Traveling comfortably and stylishly doesn’t always have to come at a high cost. Cue the premium economy cabin: a middle ground between economy and business class that offers enhanced comfort, extra legroom and certain exclusive amenities.

First introduced by EVA Air in 1991, premium economy is now offered on many of the world’s major carriers. By leveraging airline loyalty programs and credit card rewards, you can transform your hard-earned points and miles into fantastic premium-economy experiences.

The process of booking premium-economy flights with points and miles involves researching the route and earning the miles required for a premium-economy redemption. To illustrate the process, let’s take a look at nine of the best premium-economy cabins offered by major carriers today and the options you have to book them.

Whether you’re a seasoned points collector or new to the world of points and miles, this comprehensive guide will teach you how to elevate your next flight journey without straining your budget.

how to book premium economy flights

Process Overview

To book that premium-economy seat with points, you’ll generally have to go through these four steps:

  • Researching and planning
  • Determining miles required
  • Accumulating the miles
  • Making the booking

Let’s discuss each step in a bit more detail.

Researching and Planning

During this first step, it’s important to determine whether premium economy is available on your desired route. This should be pretty easy—start your search on Google Flights and note down the flight numbers of several airlines. Then, you can utilize SeatGuru to search for the exact seating configuration of those flights. SeatGuru will explicitly indicate whether a premium economy cabin exists or not.

While it’s the norm for airlines to offer premium economy on their longer-haul international routes, it’s still advisable to check SeatGuru for confirmation.

travel planning

Determining Miles Required

Next comes the task of determining how many miles you need, which can be a bit tricky. If your airline uses an award chart, consider yourself fortunate. The chart will specify exactly how many points are required.

However, many airlines are now starting to employ a dynamic pricing model for their award seats. This results in significant fluctuations in the miles required and is influenced a lot by high-demand and low-demand travel seasons. In such cases, it’s best to use the airline’s search tools to get an idea of the miles needed. You could also explore public forums, such as Reddit, for historical data.

Keep in mind that an airline’s partners may sometimes offer better deals for the same premium-economy flight. There will be a few examples of this when highlighting specific airlines later in the article.

Accumulating the Miles

Now, onto the exciting part: earning the miles. You don’t have to fly extensively with an airline to accumulate their miles. As we often emphasize, one of the fastest methods is through credit card sign-up bonuses.

Many top airlines happen to be partners of one of five major credit card point systems in the United States: American Express Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Capital One Venture Miles, Citi ThankYou Points and Chase Ultimate Rewards. Points earned within these systems can be transferred to various travel partners, which makes them highly flexible.

Depending on your airline, there may also be co-branded credit cards that can help you earn a specific airline’s miles quickly. Some examples include the Aeroplan® Credit Card and the British Airways Visa Signature® card.

Making the Booking

Last but certainly not least, the rewarding moment arrives: making the booking! Thankfully, availability for premium-economy seats is generally more abundant than for business or first class, so you should be able to complete your booking entirely online. However, there’s still a possibility that you need to contact an agent, depending on the airline’s specific procedures.

how to book premikum economy flights with points and miles

Top Airlines That Offer Premium Economy

Whether you already have a destination in mind or are still undecided, here are nine airlines known for their exceptional premium economy products that can serve as inspiration for your next trip. For each airline, we’ll show you how to book the trip with the airline’s points program, but also offer insights on maximizing your points when available.

Virgin Atlantic

virgin atlantic

Virgin Atlantic’s premium-economy product offers 38 inches of seat pitch, premium meal selections and complimentary amenity kits on most routes. It’s an excellent way to upgrade your next flight to or from the U.K.

Consider the ever-popular route from New York (JFK) to London (LHR). During off-peak seasons, a round-trip premium-economy redemption requires just 35,000 Virgin points, making it one of the best deals featured in this article.

Virgin Atlantic

However, note that fees and fuel surcharges can be quite high when booking Virgin flights with Virgin points. To avoid these fees, we recommend booking through Virgin’s SkyTeam partners, such as Air France or Delta Air Lines, which may require slightly more miles but have significantly lower taxes and fees.

Here are the major credit card programs that transfer points to each mentioned airline:

  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: American Express, Bilt, Chase, Citi
  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles: American Express, Bilt, Capital One, Chase, Citi
  • Delta SkyMiles: American Express

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines

Singapore Airlines’ premium economy offers passengers wider seats and full legrests, along with the renowned Book The Cook service for customized in-flight dining.

