Flying Air Canada'sPremium Economy

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Last week we returned to Paris after a brief stay in Canada. We had to return to get some papers in order for our visas here in France, and spent two weeks with my parents. When tasked with booking our return tickets to Paris, I started checking out different fare options. I was initially interested in seeing how many miles it would take to upgrade to First Class, but then noticed a different category of fare I had never heard about before: Premium Economy.

Looking into it a bit more, I was intrigued. A step up from regular Economy but not in the same range as Business or First Class, Premium Economy is a nice compromise. For a few hundred dollars more per ticket, Premium Economy adds a level of comfort to your flight experience that Economy could never deliver.

With Air Canada, it begins with priority boarding. This wasn't a huge issue for us currently since we have young children and typically get to board among the first passengers, but I can see the advantage it will provide once my kids are older. It was nice to just whisk through check-in while everyone else was waiting in line.

Situated between First Class and Economy, Premium Economy on Air Canada had its own little cabin, with access to the First Class bathrooms. If you've never used a First Class airplane bathroom before, it's pretty posh. It was excellent especially with young kids. It wasn't cramped in the bathroom when my little guy had to accompany me in, and it was quite bright and clean with a full length mirror.

In my opinion, the biggest advantage was the extra room. The seats are roomier, being wider than a regular airplane seat. In addition, they recline more, but the extra distance between rows means that it doesn't bother the person behind when you recline your seat back. An additional footrest made it more comfortable to stretch out my legs. I have a knee that bothers me when I'm seated for too long, and on regular flights it's often aching by the time I get off. The Premium Economy seat provided ample room for me to stretch my legs out and get comfortable.

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With the kids, bigger seats meant that my two year old had enough room to actually lie down on the seat and fall asleep. He slept the entire flight, which was fantastic. My six year old had more than enough room to play with his superheroes and watch TV until he too, fell asleep.

The inflight entertainment was pretty great as well. While all seats on Air Canada flights have individual screens, the ones in Premium Economy are bigger than the regular ones. There are also places to charge you phone or table, and a plug for your computer. The blankets were large enough to drape over two people, and each passenger received a small toiletry kit that included a sleep mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, headphones, and warm socks.

There are other little details as well that made the extra cost for Premium Economy seem worth it. A pre-flight beverage and hot towel service were a nice touch. The meals were definitely a step up from the usual, and were served on real china. Drinks were included. My son also received his gluten free meal on proper china plates, and was thrilled to get his own little bottle of balsamic vinaigrette. His dessert was a fruit salad artfully arranged to resemble a flower.

Finally, priority baggage handling meant that our bags were among the first off the plane and onto the baggage carousel, allowing us to get out of the airport quickly, while most of the other passengers were still waiting for their luggage to be delivered. It significantly reduced the amount of time we spent waiting around in the airport, and got us home more quickly.

I'm not sure that I would put out the extra money for Premium Economy on a short haul flight, but for an overseas one like the one we took, it was definitely worth it. We were more comfortable the entire flight, enjoyed better food, and were actually able to get some real rest. With some airlines, you can use your miles to upgrade to Premium Economy, or can pay a fare difference at the counter when boarding that's less than what the ticket would cost to purchase in advance. However, that's only if there are extra seats available. On our flight, all the Premium Economy seats were taken.

It's certainly an option I will consider again in the future for long flights.