The Least I’ve Ever Paid For A Long-Haul Premium Economy Upgrade

Filed Under: SAS

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.

Lufthansa premium economy.
Lufthansa premium 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.

SAS Plus (premium economy).
SAS Plus (premium economy).

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! 

SAS Plus meal

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? 


  1. In Basic Economics that is called the “Law of supply and demand”. Since there was no demand for those seats SAS was better off getting $147 from you than $0.

  2. Headed MIA-CPH this week with my family. 3 adults, 2 kids. Costly to bid on SAS Plus even at the lowest acceptable bid for that many people so will probably pass. But either way, I hear SAS coach is a comfortable Y product. Your thoughts?

  3. Just last week I was flying from Newark to Dusseldorf on a LH A330 with premium econ. I had purchased a last minute, low-fare ticket, and to pick your seat online on they were charging $100. The website also had a banner ad that offered an upgrade to premium econ for $350. Given this situation, and because I really didn’t want to be stuck in a middle seat in the back for the trans-Atlantic flight, I offered $150 using LH’s “make us an offer” tool. 24 Hours later, it was confirmed and I enjoyed the excellent LH premium economy product. Highly recommended.

  4. That European Airline wouldn’t be Virgin Atlantic by any chance? We see some very very good premium economy fares from here on the U.S. West coast. I booked SFO-LHR-JNB with VS in Premium Economy for $1470 return (and that’s in January – highest season for South Africa)! The LHR-JNB return alone prices at more than that! Looks like VS are pushing their PE cabin hard here in the U.S!

  5. Premium Economy is targeted at business travelers whose corporate policies allow PE, but not J and are often buying last minute, expensive tickets. The average person just wants the cheapest ticket. Economy really isn’t that bad.

  6. “SAS youth tickets can often cost ~$350 roundtrip. If you manage to upgrade both legs for ~$150 per flight, that’s a mere $750 for 20+ hours in premium economy.”

    $350 + $150 + $150 = $650

    Not $750 like in the post.

  7. Best I ever had was when BA had a number of glitches a few years back and every flight from every US city in premium economy was $625 return. Even better, I got bumped to biz regularly.

  8. I would not go so far to say “sweeping the world by storm”

    Virgin Atlantic introduced Premium economy in 1992, so its taken a long time for airlines to adopt it.

  9. @Cristoffer seemingly unlimited “snack” foods, but of course there are limits to the warm meals served after takeoff and before landing 🙂

  10. @Philip it wasn’t VS, but I imagine they’re in a similar situation. It’s great to see those fares from the US – and their premium economy is quite good in my opinion.

  11. SAS updated all of their long-haul aircraft in the past few years, except for one a340. Hopefully you don’t get that one like I did. It has their old interior and no wi-fi. I flew cph-ord last wednesday, and they had used that plane twice for SFO and twice for ORD in the 7 prior days.

  12. $147 for an upgrade on a long flight is great value! But were you worried that you might potentially be upgraded to a middle seat? I have a long flight coming up on SQ – Houston to Singapore via Manchester – and I currently have a good window seat assigned. I received an offer to bid for upgrade but I’ll most likely end up in a middle premium economy seat.

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