Is it Worth It? Flying Pregnant in Cathay Pacific Premium Economy

I’m an economy kind of girl when we travel.


As much as I have champagne tastes, most of the time we keep to a beer budget- particularly when it comes to flights.

(Nb, not that I’m opposed to being upgraded. Once or twice in my life it’s happened, and of course, it’s pretty sublime. It’s a rare and lucky 21 year old who has her oxygen mask fall into her face twenty minutes into a red eye between London and New York, only to be told that the sole available seat on the plane is in first class.)

But for me the hard earned cash that’s expended hoisting yourself to the front of the plane is much better spent on food and indulgences once you’ve safely landed on the ground.

By now I’ve got pretty good at surviving long hauls in the back of a plane.  In fact this time last year I even published 11 tips on how to ‘fly better in economy‘ – of all the nifty things I’d discovered that could help make the day-and-a-bit kangaroo hop from Sydney-London that little bit more bearable when you’re squelched into seat 67 G.

Except this time, I cracked.

It was the looming spectre of of flying for 24 hours while 32 weeks knocked up that did it to me. And so for the first time in my life, I willingly super-sized.  It might have been the advent of pregnancy carpel tunnel (a delight of swelling, numb and tingling fingers and toes). It might have been the increasingly tedious need to make use of public amenities every 25 minutes. It might be that the once fail-safe survival option of a glass of red wine and a sleeping pill was taken away. And it might have been that my flying companion is about 6 ft 3- meaning he gets the proper claim on an aisle seat- his legs just don’t fit if he doesn’t.

And so we splurged- to a mid point. Not business class, but Premium Economy, from London- Hong Kong- Sydney.

And was it worth it?


There are definite pluses from the start of the journey including a dedicated check in area at Heathrow and an extra 5 kg (25 kg in total) of baggage allowance.

We board the flight with the rest of the economy passengers, though the Premium Economy is a petite cabin all on its own, nestled between Business and cattle class- starting at row 30.  The cabins host between 26 and 34 seats, depending on the aircraft. For anyone who gets a little claustrophobic in crowds, this is a good thing. Being sequestered off, even just by curtains makes you feel a little more secure- and a little less like you’re strapped in for eternity with a hoard of snoring, coughing masses.

The seating configuration is 2/4/2 , with solid partitions between each seat where the tray tables and entertainment screens are tucked.  There are foot rests and the seat reclines to a pitch of 38 inches- about 6 inches more than standard economy. But the real winner for a shuffling, uncomfortable pregnant lady and her larger-than-the-average fellow spouse is the seat width- which is 20 inches- about 2 inches more than you’ll find further down the back.

There are nice touches, from better quality blankets and pillows, an amenity case with socks, earplugs and an eye mask , a printed menu for your meals and a complimentary bottle of water to keep with you. And then there’s a glass of champagne or juice before take off. That’s always friendly.

Other ticks  include the larger, noise cancelling earphones. The entertainment options are the same (and are good on Cathay)- though through a design quirk you’ll miss out on the convenience of touch screens and have to resort to the clunky remote to navigate your way through.

As for the meals, they’re a little better than in economy (though if you’re after tips on how to best pimp your plane food, I hear there’s a highly entertaining essay in a good book that’s been recently published) . There’s the civility of metal cutlery, thicker paper napkins and wine served in glasses. A small tub of Hagen Daz ice cream is a sweet finish, though when you’ve boarded a flight at midnight, my need to consume a full supper at 1.30 am is somewhat diminished.

Then there are some disappointments. For one; the bathrooms. There’s no toilet in the cabin and curtains are drawn, meaning Business Class is out of bounds. Which leaves you to go and battle backwards with economy for a spot in the queue, without being able to actually see how long the line is.

If you’re able to score one of the bulkhead seats at the front and if you have one of the smaller cabins there’s a real plus in the leg room stakes- not only can you completely outstretch, but the distance is perfect,allowing you to have your legs up horizontal for most of the flight (we snaffled this on the London- Hong Kong leg and it was a godsend). If you don’t secure one of the first row seats, or if the cabin is larger then you’ll have a foot rest, but still spend most of your flight at a slightly awkward angle.

And lastly, if you find yourself in a relatively empty cabin, the solid partitions between each seat mean you won’t be able to stretch across two or three (or even four) seats, like you would on a deserted flight in economy.

So; would I do it again? If I was significantly pregnant and needing to fly a long distance; yes. If I was taller than 6 ft 1 and couldn’t ensure an exit row seat; yes. If someone else was paying? Yes.

But at the end of the day, a long flight is still a long flight. Breaking the journey up with a stop over (perhaps to eat the world’s best pork bun in Hong Kong), some good meditation podcasts and keeping a strong sense of perspective  that this too, shall pass- is probably the best way to get through it all.

Nb, a few other tips and tricks for flying long haul and pregnant

You want to get the pressure socks. Yes, they’re daggy, but you can get them in black. And when it comes to swelling, they’re remarkably helpful.

Ask nicely for a water bottle- it’s easier than having cups perilously placed on tray tables and you need to keep hydrated.

Try and secure an aisle seat; you will have to get up and go to the bathroom more than the average passenger.

If heartburn is something you’re familiar with, ask the stewardesses nicely if there’s a yoghurt from the breakfast trays that you can have for dinner instead of the spicy noodles.

Get up and walk as much as possible and stretch out before and after the flight.

Try and grab a few extra pillows- one at the small of your back made all the difference after a few hours.

And don’t forget the medical certificate- it needs to say how many babies you’re carrying, when your due date is and if you have any contraindications to fly. If you’re past 27 weeks, lots of airlines will insist on seeing one before they give you a boarding pass. Don’t be that girl.

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