You might consider booking premium economy on a route from Singapore (SIN) to Sydney (SYD), which is approximately an eight- to nine-hour journey.

Singapore Airlines

Fifty-one thousand miles per direction is relatively steep, as is often the case with many Singapore redemptions. Moreover, premium economy award space on Singapore Airlines is generally not available to its Star Alliance partners, meaning that booking with Singapore is your only bet.

Although this is a pricier redemption, Singapore KrisFlyer miles are relatively easy to earn through credit card programs. Points earned with American Express, Capital One, Chase and Citi transfer to Singapore KrisFlyer at a 1:1 ratio.

Qantas Airways

Qantas-at-Sydney-Airport

When it comes to routes to and from Australia, Qantas Airways stands out with its highly competitive premium economy offering. In addition to wider seats and increased recline, passengers are offered noise-canceling headphones and a complimentary amenity kit on overnight flights.

How about booking a premium-economy seat on an ultra long-haul route from Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney? With a flight time of 14 to 15 hours each way, you’ll have ample time to enjoy the spacious seating and upgraded dining experience.

Qantas Airways

Unfortunately, this redemption also isn’t cheap—it’ll cost you 81,300 Qantas points one way.

An alternative way to search for this seat is through Qantas’s Oneworld partners Alaska Airlines and British Airways. Premium economy redemptions start at around 45,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles, although they can be more challenging to earn.

British Airways Avios, on the other hand, are easier to accumulate, but their redemption rates are also distance-based, meaning the longer the flights, the more Avios you’ll need.

Here are the major credit card programs that transfer to each mentioned airline:

  • Qantas Frequent Flyer: American Express, Capital One, Citi
  • Alaska Mileage Plan: Marriott Bonvoy (3:1 transfer ratio)
  • British Airways Executive Club: American Express, Bilt, Capital One, Chase

Air France

 

We touched on Air France’s rewards system Flying Blue on a previous redemption, but Air France itself also offers a great premium-economy product. Passengers can expect comfortable fleece blankets, bottled water and an amenity kit awaiting them at their seats.

Let’s explore a redemption option on a transatlantic route from New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG), which typically takes seven to eight hours. You can often snag a great deal for 30,000 Flying Blue miles for a one-way ticket.

Air France

Because Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles are easy to earn, this redemption represents a noteworthy sweet spot in the realm of mileage redemptions. While taxes and fees are a little on the high side, finding award space when booking directly with Air France is usually not a challenge.

When planning your return flight for this route, note that Air France is often known for having high fuel surcharges for flights originating in Paris. You might want to search around SkyTeam partners like Delta Air Lines or Aeroméxico.

Here are the major credit card programs that transfer to each mentioned airline:

  • Air France-KLM Flying Blue Miles: American Express, Bilt, Capital One, Chase, Citi
  • Delta SkyMiles: American Express
  • Aeroméxico: Capital One, Citi

All Nippon Airways (ANA)

All Nippon Airways (ANA)

All Nippon Airways is perhaps widely recognized for its luxurious business- and first-class products, such as ANA’s The Room. However, their premium economy deserves just as much praise.

Passengers get a generous 38 inches of pitch in seats that measure more than 19 inches wide. The massive 15.6-inch entertainment screens further enhance the onboard experience.

A special perk of flying ANA premium economy is that you get access to the ANA lounges in Japan and Honolulu, typically reserved for upper class cabins. For instance, before departing on your flight to Los Angeles from Tokyo-Narita (NRT), you’ll get a free visit to the lounge first.

All Nippon airways (ANA)

During the low season, this flight costs 62,000 ANA miles round trip—not too shabby, but the 71,500 yen (about $513) in taxes and fees is quite high. Unfortunately, ANA premium-economy award space is often limited or unavailable via partners, including Virgin Atlantic, which many travel enthusiasts use to book ANA premium cabins.

Fortunately, ANA points can be earned relatively easily. American Express Membership Rewards points transfer to ANA Mileage Club at a 1:1 ratio. It’s important to note that these transfers aren’t instantaneous and may take up to 48 hours to reflect in your account. Therefore, you may have to call ANA to put your award seat on hold.

