Ranking The Best Budget Airline ‘Premium Class’ Cabins


We’re officially living in the era of cheap flights. Budget airlines are getting us to Europe, South America, the Caribbean, Africa, and across Asia for as little as $100 these days (though, sometimes, not everything works out). Overall, it’s a great time to be a wanderlusting vagabond with a gaze set on the horizon.

Dirt cheap budget airlines tend to get you from point A to point B by keeping all the frills out of the ticket price. If you want to reserve a seat, drink water or eat, carry on an extra bag, or even check a bag, you’ll have to pay more. That all adds up. If you look at, say, a flight from San Francisco to Stockholm on Norwegian, you’ll see the difference. A base price of $189 one-way becomes $345 when you add on seats, bags, meals, and priority boarding.

If you book that same flight in Norwegian’s Premium cabin with way more legroom, two checked bags, two carry-ons, meals, booze, priority check-in and boarding, fast track security, and lounge access, you’re only paying $500 more than the souped-up economy fare.

Also, did we mention that gives you lounge access? That’s a killer perk.

Okay, we get that this is an extra five hundred dollars. But that $889 is roughly the price of a regular economy ticket on a big brand airline, where a business class seat will reach upwards of $2,000. If you look at it purely from a saving POV and you want a premium seat, budget is the way to go.

With all of that in mind, we’d thought we’d rank the best of the best when it comes to flying in style while flying the budget skies. Consider this an insider’s guide to living the good life at 40,000 feet without dropping more than a grand to do so.

10. Wow Premium — WOWAIR

Wowair is great for short hauls if you’re in economy. On the longer hauls, it’s a little more rough. The seats are very thin and narrow. There are rarely outlets to charge devices and no in-seat screens for entertainment. It’s the barest of the bare bones.

That translates to their “Wow Premium” service as well. While there are bigger seats, more leg room, meal service, and drinks, that’s about it. You still don’t get in-seat entertainment and the seats are closer to what American airline first class was in the 80s before seats got a huge upgrade. One huge perk, you can often upgrade at check in to their premium cabin for as little as $129. That’s a crazy good deal if you want to go full luxe.

9. Business Class — AVIANCA

Avianca will get you around Central and South America without breaking the bank. This isn’t a budget airline in the classic sense. It’s more of just a really well-priced airline that just so happens to fall in that category.

Their Business Class is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from “first class” on domestic American airlines. That means bigger seats, more leg room, meals and drinks. Plus you get the lounge access and all the priorities. Basically, this service is just fine for the price but don’t expect to be blown away.

8. ScootBiz — FLY SCOOT

It’s hard not to rank FlyScoot higher. Their staff works hard to make sure you have a good time. Still, their ScootBiz cabin feels more like a premium economy class than an actual business class.

The newer planes in the fleet have larger, more business-class-like seats but the majority of the fleet still only have slightly larger economy seats. The food is more in line with what you’d expect from an economy meal on British or Air France, which isn’t that fantastic. Overall, this isn’t bad by any stretch of the imagination. It’s just average.

7. Premium Seats — AER LINGUS

Aer Lingus always feels like a bit of a throwback airline when you board. Some of their equipment still has a real 80s feel to it. That vibe translates to their Premium Seats. You’ll be met with nice over-sized seats and plenty of beer and whiskey. So, it’s not all bad.

Overall, this is just another average experience that may not necessarily be worth the extra cost if you’re flying from the East Coast to Dublin for only six hours. There’s no way you’re going to drink three or four hundred dollars worth of Guinness and Jameson in that amount of time (that’s not a challenge).

6. Premium Rogue — AIR CANADA ROUGE

Air Canada’s budget version Air Canada Rouge is a great alternative to get in-and-out of Canada on the cheap. Their Premium Rouge is a worthy upgrade if you’re looking for that extra layer of comfort and are willing to spend a few hundred more.

Again, this is more a premium class and not a full-on business class with huge, mobile seats. Still, all the requisite perks are available with good food, beer, and staff. In the end, this is an easy upgrade to make.

5. Business Class — JETSTAR

Australia’s Qantas is one of the better airlines in the world. Their budget branch, Jetstar, gives you the same Qantas quality and class at a much, much cheaper price point.

Their Business Class is more of a premium economy seat structure with over-sized regular seats. There’s a lot more legroom, decent meals, all the Aussie wine you can drink, lounge access, and a great onboard staff to assure you have a baller time as you jet between Oz, Asia, and America.

4. Premium — NORWEGIAN

Now we’re getting into the good stuff. Norwegian’s Premium is miles above carriers like Wowair for basically the same price. The seats are bigger and more like actual reclining business class seats. The in-seat entertainment is on point. The food is just okay, sure, but the drinks never stop flowing. Their lounge is also fairly decent which makes the experience that much easier and better.

Overall, this upgrade is 100 percent worth the extra few hundred bucks it’ll set you back. It’s not that the economy cabin is that bad (it’s just fine). It’s that their premium cabin is that much better — so the upgrade becomes very worth it.

3. Mint Premium Travel — JETBLUE

Flying around the United States can be a trying endeavor. Major airlines are going to charge you an arm and a leg for their first class tickets on, often, old equipment that feels more like time travel than actual travel. JetBlue’s Mint Premium Travel is surprisingly modern and plush, and is at an accessible price point. Though, to be fair, that price point can sometimes be very close to carriers like Alaska or even Delta.

The premium cabins are equipped with new pods that fold out into flatbeds and offer real privacy. There’s decent in-seat entertainment and the food and drink service is perfectly fine for what it is. Most importantly, you’ll be treated like a valued guest instead of another customer looking for the best deal. Trust us, that makes a huge difference.


Eurowings used to be a just for those of us galavanting around Europe. Since they’ve expanded to the U.S., Africa, and Asia they’ve become a real player in the budget skies. Their BIZclass is a very well-appointed cabin with small pod seating, nearly first-class level food, plenty of booze, and everything else you’ve always wanted from a premium flight.

The service is what really sets this one apart. If Eurowings has full-on flatbed seats, it’d likely be at number one. Still, not having a flatbed seat isn’t a deal breaker by any stretch. The combination of a great lounge, priority access, and a good staff in a comfortable seat all make for a great flying experience at a great price.

1. Premium Flatbed — AIRASIA

AirAsia wins out this ranking for being able to get you from Hawaii to South East Asia for $500 one-way in a flatbed seat. That’s just a crazy cheap price for, essentially, a business class seat half-way around the world.

The Premium Flatbed cabin of Airasia really makes all the difference. Again, it’s not that their economy is insufferable. But, being able to lay flat and sleep with a pillow and fluffy blanket as you cross time zones is worth every cent of that $500. Add in the lounge access, decent food, booze, and all the other expected perks and you’ve got a winning budget airline with an awesome premium experience.