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Flight attendants pose as they prepare beds of the First Class in a new Airbus A380 aircraft for Lufthansa. (MORRIS MAC MATZEN/REUTERS)
Flight attendants pose as they prepare beds of the First Class in a new Airbus A380 aircraft for Lufthansa. (MORRIS MAC MATZEN/REUTERS)

How do I compare an airline's seating classes? Add to ...

The question : How do I compare premier economy, business class and first class seating offered for long-distance flights?

TRAVEL CONCIERGE: Whether you're crunched by the window thirsting for a cup of water or sipping port with your feet up, your sky-high experience all depends on what class - and what price - of seat you're occupying.

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Only a few airlines have premier (also called premium) economy, says Richard Job, the national air manager for Flight Centre Canada. "The product can differ quite greatly. Sometimes it is a completely different seat, meals and drinks. Other times it might just be more leg room."

Steven Larkin, who logs more than 100,000 miles a year as the North American president for Intrepid Travel, has flown premier economy with Air New Zealand and Virgin Atlantic. "It is a much more comfortable way to travel than in regular economy. The extra four to six inches in the pitch comes in handy, especially on long-haul international flights."

To figure out the extras, spin through Flight Centre's airline guide (available in its offices Jan. 15) or check out the comparison charts at SeatGuru.com. SeatGuru notes that premier economy can cost as much as 85 per cent or more for ocean-crossing flights. The best deals, the site notes, are sometimes available at check-in.

As for business- and first-class on long-hauls, it all depends on the carrier, but the perks are enticing: more than double the leg room, private suites, and, yes, caviar and champagne.

The question: I'm turning 40 in February and would like to have a mini-break with my boyfriend. We live in Toronto and both like art and architecture and sightseeing off the beaten path, but I'm also open to a spa trip. The catch: Our budget is under $900 for everything.

TRAVEL CONCIERGE: It's your birthday and while I'm sure you deserve all the hot stones and healing oil a masseuse can get his hands on, let's focus on getaways that may better appeal to both of you.

To answer this query, I called on The Globe's Architourist columnist, Dave LeBlanc. He in turn, called on the man so many building buffs admire most - Frank Lloyd Wright - and suggested two budget-conscious road trips:

Check into the Louis Penfield House ( penfieldhouse.com), built on a wooded acreage outside Cleveland, Ohio, about a six-hour drive from Toronto. Rates run about $275 (U.S.) a night; the three-bedroom home features high ceilings and slender windows. "Plus, there are pots and pans to cook and a fireplace to stay warm," LeBlanc says.

Or, consider Buffalo, N.Y., a 2 ½ hour drive from Toronto. The shopping haven is home to the Darwin Martin House ( darwinmartinhouse.org), an early Prairie-style complex that Wright designed for the Larkin Soap executive. You can't stay here, but you can tour the home, parts of which are being rebuilt to original specifications, LeBlanc says. In Buffalo, you can also visit the modern works at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Check out wrightnowinbuffalo.com for more sightseeing tips. As for where to stay, travel back to Second Empire style at the Mansion on Delaware ( mansionondelaware.com), a boutique hotel with rates starting at about $195 a night.

E-mail concierge@globeandmail.com with your travel questions.

Karan Smith is a former Globe Travel editor. Special to The Globe and Mail

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