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You only have to look back a little over a decade to see a time when most transatlantic airlines didn’t offer a Premium Economy cabin and when the likes of British Airways and Virgin Atlantic offered a product that few others did.
Air France and KLM added Premium Economy cabins in 2009 but things didn’t start to speed up in the sector until 2014 when Lufthansa joined the Premium Economy club.
Since then we’ve seen American Airlines, Iberia, Delta, LOT and United Airlines(amongst others) jump on the Premium Economy bandwagon.
Now it’s Finnair’s turn.
Finnair has today announced that it will introduce a Premium Economy cabin on all its long-haul aircraft starting in 2020.
According to the airline the new cabin will offer “highly customised designs” and will “provide customers with increased space and comfort along with an enhanced service offering“.
That could describe just about any of the other Premium Economy cabins that are currently flying so the airline isn’t exactly telling us much.
Piia Karhu, Finnair’s Senior Vice President Customer Experience is quoted as saying:
“We see a growing trend of quality focused travellers, who place a strong focus on the comfort and quality of their travel experience”
“Responding to customer needs from all our key markets, our new Premium Economy class will serve the requirements of both leisure and corporate customers.”
The reality is that this probably has less to do with Finnair acting on any kind of trend that they’re seeing and more to do with aligning the airline with its partners.
All of Finnair’s transatlantic Joint Venture partners (American, BA and Iberia) and all of its Joint Business partners to Japan (JAL, BA and Iberia) offer a Premium Economy product so, amongst its partners, Finnair has been left as an outlier offering just Business and Economy Class.
It was only a matter of time before Finnair decided to act (or was forced by its partners to act) so the fact that the airline has now announced that it will introduce a Premium Economy cabin isn’t surprising.
What is surprising is how long the airline plans to wait before moving ahead with the new cabin rollout.
We won’t start to see a Premium Economy cabin being offered by Finnair until the 4th quarter of 2020 and the fleet isn’t expected to be fully refitted until the summer of 2022 – that’s a long way away.
Finnair needs to be careful here and make sure it doesn’t do anything silly.
Trends can move fast in the aviation world so unless the airline chooses to introduce a truly new Premium Economy concept (i.e one different to what’s being offered today) there’s a chance that its new cabin will already be behind the competition when its fleet has finally be fully refitted.