Browsing Tag: premium economy review

JAL Boeing 777-300ER landing in Haneda - Photo: Kentaro IEMOTO | Flickr CC

JAL Boeing 777-300ER landing in Haneda – Photo: Kentaro IEMOTO | Flickr CC

Recently, I visited Japan for the first time, and thanks to codesharing, my American Airlines ticket was for a flight operated by Japan Airlines. It’s always fun to try a new airline, and even better, I got an opportunity to fly in their Premium Economy cabin!

There's my seat, 18A! - Photo: Lauren Darnielle

There’s my seat, 18A – Photo: Lauren Darnielle

Prior to boarding, I visited the Sakura Lounge at SFO, which is available to those traveling in Premium Economy – a nice benefit. It was pretty small, plain, and crowded, but I did appreciate the chance to have a little something before my flight. It was just after midnight, so at that hour, they had a selection of Japanese and American snacks along with mini sandwiches and a variety of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. I had a glass of orange juice, a mini egg salad sandwich, and some rice crackers, which were all tasty, and then headed back to the gate.

The lounge was a bit of a walk from the gate, up an elevator, and down a hallway, but with my very short layover from Seattle, I didn’t want to hang around too long and miss my pre-arranged early boarding.

Icelandair Boeing 757 in Seattle (SEA).

Icelandair Boeing 757 in Seattle (SEA).

On May 16th, 2013, Icelandair flew its inaugural flight from Anchorage (ANC) to Keflavík (KEF) in Iceland. I was not able to swing a trip up to ANC for the festivities, but I was able to take their flight from Seattle (SEA) and join in with the celebration in Iceland. This is my review of flying Icelandair to Iceland and back. Notice: Icelandair covered my trip to/from Iceland. All opinions are my own.

I have flown internationally before and the standard international travel excitement led me to show up way too early. I arrived at noon and still had thirty minutes until Icelandair’s ticket counter opened. Since the airline doesn’t fly every few minutes, they don’t staff their counters at all hours of the day and night — which makes sense. I tend to forget this since I mainly travel with larger carriers and have little problem getting to the airport super early.

Promptly at noon, an Icelandair ticket agent had the place running, checked in my bag, and had me on my way. They recently adopted online check-in and ticketing and it worked perfectly. No paper, no fuss.

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER at LAX.

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300ER at LAX.

AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW BASICS

Airline: Air New Zealand
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (ZK-OKM)
Departed: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)
Arrived: London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR)
Stops: Non-stop flight
Class: Premium Economy
Seat: 23A (window)
Length: 9.5 hours

Cheers: The product is great and those New Zealand accents — have to love them.
Jeers: Argh, why does my elbow keep pausing my movie?
Bottom Line: Having the word “economy” in the name seems inappropriate; it is anything but economy.

The outer seats in Premium Economy point towards the windows, giving extra privacy. I had the window seat.

The outer seats in Premium Economy point towards the windows, giving extra privacy. I had the window seat.

THE FULL PREMIUM ECONOMY REVIEW

I recently had the opportunity to take a flight from Los Angelas International Airport (LAX) to London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) in Air New Zealand’s Premium Economy (note: the airline covered my airfare and I paid the taxes).

Say what? How can I fly from an American city to a foreign city on Air New Zealand? It is because of the Fifth Freedom of the Air, which allows Air New Zealand to operate their flight from Auckland to London, via LAX. Most people probably do not think about taking Air New Zealand to London, but they are a unique option that I wanted to check out.

This was my first Air New Zealand flight — kind of. I actually flew on the exact same plane earlier, when it was brand spanking new. ZK-OKM was Air New Zealand’s first Boeing 777-300ER and I was able to hitch a ride on part of the delivery flight from Paine Field (PAE) to LAX. Since it wasn’t a real revenue flight with standard service (and only 2.5hrs long), I was looking forward to checking out the full product on a much longer flight.

WIth the outer seat angled a bit towards the window, it makes looking outside a breeze. Taking off from LAX (and yes, I had permission to take this photo below 10,000 feet).

With the outer seat angled a bit towards the window, it makes looking outside a breeze. Taking off from LAX (and yes, I had permission to take this photo below 10,000 feet).

When I first toured the airline’s 777-300ER, I had a hard time placing exactly what Premium Economy was. To me, it looked like something one would find in a long-haul business class.

Air New Zealand has had Premium economy on their 777-200s, but this product is very different. On the -200, it is your standard economy seat, in a 3-3-3 layout with some extra recline and seat-pitch. Not bad, but the new Premium Economy is in a whole other league.