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand

Air New Zealand has always offered a stellar premium economy product. In 2018, Skytrax recognized the airline for the best premium economy cabin in the sky. With up to 42 inches of pitch, this is perhaps the most spacious premium-economy experience available.

You can take advantage of the extra comfort on a long-haul flight from Auckland, New Zealand (AKL), to Los Angeles. Since Air New Zealand has no major credit card transfer partners, except Marriott Bonvoy, it’s more practical for the U.S.-based travelers to search for seats through Star Alliance partners like United. Keep in mind that availability may be limited, and the redemption cost on United is around 70,000 miles each way.

Air New Zealand

While this redemption may not offer the best value, earning United miles is relatively easy. You can transfer Chase or Bilt points directly to United MileagePlus or take advantage of multiple co-branded credit cards, such as the United℠ Explorer Card or the United Quest℠ Card.

Here are the major credit card programs that transfer to each mentioned airline:

  • Air New Zealand AirPoint: Marriott Bonvoy (200:1 ratio)
  • United MileagePlus: Bilt, Chase

Delta Air Lines

delta-air-lines

Delta’s premium-economy offering known as Premium Select boasts standout features, such as large 13.3-inch entertainment screens comparable to those found in some business-class cabins. Passengers also receive a TUMI-branded amenity kit that includes essentials like a dental kit, moisturizer, earplugs and socks.

For a journey from Delta’s hub in Atlanta (ATL) across the Atlantic to London (LHR), reward seats tend to be expensive, even during off-peak periods.

Delta Air Lines

Instead of using 125,000 Delta SkyMiles to make this booking outright, consider booking an economy ticket then upgrading to Premium Select with miles. Alternatively, you can also look for award seats via Virgin Atlantic (which is a recurring theme in this article).

Here are the major credit card programs that transfer to each mentioned airline:

  • Delta SkyMiles: American Express
  • Virgin Atlantic Flying Club: American Express, Bilt, Chase, Citi

Air Canada

Air Canada

Air Canada

Air Canada’s premium economy is a special way to begin or conclude your journey in the Great White North. Passengers get priority check-in and boarding, along with seats that feature greater recline and adjustable footrests. The dining onboard Air Canada premium economy is also a noticeable step up from economy, with internationally-inspired cuisine served with metal cutlery.

Let’s consider a Canadian domestic route this time: Vancouver, British Columbia (YVR), to Toronto (YYZ). Air Canada uses a distance- and zone-based chart for award flights. Since the flight distance for this trip comes in at around 2,100 miles, we can see that premium economy redemption should cost between 20,000 to 35,000 Aeroplan points per direction.

Air Canada within North America

This is a pretty reasonable price for the added comfort you get flying across Canada. In addition, Air Canada Aeroplan points are easy to earn with American Express, Bilt, Capital One and Chase as transfer partners. You might also consider the Aeroplan Card from Chase to earn a quick stash of Aeroplan points.

EVA Air

Eva Air

Photo Courtesy of byeangel | Flickr

Finally, let’s take a moment to acknowledge EVA Air, the pioneer of premium economy. Despite being the oldest premium economy in the sky, their cabins maintain a sleek and modern design. Passengers are provided a comprehensive amenity kit and can enjoy enhanced meal options.

It’s worth noting that EVA Air’s premium economy cabins are spacious, accommodating a significant number of passengers, often exceeding 60. However, the cabin crew still manages to deliver excellent service, remaining attentive to customer needs while ensuring efficiency.

According to their award chart, a round-trip premium-economy ticket between Taipei, Taiwan (TPE), and San Francisco (SFO) would cost 110,000 EVA Air miles.

Eva Air

This isn’t the greatest value, as is the case with many of EVA Air’s award seat pricing. However, EVA Air is a partner of Capital One and Citi, which should help you accumulate miles faster. Additionally, as a member of the Star Alliance, you may have the option to book awards through partners like United or Air Canada.

Final Thoughts

Premium economy is one of the most unique experiences in the sky. It’s a surefire upgrade over economy, without the big price tags associated with business- and first-class seats. If you’ve got a surplus of miles laying around, consider using them wisely by booking your next flight in premium economy. We have featured nine of the top premium economy cabins available today to inspire your next journey. So, where will your miles take you next?