In November, American unveiled its new Premium Economy cabin, albeit of the soft launch variety. Though bookable on flights from DFW to Madrid and Sao Paulo, American sold the seats as Main Cabin Extra. Now, after a couple of delays, American Airlines Premium Economy officially debuts as a separate class May 4, per Lucky at One Mile At a Time.
American Airlines Premium Economy Routes
Premium Economy will eventually appear on most internationally-configured aircraft. For now, the following routes operated by Boeing 787-9 aircraft feature Premium Economy:
- Starting May 4: DFW to Madrid, Paris, Sao Paulo, and Seoul
- Starting July 5: Chicago to Paris
Per American’s website, Chicago to Paris features Premium Economy “for a limited time”. I’m not sure what exactly “limited time” means, though.
American Airlines Premium Economy Pricing
So what does pricing look like compared to regular coach? For comparison purposes, I picked three routes out of DFW: Madrid, Sao Paulo, and Seoul. I then used ITA Matrix to compare pricing over the May 15-June 15 period, assuming a 4-night stay. I figured this ought to give a decent cross section of routes, and peak/shoulder seasons. I’ll start with Madrid; the first screenshot is Main Cabin, and the second Premium Economy in each set.
Next, let’s examine DFW to Sao Paulo.
And finally, DFW to Seoul.
The Madrid route shows the lowest pricing, with the surcharge ranging from $200 to $365. Interestingly, on some days, Premium Economy prices lower than Main Cabin; this is shown where both cabins price out the same, as Matrix returns a price for the higher cabin. However, I suspect this is a pricing bug that will work itself out shortly. Meanwhile, the surcharge ranges from $200 to $762 going to Sao Paulo, and $200 to $773. It appears, therefore, that American has set $200 as the floor for the upcharge. The upcharge also seems to increase noticeably starting June 1st, especially to Seoul and Sao Paulo.
American Airlines Premium Economy – What You Get
As I detailed in my review from November, Premium Economy comes with several bells and whistles. The first, of course, is the seat, which provides 6 inches additional pitch and about an inch and a half of extra width compared to regular Main Cabin seats. The seats also contain a footrest or legrest, some additional recline, and a 2-3-2 configuration vs. 3-3-3.
Premium Economy also includes a basic amenity kit and noise-canceling headphones.
Finally, American provides enhanced meal service in Premium Economy, including complimentary beer, wine, and spirits. The meals themselves are also a step up from Main Cabin, with real plates instead of plastic trays.
On the ground, Premium Economy also includes priority boarding, but if you’re an AAdvantage elite, you get that anyway. Add it all up, and Premium Economy is basically domestic first class over a longer distance. Heck, dinner was even the same cheese lasagna I’ve had many times in domestic First. (In fairness, the lasagna is pretty good.)
As for frequent flyer benefits, Premium Economy books into “W” or “P” class, which earns 150% elite qualifying miles. Using DFW to Madrid departing May 16th as an example, a non-elite earns 5,840 redeemable miles and 14,895 EQMs. This compares to 4,840 redeemable miles and 9,930 EQMs in Main Cabin. If you credit to Alaska Mileage Plan, Premium Economy earns 110% of mileage flown (10,923 in this case). Main Cabin earns 25%-100%, depending on the exact fare class. This particular fare is a “V” fare; thus, you earn 75% of miles flown, or 7,448.
American Airlines Premium Economy – Worth the Price?
In my previous review, I judge the value proposition as follows:
My gut reaction is that I’d be willing to pay a premium of $300-500 each way over Main Cabin, but not much more than that.
Lo and behold, most flights seem to price exactly in that range, with some dates going up into the $700s. I’d absolutely pay $200 if you can get a flight for that price, as that’s barely more than Main Cabin Extra. You might as well get the fancy meal and free liquor while you’re at it. My initial thinking, though, hasn’t really changed. Essentially, I’d still pay up to $500 for domestic First on a longer route. Space is an important factor to me on long-hauls, and that seems reasonable for a little extra comfort and a few goodies. FWIW, I found the seat noticeably more comfortable on the eastbound red-eye, though I wished I’d remembered my neck pillow.
Now, if American retrofits their 77Ws with Premium Economy, and it’s a choice between that and the brutal 10-across in regular coach? Perhaps I’d tolerate a higher price point in that case.