American Airlines Introduces Premium Economy Cabin For Long Haul Fleet

American Airlines Premium Economy

A little under two weeks ago I posted a blog that suggested American Airlines was considering introducing Premium Economy cabins to its fleet. These weren’t going to be token Premium Economy cabins like Main Cabin Extra is right now but, instead, would be full-blown Premium Economy cabins like we find on British Airways, Singapore Airlines and others.

Well, much as I though they might (although a lot quicker than I expected), this has now become reality.

Today American Airlines announced that it will “offer customers even more choice by introducing Premium Economy on its international widebody fleet“.

American Airlines Premium EconomyImage courtesy of American Airlines

The Product

American Airlines are promising to deliver:

  • More leg room (reported 38″ Seat Pitch)
  • Wider Seats (no official measurement has been provided)
  • Personal On-Demand Entertainment
  • Noise Reducing Headphones
  • Priority Check-In & Boarding
  • Checked Baggage Allowance (2 free bags)
  • Amenity Kits
  • Enhanced Meal Service
  • Spirits, Beer & Wine

The seats appear to be quite similar to domestic First Class seats (just a lot newer):

American Airlines Premium EconomyImage courtesy of American Airlines

The seats will have extendable foot rests or leg rests so some seats will definitely be preferable to others. Bulkhead seats will have the extendable leg rests as shown in the picture above while the rest of the cabin will have foot rests under the seats in front:

American Airlines Premium EconomyImage courtesy of American Airlines

Connectivity-wise all seats will have universal power sockets and USB connectivity. American also mentions the fact that WiFi will be available but, as the whole aircraft will have that, this is hardly a perk of the Premium Economy cabin.

The in-seat entertainment will be similar to what is already offered on American’s newer aircraft so that doesn’t appear to give any more benefit to those paying the extra to sit in the new Premium Economy cabin:

American Airlines Premium EconomyImage courtesy of American Airlines

The “enhanced meal service” also looks like something you might get in domestic first class:

American Airlines Premium EconomyImage courtesy of American Airlines

Lastly, passengers in Premium Economy will also get an amenity kit and noise-cancelling headphones:

American Airlines Premium Economy

The Aircraft

The first aircraft to get the new Premium Economy cabin will be American’s 787-9 which are due to be delivered at the back-end of 2016.

Premium Economy will be restricted to just three rows in the 787-9 with a 2-3-2 configuration (compared to a 3-3-3 configuration for the regular economy cabin).

American also plans to “phase in” the Premium Economy cabin to all 777, 787-8, A330 and A350 aircraft.

The A350 will be brand new to the American fleet in 2017 but all American’s other long-haul aircraft will require a retrofit to get the new cabin installed.

There is no news on how many rows of Premium Economy we can expect in the larger aircraft or how many seats they plan to squeeze in across their cabins.

Main Cabin Extra will not be disappearing from the long-haul fleet. American Airlines has confirmed that:

[R]etrofitted aircraft will continue to offer all-aisle access, lie-flat seats in Business Class, as well as Main Cabin Extra and Main Cabin seats

and:

Main Cabin Extra, which offers customers up to 6 inches of additional leg room, and Main Cabin seats. Premium Economy will also be installed on the Airbus A350, which arrives in 2017.

Thoughts

The main bit of news is that we still don’t know how will this affect upgrades.

It doesn’t appear as if American has decided yet as, in a comment to View From The Wing, a spokesperson said:

Until our premium economy seats are assigned a fare class and loaded for sale, it’s too soon to say what the upgrade policies will be or what rates will be applied for redemption awards. We will have more information when we get closer to a sale date.

Coincidentally it was only this morning that I said that one of the things that could see me give up on my “loyalty” to American Airlines would be if they introduced a Premium Economy cabin. That was based on the idea that a Premium Economy cabin would see the end of Economy to Business Class upgrades with the Systemwide Upgrades that are given to American’s top-tier elites – and I stand by that.

I would be very surprised if American continued to allow upgrades from Economy to Business class once the new cabin is introduced so this could be the final straw for a good number of American Executive Platinum Members.

Aside from that I can’t say that the new product impresses me much and I will be very interested to see how they price it.

The primary benefit will be the increased leg room and seat width (assuming it’s decent) especially for the very long journeys like LAX to Sydney or Auckland. But other than that it’s all fluff.

Taking the “benefits” one at a time:

Personal On-Demand Entertainment – everyone has this on the new planes and, when they finish refitting the older planes, everyone will have it on those too.

Noise Reducing Headphones – most frequent fliers have their own headphones.

Priority Check-In & Boarding – all American Airlines elites already get this. In fact you get this with most American Airlines credit cards!

Checked Baggage Allowance (2 free bags) – Possibly a bonus for divers and golfers but, once again, most American frequent fliers already get this benefit.

Amenity Kits – who has ever purchased an airline ticket because of an amenity kit?

Enhanced Meal Service – If, as I suspect, this will be of the level of domestic First Class it’s only an enhancement over the slop in Economy – it’s still not very good.

Spirits, Beer & Wine – Ok, this is a bonus as, currently, you have to pay for alcoholic beverages in Economy Class….but American’s major partners on their long-haul routes (British Airways and Qantas) both already offer free alcoholic beverages in regular Economy so this isn’t exactly wow-ing me.

Like I said, I’m unimpressed.

On first impressions I cannot imagine paying a premium for this product if the cost is anywhere in the same range as Qantas or British Airways. Yes, the extra room will be most welcome but we all know the service will be very hit and miss and I have absolutely no faith the food will be any good at all. I think I’ll send my money in the direction of BA and Qantas for those extra long routes where I think I’ll have a better chance of seeing some value.

7 COMMENTS

  1. […] American announced that it was going to introduce Premium Economy cabins on long-haul international … but to this day the airline still hasn’t announced what this will mean for international upgrades, whether Business Class cabins will get smaller and what the fate of Main Cabin Extra will be. […]

Comments are closed.