I get a lot of questions about travelling as a person of size, more specifically flying while fat. One of the most common concerns seems to be about fitting in aeroplane seats, so when I flew to Melbourne last year I decided to purchase premium economy seats to see how they compared to economy seats.
One thing I learned is that not all Premium Economy flights are created equal. They’re going to differ between airlines, but they also differ between planes. I flew with Air New Zealand on my flights to and from Melbourne, but my experiences were very very different.
Premium Economy doesn’t come cheap – it will set you back roughly 2-3 times the amount of an Economy fare. Another option is to buy an Economy ticket and then upgrade with OneUp – you decide how much you’re willing to pay to upgrade a class, and submit a “bid” at least seven days before your flight departs. Your bid may or may not be accepted, which means you might either have to be content with Economy class, or score an upgrade (which could be a cheaper option, depending on how much your bid was).
I didn’t know about OneUp before I flew, so I forked out the full price for my Premium Economy fares, and booked through House of Travel.
Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300
I was using crutches (I was travelling while recovering from a dislocated kneecap) and found the aisle itself quite narrow in terms of leg room – something to be aware of if you need assistance walking. Once I sat down, I had loads of leg room – I could stretch my legs out all the way in front of me and still didn’t come close to reaching the end of my footwell. I was sitting in the middle aisle (which would be great for couples as the seats have no real divider between them) and had plenty of seat space due to the open layout of the seat, but I did need to ask for a seatbelt extender. The tray table folded out from the seat in front of me and I was left with plenty of room to sit comfortably. There was a great selection of entertainment (and headphones) available, and there was a USB port where I could charge my phone.
I was offered a sparkling wine or orange juice and hot towel upon boarding. We ate breakfast in flight, and I pre-ordered a gluten free meal because I’m gluten intolerant. To be honest it wasn’t that great – a couple of the items that were gluten free (fruit bread and a muffin) were super dry and quite tasteless. I think that I could have comfortably ordered from the regular menu without any trouble, and might reconsider that for next time.
Honestly, this is the most roomy bathroom I’ve ever used on a plane – there was more room than you usually get in a public toilet stall! It was easy to get in and out of, lots of room to move around in and very clean.
WOULD I FLY AGAIN?
Absolutely – I would definitely recommend flying Premium Economy on an Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300. I didn’t feel cramped or squished, or like my size was any kind of problem on this plane. In fact, if all planes were like this, I would shell out the extra pennies every single time.
Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner
I found the aisle a little wider on this plane, and once again when I sat down (in the window seat of the left aisle), I had loads of leg room. Seats have a 41” pitch, 9” recline and width of 19.3” with a 5” wide armrest. The seat had hard sides and I fit but not comfortably, I also needed to ask for a seatbelt extender. The tray table folded out from the centre console, across my lap, and I was unable to get it to sit flat because of my hips/stomach/thighs. Luckily there was no one sitting next to me, and I was able to awkwardly turn and use the tray table for the neighbouring seat. There was a great selection of entertainment (and headphones) available, including a number of magazine options, and there was a USB port and power sockets available. The headphones provided plug in on the inner aspect of your seat so if it’s a tight fit you won’t be able to use headphones. I have my own with a long cord that I could plug in by the TV screen in the seat back in front of me. The remote also sits in the inner aspect of the seat, but you can use the controls on TV monitor.
I was offered a hot towel upon boarding. We ate dinner in flight, and I had pre-ordered the gluten free meal again. The shrimp salad starter wasn’t suitable for me (I’m allergic to shrimp), but the crew found me an alternative with no problem. The same dry fruit bread was served as part of the meal, but the cheese and gluten free crackers were good.
The bathroom was very small, and while I was able to use it, I’d say it was not suitable for larger passengers or anyone with mobility issues.
WOULD I FLY AGAIN?
I wouldn’t recommend flying Premium Economy on an Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. While I was less cramped than I might have been in an Economy seat, there were still the inconveniences like being unable to use the tray table and the size of the bathroom that made me think that the extra expense was not worth it.
Have you flown Premium Economy before?
Let me know how you found it