American Airlines Wins the U.S. Race to Premium Economy
For years, domestic airlines have offered slightly more roomy seats in Economy under the guise of “Extra Comfort” or “Main Cabin Extra.” But come November, American Airlines will be the first U.S. carrier to join the dozens of international airlines with distinctly different Premium Economy cabins: a new class with amenities including noise-reduction headphones, a free checked bag, and an enhanced menu with complimentary wine, beer, and spirits .
Less expensive than business class but more comfortable than coach, American Airline’s new cabin features 21 leather seats with 38-inch seat pitch, large touchscreen entertainment systems, and extendable foot, leg, and head rests. Premium Economy will debut Nov. 4, when the carrier rolls out its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners.
At first the seats will only be available as free upgrades to elite the AAdvantage loyalty program members. View from the Wing reports that non-elite travelers passengers could find themselves in a Premium Economy seat by purchasing Main Cabin Extra on flights from Dallas to Madrid or Sao Paulo. All travelers will be able to purchase a Premium Economy ticket by early 2017.
Prices are not yet available for American’s Premium Economy, though we expect they will be comparable with fares offered by international carriers — somewhere between coach and business class fares.
American Airlines confirms that — at least for now — Premium Economy passengers will not receive priority boarding or expedited check-in. That's in contrast to JetBlue’s Even More Space seats, which come with early boarding perks and expedited security in certain cities — and, like American’s premium option, 38-inch seat pitch.
American may have earned the distinction of being the first U.S.-based carrier to launch a Premium Economy cabin, but they’ll hardly be the last. Delta has already made known its intentions to offer a similar product when it debuts its Airbus 350s next year.
Melanie Lieberman is the Assistant Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @melanietaryn.