Fly to Europe with better legroom and comfort

What are my options?   Many of our clients love travelling around Europe each winter, but aren’t so thrilled by the prospect of 30+ 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 ‘extra legroom seats‘ 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 extra legroom seating for NZD$125 from Christchurch to Singapore (or vv) and NZD$155 from Singapore to London (or vv).

Air New NZ Exit Row seatZealand also offer seating in their exit-row seats – e.g from Auckland to New York it’s NZ$111 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 allow priority boarding – these are usually charged around $39 extra.

Qantas currently charge from NZD$135 per long-haul sector for extra legroom seats, and Lufthansa charges vary from NZD$170-225 per sector. Emirates charge NZD$235 per sector for extra legroom seats on their A380 from Christchurch to Dubai, and $105-65 per sector from Dubai to Europe.

Air NZ exit seat 777

Air NZ exit row seats on Boeing 777

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. Air NZ are offering economy ‘Stretch’ seats between Auckland and Los Angeles, San Francisco and some Houston flights. You get up to 39% more legroom than our standard Economy seats, so you can stretch out in even more comfort.  The seats are in the first four rows of Economy, so you disembark sooner. The seats are further apart for you to enjoy a full recline during the flight. The extra space makes it easier for you to access the aisle from the window or middle seat. They also come with comfortable over-ear headphones and a more generous plush pillow, so you can stretch out and relax in even more comfort. The seat is the same as Economy and all other Economy services remain the same.


3. Go ‘Cuddle Class’ (otherwise known as “Skycouch“) on Air New Zealand operated flights  operated by 777-300’s and 787-900’s.  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 and the privilege of not having the remaining seats of the 3 occupied.  The seats are the same as Economy, except you have a special footrest on each seat. You can lift them halfway up to make a footrest, or all the way up to create a large couch space. This can be an economical way to add a little more comfort to Economy as you get the benefit of a three seater couch in the sky. Skycouch prices depend on how many people will be using the Skycouch. If one person occupies the Skycouch, they will pay a higher fee than if it were occupied by two people and Skycouch prices vary depending on the demand for the flight.

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 with the window-end armrest up, a Skycouch is 1.55m (5ft 1″) long. With the cushion and leg rests in place, it’s 74cm (29″) wide. That makes it a little more cosy than a standard single bed, which is usually 1.88m x 92cm (6ft 1″ x 3ft). Still, full marks for innovation!


5. Have a quick sleep in a bunk bed! This is Air NZ’s latest innovation – the ‘Skynest’ – this provides economy passengers another opportunity to lie flat and rest during longer flights.


The Skynest will be a six-pod configured sleep zone that offers sessions for economy passengers to lie down when travelling long haul. It will be available from September 2024, initially on the New York and Chicago flights only. Each pod will include a full-size pillow, sheets and blanket, ear plugs, a separate reading light, personal device USB outlet, ventilation outlet, and lighting designed for rest.

Each passenger will be limited to one session, with families travelling on the same ticket able to book a session for each passenger, pending availability. The Skynest will be located between Premium Economy and Economy, and each pod will come with a separate seatbelt to ensure passengers can fasten them and stay in the pod should the seat belt sign come on during turbulence. The bedding will be changed between each session, and a 30-minute transition time will be allowed for this. The lights will gently come on at the end of each session, and crew will politely wake any passengers who sleep through this. At this stage Air NZ are expecting a charge around $400 to $600 for the 4-hour period.”

6. Fly in Premium Economy – this popular option is now available on many airlines offering fares from NZ – notably with Air NZ, Emirates, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, 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 & Emirates. Pricing is roughly halfway between economy and business class.



Qantas Premium Economy

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, you have to be on an Air NZ operated flight. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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 1400 Airport Lounges worldwide, with membership currently priced from USD$99. Once this is purchased, there’s a fixed price of US$35 for each lounge visit, usually capped at 3 hours.

Paid Lounge

Paid Lounge