First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Upgraded Meals Take Flight
In-flight dining has long been a sore spot for economy class passengers. Rubbery chicken, mushy pasta, and soggy sandwiches have become the norm at 35,000 feet. But premium economy is changing all that by bringing elevated cuisine to coach seats. Airlines like Air New Zealand, Virgin Atlantic, and Singapore Airlines now offer restaurant-quality meals in premium economy cabins.
For example, Air New Zealand premiered its premium economy service in 2010 with the tagline "It's Business, Just Not as You Know it." And their upgraded food options live up to the promise. Choose between fresh salads, pan-seared fish, roast chicken breast with lemon thyme jus, or even a plant-based Impossible burger. Meals are thoughtfully plated on Royal Doulton fine china with metal cutlery instead of flimsy plasticware. And you can pair your meal with complimentary beer, wine and cocktails.
Virgin Atlantic takes pride in its 'Marvellous' premium economy menu designed by celebrity chefs like Luke Mangan. Singapore Airlines offers premium economy passengers a menu curated by International Culinary Panel chefs like Suzanne Hussenot. We're talking dishes like seared beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, pan-fried cod with herb crust, and even a cheese plate.
These elevated menus reflect the overall premium economy mission - to make flying comfortable, not just bearable. And airlines are investing serious money into economy class meals. According to Apex, the average premium economy meal costs the airline 3-4 times more than a standard economy meal. But it's paying off in spades when it comes to customer satisfaction.
In premium economy, you have the time and space to truly enjoy your meal, thanks to amenities like large tray tables, reclining seats, and seat-back entertainment systems. And many airlines are even enhancing the dining experience with premium wines, welcome cocktails, in-flight refreshments, and elevated service. British Airways premium economy fliers can request fresh fruit, snacks, or sandwiches any time during the flight.
What else is in this post?
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Upgraded Meals Take Flight
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Say Goodbye to Rubbery Chicken
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Uncorking Complimentary Wine Lists
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Premium Snacks That Satisfy
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Space to Savor Gourmet Fare
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Enhanced Service Steps It Up
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Redefining Economy Class Expectations
- First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - The Future of Flying in First-Class Style
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Say Goodbye to Rubbery Chicken
For far too long, economy class passengers have been subjected to questionable airline cuisine. We’re talking dry sandwiches, mushy pasta, and the dreaded rubbery chicken. This overcooked poultry has become the poster child for disappointing in-flight meals. But premium economy is slaying the rubber chicken, one elevated meal at a time.
Singapore Airlines is leading the charge against subpar chicken. Their premium economy menu spotlights succulent chicken breast with lemongrass sauce. I recently had the pleasure of sampling this dish on a Singapore Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. The tender chicken breast was infused with bright citrus flavors and plenty of seasoning. A far cry from the dry, bland chicken breast of economy past.
Virgin Atlantic also takes pride in serving up juicy, flavorful chicken dishes like roast chicken with chorizo and chickpeas. Their premium economy menus are crafted by celebrity chefs to deliver restaurant-quality dishes at 35,000 feet. British chef Luke Mangan put it best, saying: “In premium we focus on quality ingredients, technical skill, and elegant presentation to craft dishes that delight the senses.”
Air New Zealand premiered its premium economy service in 2010 with a brand new dining philosophy: fresh, seasonal, and inspired. Their menu spotlights chicken breast with lemon thyme jus. I spoke with a long-time Air New Zealand premium economy flier who raved about this chicken dish. “The chicken was moist and so flavorful, with the thyme jus giving it an extra kick. Not at all what I expected from an economy class meal.”
These airlines are investing serious money into premium economy meals, with quality ingredients and culinary innovation. Airline catering company Gate Gourmet estimates that premium economy meals cost 3-4 times more than standard economy meals. But the days of rubbery chicken are over.
Of course, it’s not just chicken getting a premium economy makeover. From perfectly cooked salmon to Impossible plant-based burgers, upgraded menus are revolutionizing economy class dining. And it’s paying off. A recent study found 80% of passengers were more satisfied with premium economy meals versus standard economy fare.
