Premium economy is ‘surging in popularity’ as long haul passengers show they are willing to pay for more comfort and a better flying experience

13 December, 2019

Latest research from Skyscanner has revealed that travellers are increasingly looking at more premium flying options. Analysis of its search and booking data for its website and mobile app over the past 12 months reveals a growing interest in premium economy for long haul and first class for short haul.

The findings of its latest annual Global Travel Trends analysis highlights changing traveller habits regarding cabin classes and sustainable flight offerings, as well as the destinations seeing the biggest growth in interest year over year.

Skyscanner says that when looking at flight travel specifically, 2019 saw an increase in premium economy with bookings on long haul flights growing by +8.33% year-over-year revealing that when travellers are taking longer flights, they are willing to stretch their budget for those extra comforts.

"Passengers become slightly more conscious of price on long haul flights and business class is losing its position to premium economy which provides lots of extras and makes a journey more comfortable at a lower price than traditional business," says the travel technology specialist. Skyscanner's data shows that alongside the +8.33% rise in premium economy long haul searches and bookings, first class bookings fell -0.27%, business class -1.59% and economy -0.02% year-on-year in this category.

On shorter flights, the Skyscanner data shows a clear desire for a premium offering with first class searches and bookings up +5.21% year-on-year, versus a -0.02% decline in business class and -0.39% in economy. Despite both trends defining valuable insight into market reaction to development of cabin classes, the economy cabin continues to dominate searches and bookings.

"The data indicates there's a growing number of travellers who believe it's worth paying more for a luxury experience - whether it's stretching to premium economy for a long-haul flight or even first class when flying a shorter distance, it's a positive sign for airlines wanting to upsell customers to higher fare families," explains Hugh Aitken, vice president commercial at Skyscanner.

The Global Travel Trends 2020 report also provides some valuable insights into the popularity of destinations. The report reveals the small Caribbean island of St Maarten, the African nation of Congo and Central Asia's Azerbaijan as seeing a "huge surge in interest" in the emerging destinations list. Meanwhile, the USA, Spain and Japan are the top three popular destinations for travellers globally. The largest increases in interest show travellers are seeking the road less travelled, says Skyscanner.