My husband and I recently flew to Rome for a much needed kid-free vacation. We hadn't been on a child-free trip together in seven years. So, to treat ourselves we opted for Premium Economy seats for the long-haul portion of the flights. It was a fantastic middle product between regular economy and business class for a 9-10 hour flight.
Boeing Dreamliner 787-800
- The plane is 50% composite material, rather than the traditional metal construction of other aircraft. This makes it lighter and more fuel efficient, about 20% more so. Using the carbon-fiber reinforced material it allows many of the next few things to be possible:
- The cabin pressure inside the plane is kept higher. It is equal to the pressure at 6,000 feet above sea level. On a typical plane the air pressure is lower, equal to about 8,000 feet. This helps eliminate some of the effects of jet-lag.
- Humidity. Due to the composite materials, the plane's humidity can be kept higher. Low air humidity is another factor that contributes to jet lag and an overall unpleasant feeling.
- Larger windows. Okay so you're thinking windows don't make a difference? They do. Larger windows allow in more light when necessary, but also give a feeling of more space. They are about 30% bigger than a traditional plane's. Something neat about Dreamliner windows, they have no shades! You can manually lighten and darken them at the touch of a button.
- Larger cabin space. The room inside the plane is, well, roomier! You don't feel as squished. It has two aisles, like all wide-body planes, but the ceilings are a bit higher and there's plenty of overhead bin space.
- Better filtration systems equal less germs.
- Quiet, the plane is much quieter than other planes. Other than take-off and landing, you didn't hear as much of the drone of the engines. This is a nice touch if you want to sleep or even have a conversation with your seat-mate.
American Airlines Premium Economy
We booked at 330 days out, yup, right when the flights opened. I wanted the best price and the best seats possible! We opted for 6A and 6C, these were the bulkhead seats on the left side of the plane. My research told me they would have the fully extendable foot-rests plus extra space in front. Because we were in the bulkhead row, our entertainment screens folded down in to the center console rather than set in the seat back in front of us. Below (or to the right on a PC) are some pictures of us cozied up in our seats mid-flight, you can see the foot-rest in the image of my husband's legs and the set up of the entertainment system.
Seat comfort was much better than a standard seat, but I will admit I was still not able to sleep. I napped and tossed & turned between meals on the 9-hour red-eye flight over to Rome. I stayed wide awake for 10-hour flight home without even trying to sleep. It was a day flight and I didn't want to mess up my plans to get back on my home time zone. Maybe if I was in the business cabin, in lie flat seats, I would have. But I'm just a terrible airplane sleeper. My husband said he tossed and turned a bit too but still got some sleep in. I gave him the window seat on the way home so he could rest. I'm such a good wife ;)
The meals in PE are served on actual plates with real silverware. This was a nice touch. I didn't feel like I was eating a TV dinner. It felt like a real meal. We selected our meals 30 days before the flights. The people who didn't had to select from what was left in the cart. From what I could see, we had different meals than both business class and regular economy. Well I know for a fact business gets different meals, but I wasn't sure about regular economy until now. I overheard the flight attendants talking about using a PE meal in economy for someone with an allergy.
From Rome to Chicago we had much better meals. The service was top notch on this flight as well. I will get in to that later! Being that Rome to Chicago was a day flight, departing at 11am from Rome, we were given a lunch and then a "snack". Lunch was served about 2 hours after take off again, and the "snack lunch" was served about an hour and a half before landing. The grilled chicken was actually very good and the meat was tender. I had the correct salad dressing this time and the truffle was yum too! The orzo salad that was served as the snack looks really weird with a lot of random ingredients of seeds, cheese, fruit, etc. I don't know if it was because I was hungry at that point, but I enjoyed it. The herb dressing was light and not too overwhelming for the dish.
In PE you receive an amenity kit with a Casper blanket & pillow, plus a small bag with some helpful in-flight items. Right now AA has a partnership with Cole Haan. We received those on the flight back home, but on the way there was had these white bags from a company called State. The items were mostly the same inside: socks, eye mask, toothbrush/toothpaste, ear plugs, lip balm, and body lotion.
Yes, I am going there. I'm going to talk about the neat-o windows on this aeroplane! First of all they are oversized, nearly 30% larger. Secondly, you can dim or brighten them at the push of a button. They go from clear to pitch black with a beautiful blue in between! It's important to note that on long-haul flights the flight attendants will black them out between meals so that people can sleep. They have a control panel where they can override settings during flight. We were able to manually lighten ours a little during this time without being obnoxious to wake others up. It's a really impressive feature that allows some people to sleep and others to peer in to the clouds all at the same time. Each PE seat, aside from the ones in the middle, had two windows in the row. It made a huge difference for us, it felt more spacious.
We had seats 6A and 6C, bulkheads on the left. Here is a snapshot from seatguru. Our seats are marked with yellow because of potential disruption from the galley and restrooms. We had no issues during the flight. I did hear the toilet flush but it was so minor that I don't think most people would be woken up by it. People didn't hang around my seat because those bathrooms were only for Premium Economy and Business. If anyone hung out, it was in the galley and not right by my seat. The galley was a few feet forward from us, as you can see it wasn't an issue for us.
The service on both flights was fantastic, actually on the way back it was phenomenal. From Rome to Chicago the flight attendants stood at the front of the cabin and introduced themselves by name and shook each person's hand. They did the same thing about an hour before landing. It may sound insignificant but we could tell they genuinely wanted to make it an exceptional experience. The flight attendants made sure everyone was comfortable and had everything they needed. In both directions they confirmed our pre-ordered meals in advance to ensure everyone would get the right food. They came through the cabin a few times for drinks and gave everyone bottled water twice. On the ride there we were invited in to the forward galley for snacks, they had popcorn, chips, cookies, etc. Oddly enough, on the ride back home they specifically stated that the forward galley was for Business Class passengers only. I took a quick peek from my seat and saw they had little sandwiches and wraps up there all decorated with holiday lights and cute little antique signs with sayings. The FAs really put in effort on this flight. I checked our galley in the back and all they had were piles of little pretzel bags and orange juice :(
A few other notes about these Premium Economy seats. We had boarding group 4, which got us on the plane before the crowds. There was more than enough overhead bin space for both our roller bags and backpacks without infringing on other people's storage ability. Our backpacks had to go in the overhead bin for take off and landing because we were in bulkhead. We had USB and typical U.S. outlets under the arm rest. The TVs had remote controls. I was able to charge my phone during the flight, albeit very very slowly. There were small screens across the front of the cabin tracking our flight path, speed, temperature, etc.
Absolutely. If the price is right. We booked as soon as flights opened and we paid a great price. Right after we booked, the price of the PE seats went up and never came back down to the price we paid. I felt like this plane and these seats made the long flights so much more manageable. We didn't feel beat up after sitting on planes for 9+ hours. When we go on future long-haul flights I will definitely try to get Premium Economy again. Other wise, we'll stick to regular economy seats AKA Cattle Class as I referred to it jokingly while on my trip!