Surprisingly, American Airlines Has Hit It Out of The Park with Their New Premium Economy Product
I just wrapped up my nearly 40,000-mile journey to and from Auckland, New Zealand, twice in just under two weeks. Though much of the trip I had the opportunity to sit in Business or First Class, both my flights to and from Auckland were in American Airlines Premium Economy. That means I’ve spent almost an entire day in American’s new Premium Economy product over these past two weeks. That being said, I feel as if I have a pretty good idea of the service and experience offered in Premium Economy.
American Airlines’s Premium Economy product is just a little over a year old. In October 2016, American introduced the hard product with the delivery of the airline’s brand new Boeing 787-9. After launching the hard product, American later launched the soft product in summer 2017. Now, all aircraft on international routes featuring the Premium Economy cabin offer American’s full Premium Economy service. Aircraft configured with Premium Economy include the Boeing 787-9 and many Boeing 777-200s. American’s fleet of Boeing 787-8s, Boeing 777-300ERs, and Airbus a330-200s will receive Premium Economy in the coming years.
American Airlines was the first US airline to introduce a Premium Economy product. Foreign airlines including Lufthansa, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and British Airways have offered a Premium Economy product for years now. Traditionally, non-US airlines offered a more polished service compared to US-based carriers. That said, expectations weren’t exceptionally high for American’s new Premium Economy product. However, after spending nearly an entire day onboard American Airlines Premium Economy, I firmly believe American Airlines offers a competitive and impressive Premium Economy product. Here’s why.
On The Ground: American Airlines Premium Economy
American Airlines Premium Economy passengers will be delighted to find out that they receive priority ground assistance throughout their journey.
At the airport, American Airlines Premium Economy passengers can access American’s Priority and Business Class check-in counters. In the boarding area, Premium Economy passengers board with Group 4, ahead of General Boarding along with elite frequent flyers. Additionally, Premium Economy passengers receive priority bag handling ensuring they receive their checked bags first.
Unfortunately, unlike passengers seated in Delta’s Premium Economy product, passengers on American Airlines do not receive airline lounge benefits. Unless you are a select elite frequent flyer, you won’t be able to access any of American’s lounges or partner lounges.
In The Air: American Airlines Premium Economy
Once onboard, Premium Economy passengers will be delighted by the 2-3-2 layout. All seats feature either a full legrest or footrest, seatback entertainment, power outlets and USB ports, and leather upholstery. Overall, the Premium Economy cabin feels just that, very premium. With only 21 seats, the cabin is quiet and spacious compared to economy.
I had the opportunity to sit at both the bulkhead (row 9) and the second row of Premium Economy. The bulkhead seats feature a physical legrest while all other rows feature a footrest mounted to the seat in the next row. I preferred the bulkhead as I found the legrest to be much more substantial than the footrest.
Onboard service will vary depending on the time of departure and flight duration. Both of my flights in American Airlines Premium Economy departed during American’s dinner window and featured three services; dinner, a snack, and breakfast. In addition to the scheduled meal services, the crew walked around throughout the flights offering drink refills.
Unlike in standard economy, menus were provided to passengers in Premium Economy. Additionally, the entire service starts with a bottle of water, a hot towel, pretzels or mixed nuts, and your choice of a beverage.
On my flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, I opted for something light. I had the salad with chicken breast and quinoa. Dinner came with a side salad and a shrimp cocktail. All meals were served at one time on a single tray. However, each plate is served on actual china and not in plastic containers. Drinks are still served in plastic and paper containers.
On my flight from Auckland to Los Angeles, I decided to try the braised beef entree served with vegetables and mashed potatoes. I found this entree to be much more flavorful and thoroughly enjoyable. The salad on this leg was pretty underwhelming though. Additionally, the meal was served with a very tasty spring roll.
I didn’t get pictures of either snack services. Both snack services were pretty light consisting of a small sandwich and a sweet. On the LAX-AKL leg, a cold sandwich was served while on the AKL-LAX leg, a hot panini was offered. Of course, the hot panini was much better than the sandwich offered on the flight to Auckland. Hokey pokey vanilla ice cream was served on the flight from Auckland while a Kit Kat bar was served on the flight to Auckland.
The same breakfast options were offered on both legs in Premium Economy. On both flights in Premium Economy, I was quite hungry, so I opted to try the full American breakfast. The American breakfast consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, a hash brown, yogurt, and a blueberry muffin. The breakfast was served at once with flight attendants also offering coffee and juice with the meal. On both legs, I found the entire breakfast to be tasty and cooked well. It was certainly more than adequate for Premium Economy.
Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by the meal servicer offered in American Airlines Premium Economy. It certainly helped that both crews on the flights to and from New Zealand were enthusiastic and eager to serve passengers. I honestly can’t complain. Meals and onboard service were both executed phenomenally on both flights. Premium Economy passengers certainly won’t go hungry, and with access to a relatively extensive complimentary drink menu, passengers won’t be thirsty either.
Another aspect of American Airlines Premium Economy with which I was pleasantly surprised was the availability and quality of onboard amenities. On both legs in Premium Economy, all amenities were placed on my seat prior to boarding. This differs from the more personal delivery of amenities by flight attendants in business class.
One thing to note in this review is that the pillow and blanket offered was different on my flight from Los Angeles and my flight from Auckland. This is because American Airlines recently introduced Casper amenities in both the Business Class and Premium Economy cabins. I found the Casper pillow and blanket to be a much-welcomed change over what American had previously offered. The Casper pillow is very wide and very plush. The blanket doesn’t appear that thick, but it certainly kept me warm and seemed larger than what American previously offered.
In addition to a pillow and blanket, Premium Economy passengers receive a basic amenity kit with socks, ear plugs, an eyeshade, and toothbrush and toothpaste. Passengers also receive super comfy Casper slippers and American Airlines-issued noise-reducing headphones.
On both flights, I managed to get a solid few hours of sleep. Even when I have a lie-flat seat in Business or First Class, I usually find it nearly impossible to sleep. Somehow, I managed to fall asleep on both legs in American Airlines Premium Economy. I guess that goes to show that comfort is certainly not an issue.
Overall, American Airlines Premium Economy
I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by American Airlines’ Premium Economy product. I wasn’t expecting much going into either flight. Premium Economy is by no means Business Class, so I kept my expectations low. After completing two 10+ hour flights in American Airlines Premium Economy, I can say with confidence that the airline offers a competitive and thoroughly enjoyable Premium Economy product. From the meal service to cabin comfort, I don’t have many critiques. I imagine others will have a different view on American’s Premium Economy product so feel free to let me know.
Have you flown in American Airlines Premium Economy yet? What do you think of American’s Premium Economy product?
Coming Soon: My full review of DeltaONE from Sydney to Los Angeles