Is it worth paying extra to fly premium economy?

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Generally my budget dictates that on long haul flights, an economy seat is all I can afford. I often don’t even compare the cost of different seats on long haul flights, so imagine my surprise when booking a recent trip between Australia and the UK, and I found the premium economy seat was cheaper than a seat in economy.
Having already made the journey between Australia and the UK four times last year, I wasn’t really enthusiastic about spending 30+ hours crossing the world again TWICE, but I needed to, so I began researching flights and made my surprising discovery.
If you’ve never had the pleasure, here’s why we should all fly premium economy or better:
The obvious benefit of travelling in any class above standard economy is comfort. Seats are larger and more generously spaced out the nearer you get to the pointy end of the plane and there is more opportunity to lie flat, making sleep more achievable.
Nobody flies for the food but it does make a difference, especially if plane food is all you have to eat for over 24 hours. Not needing to do battle with plastic cutlery is always a benefit too.
Checked baggage allowances tend to increase with different seat prices.
Being nearer the front of the plane means you spend less time waiting to board and disembark the plane. It’s useful if you’re hurrying to make a connection, or just impatient. It always amazes me how long it takes people to disembark airplanes.
The more the price of a ticket, the more flexible the airline will generally be about making changes to the booking, such as re-routing or simply changing dates of travel.

Of course the reason we don’t all fly in first class is the price.

The cost of first and business class fares can be astronomical. However, as I discovered, it is worth checking the other fares available on the flights you need. I’m not entirely sure, but I believe it is availability that largely dictates the prices. When I needed to book flights two weeks ahead of a late December departure from Australia to the UK, I knew I would face limited availability and expensive prices. I was still surprised to find premium economy to be cheaper than the very limited availability in economy.
Lesson learnt.

Is it worth it?  
So, is it worth the extra cost to upgrade? Well, it’s really a personal question. It depends on your budget, requirements, what you’re prepared to tolerate, and to a certain extent, your size.
As someone who sleeps fairly easily on flights, I don’t need a lot. I just need to be left in peace. Sometimes the discomfort of flying economy is bearable as I spend most of the trip asleep (and I know I will have more money to spend at my destination!)
Extremely tall people are no doubt terribly uncomfortable in the economy seats. I consider myself average sized, and I start to feel claustrophobic as soon as the person in front of me reclines into my lap.
If you don’t need to take a lot of baggage and your travel dates are set, an upgrade may seem like an extravagance that can’t be justified.
Still, having enjoyed premium economy on this recent trip (and the saving it represented!) I know I will always double-check the prices for the upgraded seats from now on…
Have you flown in premium economy? Did you think it was worth the price?

Photo: Richard Eriksson