A few days ago, I came across with the news of the recent introduction by American Airlines (AA) of their new Premium Economy (W) product which will be launched with the new fleet of Boeing 787-9’s that will be received by the American carrier later this year.
I’ve had a long standing relationship with AA since 1995 when I first joined the AAdvantage program and started flying with them almost every six months from Lima to Miami for holidays on their classic Airbus A-300’s and Boeing 757’s. Having said that, I am aware of the up and downs of AA including the post 9/11 tragic events era and the return to acceptable operational and economical margins a few years ago.
A Step Forward to the Future of Air Travel in the United States
AA has made an enormous effort to improve the product they offer and be able to compete especially in the International Long-Haul sectors, they firstly introduced the new First Class aboard their Boeing 777-300’s and the fantastic Business Class seat in almost every operation from Europe to the United States. Catering was enhanced and even proper champagne (instead of the generic Prosecco/Sparkling Wine) was introduced in the International Business and First Class.
With the fall of demand for International First Class travel, AA decided that a new Premium Economy Class needed to be introduced, this in order to be able to compete with European carriers that offer this class of service on their Trans Atlantic services, basically a class above Main Cabin Extra and below Business Class.
As we all know, AA has a current upgrade policy based on System Wide Upgrades (SWU) for their top tier customers. Based on revenue plans seems that the future of AA long haul operation is to be set on three classes of service: Business, Premium Economy and Economy.
With less and less perks being offered by air carriers in general today to the general public, I am curious to see what are the prices that are going to be offered for the Premium Economy cabin, will they be as crazy expensive (almost the same price to upgrade to Business) offered on some routes by Air France or British Airways? Or will these prices be accessible for a reasonable premium to passengers that do not want or cannot afford a Business Class fare (especially on short notice) for long haul flights?
So far we know the following benefits of flying Premium Economy with AA:
- Exclusive and dedicated cabin with more privacy and increased legroom over Economy Class.
- Enhanced Meal Service with Free Alcoholic and Non-Alcoholic drinks.
- Noise Cancelling Headphones
- USB and Electric Power Outlet at every seat.
- Amenity Kit
- Priority Boarding
We are still unaware if the new Premium Economy will feature an increased baggage allowance or Priority Handling, discount coupons or complimentary use of the AAdmirals Club for International travel, earning rates for AAdvantage members or oneworld Frequent Flyers and other perks that might be offered by other carriers in their respective Premium Economy cabins.
With the planned renovations of their AAdmirals Clubs, a new Business Class product and in general the new branding of American, I am looking forward to see what will be the response of the general American customers to this new cabin which might be confused as the Main Cabin Extra. AA will need to prove that they can give a preferential service to the Premium Economy, that this new cabin will not be filled with non-revenues or last minute upgrades in order that the general public will be willing to pay the extra money to fly in this product and not in regular Economy. Like Air France, it took some years for the passengers to get to know the benefits of this new cabin that was introduced almost ten years ago. For now, American Airlines has stated that with the rollover of the new Boeing 787-9 from Dallas to Madrid and Sao Paulo, the new Premium Economy will be complimentary to their top tier frequent flyers until early 2017. This means that the most valuable customers of the company will be able to try this new product and plan in the following months their travel needs in this new cabin.
I sincerely hope AA keeps up with the innovation and that this new Premium Economy cabin will be given the preferential meaning over regular Economy Class. It will be interesting to observe how Revenue Management will keep itself at a Premium and not filling it up with non revenue passengers or upgrades that sometimes make a cabin less ”Premium” over the Economy Class and pay back the investment done by the company in the launch of this new and revolutionary concept that will be introduced for the first time by an American air carrier.
Would you try this new Premium Economy Class? Or would you rather keep flying Business/First Class or Economy?
A good question now to all the AAdvantage Executive Platinum members:
Your valuable System Wide Upgrades will take you now from Economy to Premium Economy and not from Economy to Business as today… are you ready for this change?
Will this drag you away from the AA SWU’s use ?
Or will this force you to buy a ticket in the Business Class cabin as soon as the W cabin is sold to the public?
The Executive Pilot.
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