American Airlines said it plans to install a Premium Economy section into its long-haul international aircraft over the next few years.
American already offers Main Cabin Extra seating — the same configuration as regular economy, but with more space between the rows — but this will be a true premium economy option, located between Business Class and Main Cabin Extra, the company said.
The new Premium Economy section will align American’s international in-flight product offerings with those of key Oneworld alliance partners including British Airways, Japan Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Qantas.
The new section will offer leather seats in a 2-3-2 configuration with 38 inches of pitch and more width than regular coach. Customers in Premium Economy will get noise-reducing headphones and personal on-demand entertainment systems with larger touch screens; amenity kits; and AC power outlets and USB ports at every seat.
A seat in Premium Economy will also entitle passengers to priority boarding and the right to check up to two bags for no fee, American said; and they’ll get an enhanced in-flight meal service and free alcoholic beverages.
But it will be almost a year until the first Premium Economy section makes its debut. American said that will be on its new 787-9s that start to enter service in late 2016. Those aircraft will have business class, Premium Economy, Main Cabin Extra and regular economy seating. The new section will also be in the new Airbus A350s that American has ordered for delivery starting in 2017.
The company said it will also retrofit all its 777-300ERs and -200ERs as well as 787-8s and Airbus A330s over the next three years to include Premium Economy seating along with Business Class, Main Cabin Extra and regular economy. The 777-300ERs will still offer First Class as well.
American’s aging 767-300s will not get Premium Economy because they are slated to be retired in the coming years.
American currently offers free Main Cabin Extra upgrades for AAdvantage and Oneworld elites and customers who buy full-fare coach tickets. But its Premium Economy announcement said nothing about upgrade options for that section, or the price differential between regular economy and Premium Economy.
The news from American puts pressure on its major U.S. rivals, United and Delta. Will they follow the same path and install a true Premium Economy section on long-haul flights in order to keep their share of the market that might prefer that option? Time will tell.
Readers: Do you think major U.S. carriers need a true Premium Economy option on their international routes? Would you buy a seat in Premium Economy? Post comments below.
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