Winter travel season is upon us. As seats in economy cabins continue to shrink, many airlines have introduced a new category, premium economy, to domestic and international routes. Premium economy fares are about 15 to 20 percent more expensive than basic economy, but they also offer extra legroom, free drinks — and the perks don’t stop there.

Passengers seated in premium economy reap the benefits even before boarding the plane, via dedicated priority check-in lines and priority boarding. Most airlines offer reduced prices for lounge access as well. On board, most airlines have a dedicated crew serving premium economy passengers. Passengers are treated to upgraded food and beverage options, including sparkling wines and top-shelf booze. Free Wi-Fi is typically included, plus premium entertainment options and a complimentary pillow and blanket.

Most frequent flyers will tell you that the slight upgrade is worth it. Premium economy seats are significantly cheaper than first class, and the chances of getting upgraded are much greater, especially for those with elite status on the airline. A premium economy ticket also awards passengers more miles than basic economy tickets, making it an excellent investment toward frequent flyer programs.

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To determine whether an upgrade to premium economy is worth your hard-earned coin, we took a look at premium economy tickets on five major domestic airlines: American, Alaska, Delta, JetBlue and United. We considered such assets as legroom, priority boarding, and, of course, booze.

We did the math. You make the call. Happy travels!

Alaska Airlines

By Spring 2018, all of Alaska’s 737-900s will be equipped with its premium economy product, called Premium Class. It’s already available on all 737-800s and E175s.

Premium Class Perks

  • Extra legroom
  • Priority boarding
  • Complimentary snacks and beverages, including cocktails, wine, and beers from Alaskan and Kona Brewing. (The latter is only available on flights to Hawaii.)


Upgrades start at $15 but vary considerably depending on routes and how far in advance tickets are purchased. On a flight from Newark to LAX, Premium Class seats were $100-plus more than basic economy seats, round trip.

Alcoholic beverages in economy are $6 to $7 each.

Award Redemption

No awards but MVP elites eligible for upgrades.

Worth it?

Depending on how early you book, the relatively low cost and solid perks make this a good option.

American Airlines

American Airlines recently added its newest Premium Economy product to over 60 percent of its aircraft, most of which are on international routes to Europe, Asia, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Hawaii.

Premium Economy Perks


On a flight from JFK to Buenos Aires, Premium Economy seats range between $200 and $600 more than basic economy seats.

Alcoholic drinks in economy range from $7 to $9.

Award Redemption

Upgrades are not available yet, but are expected to be in the future.

Worth it?

Highly dependent on rate at time of booking. Six-hundred dollars is a lot to pay for complimentary drinks and Wi-Fi; but, for $200, that suite of perks is a pretty good deal.


Delta was the first U.S. airliner to sell a premium economy product with extra legroom. The airline is now launching a newer premium product called Premium Select, which has amenities comparable to domestic first class.

Delta Comfort+ Perks

  • Extra legroom
  • Dedicated bin space
  • Priority boarding
  • TUMI amenity kit on long-haul international flights
  • Free entertainment
  • Premium snacks and beverages on flights over 350 miles. Complimentary drinks include craft beers from Sweetwater and Stone, Champagne, and red, white, and dessert wines.


On a flight from JFK to LAX, Delta Comfort+ seats cost $200-plus more than a main cabin seat.

Alcoholic beverages in economy range from $5 to $7.

Award redemption

Complimentary upgrades are only available to Medallion members.

Worth it?



JetBlue’s Even More Space (EMS) product is available on select routes.

Even More Space Perks

  • The only difference with the airline’s EMS product is extra legroom.
  • There are no complimentary boozy beverages; but both economy and EMS passengers get unlimited snacks and free entertainment.


Even More Space seats cost anywhere from $30 to $90 more than economy seats, depending on the route and length of flight.

Alcoholic beverages throughout the cabin cost $7 to $9.

Award Redemption

Elite members of its True Blue program can redeem points for upgrades.

Worth it?

Only if you’re very tall.


United’s Economy Plus is available on all United flights and gives passengers extra legroom. But that’s where the perks stop for this program — priority boarding and other amenities come at an extra price. The airline offers year-long subscriptions for its Economy Plus product and rumor has it that United will launch Premium Economy cabins in 2018.

Economy Plus Perks

Extra legroom. That’s it.

Drinks are not complimentary in Economy Plus.


Economy Plus seats run an additional $19 to $200 more than basic economy tickets, depending on the route and time of booking. In Economy Plus, as in the main cabin, beer, wine, and spirits are available for purchase from $7.99 to $9.99.

Award redemption

Premier members are eligible for complimentary upgrades.

Worth it?

For $20, sure. Otherwise, you’d have to really love legroom.