Last week, United Airlines announced its plans to introduce its own premium economy cabin, meaning all three of the US’s major airlines – United, American Airlines and Delta – will soon offer the class of travel on some of their routes.
United’s move highlights the growing demand for a premium economy class of travel, particularly as the gap between densified economy and business class grows ever wider, yet many airlines still do not offer such a travel class.
According to Andrew Herdman, director general of the Association of Asia Pacific Airlines (AAPA), the inconsistency of carriers in adopting premium economy is largely to do with the fact that products vary a lot across airlines.
“The customer doesn’t know whether an airline is going to offer it and, if an airline is offering it, what the product is compared to competing versions of the same thing,” he says.
But airlines appear to be cottoning on to the value of offering a premium economy cabin, with more than a few launching either new products or introducing the travel class for the first time.
With that in mind, here are five airlines introducing new premium economy seat products.
In the works
United only announced it would be introducing a premium economy cabin, called Premium Plus, last week, following in the footsteps of fellow US carriers, American Airlines and Delta.
Details are currently slim as to when and where the cabin will be rolled out. United has said it will debut on select international routes starting later this year, though as to which aircraft they will appear on the airline has so far been silent.
Exactly what the travel class will offer has also not been explained in great detail, though United did say in a recent blog post that seats will give passengers “more space, comfort and amenities”. These notably include upgraded china dinnerware, free alcoholic beverages, an amenity kit and a Saks Fifth Avenue blanket and pillow.
Beyond that, we’ll have to wait until United unveils more information.
Premium economy is set to make its debut with Austrian Airlines on March 6, 2018, on board its Boeing 767-300ER and B777-200ER aircraft. These serve the airline’s long-haul routes, including the airline’s previously axed Vienna-Tokyo service that is set to make its return on May 15 this year.
In total, Austrian will retrofit 11 of its long-haul aircraft with the new cabin along with a 12th – a new delivery B777-200ER – that it is getting this spring.
The new cabin’s seat products will mirror those used by parent airline Lufthansa, and there will be 18 on the B767s and 24 on the B777s. Width will go up to 19 inches while pitch will be set at 38 inches. Meanwhile seatback in-flight entertainment screens measure 12-inches across and seats also feature power sockets and USB ports.
Beyond the seats themselves come a number of added perks, such as a check-in baggage allowance of two 23kg bags per person. Premium economy passengers will also get their own amenity kit.
Emirates first indicated its intention to develop a premium economy class back in December 2016, with president Tim Clark saying it was very likely to introduce a premium economy class “within the next year to 18 months”.
We’re still yet to see the Dubai-based carrier pull the trigger on launching such a product – Emirates did unveil new cabins for its B777s in November last year, but these only include first, business and economy classes.
However, with the carrier continually opening up paid lounge access to economy class passengers, it would seem Emirates is aware of the potential demand for a premium economy class that costs more but comes with a suite of benefits over regular economy.
According to Arabian Business, Emirates chairman Sheikh Ahmed claimed at the airline’s 100th Airbus A380 delivery in November that it would be preparing to deliver the new class “very soon”. However, responding to queries from Business Traveller yesterday, the airline did not have any further updates or comments on launching premium economy.
Delta began introducing its new Delta Premium Select seat last year, appearing for the first time on board its newest aircraft, the Airbus A350, which debuted on its Detroit-Tokyo service in November. This year, the airline is set to extend the class to its Boeing 777 fleet, and has previously stated that “additional fleets may be added”.
Premium Select is currently laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration on board the A350 with 48 seats in total. These come with a width of 18.5 inches – half an inch more than the Main Cabin economy class seats – and 38 inches of pitch.
Passengers get a Tumi amenity kit with Malin+Goetz Travel Essentials, a Westin Heavenly In-Flight Blanket, along with complimentary alcoholic beverages.
Australia’s national carrier first introduced premium economy a decade ago, but in December last year it debuted its newest iteration of the seat product when it its first Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft took off.
Laid out 2-3-2 with a total of 28 seats, the Dreamliner premium economy cabin sees a number of enhancements over older products, notably seats that are wider (22.8 inches), and feature new adjustable head and footrests. The seat’s recline also shifts parts of the seat to support the body. Seats also have two USB ports per seat and a shared AC power socket.
Qantas is set to take delivery of a total of eight Dreamliners by the end of this year.
Which airline’s premium economy offering do you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below.