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Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

Port Douglas...
Level Contributor
4 posts
14 reviews
Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

I'm British but living in Australia and planning my next visit home.

I love to travel, but long-haul flights are an ordeal for me. I suffer from anxiety and claustrophobia which begins its onset a few hours into the flight. Not only does it feel like the plane is getting smaller and smaller, but it feels as though everyone around me is invading my personal space. And then they turn the lights out and it gets a hundred times worse. I travel alone which means there's always a stranger sitting beside me, which doesn't bother me in itself but when people fall asleep they... sprawl. And I always find someone's elbow in my space, or their kid's feet on my lap. This isn't just uncomfortable, it causes me a great deal of anxiety. Additionally, the noise and bustle of the economy cabin just adds to the problem.

So I'm wondering if there's anyone out there with similar problems to mine who might be able to advise whether Premium Economy would help to alleviate some of this stress? I will probably be flying with Cathay Pacific (for the first time) as it's the most direct flight from my location, but if other airlines have better PE I'd consider a detour. While priority boarding and champagne are nice bonuses, for me this is about personal space and a calmer atmosphere. It's a lot of money to spend, so I'd like some opinions on whether traveling PE will help in my circumstances.

Thanks in advance for any advice!

Daydream Island...
Level Contributor
3,795 posts
54 reviews
1. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

The plane interior will be the same dimensions in any class.

The seats will be larger and a few more inches.

Your space will be infringed upon if you ALLOW it to happen.

Feet in your lap ? Really ? Whose fault is that ? toughen up.

Yes...PE would be more comfortable and more expensive.

It is worth it on a long haul.

Anything is better than coach from Australia to England.

Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
3,150 posts
48 reviews
2. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

We fly British Airways PE from Vancouver to London Heathrow. For me, it's all about the seat pitch (i.e., the distance between the seat in front of me when the other passenger reclines as much as they are able, and the beginning of my seat space), rather than any extras in service. Although I do not have full-fledged claustrophobia, I do experience discomfort at having my seat space "invaded" for a lengthy period of time. My 9 - 9 1/2 hour flight is far less than yours, but I am not sure that I would be able to do it, were it not for PE. (It's our "splurge" for the trip as we are otherwise mid-range travellers in most other respects.)

We fly regular economy when we fly to Toronto in Eastern Canada - generally 4 1/2 hours or so. We also do regular economy when flying on from Toronto to our Atlantic Provinces - about 2 - 2/12 hours further. However, we always allow for a good stop at Toronto on the way there and back and we always book aisle seats directly across from one another.

So, for me, the answer is "yes". It does help and is worth the expense.

Vancouver, Canada
Destination Expert
for London
Level Contributor
52,856 posts
15 reviews
3. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

Seat pitch in Premium Economy is about 38 inches versus 31 inches in most Economy cabins. Seating - on BA flights at least - is 2-4-2 in 747s rather than 3-4-3. BA's PE cabins have no more than 36 seats with bulkheads at the front and rear, making for a more private and (often) quieter atmos.

If long haul flights in Economy give you the collywobbles then book PE. If Air New Zealand will take you to your destination their PE Spaceseats may be the business; if NZ won't be suitable then try another airline and enjoy the difference.

Port Douglas...
Level Contributor
4 posts
14 reviews
4. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

Itchyfeet - thank you, that's really helpful. It's one thing to read the list of things you get in PE but another to actually speak to someone for whom it's made a real difference.

And TravellerPlus, thanks too - the hope of a quieter atmosphere is good to hear! Not sure if NZ is an option but I'll look into it.

Hong Kong, China
Destination Expert
for Hong Kong, Osaka
Level Contributor
45,193 posts
116 reviews
5. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

Overall space difference is definitely noticeable flying PE, so is the quieter cabin for most airlines. CX's PE product is generally no better and no worse than the others I have used. If you choose PE, I would decide which airline to use based on price and schedule more than the particular airline.

Level Contributor
2,564 posts
43 reviews
6. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

Another option - some airlines if you book direct allow you to book an exit seat. I don't particularly like flying but our last flight awesome - we had all this room in front of us and it never felt claustrophobic. I think IMO having more room makes a lot of difference to your comfort - our next long haul is business and it has always felt a lot better.

If your interested in my suggestion try Singapore - little more expensive for economy than others but way cheaper than premium on Cathay :)

You book the seat as you purchase it for a fee

Edited: 1:32 am, February 13, 2013
Level Contributor
49,562 posts
92 reviews
7. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

I suggest you look at cognitive behaviour therapy sessions, it will teach you how to manage anxiety.

Heres a short video from the uk on it nhs.uk/conditions/…Introduction.aspx

It's akin to but not the same as hypnotherapy, which is something else you could look at.

Regards PE, I haven't personally flown Qantas PE but I know it's regarded as one of the best. If you do fly it make sure the plane you book is Qantas and isn't a code share with another airline such as BA.

Brisbane, Australia
Destination Expert
for Brisbane
Level Contributor
8,793 posts
75 reviews
8. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

We flew premium on BA a few months ago London to Singapore ... have never flown BA long haul before and the space was incredible. I have no idea if all BA planes are fitted the same but the guy across the aisle from me was in a little zone of his own ... loads of personal space.

London, UK
Level Contributor
1,666 posts
165 reviews
9. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

I only have experience of BA/Virgin premium economy and I don't have full blown claustrophobia, but I do find the cramped conditions in economy and the close proximity of complete strangers (who may not be particularly considerate people) stressful and unpleasant. So I always fly premium economy (at least) on flights longer than about 5 hours. Even if you have a huge person in the next seat your elbow room won't be compromised, and when the seat in front is reclined it's not right in your face. The smaller cabin makes for a quieter and more relaxing flight too. So yes, I think it would help you to have a more pleasant flight, and alleviate a lot of pre-flight anxiety as well.

Level Contributor
968 posts
13 reviews
10. Re: Premium Economy to help with claustrophobia?

Just a point re Cathay, and it may not be true anymore, but there have been times when they have used planes without PE on the LHR - HKG. They then downgraded people to economy.

As I say, they may have sorted it now.

All of BA's long haul have WTP, and VS for that matter.