Not only are the seats in a 2-2-2 layout, they don’t face forward. The first question you have to ask yourself when booking your ticket is if you want to interact with the person next to you or not. If you want to talk, dine or even snuggle with your seatmate, you probably want to go for the inner-space seats, located in the middle of the plane. Even though the seats are slightly tilted away from each other, they easily allow people to interact if desired.

The Premium Economy is in a 2-2-2 layout. The outer seats give better privacy than the inner seats.

The Premium Economy is in a 2-2-2 layout. The outer seats give better privacy than the inner seats.

If you are on your own or want some additional privacy, then getting a seat in the outer-space is for you. Each seat is tilted towards the window and gives more of a sense of privacy.

Having my seat tilted towards the window made taking off even a better experience than usual. It was a little weird at first orienting myself when I was tilted, but after a few minutes, I didn’t even notice anymore.

Since the seat in front is not directly centered, the video screen and tray table popped out and slid over for easier usability. I had plenty of room to work on my large laptop, while watching a movie.

The in-flight entertainment system was good enough and when browsing through the eight pages of movies, I found quite a few that I was interested in seeing. The system was quite slick, having a favorite list, that I could add what I wanted to watch later, so I wouldn’t forget what I wanted to watch.

Dang you remote! Why do you have to get in my way? The round silver thing above the remote is a pop out LED light.

Dang you remote! Why do you have to get in my way? The round silver thing above the remote is a pop out LED light.

The main downside of the product was the location of the remote — which was right by my left elbow. I ended up hitting it more than once, causing issues with my viewing experience. I unlatched the remote and let it hang, so I wouldn’t hit it anymore — problem solved.

The remote is not really needed, since the you can do everything (except use the keyboard, turn on your light or call a flight attendant) via the touch screen.

When will the lights dim? When will I get my next meal? This screen will tell you.

When will the lights dim? When will I get my next meal? This screen will tell you.

One of the coolest things on the in-flight entertainment system is the “My Flight” menu. This really gives you an itinerary of where you are at during the flight, when you will eat and when the lights will be bright or dimmed. This was great to be able to plan out when I wanted to sleep, when service would start and even when I could order food on demand.

Salmon, bread and wine make sense for a starter, but desert too?

Salmon, bread and wine make sense for a starter, but dessert too?

The food wasn’t too shabby. For dinner I was first served smoked salmon, watercress shoots, toasted almonds and burnt orange mayonnaise. For the main meal I had a choice between lamb, cod and chicken. I went with the lamb with potatoes and minted peas.

Then for desert was raspberry almond cheesecake, but it was odd, since the dessert was put on my tray with my appetizer and remained there until I was done with my meal. Maybe it is a cultural thing?

For breakfast, I had a choice between a chicken herb sausage cheese omelet, or Belgian waffles with strawberries. Not going to lie, I had a hard time making that decision, but I decided on sleeping through the meal, which I later regretted.

This is how dark it got during the flight. Taken over northern Canada.

This is how dark it got during the flight. Taken over northern Canada.

The seats in Premium Economy do not fully recline, but it does go back farther than economy and there is a little beanbag pillow to put your legs up.

Although the product is slick, you don’t get all the bells and whistles as Business Class — which makes sense. Both premium classes get priority ticket counter access, but only business gets access to the Koru Club Lounge. If you want to get into the lounge, you can buy a day pass for $55, which isn’t a bad deal.

From Los Angeles to London, economy class normally runs around $1200 and Premium Economy runs about $2400. Not bad considering the product one gets when upgrading.

My biggest suggestion is to change the name of this product. The old Premium Economy was just that. An economy product with a bit more leg room, but they were the same seats as economy, with the same seat layout.

The new Premium Economy is much closer to Business Class than economy and not changing the name doesn’t do the product justice. Even calling it something like “Kiwi Class” would be beneficial, because when most people fly and see a “premium economy” seat, they just think space a few inches of extra, but this product is much more than that.

MORE PHOTOS OF AIR NEW ZEALAND PREMIUM ECONOMY:
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Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with a KLM Boeing 747-400 in the background in Amsterdam.

Delta Air Lines Airbus A330 with a KLM Boeing 747-400 in the background in Amsterdam.

This was my last leg of my RwandAir adventure. I had already flown from Seattle to Rwanda in a 737 and just completed a 10 hour flight from Kigali, Rwanda to Amsterdam on a KLM A330. I was already pretty tired and wasn’t sure how my mind, body and spirit would do on another ten hour ride in a different A330. On the positive side, I was looking forward to comparing two international Airbus A330s back-to-back. Overall, I have to say I like the Northwest Delta Air Lines A330 long haul premium economy a bit better than KLM’s.

When arriving into Amsterdam, I had a three hour layover and I was hoping to check out their observation deck. Before plane spotting, I needed to do some charging of my laptop and cell phone, since my last ten hour flight did not have in-seat power and neither would my next one. The classic hunt for an open outlet was on.

