Plane Seat Showdown: Economy, Premium, Economy Plus

Guides1 month ago
Airplane aisle during flight

Navigating the world of airplane seating can feel like deciphering a foreign language. Terms like "premium economy" and "economy plus" swirl around, leaving travelers confused and unsure which option best suits their needs. Fear not, weary voyager! This guide dives into the key differences between these classes, empowering you to make informed choices for your next flight.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Experienced Users

Intro offer

50,000 Miles

Annual Fee


Recommended Credit


50,000 Miles

Delta SkyMiles Platinum.png


Economy Class: Your Basic Ticket to the Skies

Economy class, often referred to as "coach" or "standard class," is the most common and affordable option for air travel. While it may not offer the luxurious bells and whistles of higher classes, it serves as the workhorse of the skies, transporting millions of passengers daily. But before you book, let's delve deeper into what you can expect from an economy seat:

  • Space: Think cozy, not cavernous. Seats are typically 17-18 inches wide, offering just enough shoulder room to squeeze by your neighbor. Legroom can vary depending on the airline and aircraft, ranging from a cramped 28 inches to a slightly more breathable 32 inches. Prepare to befriend your knees for longer flights.
  • Amenities: The basics are covered. Expect a tray table for your in-flight meals (which may not always be complimentary, especially on budget airlines). Entertainment options can vary, with some airlines offering seatback screens showing movies and TV shows, while others require you to bring your own device and headphones. Wi-Fi access is becoming more common, but often comes at an additional cost.
  • Comfort: Let's be honest, "comfortable" is a relative term in economy. Seats offer limited recline, and the proximity to your neighbors can make it challenging to find a truly restful position. If you're a tall person or someone who easily gets stiff, consider packing a neck pillow and an inflatable footrest for some added comfort.

The Verdict:

Economy is the clear winner for budget-conscious travelers or those on short flights where the focus is getting from point A to point B quickly. However, if you prioritize comfort and legroom, especially on longer journeys, it's worth considering an upgrade.

Remember: Even within economy class, there can be variations. Some airlines offer "extra legroom" seats with a few more inches of space, while others have exit row seats with more recline. Research your options and consider paying a bit more for a slightly better seat if it makes a big difference for your comfort.

Bonus Tip: Pack light! With limited overhead bin space, carrying less luggage will make your boarding and deplaning experience much smoother.


Premium Economy: Comfort Takes Flight

Step onto the premium economy ladder and feel the difference instantly. Imagine escaping the squeeze of standard seats and entering a realm of increased legroom. Breathe easier with wider chairs, offering elbow room to spread out and avoid that awkward shoulder-to-shoulder shuffle. Finally, recline in peace, with enough seatback angle to actually catch some shut-eye on long-haul flights.

But premium economy isn't just about the seat itself. It's an experience upgrade. Imagine:

  • Personal entertainment systems on high-resolution screens, packed with movies, TV shows, and music to keep you entertained throughout the journey.
  • Enhanced meals that go beyond the standard airline fare. Think gourmet options, regional specialties, and complimentary beverages (including alcohol on some airlines).
  • Dedicated cabin sections separate from economy, offering a quieter and more spacious environment.
  • Priority boarding and disembarkation so you can breeze through the airport with less hassle.
  • Attentive service from dedicated flight attendants ready to cater to your needs.

Sounds tempting, right? However, remember the "premium" part of the name translates to a higher price tag. Premium economy can cost 2-3 times more than economy class, depending on the route and airline.


Is it worth it?

For travelers who value comfort and amenities, especially on long-haul flights, premium economy can be a game-changer. It allows you to arrive at your destination feeling refreshed and ready to explore, rather than cramped and exhausted. However, if budget is your top priority, or your flight is relatively short, the extra cost might not be justified.

Ultimately, the decision comes down to your individual needs and preferences. Weigh the benefits of enhanced comfort and service against the increased cost to determine if premium economy is the right choice for your next flight.

Bonus Tip: Some airlines offer occasional flash sales or promotional fares on premium economy seats. If you're flexible with your travel dates, keeping an eye out for deals can help you snag this upgraded experience at a more budget-friendly price.



Economy Plus: The Middle Ground

Stuck between the budget-friendly squeeze of economy and the luxurious embrace of premium economy? Enter economy plus, the sweet spot for travelers seeking a touch of comfort without breaking the bank. Think of it as economy with a growth spurt, offering a few inches more legroom and seat width to breathe (literally!) easier.

What's the difference?

  • Legroom: Expect 4-6 inches more legroom compared to standard economy, giving your knees a much-needed break, especially on longer flights.
  • Seat Width: Enjoy a couple of extra inches of lateral space, allowing you to shift and stretch without feeling like you're invading your neighbor's territory.
  • Priority Boarding: Be among the first to board, meaning you can stow your carry-on luggage with ease and settle in before the crowds arrive.
  • Exit Row Perks (sometimes): Snag an exit row seat in economy plus and score even more legroom and the ability to stretch your legs freely.

What you won't get:

  • Dedicated Cabin: Unlike premium economy, you'll still be seated in the main economy cabin, albeit in a slightly better section.
  • Enhanced Amenities: Entertainment systems, meals, and service remain largely the same as standard economy.


Who's it for?

  • Budget-conscious travelers: If you prioritize affordability but want to avoid feeling like a sardine in a can, economy plus offers a significant comfort upgrade at a more approachable price point.
  • Long-haul flyers: For journeys where a cramped seat can turn into torture, the extra legroom and width in economy plus can make a world of difference to your overall experience.
  • Value seekers: If creature comforts like entertainment systems or gourmet meals aren't essential, but a bit more breathing room is, economy plus hits the sweet spot between affordability and ease.

The Verdict:

Economy plus isn't a luxury experience, but it's a smart upgrade for budget-conscious travelers who value comfort, especially on longer flights. Weigh the cost difference against the benefits of extra space and priority boarding to see if it aligns with your priorities and budget.

Bonus Tip: Airlines often release a limited number of economy plus seats at the time of booking or during check-in. Be proactive and check for availability early to snag this comfort upgrade at a potentially lower price.


Making the Right Choice: Soar with Confidence

So, which class deserves your boarding pass? Consider your priorities:

  • Budget Savvy: Economy reigns supreme for short trips or tight budgets.
  • Long-Haul Comfort: Premium economy provides a significant comfort upgrade for extended journeys.
  • Value Seeker: Economy plus offers a taste of comfort at a more accessible price point.

Beyond class, remember to factor in the airline, specific aircraft type, and your personal preferences. Some airlines offer unique amenities within each class, while seat configurations can vary between aircraft models. Research, read reviews, and don't hesitate to contact the airline for details.

The ever-evolving world of air travel might introduce new seat classes. Stay informed by checking airline websites and travel blogs to understand how these options fit into the spectrum.

Remember, the perfect seat is the one that fulfills your travel needs and desires. With a little knowledge and this handy guide, you can confidently navigate the world of airplane seating and choose the class that takes your journey to new heights!

Bonus Tip: Pack smart! Regardless of your chosen class, bringing comfortable clothes, neck pillows, and entertainment options can further enhance your flying experience.

Happy travels!

Delta Airplane taking off