Overview of the Premium Economy Cabin

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Over the year’s airlines have continued to make economy cabins seats smaller. These changes include narrower seat width and less pitch. In addition, the service offering has decreased, and restrictions added. With advances in aircraft and technology, there are a number of very long flights around the world.

To improve the experience and provide a greater selection of options, airlines have developed a “new” cabin. Commonly referred to as Premium Economy, airlines have branded the cabin and class of service a variety of names. Examples include Delta’s Premium Select, British Airways World Traveller Plus, and Japan Airlines JAL Sky Premium.

While the term is not standardized across the industry, a consensus is slowly forming. Premium Economy generally refers to a seat and service that is noticeably different from standard economy class, but still heavily distinguished from a business class offering. These cabins are found mainly on international flights where comfort is a major factor given the long duration of travel.

Amenities may include individual power outlets, extra arm-rest area, larger inflight entertainment screen, and improved meal offering. Almost every airline has a slight variation, but the seats are like a domestic first-class seat and some may have a foot rest. The cabin service is typically elevated by pre-departure beverage, amenity kit, use of real tableware, and designated flight crew.

The pricing for Premium Economy can vary substantially depending on numerous factors. These can include the season of travel, the route, as well as timing of ticket purchase. The ticket price can be comparable to economy ticket during a special and can be a high as a discounted business class fare for a popular route during high season. In the example below, American Airlines for New York (JFK) to Paris (CDG) is selling economy for $803 and Premium Economy for $1,431.    

Given the competitive nature of the airline industry and advances in aviation, the passenger experience is constantly evolving. Many airlines around the world have expanded their offering of Premium Economy and continue to enhance the cabin. Currently Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines are all adding Premium Economy to their international fleet. Many foreign carriers have had Premium Economy for several years including Singapore Airlines as early as 2007 and Cathay Pacific since 2011.

Which airline has the best Premium Economy offering in your opinion and why?

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