I started down the concourse looking from side to side. I kept going and going and… well, going. Seriously? After 45 minutes looking up and down concourses D, E and F, I found an outlet about seven feet up for vending machines, one in the bathroom, one on a fire hose holder and one on a center pillar in a crowded walkway. I choose to deal with the crowds and sat down on the floor (looking like an idiot by the way) by the pillar, plugged in my phone and then… nothing. Sweet, this outlet did not work. Now the debate was did I want to look like even more of an idiot standing in the bathroom charging my phone, climbing on a vending machine or using an outlet on a fire hose that might cause some alarm to go off. I figured my best bet was with the fire hose and luckily it worked. The bad part was it took so long to juice up, that I wasn’t able to check out the observation deck – save it for next time I guess.

Delta Economy Comfort seat on an Airbus A330.

Delta Economy Comfort seat on an Airbus A330.

I figured I might as well head to the gate, where I received my first body scan. We had to wait in a small waiting area at the gate for our flight, which had little entertainment before being able to board. I was sitting in Delta Economy Comfort, which gave me four additional inches of seat pitch, 50% more recline, priority boarding and free alcohol. You also sit near the front of the plane, which means you are first to customs after arriving in Seattle. .

Even with the extra four inches, I was unable to fully stretch out my legs since there was a huge in-flight entertainment box under my seat, negating the extra leg room. You would think with a large electrical box like that under your seat, they would at least give you an outlet, but there was none. Reading on SeatGuru.com, it looks like only Business Class has outlets. Good thing I did some charging during my layover.

One nice surprise was seeing an air vent in the overhead bin. I absolutely love my air vents, since I am normally hot and that little breeze can make a huge difference. Sure, most domestic aircraft have air vents, but I am finding more and more long haul Boeing 747, 777, Airbus A330/A330 and the A380 are lacking them.

During both legs (KGL to AMS and AMS to SEA), I had window seats. When flying on the KLM A330, I noticed that there was quite a bit of room between the seat and the wall and was wishing the outer arm rest would raise, allowing me access to that extra room. It was too bad that the armrest would not rise on the KLM A330, but it did rise on Delta’s. This gave me an extra three inches or so of seat width and I was starting to get the feeling that this might be a good flight. Unfortunately we ran into some trouble pretty quickly.

Taking off from Amsterdam.

Taking off from Amsterdam.

After boarding we were told there would be a delay. It turns out that the amount of fuel that the truck indicated being pumped into the aircraft, didn’t match the A330’s gauges. Delays can be annoying, but I am willing to wait to make sure we have enough fuel — I am old fashioned like that. It took about an hour to determine that the truck had the failure and after all the paperwork was completed, we took off.

When getting my free headphones given by Delta out of their plastic bag I accidently ripped one of the wires. Not a big deal, I figured I could just ring the call button and quickly get a new one. I decided to try something new; time how long it would take for a flight attendant to assist me after ringing the call button. I decided I would make eye contact with a flight attendant walking by, but I would not say anything like “excuse me,” to put them to the test.

I rang the call button and waited. And waited. And holy crap waited some more. At the 10 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. During those ten minutes I had two different flight attendants walk by, but they did not stop… they did not even make eye contact. At the 15 minute mark I turned off my call light and rang it again. Another flight attendant walked by, but still nothing. I could see that my call light was on and the “ding” noise was definitely making its sound.

At about 18 minutes a flight attendant came by for trash. I was waiting for her to ask me about my light, but she didn’t. I decided I really wanted to start watching a movie, so I asked her for another head phone set, which she got right away. I am not normally one who uses the call button and I have never timed it before, but I am pretty certain that 18 minutes and three flight attendants walking by is not okay. It takes a lot to get me annoyed or frustrated on a flight and this definitely did it.

OH YES! The armrest near the window moves, giving me more room.

OH YES! The armrest near the window moves, giving me more room.

When trying to relax, the recline of the Economy Comfort was great. However, when the person in front of me was enjoying their extra 50% recline, it was not so great – actually pretty annoying. I am normally one that doesn’t recline my seat, since I do not want to disturb the person behind me, but I really had to recline a bit to open my laptop, even with the extra four inches.

During the flight, I was served two different meals. One was your standard airline pasta, but the second was pizza. Both of them were pretty decent and I thought it was pretty slick having pizza on the plane. I really didn’t get to enjoy all the amenities in the flight, since I slept through most of it. Having the ability to raise my outer armrest really gave me one of my best economy sleeps with someone sitting next to me. I landed in Seattle feeling a lot better than I thought I would after 24 hours of economy flight.

A FEW MORE PHOTOS