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Traveler's Edition
  •   3 min read

Founder and writer of airline industry blog Cranky Flier, Brett Snyder is taking over the Traveler’s Edition today to give us the low down on Premium Economy class – soon coming to Delta and American Airlines!

You might not know that airlines have been slowly rolling out a variety of options for travelers looking for something nicer than coach but cheaper than Business Class. But if you are aware, you’re probably confused. Economy Plus, Comfort+, Main Cabin Extra, Premium, Premium Economy… there are a whole lot of different names used to describe these options, and the experiences can vary tremendously.  Let’s take a look at this in more detail, because it’s something you’ll want to consider on your next long trip.

Extra Legroom Seating

The most basic step up from a plain, old coach seat involves extra legroom and not much more. Sure, Delta may throw a free drink at you, but in general, you’re getting the coach experience with about 3 to 6 inches more legroom.

Nearly all US airlines offer this (American, Delta, United, Alaska, Virgin America, JetBlue) with Southwest being the big exception. Most of them sell it as an add-on after you buy your ticket. (Delta is the exception which requires that you buy a Comfort+ extra legroom ticket initially.)

That’s generally fine for domestic flights, and it fills the void nicely between a coach seat and a basic domestic First Class option, but it’s a different story when you’re going long-haul. On those flights, coach is, well, coach. But Business Class is something completely different with fully flat beds, multi-course meals, and a whole different level of service. There needed to be something in between.

For years, Asian and European airlines like Virgin Atlantic, British Airways, EVA and Cathay Pacific have offered what is generically called premium economy. This includes a wider seat with more legroom. It usually has a leg- or footrest for each seat. Meals are upgraded and you get perks like priority check-in and boarding. It’s a nice experience at a price well below Business Class.

In recent times, we’ve seen many airlines jump on the premium economy bandwagon including ANA, Japan Airlines, Singapore, Lufthansa, Air France, Alitalia, and even Air Canada here in North America. But US airlines have lagged… until now.

American Airlines premium economy flight
Premium Economy with American Airlines

American was the first out of the gate when it announced it would have Premium Economy rolling out on its Boeing 787-9 aircraft. This airplane is already flying from Dallas/Ft Worth to Sao Paulo and Madrid. It starts Paris and Seoul/Incheon in the new year. The secret right now is that you can’t buy seats in this cabin just yet, but if you’re an elite member in American’s AAdvantage program, you can sit up there for free. They’ll start selling it separately (not as an add-on) early next year.

This cabin will be rolled out on most of American’s long haul fleet over time, and it will be a regular option for travelers to purchase.

Not to be outdone, Delta has introduced its own premium economy offering called simply “Premium”. This won’t be on an aircraft until Delta gets its first Airbus A350 later next year, but the details have already been announced.

Many travelers will look for the coach fare and not even consider trying for something nicer, but with premium economy, airlines have created something that may not cost all that much more. It’s not uncommon to see premium economy fares over the Atlantic for under $1,500 roundtrip.

Next time you fly somewhere far away, keep in mind that a premium economy ticket might not be all that much more expensive, but it will make your flight a whole lot better.

IMG: Delta Air Lines; American Airlines

5 responses to “Cranky Flier: Everything You Need To Know About Premium Economy

  1. Ah nomenclature. What is in the photo from AA should be called business class light (or BC economy), or similar. Leave the legacy nomenclature (that includes “Premium”) for the 3-6 inches of extra legroom seats alone.

  2. This is everything I need to know? I don’t think so. What about pricing, comparisons among the various airlines of service, seats, pricing, comfort? Bad headline, no doubt chosen for SEO purposes. Weak content.

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