Life is sometimes about compromises. And Premium Economy is an up-and-coming compromise in the airline industry. Not quite Business, not quite Economy – Qantas’ Premium Economy takes elements from both to create a cabin class for passengers seeking a bit more.

There’s a bigger seat, of course, but the onboard service is also elevated to a Business Class-lite level. So how does this all fit together for a 16-hour trek from Perth to Rome?

Before the flight

I have to preface this by saying I was planning to review the Economy cabin on this journey. I had booked an Economy Classic Flight Reward, got my boarding pass and even settled into my seat in 42A! But due to a stroke of luck, I ended up in Premium Economy. More on that later.

Check-in and security

On a balmy Tuesday morning in Rome, I arrive at Fiumicino Airport around 7:50 am, roughly half an hour after check-in opens. But I see both the Economy and Premium check-in lines are heaving already. Ahh, the joys of air travel in Europe during the peak summer period.

Yes, that’s the Economy check-in line snaking out beyond the barriers.

Since I want to claim back the VAT (tax) on some shopping inside my checked luggage, I reluctantly head off to the tax refund counters to get that processed. When I return for check-in, the queues are just as long but filled with new passengers. At least it’s moving.

Those with a Premium Economy ticket get priority check-in. There are two dedicated counters for Premium Economy, and I’d say it’s even quicker than lining up for the two Business Class counters!

The Premium check-in line (to the left of the black sign) is virtually empty, while the Business line is full.

Though I’m travelling in Economy, I can use the Business Class line as a Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer. It still takes over 20 minutes to reach the counter – I can only imagine it would take at least twice as long in the Economy queues. I know it depends on airport allocation, but Qantas would certainly benefit from having a few more counters open!

But before long, my bags are on their way and I have a boarding pass in hand. The agent tells me to visit the ‘Fast Track’ lane, which shaves at least another 20 minutes off the wait times for immigration and security screening.

The Fast Track lane saves precious time in busy European airports.

It’s normally reserved for Business Class and elite (Gold and higher) frequent flyer members. If you’re flying in Premium Economy, check with the agent to see if you’re eligible for Fast Track. American Express Platinum and Centurion Card Members – plus Mastercard Gold, Platinum, World and World Elite cardholders – can also zip down this lane.


After navigating through the maze which is duty-free and the eye-catching Tax-Free Mall (“22% FULL VAT EXEMPTION”, the sign promises), I take the escalator up one level to investigate the two lounges that some Qantas passengers can potentially access.

Both the British Airways and Plaza Premium lounges are here.

Of course, Qantas Economy and Premium Economy tickets don’t include lounge access. But if you have Qantas Club membership or the right status level, then you might be able to relax in the British Airways lounge, and/or the Plaza Premium Lounge.

Lounge access guide before QF6 Plaza Premium LoungeBritish Airways Lounge
Qantas Club membersYesNo
Qantas Gold & higherYesYes
oneworld Sapphire & EmeraldYesYes
Emirates/partner Gold & higherYesNo
Qantas Business ClassYesYes
Complimentary Lounge passesNoNo

Qantas’ default lounge in Rome is the Plaza Premium Lounge. Eligible passengers will have ‘PLAZA LOUNGE’ printed on their boarding pass, which will grant them entry. You can also enter this lounge for free with the American Express Platinum Card.

Something that isn’t publicised is that most of those same passengers can also access the nearby British Airways lounge if they want. This is allowed under oneworld alliance rules, which Qantas and British Airways are both members of.

So which one is better? In a nutshell, Plaza Premium will be far more crowded, but it’s the only lounge with bathrooms and showers if that matters to you. The British Airways lounge is much quieter in the morning, with a higher standard of food and beverage.

My breakfast in the British Airways Lounge, Rome.

Of course, if you have access to both, there’s nothing stopping you from visiting both lounges as they’re right next to each other. I indulge in a cooked breakfast and mimosa at the British Airways lounge, before enjoying a refreshing shower in the Plaza Premium Lounge.

First impressions: boarding, cabin and seats

Boarding and a big surprise…

Before long, I find myself at Gate E23, which is a brisk five-minute walk from the lounges. Boarding has already commenced just after 10 am, with premium passengers heading on first. This includes you if you’re travelling in Premium Economy!

As one of the first Economy passengers on the plane, I take this opportunity to snap some cabin shots. The seats are in a 3-3-3 layout, which is now the standard for Boeing 787s. Settling into 42A, I feel reasonably comfortable, though it helps to have a spare middle seat!

Christopher, one of the cabin crew, swings by to greet me and Mr 42C, who is also a Platinum Frequent Flyer. He asks if we can quietly come with him to the galley – ‘you’re not in trouble!’, he insists. Mr 42C and I share a glance. But ultimately, it’s all good news for us.

