What are my options? Many of our clients love travelling around Europe each winter, but aren’t so thrilled by the prospect of over 26 hours of flying to get there, so an increasingly frequent question we’re asked is “how much extra does it cost to fly in a bit more comfort, but without paying business class prices”? Well, there’s a few options, depending on your budget, and the degree of extra comfort you’d like!
1. Fly economy but request or pay extra for ‘preferred seating‘ where possible. These are the exit row or bulkhead seats which have extra legroom and then you have more chance of arriving at your destination in good shape. Nowadays, all airlines charge extra for these seats and you have to meet the safety criteria to be eligible to sit in them:
- Be 18 years of age or older.
- Be able to read and understand English instructions related to emergency evacuation provided in printed or graphic form and be able to understand oral crew commands.
- Be fully able-bodied and capable to identify, reach and operate the exit doors in the event of an emergency.
- Be able to speak well enough to adequately impart information orally to other customers.
- Be able and willing to assist the crew and other customers in the evacuation of the aircraft.
- Not be travelling with infants, children under the age of 18, caregivers, persons who require safety assistant for emergency evacuation, or travelling with a guide dog or any other assistance animal.
- Not be using medical equipment, an extension seat belt nor requiring any assistance due to reduced mobility.
Extra Legroom seats will be re-assigned before or during the journey without any refund if customers do not meet any of the above safety criteria and extra Legroom terms and conditions must be expressly accepted at the time of purchase.
Singapore Airlines offer “preferred (paid)” seating at USD$90 per sector on their A350 and A380 flights.e.g Christchurch to Singapore or Singapore to London.
Air New Zealand also offer seating in their exit-row seats for NZ$95 extra, which is excellent value for money as even more legroom than Premium Economy as you have nothing in front of you and you are on the side of the aircraft well in front of the bassinet rows. Be careful though, as their ‘premium’ seats aren’t always exit row or bulkhead seats – they might just be where the seating configuration tapers down to 2 rather than 3 on each side of the plane towards the back or allow priority boarding – these are usually charged around $39 extra. Qantas currently charge AUD$180 per long-haul sector for extra legroom, and it’s a similar price on Lufthansa. Emirates charge NZD$235 per sector for extra legroom seats on their A380 from Christchurch to Dubai, and $165 per sector from Dubai to Europe.
On the subject of preferred seats, a few airlines like Lufthansa and Air France still offer a few seats in a small 2-4-2 economy cabin at the rear of the upstairs on their A380’s. Some airlines operating Boeing 777’s taper to just 2 seats (rather than 3) on the side at the rear of the economy cabin.
2. Go ‘Cuddle Class’ (otherwise known as “Skycouch“) on Air New Zealand operated flights – currently only on their 777-300’s via Los Angeles to London. Again a very clever and nice idea in principle as you are essentially paying a (variable, starts at $200 extra if all 3 seats are already sold) premium for a seat in the side block of 3 on the 777 and the privilege of not having the remaining seats of the 3 occupied. The row of 3 then are turned into a flat space by raising footrests to the level of the seat. We think this is a nice option for a single parent with 1 or 2 kids, but 2 normal sized adults might find the ‘Couch’ a little snug when both are trying to sleep as the length is only 5ft 1in. Still, full marks to Air NZ for innovation!
3. Fly in Premium Economy – this is currently available on several airlines offering fares from NZ – notably with Air NZ, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Australia/Atlantic, Lufthansa, Cathay Pacific, Air France, British Airways, Turkish Airlines & KLM and is a separate class in between economy and business which offers greater comfort – usually priority check-in, increased luggage allowance, a quieter cabin with fewer seats, better legroom, wider seats and usually better food! We usually get good feedback on clients trying this option for the first time, especially with Air NZ.
It’s worth noting that if you are wanting to use Air NZ Airpoints to apply for upgrades to Premium Economy via the ‘OneUp’ bidding process, and want to fly with Air NZ themselves all the way to Europe and back, you can only fly Auckland – Los Angeles – London and vice-versa. This service will end in October 2020. Likewise, if flying Qantas from Christchurch to Europe, Premium Economy is only available on the Sydney, Melbourne or Perth to London flights operated by Qantas.
4. Buy a Business/Economy Class combination fare with Emirates – NB this is currently offered ex Auckland only. This has been a very popular option for our clients as you can fly all the way from Auckland to Dubai in business class, then just the last leg from Dubai to Europe (approx 7-8hrs) is in economy.
5. Take advantage of a really good deal on Business or even First Class, usually with airlines like China Southern Airlines, Malaysian, Cathay Pacific, Etihad etc.
6. Pay for lounge access while you are in transit on economy or premium economy flights. This is a good option if you are not travelling on an Air NZ ticket and also a Koru Club member. Lounges are a welcome haven away from the busy crowded seating areas of the world’s busiest ‘mega airports’ like Dubai, London Heathrow or Frankfurt. Paid airport lounges are now available in most, typically charging $40-50 for 3-4hrs access. There’s even paid lounges in Auckland and Christchurch. Most offer complimentary snacks and beverages, and some offer showers for a small additional charge. There’s also an annual ‘Priority Pass’ to over 900 Airport Lounges worldwide, currently priced at USD$99. Once this is purchased, there’s a fixed price of US$27 for each lounge visit, usually capped at 3 hours.