Air New Zealand Premium Economy Review

Meagan Kerr in Premium Economy on Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300

Living it up in Premium Economy on the way to Melbourne

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

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300 - Premium Economy

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300 Premium Economy Space Seat

Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300 Premium Economy Space Seat (image via Air New Zealand)


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.

Gluten free breakfast on Air New Zealand Boeing 777-300


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.


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

Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 - Premium Economy


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.

A Premium Economy seat on an Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9

My Premium Economy seat on a 787-9 Dreamliner. The neck pillow is one of my travel essentials.


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.


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


  1. Caro
    September 3, 2017 / 3:51 pm

    Thank you for this review! I am planning to fly to Australia for the first time and my biggest fear was being cramped and sore after a flight to Perth. I have read the Dream liner was narrow but this is the only offering on a direct flight. Being a newbie I’ve dithered about the alternative offering of a 777 which involves a stopover, something I wanted to avoid. However, after your review and others, I think I am going to have to bite the bullet and go for the 777 with a stopover. Inconvenient but better that than squashed for hours on end! If anyone has flown business class from Auckland to Perth, yell out. Yes I am desperate enough to fork out for Business if needed.

    • September 3, 2017 / 3:55 pm

      Personally I’d go for the 777 because it’s more comfortable. I wouldn’t recommend the Dreamliner because the trip to Perth is long and while the seat itself was okay, not being able to use that tray table for that whole trip would be sucky I think

    • Kerry
      December 6, 2017 / 10:11 pm

      Im a size 22-24 and went on the Dreamliner from Auckland to Perth and actually found the seats and space not too bad. I got an aisle seat and didn’t feel that squish. I sat at the window on a Qantas Melbourne to Auckland and won’t ever be doing that again. That was very squishy. Always go for aisle seats on Qantas when crossing the Tasman.

  2. July 3, 2017 / 11:20 pm

    Just reading this now. Good review Meagan! I’ve flown premium economy (Air New Zealand) a few times long-haul and it’s a toss up for me which configuration I prefer. The new spaceseats are great in that they are roomy and kind of feel like a lesser airline’s business class, but the seat only reclines in your ‘pod’ and lifts you up and back which I found a little weird. My husband and I also had the middle row twice and don’t actually like how you are facing away from each other… although the seats are far comfier than economy and I cannot complain 😉 on the older style planes, such as the ones we flew to and from Vancouver on a few years ago, the PE seats were more like the Dreamliner ones. Definitely not as ‘luxe’ but had a good natural recline that I found easier to sleep on. Although the leg support/foot rest didn’t come up far enough and was essentially useless. I propped my feet up on my carry on bag. The bean bags are a nice addition to the new seats. I’d fly again either configuration though x

    • July 5, 2017 / 6:07 pm

      Thanks Lizy! Good to hear some feedback of what it’s like flying long haul – I’ve only ever travelled to Australia and within the Pacific (that’s short haul, right?). I would definitely want to make sure I’m comfy on a longer flight!

  3. Marianne
    June 19, 2017 / 9:21 pm

    I’d be interested to know if investing in business class would be worth it. Eventually I’m going to fly to Aussie as a graduation present to myself (assuming I pass my last 4 papers). Last time I went (20 years ago) was on Freedom Air, what a cramped horrid experience. I was big then too, but bit more now. I find the last half hour to Christchurch in 90 min flight uncomfortable, so 3 or 4 hour flight to Aussie want to be comfortable. Good to know to check out different plane configurations.

  4. January 16, 2017 / 3:51 pm

    Recently flew on Brussels Airlines (to USA), and there the seats in Economy Privilege were basically identical to those in Economy, though they have maybe 4″ extra legroom and apparent recline more. But extra cost is only 120 Euros, each way so not bad if you need the legroom (I was traveling with my 10-year-old son, and I found it quite decent, so glad I didn’t bother with extra.)

    – Chris

    • January 18, 2017 / 9:00 am

      So, more leg room but the same amount of hip room? Great if you’re tall, not so much if you need more butt room like me (over here with the short legs haha)

  5. Michelle
    January 16, 2017 / 1:21 pm

    I’ll try it one day! Would be nice on a long haul.
    Good to know it’s different on the different types of planes.

    • January 18, 2017 / 8:54 am

      I think on a long haul flight it would be essential for me!

  6. January 16, 2017 / 11:02 am

    I’ve flown premium economy and business on other airlines, but not on Air NZ (well, I have, but not since I was a child). My last flight home from Australia I only just fit in the seat – very uncomfortable!

    • January 18, 2017 / 8:58 am

      Who do you usually fly with Lena? I know you fly to Aus quite a bit.

      • January 18, 2017 / 10:12 am

        I fly with whoever is cheapest haha. Usually Virgin, sometimes air nz. I’ve flown emirates, Qantas, and china airlines in recent years.

        • January 18, 2017 / 11:46 am

          Who have you found has the largest (Economy) seats? Do you find some roomier than others?

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