We love visiting different countries, but I admit we don't like flying to them. If we could be beamed up like Star Trek, life would be perfect. While technology isn't quite there yet, there are ways to make airline travel more enjoyable. Whenever we fly long distances, we try to take advantage of points to upgrade to business class. We can't always make that happen, but premium economy is a good second option.
While flying to Hong Kong, we had the opportunity to fly Cathay Pacific premium economy one way and business class the other. So, we thought we'd do a little comparison to help you decide if it's worth the money to invest in business or not. It's showdown time. Cathay Pacific Premium Economy vs Business Class.
Cathay Pacific Premium Economy vs Business Class
Dave and I have flown a lot of airlines and from our point of view, premium economy is always worth the upgrade. Sometimes it's not much more than the cost of an economy ticket. We've seen premium economy tickets as low as $200 for an upgrade.
Premium Economy gives you a lot of the perks you would receive in business class for a fraction of the price. But, before we compare Cathay Pacific premium economy with business class, let me tell you all the perks you get with business class.
Cathay Pacific Business Class
If you've never travelled business class, you are in for a real treat. It can actually ruin you for traveling in coach forever. Alas, we are not a part of the 1%, so we don't always get to travel in business, but when we do we relish every moment.
Enjoy our video showing our Business Class Flight from Beginning to End
Why do you sleep better in business class?
Business class has the state of the art pods where you can stretch out and sleep flat. During your flight, you are cocooned in your quiet and private oasis. Seats turn into a single bed where you can lay flat for the entire trip. Flight attendants know you by name, and the food is comparable to a fine dining experience complete with wine pairings.
When you board, flight attendants greet you with a smile and offer you a choice of champagne, orange juice, or sparkling or still water.
A welcome amenity kit is placed on your seat complete with eye mask, tooth brush and tooth paste, lip balm, and moisturizer. I must say, Cathay Pacific offers the best socks of any airline we've travelled. They're great quality with non-slip soles, letting you roam around the cabin in comfort.
I love putting on the socks that are offered in business class for my flight. They let me take off my shoes without offending anyone. Usually I'm in bare feet when I travel because I wear ballet flats or sandals, so the socks are a nice perk.
The menu is business class is impeccable.
Most people don't look forward to the meals on a flight, but when flying business class I can't wait to look at the menu. At the start of the flight, you receive a menu showing what will be served so that you can make your choice quickly and easily.
Our flight offered a tasty blend of breads served with our choice of fish or beef.
On the side we had fresh seasonal berries and a delicious mix of Prince Edward Island cheeses for dessert.
If you don't want the full meal, you can always opt for a lighter/healthier meal of soup and salad with grilled chicken or eggplant, and you can have that served anytime you wish.
In business class you never go hungry. If you want snacks during the flight, there are always nibblies at the service station for you to choose from. Something unique to Cathay Pacific is the delicious noodle soup they offer throughout the flight. It gets you in the mood for the meals you'll be eating in Hong Kong or wherever your final destination in Asia may be.
When you awake near the end of the flight, your senses ignite with the soothing smell of the fresh bread that's offered with your breakfast. I love how they start with fruit, yogurt, and cereal before offering the main dish of eggs, noodles, or congee. A lot of times all I want is a mix of fruit and yogurt, so I fill up on the healthy good stuff and skip the main course.
By the time we landed in Hong Kong, I had cleaned myself up in the Business Class lavatory, taken off my socks, put my boots back on, and had all my loose items stowed back in my carryon. Having the extra room in business class gives you plenty of time to get sorted and ready for the exciting adventure ahead.
We're also first off the plane, which puts us first at immigration and gives us premium bag check, so our luggage is first off the belt. Yes, flying business class has its perks.
Note: We always try to be at the front of the plane, even when flying coach. It helps beat the queue at immigration which can be a tedious process.
So what is the benefit of flying Cathay Pacific Premium Economy?
It's well priced, for one. But there are a lot of benefits to the premium economy class.
On our way home from Hong Kong, we flew Cathay Pacific premium economy and were pleasantly surprised. Not all premium economy airlines are created equal, and while I would have say Air Canada to Dubai and Air New Zealand to Australia had better seat layouts with a 2-3-2 seating set up, the Cathay Pacific premium economy flight to Hong Kong had a 2-4-2 set up that was still quite spacious. Plus, when looking at the seat arrangements on Air Canada's premium economy to Hong Kong, we saw that they too only offer the 2-4-2 layout. So that could be the norm for this route.
There was much more room than we expected and our seats went back much farther than other premium economy flights we've taken. Plus, we didn't notice the seats being any less wide than other premium economy classes. We actually slept like babies. While Air New Zealand has great looking premium economy class pod seats, the Cathay Pacific premium economy seats seemed to go back much further. So that was a huge bonus. There was plenty of leg room and neither of us felt squished.
