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Cars & travel.

Updated: 12 Jul 2021

How to save on premium economy fares

Better, bigger seats don't have to cost the earth. Read our insider tips for upgrading on the cheap
Which?Editorial team
Premium economy recliner_advice 477469

Find a package holiday deal

The days of dressing smartly to get a free upgrade are long gone, but it’s still possible to fly premium economy on the cheap. First, check airline websites for flight and hotel package deals – anything from last-minute to nine months in advance. These companies are so determined to win all your holiday pounds that they’re practically giving the flights away. 

Bid for an upgrade

If the price of premium makes you wince, try paying only what you think it’s worth. The PlusGrade website helps partner airlines – including Etihad, Qantas, Singapore and Virgin Atlantic – auction off their last remaining non-economy seats. If you’ve booked economy, a blind bid could see you leap up a class. You’ll be notified 48 to 72 hours before take-off if successful, and payment will be taken automatically (and multiplied to include every passenger under the same booking). But you only have one chance to get it right. Travel blogger Bethaney Davies, who has twice struck gold, advises subtracting the amount you’ve already paid from the regular price of a premium ticket – then offering 20% to 40% of the difference.

Collect air miles

Air miles are still the easiest way to upgrade – and flying isn’t the only way to earn them. Buying everything from TVs to takeaways via airline shopping portals can accrue up to 12 miles per pound. Similarly, BA’s Executive Club offers webpage has the latest promotions. When we checked, 1,000 Avios points were up for grabs on fine wine club the Wine Explorer’s top 12 picks. Planning to splurge on a big-ticket item? The BA Premium Plus credit card gives you 25,000 points if you spend £3,000 in 90 days. Rob Burgess, of frequent-flyer site headforpoints.com, told us: ‘Few people know you can cancel and reapply six months later to get another sign-up bonus. With your partner doing the same, you’d get a premium economy ticket within a year.

Fly from other European cities

If you want premium economy for less, try removing London from your search. Boarding in Paris, Dublin or Stockholm could save you a bundle, if you’re willing to spend a bit of time and money getting there. If you time it right, the savings can be ‘astronomical’, according to Gilbert Ott of travel blog God Save the Points. He slashed his premium fare in half when he flew to LA from Stockholm, rather than from Heathrow. ‘I’m happy to waste a morning to save £500!’ he told us.

Try a no-frills airline

If extra legroom is your main reason for upgrading, there are other ways of bagging this on the cheap. Believe it or not, budget long-haul carriers can be surprisingly generous on that front. Norwegian Air offers a flat fee of £25 for seat selection, regardless of where you choose. So why not plump for a bulkhead or exit row spot with up to 38 inches of legroom (compared with 31-32 inches in economy)? Virgin Atlantic’s closest equivalent ‘Economy Delight’ is double the price and offers only 34 inches. Similarly, Wow Air’s ‘comfy’ service gives a roomy 37 inches.

Find out more: how to save on airport lounges

Package vs DIY holiday cost

Flying from Heathrow to Dubai from 8-11 September 2018, you could book a British Airways package or plan the same trip yourself.

Package total: £625pp

  • BA Return World Traveller Plus flights to Dubai
  • 3 nights bed and breakfast at the Doubletree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah
  • Airport transfers included

DIY total: £759pp

  • £632pp for BA Return World Traveller Plus flights to Dubai
  • £85 for 3 nights bed and breakfast at the Doubletree by Hilton Ras Al Khaimah 
  •  £42pp for airport transfers

Verdict: Save £134 with a package holiday