American Airlines already announce plans to introduce a premium economy service to its aircraft, although it only just provided an update on when you can actually experience the product: November 4. That’s when flights from Dallas (DFW) to Madrid and Sao Paulo will begin operating with the Boeing 787-9, which is equipped with the upgraded seating. (HT to the Dallas Morning News)
You won’t actually be able to book premium economy seats until 2017 — at a date still undetermined. For now, customers will be able to access it by purchasing Main Cabin Extra (which uses standard economy seats spaced further apart for extra legroom). This may have a fee or be complimentary depending on your elite status.
Starting July 10:
- Book travel for November 4 or after from DFW to MAD or GRU
- If a seat is open in rows 9-11, choose it (fees may apply)
If you’ve already booked travel for these dates, find your trip and select ‘change seats’ to move to Premium Economy. Until Premium Economy is available for sale, fees will be based on AAdvantage® member status:
- Platinum & Executive Platinum members enjoy complimentary access
- Gold members pay 50% of the fee or receive complimentary access within 24 hours
It’s possible, then, to book these flights today and change your seat assignment to premium economy starting July 10 — although I see no reason to rush three days early; just book when you can actually select the seat at the same time. The Boeing 787-9 will have 21 premium economy seats and 27 Main Cabin Extra seats to choose from. Premium economy will also be introduced to the Airbus A350 and the rest of the widebody fleet.
The actual improvements of premium economy over standard economy include more legroom, slightly wider seats, bigger television monitors, and better food with free alcohol.
- More legroom and wider, adjustable leather seats
- Enhanced meal service with complimentary wine, beer and spirits
- Personal on-demand entertainment and larger monitors
- AC power outlets and USB ports at every seat
- Extendable foot, leg and head rests
- Amenity kits
- Noise-reducing headphones
- 1 free checked bag
This appears at first glance to be similar to my experience flying in premium economy on British Airways, which was better than coach but is still a poor substitute for sleeping on a flat seat in business class. The value proposition will depend a great deal on how the fares are priced relative to other cabins.
Upgrades to (and from) Premium Economy
There’s also a note on American’s website about upgrades to premium economy, which aren’t yet available — they’re not even selling it yet, so hold your horses. But it’s concerning because I can imagine at some point the airline may decide to stop allowing upgrades from standard economy all the way to business class; only people who purchase premium economy will be eligible. Most airlines already prohibit so-called “double upgrades.”
Although American Airlines recently cut the number of systemwide upgrades it issues to its top-tier elite members, it still has the most generous policy for actually redeeming them, since it has no fare class restrictions — unlike Delta and United.
Limiting upgrades to business class from premium economy fares only would be tantamount to a fare class restriction and put American on par with United’s onerous requirement that customers buy a W fare or higher. These can be several hundred dollars more than the cheapest economy fare, and still represent a gamble since upgrades don’t always clear. Time will tell what American Airlines eventually decides to do about its options.