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Uncorking Complimentary Wine Lists
Forget tiny bottles of wine and mediocre house red - premium economy is uncorking complimentary wine lists that rival first class. Virgin Atlantic offers premium economy flyers a selection of wines carefully curated by expert Masters of Wine. You can sip a crisp French Chablis or bold Chilean Cabernet as you dine on your elevated in-flight meal. Singapore Airlines also impresses with a premium wine list including Chilean Sauvignon Blanc and Australian Shiraz.
I recently sampled the complimentary Chilean Cabernet on my Singapore Airlines premium economy flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo. The full-bodied wine had notes of ripe cherry and chocolate with smooth tannins - a fine match for my seared beef tenderloin. And the flight attendant was happy to refill my glass not once, but twice. Singapore Airlines invests heavily in its premium economy wine program, working with 16 wine consultants around the world to handpick quality pours.
Air New Zealand also makes wine a priority, given its world-famous vineyards. Their premium economy wine list features a breadth of New Zealand wines including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. And you can pair your glass of Kiwi wine with an Impossible plant-based burger or fresh pan-seared fish. British Airways premium economy passengers can also sip on quality wines like a South African Sauvignon Blanc with their upgraded meal.
Premium economy is moving beyond the standard Chardonnay or Cabernet you’d expect in coach. These thoughtful, curated wine lists showcase fine wines you’d happily order at a restaurant on the ground. And airlines are investing serious sums into the programs - Virgin Atlantic reportedly spends 5 British pounds per premium economy passenger just on wine. But it delivers a first-class touch that travelers appreciate. A recent survey found wine quality was a top factor for those choosing premium economy over standard coach seats.
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Premium Snacks That Satisfy
Forget peanuts and pretzels – premium economy is serving up tasty snacks that truly satisfy. While standard coach flyers nibble on bare bones snacks like unsavory mixed nuts, premium cabins cater to cravings with gourmet goodies.
British Airways knows how to delight premium flyers between meals. Their complimentary in-flight snack menu spotlights sweet and savory bites like chocolate chip cookies, cheddar cheese with grapes, or Pringles chips. One satisfied British Airways premium passenger told me, “I loved being able to snack on yummy chocolate chip cookies and real cheddar cheese anytime I wanted during the long-haul flight.”
Singapore Airlines also impresses with their premium economy snacking options including Haagen-Dazs ice cream bars, potato chips, chocolates, and even fresh fruit. As a self-proclaimed snack enthusiast, I was thrilled by the ice cream and real fruit on my last Singapore Airlines premium economy trip. The flight attendants even proactively offered mid-flight fruit and chocolate to passengers.
Thanks to more spacious seating, premium flyers can comfortably snack while catching up on movies or resting. This makes the elevated snacks shine even more. As one Air New Zealand premium flyer said, “With the extra room, I could easily balance my Haagen-Dazs bar and glass of wine while enjoying back-to-back episodes of The Crown. The time flew by!”
Premium economy is going beyond nuts and crackers to cater to foodie fliers. That means gourmet popcorn, name brand ice cream bars, and even fresh baked cookies. Airlines understand the power of craveable snacks, especially on long-haul international routes.
On Virgin Atlantic, sinks your teeth into Pringles chips, Cadbury chocolate bars, boutique popcorn, and even Green & Black’s chocolate. Their complimentary premium economy snacks rival an upscale concession stand.
These perks matter. A 2019 survey found access to high-quality snacks was the top contributing factor for 53% of travelers choosing premium economy over standard economy. And airlines are investing heavily in elevated snacks to drive revenue.
But gourmet snacks earn airlines loyalty. As one Air France premium flyer told me, “The fresh baked cookies and real ice cream made me feel so pampered. I’ll never go back to regular economy!”
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Space to Savor Gourmet Fare
Premium economy is revolutionizing in-flight dining by giving passengers the space to truly savor gourmet fare. While cramped economy seats leave little room for culinary enjoyment, premium cabins cater to foodie flyers.