The entertainment systems are similar in premium economy and business class. Business class obviously had a little bit larger screens, but the premium economy screens are quite large, making for a great entertainment experience. The choices and channels are exactly the same as business class.
There's the new blockbuster movies, the classics, TV shows, and comedy. Cathay Pacific also offers a great choice of international movies to satisfy everyone's needs. There are even games to play that can help pass the time.
Premium Economy Food
Flying Premium economy gives you most of the perks that you get in Business Class. When we arrived, we were again given our choice of champagne or orange juice, and we were given a care package complete with toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask, lip balm and my favourite…socks. Like business class, we were offered a menu with our choice of meal.
Both classes serve meals on proper porcelain dinnerware and you get to eat with stainless steel knives and forks.
I've never understood why the upper class passengers get silverware while economy seating has to eat with plastic. It's terrible for the environment and rich people are capable of stabbing someone just as easily as us poor folk. But that's a completely different blog post.
Flying premium economy is quite similar to flying in business class, with nicer blankets and full size pillows, a great menu, and extra special service.
One thing I wasn't too pleased about was the fact that we didn't get our own toilet. We had to walk to the back of the plane. I have been on other premium economy flights where we had our own designated toilet. That definitely makes it worthwhile. I snuck up to the business class toilet once but got in trouble after I came out of the bathroom. They kept a keen eye on me, that's for sure.
Cathay Pacific Premium Economy: Is it worth the money?
For the price, Cathay Pacific Premium Economy is an excellent option compared to Business Class. I looked up flights to Hong Kong from Toronto and this is what I found in the breakdown. If you have flexible dates, you can get a round trip economy ticket from Toronto to Hong Kong for about $1500.
An upgrade to Cathay Pacific Premium Economy is approximately $1200 more. Upgrading to Business Class is about an extra $4000. That's a huge price difference between premium economy and business class. So if you are looking for more travel perks and a more premium experience at an affordable rate, Cathay Pacific Premium Economy is the way to go.
Now remember, if you are savvy and flexible, you'll be able to find better flight deals, but this is from a quick search on the Cathay Pacific website punching in dates in January. Prices vary on months, days of the week and how far in advance you book. But this gives a good idea on price comparison between the three classes – Economy, Premium Economy, and Business Class – so that you can decide what class you would like to fly.
So naturally, I would choose Premium Economy over business class based on the price. If you are smart, book the seats by the window.
The extra money does give you a lot more perks, a lot more room, and much better service. I don't know about you, but a trip to Hong Kong is a dream trip for me. If I only have a week or two in the city, I want to be as refreshed as possible. Premium economy and especially business class offer the chance to sleep well on your flight, which makes the first few days of your trip much easier to navigate.
So the verdict on the Premium Economy vs Business Class seating is that business class will always be the better option, but you will pay for it. If you don't have unlimited funds (like us) Premium Economy is a great choice. You'll still feel like a VIP and have a comfortable trip, but you won't be paying an arm and a leg for the service.
Something Dave and I can't live without when we travel is access to airport lounges. As we said above, we have a Priority Pass card that gives us access to hundreds of airport lounges around the world. But Business Class travelers automatically gain access to Cathay Pacific Business Class lounges. If you gather One World rewards, you are also eligible for lounge access once you reach Silver and above Marco Polo Club members.
We took sanctuary in The Cabin at the Hong Kong Airport, Cathay Pacific's flagship lounge. But there are several different lounges located at different gates, so you don't have to walk a country mile to get to your flight. We've been in some airports where we've had a wonderful time in the lounge, but then end up frantically having to run to our flight because we've ended up at the wrong end of the airport.
I love how Cathay Pacific has different lounges near your departure gates. Because Cathay Pacific emphasizes life well travelled, they have taken great care in designing relaxing environments with state of the art designs.
You can enjoy endless food and drinks, free Internet, and a quiet environment. The Cathay Pacific lounges throughout the airport boast their signature noodle soup bar as an added bonus. I just love noodle soup. I could eat it forever.
If you fly business class, make sure you take advantage of the lounge access. If you are flying premium economy, get yourself a priority pass card so you too can enjoy the lounge benefits. You won't regret it.
It's an excellent way to start the trip and freshen up between flights, like once you land in Hong Kong but before catching your connecting flight. We've taken showers and naps during connections and it makes a world of difference once we reach our final destination.
Have you flown premium economy overseas? What was your experience like?
Cathay Pacific offers 10 direct flights weekly from Toronto to Hong Kong and 14 flights weekly between Vancouver and Hong Kong. The convenient hub of Hong Kong connects to over 40 destinations in Asia and over 22 cities in Mainland China. Check out all their routes here. Our Cathay Pacific Premium Economy and Business Class flights were a part of the #LifeWellTravelled campaign by Cathay Pacific Airways.