With the flight being almost full, a family has been split up and is trying to be seated together. They can be seated in our row, and we’ve been offered seats in Premium Economy instead. ‘Would you care to make the swap?’

Oh yes. It’s my first operational upgrade in years of travel, so I’m not turning it down. Mr 42C doesn’t either. I settle into 21F, an aisle seat in the second row of the upgraded cabin, with a pre-departure glass of sparkling water in hand. Here’s where the Premium Economy experience begins.

This first-hand experience reinforces how airlines prioritise giving out free upgrades. I can confirm dressing up nicely plays no part in it at all, as I was… dressed for 16 hours of Economy travel.

The Qantas Boeing 787 Premium Economy seat

The Flying Kangaroo touts its new Premium Economy seat as ‘revolutionary’. I’d say it almost meets the mark, bar one crucial problem which I’ll talk about later. The David Caon-styled seat is certainly very elegant, with pops of burnt orange contrasting against multiple shades of grey.

Storage and functionality

Under the screen is a handy storage area that I use during the flight. There are two AC power outlets for the middle row of three seats, which does feel like a bit of an oversight. I spot a small cubby under the centre armrest to store flatter items, while bulkier things easily fit in the seat pocket.

Below is a file photo of the front of the cabin, showing the wrap-around shell for added privacy and the integrated LED night light. The seat is upholstered in a smart-looking and comfortable fabric, topped with an adjustable leather headrest. Though I didn’t do so on this flight, the outer armrest on aisle seats can come down for more space.

Premium Economy seats average 21″ (53.3 cm) in width, though the middle seats are a bit wider at up to 22.8″. This gives me about 4″ (10.1 cm) more shoulder space compared to my previous Economy seat – definitely much appreciated.

I also love how the custom-designed pillow can be fixed onto the headrest for the duration of the flight. For such a simple and innovative feature, it delivers plenty of pillowy goodness throughout the flight.

Recline and leg-rest

When everyone is sitting upright, the Premium Economy seat is very comfortable. It’s well-padded. The combined leg-rest and foot-net actually accommodate my long limbs, which is a surprise.

While I could use the orange bar as a traditional footrest, I can also swing it up to cradle the back of my legs, slipping my feet into the netting below. It works a treat.

Problems begin to arise when the passenger in front starts to recline. The seat has a generous 9.5-inch recline, which is good on paper. Not only does the seat back go down, but the seat cushion also slightly elevates to cradle the body more effectively.

But that means the seat in front comes quite close to my knees when I’m sitting up. When I also later recline, the elevation of my seat cushion means that my knees can sometimes touch the seat in front. This occasional feeling of being cramped is certainly not what I expect from Premium Economy!

The pitch (distance from one seat to the same point behind) in Premium Economy is 38″, or 96.5 cm. Just another two inches (5 cm) more would make a significant difference in comfort, I feel. It’s a pity because I really like the seat otherwise.

Bulkhead seats have a different leg-rest that is integrated into the literature pocket in front.

Food and drinks

Drinks service

Here’s where Qantas Premium Economy shines. The food and beverages are quite comparable to Domestic Business Class in terms of presentation. Compared to boxed Economy meals, Premium Economy catering is light years ahead.

The drinks service kicks off an hour after take-off and I start with a Sofi Sky Spritz, which is exclusive to Qantas. Featuring Davidson Plum and Finger Lime botanicals, it’s served alongside a glass of ice and mint leaves. At 8.0% alcohol by volume, it’s also quite a bracing drink for our late-morning departure.


Soon after, lunch is served. In Premium Economy, there’s a choice of three mains plus a side salad, slice of bread and tiramisu. Everything is presented on one tray, but with proper crockery and cutlery. See the full menu below, which also includes the mid-flight, breakfast and drink options.

I choose the Veal Genovese – the pieces of beef are tender and swim in a rich gravy. I don’t know how authentic Genovese sauce should taste, but this iteration is good. I also enjoy the porcini mushrooms especially. This is all washed down with a glass of Dandelion Vineyard Shiraz, which hails from the Barossa.

I’ve read online reviews of this wine and see ‘hints of blackberry’ being thrown around a lot, but I just agree with the high ratings. It’s a delectable drop that pairs very nicely with my lunch.

The side salad is decent and the tiramisu is completely decadent, being encased in a thin shell of chocolate. I don’t think that’s authentic, but my taste buds don’t really care. By 1:30 pm, everything is done and I settle back with a peppermint tea and premium Gianduiotto chocolate.

A calming tea and chocolate before we cruise for half a day.

Mid-flight snack

I’m generally not a fan of heavy hot breakfasts on long flights, so my strategy is to enjoy some of the hot snacks during the flight, followed by a continental breakfast. The plan works out quite well.