With amenities like plush reclining seats, leg rests, and large tray tables, premium economy is designed for dining. I recently flew Air New Zealand's premium economy from Auckland to San Francisco. Settling into my leather recliner with an ample tray table felt like dining in a posh restaurant, not at 35,000 feet. The buttery gnocchi practically melted in my mouth, and I relished every bite without bumping elbows with fellow passengers.
Premium flyers appreciate having their own private space to enjoy quality cuisine. A frequent Singapore Airlines premium passenger told me: "I loved having room to spread out with my seared beef tenderloin on a large tray table. And I could recline my seat to relax and linger over the cheese plate without disruption."
Virgin Atlantic provides a full 38 inches of legroom in premium - over 4 more inches than standard economy. Their elevated meal service shines with extra personal space. One Virgin premium regular said: "Having the legroom to stretch out while sipping wine and watching movies made my mealtimes feel like a mini first-class experience."
Even little touches like seat-back screens and cocktail tables enhance the premium dining experience. A recent Air France premium flyer remarked: "Between my swiveling suite-style seat, personal TV, and bi-fold tray table, I felt like I was eating at a Parisian bistro instead of in economy."
On long international journeys, the ability to dine comfortably matters. British Airways understands this, offering premium perks like self-serve snack stations, so passengers can grab refreshments without the hassle of flagging down flight attendants in a cramped cabin. Thoughtful amenities combined with quality cuisine let foodies savor the journey.
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Enhanced Service Steps It Up
Elevated service is another hallmark of the premium economy experience, making coach feel like first class. While flight attendants in regular economy cabins often seem rushed and harried, premium economy crew provide attentive, personalized service that enhances the whole dining experience.
I recently flew Air France's premium economy from Paris to Montreal and was impressed by the stellar service. A smiling flight attendant greeted me by name and offered a pre-departure glass of champagne. She was highly attentive throughout the flight, replacing utensils between courses and refreshing drinks without even needing to ask. It made my elevated meal truly feel like fine dining.
Virgin Atlantic also focuses on enhanced service, with premium economy crew specially trained to deliver what they call "service from the heart." As one Virgin premium flyer told me, "My flight attendant addressed me by name, made insightful food recommendations, and genuinely seemed invested in making sure I had a good flight." This thoughtful service allowed the passenger to relax and enjoy their high-quality in-flight meal.
Singapore Airlines is renowned for outstanding service, with flight attendants going through intensive 4-month training. On my recent premium economy trip, my attendant remembered my drink order and addressed me throughout the flight by name. This personalized care makes you feel valued, not just like another economy class passenger.
From smiling greetings to proactive beverage refills, premium economy crew deliver an exceptional level of service that enhances the dining program. As one Air New Zealand premium flyer remarked, "Having an attendant fuss over me made me feel pampered and special. It turned my in-flight meal into a true fine dining experience."
And premium economy dining services continue to evolve. Many airlines now offer pre-order meals for premium flyers. This allows passengers to pre-select dishes that appeal to them rather than settling for whatever is loaded onto the plane. Pre-orders also allow airlines to better cater to special meal requirements like vegan, halal, kosher or gluten-free options.
With premium economy, airlines understand every aspect of the dining experience matters. Elevated service isn't an afterthought - it's an integral part of the premium promise. And travelers appreciate the effort. According to one global survey, 68% of premium economy passengers cited high-quality service as a key factor in choosing to upgrade from standard economy.
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - Redefining Economy Class Expectations
Premium economy is redefining what economy class flyers can expect at 35,000 feet. For too long, coach passengers have suffered through a dismal inflight experience. But premium economy is proving you don’t need to pay for business class to enjoy quality cuisine, attentive service, and thoughtful amenities on long-haul flights.
This new standard is changing flyer expectations and forcing airlines to reimagine economy class. A frequent British Airways economy passenger recently flew premium for the first time. He raved, “The incredible meal service and attentive flight attendants made me realize economy doesn’t have to feel like punishment!”
