This year has been wonderfully insane when it came to traveling for me and I spent a lot of time on planes and at airports. I don't mind that as I actually quite enjoy flying but it has gotten to the point where I feel like it is taking a toll on my body being cramped in tiny, airless airplane seats so frequently. While I have had the delight to fly business class a couple of times on press trips and when doing cooperations with airlines it is not something I can afford on my own yet. I always pay to not sit in a middle seat and try to book the shortest connection possible, I still tend to go for the least expensive flight especially when I know I am going to be staying somewhere for longer and don't need to work immediately upon arrival.
So when I was looking for flights for my annual Cape Town trip I again looked for the cheapest tickets. Since I have a Mastercard that is linked to my account and gives me miles for every purchase I make I had a look on the Miles & More website thinking could finally cash those miles in and save further. To my surprise, I found some incredible offers for flights from Hamburg to Cape Town via Frankfurt with Lufthansa and their premium economy flights were only slightly more expensive. I was enthralled and decided to treat myself.
I didn't have the highest hopes as I had previously flown with Condor premium economy which while more comfortable was still somewhat underwhelming. Would it be worth it? I decided to book the Lufthansa Premium Economy ticket and give you a completely unbiased and unsponsored view of my experience.
What is Premium Economy Class?
Many airlines these days offer a so-called premium economy class on their long-distance flights. This lies as the name implies somewhere between economy and business class. Prices are obviously more expensive for premium economy flights but you also get more: extra luggage, extra legroom, extra entertainment - it depends on the airline and chances are the better the amenities in the economy, the better they will be in premium economy.
Lufthansa Premium Economy
The price difference between Lufthansa Premium Economy & Economy
Since I booked a one-way ticket with miles the price I paid for my premium economy ticket is not really representative of the average prices and I only paid € 240 + 30,000 miles. I have noticed that the discrepancy of oneway and return tickets with Lufthansa is huge so I would definitely advise you on a return ticket unless you too book it with miles.
To give you an idea of the price difference I have compared return ticket prices on Lufthansa.com for Frankfurt to Cape Town in March. Obviously, the prices will depend on the time of the year you fly as well as the day of the week, time of day and connection but this should give you a good idea of the price difference:
Basic Economy - approximately € 785
Premium Economy - approximately € 1240
Business Class - approximately € 3440
As you can see Lufthansa Premium Economy is quite a bit more than a regular economy class ticket but still a steal compared to business class.
The Pros & Cons flying Lufthansa Premium Economy
For most travelers, the seat width and more legroom will be the biggest advantage when booking premium economy flights. With Lufthansa, that means the seats give you 50% more space on each side according to their website. While I am not quite sure if it was 50% the seats definitely felt a lot more spacious, I had a footrest and my seat reclined a lot more than usual. In addition, there is no more fighting over the armrest as each passenger gets their own which also hold the trays for eating. You can also flex the headrest to make your head position more comfortable but I do know some airlines also offer this in economy class these days.
While I think the reclining angle of the seat made a huge difference it also meant that the seat in front of me was pretty much on my lap when the passenger reclined. Not such a big deal since the tray is stored in the armrest but still, not the most pleasant and I felt like I hadn't really gained much space in this regard.
During my 11-hour flight, we had a full dinner and a warm breakfast included. Service started with a fruit juice cocktail but unfortunately no champagne as I had hoped for. Lufthansa also provide you with a small bottled water at your seat.
The menu included 2 choices for mains for dinner and a warm breakfast. I chose the vegetarian lasagne which was good though the starter salad was a disappointment. A pleasant surprise was the scrambled eggs for breakfast, something I usually never eat on a plane because they are always yucky but here they were really, really good.
I was a bit disappointed to see that much of the food and utensils were still served with packaging. Especially for environmental reasons, I was glad to read that Air New Zealand is getting rid of all of their single-use plastics and packaging on flights and I hope that more airlines will follow suit. I did, however, expect from Premium Economy Lufthansa that this would already be the case as it is in business or first class.
While the bowls and cutlery were reusable, everything was still wrapped or covered in plastic or aluminum and also most of the cups were plastic or paper - definitely not what I would call 'fine china tableware' as described on their website.
I have started to travel with my own filtered water bottle and use it on planes too to save on plastic cups but in this case, it was in my check-in luggage as I expected proper glasses.
Luggage Allowance: A big advantage is the luggage allowance when flying Lufthansa Premium Economy as you can check in 2 pieces each up to 23kg and take one carry-on up to 8kg versus economy where you can only check in one piece and take a carry-on.
In-flight Entertainment: You get an 11"-12" screen with a huge variety of movies, series, and even live TV. In addition, you have the possibility to download current newspapers and magazines on your iPad/phone before the trip.
Travel kit: You are given a travel kit with toothbrush & toothpaste, refreshing towel, socks, and eye mask from Cerruti 1881. While such a kit can be quite useful it still is a standard in economy class for many airlines so I wouldn't see that as an outstanding premium economy feature especially as there were no other Cerruti 1881 products included.
Airport Check-In: I was quite disappointed to see that there was no separate airport check-in for the Lufthansa Premium Economy as many other airlines offer and no priority boarding. While the usual array of business-class travelers, families, and gold card members were allowed to go first, we were in the same queue as the rest of the economy class.
Bathrooms: The bathrooms were probably my biggest complaint - while the business class had their own roped off section and toilets, the premium economy on Lufthansa shared bathrooms with the economy. Not a major issue but if you are paying extra 500 bucks you want some designated toilets for yourself.
Lufthansa Airport Lounge
While there is no lounge access included in your Premium Economy Lufthansa ticket you can buy yourself access with it. As you know I am a huge fan of airport lounges when I have a prolonged layover, want to work or just be comfortable and I don't mind paying for it.
Since I had three hours to spare in Frankfurt I decided to check out the Lufthansa Business Lounge there. To be honest, three hours are usually not a time frame I would buy a lounge pass for unless it is a really awkward time of the day (or night) but I decided to check it out for you and expense it as research. Before your flight, you can check on their website which lounges are available at your departure airport.
Lounge access with a Premium Economy ticket is € 25 for an unlimited time, however, the lounges are not open 24 hours. In Frankfurt get comfy chairs and charging stations, a small buffet and a selection of spirits, wines, beers, soft drinks. I especially liked the little candy bar they had set up and the fresh and very German pretzels.
Needless to say, there is free wifi and they also have showers that you can use at no additional charge.
Would I do it again?
While flying Lufthansa Premium Economy seemed a world away from regular economy it was also a world away from flying business class which is both reflected in the price.
I think for people like my parents premium economy flights are a great option as they definitely need some more comfort these days, don't mind paying for it yet can't quite afford business class.
For myself, I would say - it depends. If I were to find a similar offer and pay with miles I would totally go for it especially as my actual monetary difference was only € 50. However, if I had to pay a regular fare I'd rather save that money for now and spend it on a nice hotel, a massage or any of these things.
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