While I am fairly critical of American now, since they more or less ruined the AAdvantage program and raised the prices of mileage tickets to about everywhere, this seems like an interesting move. A couple of days ago, American Airlines announced that they will be introducing Premium Economy on their longhaul fleet.
American has had Main Cabin Extra on their plane for years. This cabin is almost identical to Delta Comfort+ and United Economy Plus, in that they are basically coach seats with a little more legroom and maybe some free drinks or food (in Delta Comfort+ in particular). While these seats are not coach, they aren’t really premium economy in the more traditional sense either. Cathay Pacific, Singapore, and others have full on recliner seats in their premium economy cabins. In many ways, foreign carrier’s premium economy resemble domestic first class here in the States.
But the premium economy American has just announced seems to be pretty nice looking. They seem to look much like a pretty nice domestic first product. I’m guessing that the layout might be 2-4-2, 2-3-2 if they’re feeling really generous. However, given that this product looks pretty similar to Cathay’s, I’m thinking it’s more than likely going to be 2-4-2. The food looks nice, maybe even domestic first quality. The product will be on American’s 787-9’s when they are delivered, and will be fitted onto 777-300er’s, 777-200’s, 787-8’s, A330’s, and A350’s.
In the end, while American hasn’t published fare prices, this product is likely going to be pretty hard to get with miles, if AA makes it available at for mileage purchases at all. If they do, it is likely going to pretty expensive, especially after the devaluation, maybe 40,000 miles to Europe or maybe 55,000 to Asia, these being just rough estimations. At that point, your better of flying business class before the devaluation, if you have that option.
But this makes an interesting thing possible: up until now, premium economy on American partner airlines was unbookable using AAdvantage miles. But if American has premium economy on their longhaul aircraft, and if that would be bookable with AAdvantage miles, that might mean that one could redeem AAdvantage miles for premium economy on partner airlines. It is a possibility. Also, it seems that Delta might announce that they will be coming out with a similar product soon. In addition, it seems like AA’s aircraft with premium economy will be in a five-class configuration, which is more or less unheard of. The five classes of service will be: first, business, premium economy, Main Cabin Extra, and economy. I guess that means that there will be something for everyone. All in all, this seems like an interesting development, and may also be leading the American airline industry in a new direction.