat recline angle is also awkward and uncomfortable for a premium seat. Even though it is a nice “shell” seat, the seat is done in a way that it only slides out a little bit. This is just enough to put your feet up but not enough so you can recline comfortably. Passenger ends up in this awkward half recline that puts pressure on your lower back. I’m comparing this to the JAL Premium Economy seat that has enough space that allows for a deeper recline which lessens the pressure on your back. JAL’s width is wide enough that the recline feels comparable to a lazy boy seat.
The marketing version:
Amenities: The AF premium kit is very basic. You get a cute little bag with ear plugs, tooth bush, tooth paste and eye mask. It’s the same as what you would have received in Economy class several years ago.
Price: AF Premium upgrade from economy depends on when you book it. My one-way Premium upgrade was approximately $300. The flight from CDG to Lisbon was on a smaller jet so I only got a better economy seat on the plane. The Sky Priority to get through custom with a 1.5 hour layover was just enough to get onto my next flight.
Overall Rating: Average
Even though AF markets the airlines as the classier and chicer European airline, the overall experience has been average. If you can get the premium upgrade for less than a few hundred dollars on a long international flight, then it is worthwhile just to have the Sky Priority privilege to help with the shorter lines. Otherwise, save your money elsewhere.
Authors: Chau Hoang and Thai-Anh Hoang
Featured Photo: Air France