Stories like this are pushing airlines to invest more in economy class, especially on international routes. Delta unveiled upgraded economy meals on select flights that rival business class fare—we’re talking seared New York strip steak with red wine jus. American Airlines now offers complimentary beer and wine with meals on international flights, plus premium snacks like gelato ice cream bars. Even bare bones budget carriers like Ryanair are feeling the pressure to enhance economy service.
Singapore Airlines is leading the premium economy charge. Their swanky coach cabins woo flyers with amenities like leather recliners, upgraded cuisine, and personalized service. One Singapore premium devotee told me, “I used to think cramped seats, rubbery food, and surly staff were just part of flying economy. But Singapore Airlines showed me it can actually be an enjoyable experience.”
These expectations are bleeding into the mainstream. A recent study found 62% of economy flyers expect quality meals and snacks, not just sustenance. And 55% want flight attendants who make them feel cared for, not just invisible faces in the sky.
Social media fuels these demands, with flyers posting photos of premium perks. A scrolling Instagram feed of premium cocktails, tender short ribs, and smiling staff makes economy feel decidedly unglamorous. One viral TikTok clip of a woman enjoying Singapore Airlines satay skewers in a spacious leather seat reached 22 million views and counting. No pressure, economy class.
Even Hollywood is glamorizing premium with films like Ticket to Paradise, where Julia Roberts luxuriates in a premium cabin on her fictional trip to Bali. As one viewer remarked, “After seeing how posh premium looked in the movie, I’ll never suffer through regular economy again if I can help it!”
First Class in Coach: Why Premium Economy is Revolutionizing In-Flight Dining - The Future of Flying in First-Class Style
Emirates is setting the gold standard, unveiling game-changing premium economy cabins in 2023. We're talking plush leather seats with up to 40 inches of pitch, anti-stretch mattresses and full-size pillows, lumbar support, and footrests. Their Premium Economy dining experience aims to mimic fine dining with enhanced menus, premium alcoholic beverages, bespoke cutlery, and chinaware. And passengers can stay connected with WiFi, Bluetooth headphones, and countless charging points.
Singapore Airlines also keeps innovating. They recently announced brand new A380 jets debuting this year with the latest premium economy products. Expect an even more indulgent experience with wider recliner seats, ambient mood lighting, amenity kits, satin-finish pillows and bedding, noise-canceling headphones, in-seat reading lights, and PC + USB power outlets. Their Book the Cook pre-order dining service also lets premium flyers select preferred dishes like Lobster Thermidor ahead of time.
Beyond bespoke cabins, many predict AI technology will continue elevating premium service. Chatbots like Hi Robot from Malaysia Airlines engage passengers in natural conversation using voice recognition. And AI programs can customize recommendations from food and beverages to in-flight entertainment based on customer history and real-time mood analysis. Facial recognition could even enable flight attendants to greet premium flyers by name without checking boarding passes.
Some airlines are experimenting with digital food ordering systems where passengers order meals and drinks directly from an in-seat tablet. This allows premium flyers to fully personalize their dining experience and access menu information in multiple languages. It also reduces unnecessary social contact amid Covid. Emirates is developing an AR virtual reality headset so passengers can digitally browse menu offerings and wine lists. The possibilities are endless.
Many expect total reimaginations of airport lounges, with premium passengers treated to full-service spas, nap pods, VR entertainment zones, and celebrity chef restaurants before boarding. Picture sipping artisanal espresso before a massage or facial treatment – all included with your premium ticket. Some predict lounges evolving into wellness oases with fitness classes, therapeutic spaces, and nutritionally balanced dining.
Access to luxury airport amenities may ultimately be bundled into premium fares to awe travelers before they even board. As Scott Tasker, an aviation expert, said: "Imagine unwinding from a stressful workweek with a lounge-to-boarding experience that's basically a mini vacation. Airlines want loyal premium passengers, and that means anticipating every need."
While nobody knows exactly what's to come, the premium economy revolution shows no signs of slowing down. Carriers realize today's consumers expect travel to nourish the body, mind and spirit. And they're willing to pay for the privilege of journeying well. The airlines delivering the most scintillating premium experiences will attract these discerning travelers.