American Airlines to launch premium economy in 2016

By Chris Chamberlin, December 10 2015
American Airlines to launch premium economy in 2016

Qantas partner American Airlines will launch premium economy next year on selected international routes, beginning with the airline's first Boeing 787-9 jet due for delivery at the end of 2016.

This will be followed by American's Airbus A350, due in 2017, along with refits to add premium economy seating to the Boeing 777-300ERs, 777-200ERs, 787-8s and Airbus A330 fleet over the next three years.

However, premium economy won't replace AA's current 'Main Cabin Extra' extra-legroom economy zone.

“[The new premium economy service] allows us to do a better job of segmenting our customers into various products they want to buy,” explains American Airlines CEO Doug Parker.

"There is nothing between economy and [our business class] full lie-flat seat service therefore a large price difference too and customers let us know... there’s demand for something in-between.”

Those in-between seats will be leather-clad with 38 inches of pitch, compared to 36 inches for Main Cabin Extra and 31 for economy.

The Boeing 787s will contain 21 premium economy seats in three rows of a 2-3-2 configuration, compared to 3-3-3 for standard economy seats.

Premium economy has become increasingly popular with international airlines including Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines, both of which began flying a 'better than economy' seat in the past 12 months.

US carriers have favoured an 'economy plus' model, however, in which the standard economy seat, meals and service are offered with extra legroom.

American Airlines is the first of the USA's 'big three' – the others being Delta and United Airlines – to adopt a full 'premium economy' product, which will boast wider seats, more legroom, an upgraded meal service, amenity kits and noise-reducing headphones.

AA premium economy: Qantas partnership

AA's premium economy debut comes as part of a broader alignment between American Airlines and its joint venture partners Qantas, British Airways/IAG and Japan Airlines, plus codeshare partner Cathay Pacific: all of which have premium economy.

Importantly, offering premium economy on AA's Sydney-Los Angeles flights would provide more flexibility to Qantas' own premium economy passengers, who would be able to book and fly in premium economy on American Airlines but with a QF flight number on their ticket.

"One of the things that was interesting to me was going and meeting with our partners... and being told that 'you guys have a fantastic network but your product’s not up to our standards'" American Airlines CEO Doug Parker revealed to Australian Business Traveller last month as part of a broader discussion about AA's tip-to-tail seats and service.

"We know we have to have a product that partners like Qantas (and) their customers feel meets that standard when they get on," Parker continues, "so we’re doing all we can."

Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire frequent flyers – whose ranks include Qantas Gold and American Airlines Platinum (and above) – can continue to reserve Main Cabin Extra seating at no charge where available.

Also read: What you need to know about AA’s Sydney flights

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Uh oh.... Are we about to see a massive System Wide Upgrade (SWU) devaluation? i. i.e. Upgrade opportunities downgraded from Coach-Business to Coach-Premium Economy? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jun 2015

Total posts 107

I hope now ifyou purchase a Premium economy seat means that you get it. 

Bought a SYD - LAX - SFO earlier this year via Qantas in premium. Had to pay for Premium but get economy on the SFO leg. Apparently the fare classes have to match. Wasn't even full Y economy counts as discount full economy so couldn't get MCE

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 450

Curious to know of experiences booking Y+ with CX including AA domestic legs.  The CX search shows some AA flights as econ, and others not, usually the larger aircraft.  I had thought that they might use MCE where it is available.

MCE is not a fare class in its own right. That is the TERRIBLY annoying misunderstanding propagated by the mindless (read lazy or poorly researched) travel columnist writing in the general media outlets.

MCE is a perk provided to elite members of Aadvantage and their OW equivalents. Or access to MCE can be purchased, much like you purchase an exit row seat on QF. MCE seats are just normal economy seats with extra room - that is all!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 450

Seems the CX booking search for Y+ treats AA codeshares and non-codeshares differently and labels the non-codeshares as ECO only.  Once you choose either option and continue the booking you find that that the AA operated leg is Y.

TRB, do you know if it is possible to puchase an upgrade to MCE if the booking is with CX and on a codeshared AA flight ? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 450

While a bit off-topic, I noticed that Delta has this on their home page:

NEW! Delta Comfort+ is now even easier to book. For flights departing on or after May 16, 2016, within the U.S. 50 and Canada, Delta Comfort+ is now a booking option, like Main Cabin or First Class. This means you can book Delta Comfort+ all the way to your destination rather than upgrading separately for each leg of your trip.

 

Good question GrexXL.

Given the booking is with CX, the existing conventions on such matters applies i.e. AA cannot amend the booking including the purchase of preferred seating, which is what MCE is. The same rules apply to purchasing extra baggage allowance or purchasing an upgrade.

If however you are a OW Elite, then you should be able to request the seat free of charge.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 May 2014

Total posts 450

Thanks TRB.  Will try that with CX. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Sep 2012

Total posts 132

@ sdtravel - the fare quite clearly states on the booking form on the website that the onward leg from LAX to SFO is in Economy. What class were you expecting

You pay for Premium for the SYD to LAX leg. You pay for Y from LAX to SFO.

Having booked that sector a number of times in that fare class, it's quite transparent. Not sure what the gripe is. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jun 2015

Total posts 107

Yep i am aware of this. Im just saying its an opertunity to fix this up.

My situation was it was a company funded Y ticket. Which i paid for an upgrade on from Y to Y+. BUT i couldnt just upgrade the SYD - LAX segment. I had to also purchase the upgrade from LAX - SFO and basically have no other difference in the product i received.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Sep 2012

Total posts 132

Again... your "upgrade" paid for the Y+ seat between SYD and LAX. The article does hint that the aircraft getting the AA Y+ treatment are the 787's, 777's and A330's. None of which fly between LAX and SFO.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Jun 2015

Total posts 107

I also paid for an upgrade for Y+ between LAX & SFO.

I have no gripe or issue with it. I was simply stating that if the rollout is expanded maybe in the future its something that might happen.  

I already made peace with the extra costs i had to pay i am simple just commenting. No gripes here i have moved on already

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 995

The only AA aircraft which are going to get Y+ are widebodies - except the 767s from current reports. Only very few, select domestic flights, between AA hubs, use widebodies.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

20 Aug 2012

Total posts 126

Looks like (similar to CX, although CX have signaled improvements) the only descent footrest is in the front row. According to the pictures the other rows have to contend with uncomfortable bike pedal like foot rests.

 

Nice to see however major U.S. carriers come kicking and screaming into the new century.

I think this is actually a pretty good idea.

"Business Lite" Premium Economy products fill a gap, and "Survivable Economy" Main Cabin Extra remains available (which is a good thing in a world of 10-across 777s and 9-across 787s). This helps segment the market more.

I still think that AA would do well to make "Survivable Economy" seats wider (I think they're 9-abreast on the 777... maybe they should add a few rows of  8-abreast on the 787?).  

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

22 Apr 2013

Total posts 147

Whilst I applaud AA for coming to the PE party (and encourage the other US carriers to do the same), I can't help but (cynically) note they're reactively being pulled up begrudgingly by their boot-straps rather than making an innovative first-in-class step forward.... which dissapoints.

FLX
FLX

10 Dec 2015

Total posts 179

If we don't count longhaul LCCs such as Scoot and Norweigan where the highest class available is really just PY(Just ignore those fancy brandings such as ScootBiz), AA is the <first-in-...> industry worldwide to offer PY AND Y+ simultaneously within the same fuselage among all FSC(Full Service Carrier) peers.

That's an innovation in product/mkt segmentation by my book.


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