Now we aren’t talking about Main Cabin Extra, which just gives you a slightly wider seat, and slightly more legroom. No, No, No, American is coming up with something that is more similar to what we’ve seen from Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Cathay Pacific (others too, but they don’t come to mind at the moment). The best part, American is the first United States flagged carrier to introduce a true Premium Economy cabin.
While I don’t really love the idea from a personal use perspective, I really do appreciate the fact that American is attempting to compete on an international scale–if only their route map would grow just the same. It’s actually pretty logical for American to do this, considering OneWorld Alliance partners British Airways and Qantas, in addition to Cathay Pacific all market premium economy. I wouldn’t say that all products are equal, and to that point, it definitely looks to me like American Airlines is going to leapfrog their transatlantic partner, British Airways in quality. Here’s a look at what they’ll be offering.
Where will you find this new choice?
American Airlines states that you’ll see it on their international fleet starting in late 2016. The launch product will be the 787-9 Dreamliner, and will eventually start showing up on their 777 (I’d imagine pretty quickly), 787, A330, and A350 aircraft. I’m kind’ve surprised to see the A330 in that list, but, American did gain a bunch of them from US Airways, and they already have a comfortable reverse herringbone seat in business class.
Implications of this move
I had the chance to speak with an Airbus executive, what feels like ages ago, who felt very strongly in the 4-class aircraft configuration and of passenger choice. Those being: Economy, Premium Economy, Business, and First. We’re seeing more and more the introduction of choice for passengers. Back in April, I talked about how passenger choice is a euphemism. I also believe that as more and more airlines embrace what I’ll call “True Premium Economy” products, e.g. what American Airlines is introducing, I think we’ll see fewer and fewer premium cabin options. But saying that, I’m not sure it is a true cause and effect situation. Airlines have started moving away from first class products on many routes, I dare say, before even announcing, let alone flying true premium economy products. In the US, American and United are the only airlines that come to mind that have a “sub-fleet” of First Class cabins, and for American, that is being reduced to just their 777-300ER, eventually. Outside the US, we see that Lufthansa has taken First Class out of some of their aircraft, such as the 747-400, Malaysia Airlines only flies a first class on their A380, and speaking of A380’s, Emirates is flying the first A380 with no First Class (and no premium economy class either, for that matter).
So what do I see happening? A gradual rolling back of the premium Passenger Experience (PaxEx). Eventually, Just as there used to be First and Economy classes, then moved to a three cabin, I see the majority of airlines returning to a three cabin aircraft. I’m just not quite sure if this is a good, bad, or indifferent thing. I think, referencing again to my comment about passenger choice being a euphemism, if premium economy means that airlines make economy even more of a sardine can, then this is a horrible development. But, let us remember, that American Airlines and other 777-300ER operators went with 10 abreast seating in Economy years ago, and that has become a very uncomfortable reality (or so I understand from others, as I’ve been avoiding it like the plague).
On the one hand, it is nice to see American Airlines is continuing to innovate, even if it isn’t truly innovation. But the fact remains, American is perhaps the most forward leaning of the US flagged carriers. I think this bodes well for American Airlines’ flyers, and potentially for others, as United and Delta will feel pressure to pump up their own premium economy game to compete.
Of course, on the other side, we have an increasing move toward Premium Economy, and this euphemism of Choice, which seems to me, to be a negative move from a Passenger Experience standpoint.
What do you think? Is American Airlines’ announcement of a true Premium Economy class good or bad?