There’s no doubt that premium economy is sweeping the airline industry by storm. Even US carriers that so long settled for extra-legroom economy are now opting for a more premium experience by offering a full premium economy product. I recently spoke with the sales manager of a European airline in the US, who told me it’s incredibly hard to market premium economy to Americans. Apparently, most of them still assume it’s just extra legroom economy.
As consumers, the introduction of premium economy is both good and bad. We can buy a comfortable product for far less than business class prices, but also have more limited chances of upgrading. Meanwhile, premium economy produces high profits for airlines. Over the past years searching premium economy availability, there is one clear trend; many airlines have near empty cabins less than a week before departure. It seems most passengers do last-minute upgrades in a way that isn’t too common with higher cabin classes.
This brings me to my experience a few weeks ago flying SAS from Copenhagen to San Francisco. Believe it or not, this was my first long-haul flight on SAS, even though I’ve lived in Scandinavia for 10 years. I booked an SAS youth, one-way ticket for ~$230 in economy. As departure grew closer, I monitored the seat map. The SAS Plus cabin remained quite empty, so I decided to place a bid to upgrade. The lowest possible offer was around $130, so I decided to bid $147 per upgrade for two passengers.
To my surprise, 47 hours before the flight I received an email letting me know our upgrades had cleared. That’s an insane value. I paid around $13 per hour for a much wider seat with increased legroom, unlimited drinks and snacks, and free wifi!
A few years ago I remember Lufthansa charging €200 to upgrade to premium economy on the six hour flight from Munich to Dubai. In comparison, this upgrade was a steal.
SAS youth tickets can often cost ~$350 roundtrip. If you manage to upgrade both legs for ~$150 per flight, that’s a mere $650 for 20+ hours in premium economy. The best part of this upgrade with SAS was that I earned extra miles with their program, Eurobonus (7500 miles one-way). The whole bidding process was smooth and easy. If you have an upcoming flight on SAS, make sure to check out your upgrade opportunities!
Stay tuned for my review of the SAS premium economy product.
What’s the best value upgrade you’ve ever had?