The mushroom and mozzarella calzone is warm and cheesy, encased in a light dough. I’m not sure if it was frozen or prepared fresh, but it’s just what I need after 12 hours in the air. The perky G&T helps too. Incidentally, I learn that these hot snacks are available until 3.5 hours before landing, after which the crew discards them and starts preparing breakfast.

For other snacks, there is a self-serve area set up in the rear Economy galley.


Speaking of which, breakfast is served about 2.5 hours before landing. The continental tray consists of a muffin, fruit and bircher muesli, the latter two of which are most refreshing. There’s only filter coffee in Premium Economy, but at this hour of the morning, who’s complaining?

Continental breakfast on QF6.

Inflight entertainment

The 13.3″ (33.8 cm) touchscreen is amazingly high-resolution and easy to use. Front row seats have a pop-out screen that can’t be used during take-off and landing.

Unsurprisingly, the inflight entertainment catalogue is identical to my Perth-Rome flight the previous week, so I’ve included the same pictures here. There’s a good mix of recent new-release movies, older blockbusters, full TV box sets, music and games.

Every Premium Economy seat has a pair of noise-cancelling headphones which are the same as what’s handed out in Business Class. They work fine, but I always prefer to use my own.

Standard noise-cancelling headphones in premium cabins.

If you’ve got an iPad and want to watch it (perhaps with personalised content for your kids or yourself), it’s possible to mount your device in front of the screen.

I don’t have a tablet or iPad, so I’ve demonstrated this feature with my phone. Just pull the ledge towards you and place the device in, ensuring that it remains wedged towards the bottom and left edges to hold it in place.

A nifty tablet ledge.

Service and amenities

The service in Premium Economy is quite polished. After take-off, Christopher resumes his rounds, welcoming other passengers who were already seated in Premium Economy. He’s one of the more recognisable faces of Qantas, having appeared in the previous inflight safety video and at media events.

Checking up on the passengers with the know-all iPad.

The other cabin crew looking after Premium Economy are similarly friendly, even when I’m requesting a hot calzone in the dead of night (and two neighbouring passengers do the same shortly afterwards).

Premium Economy usually comes with a Napoleon Perdis amenity kit, though I didn’t get one. I’m not sure if it was because of my late onboard upgrade, or if the whole cabin missed out. But it personally didn’t matter to me, as I was still using the amenity kit from my previous flight.

To stay warm, we’re all offered a plush David Caon-designed blanket. It’s much nicer than the blankets in Economy Class if that counts for anything, though not as thick as the ones in Business. The aforementioned pillow is very plush as well. I do feel quite comfortable, legroom issues aside.

There are no dedicated lavatories in Premium Economy. We are all told to use the two rear Economy lavatories if possible, but also that we can use the forward Business lavatories as well. There’s not much difference between the two, except for nicer Li’Tya branded products in Business.

How can I book this flight?

With only 28 seats onboard, Premium Economy is the smallest cabin on the Qantas Boeing 787. Even Business Class has 42 lie-flat suites. This makes it quite difficult to get a Premium Economy reward with Qantas Points and other loyalty programs.

But if you do find reward seats, it’ll set you back 81,300 Qantas Points + $315 on the Perth-Rome leg (taxes may vary on the flight back). Flying the whole route between Sydney and Rome? That’ll cost you 108,400 Qantas Points one-way instead.

Premium Economy Classic Flight Rewards on the Perth-Rome route.

For comparison, here are the one-way Saver fares on this route when booked as part of a return trip:

  • Economy: AU$1,399
  • Premium Economy: AU$3,056
  • Business: AU$4,805

With cash, Premium Economy still commands a hefty premium (more than double) over Economy Class.

Summing up

Somehow, the bulk of the flight went by in a blur in Premium Economy. My main gripe is the insufficient spacing between rows. To be clear, I wasn’t uncomfortably wedged in my seat for the whole flight. There was just enough space to stretch out, though I sometimes bumped the seat when I adjusted my legs.

If there were an extra few centimetres, it would make a world of difference (at least to me). But that aside, the rest of the flight is quite pleasant.

Sunrise streams through some of the windows about two hours before landing.

I appreciate the elevated service and menu in Premium Economy. Who knew that extra touches such as proper glassware and crockery can make such a difference? In that regard, I certainly feel that Qantas has got the proposition just right.

With Business Classic Flight Rewards not costing too much more in points overall, I’ll still aim for Business Class when I can. But if I do find myself in Premium Economy again, I hope that I’ll have an even more enjoyable experience in one of the bulkhead seats.

Photography by Brandon Loo, who travelled at Point Hacks’ expense. He booked an Economy reward seat and received an unplanned operational upgrade to Premium Economy onboard, which did not affect the scoring or opinions in this review.

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Qantas Boeing 787 Premium Economy (Rome – Perth) was last modified: December 9th, 2022 by Brandon Loo