American Airlines Premium Economy Launches April 2, Elite Upgrades Likely Impacted

All Photos in this Post are Courtesy of American Airlines

Yesterday we reported on Delta’s newly released premium economy product set to launch in about one year on most long haul flights. Last month however, before the creation of this blog, American Airlines too released its plan and in fact they were the first carrier in the US market to announce this upcoming option. Many elites have been wondering however what this will mean for them. AA is limiting the information currently posted about this new product, so we can only speculate, but the bottom line is that the news is likely not good. AA uses what they call “system-wide upgrades” which moves you up one class of service, typically from economy to business. As for a new class of service however, this might make some elites fall short of business class now. According to AA’s website, elite upgrades are currently unaffected for all flights up to April 2, however the website lacks any information for dates following that.

Upgrades

“Upgrades from Main Cabin to Premium Economy won’t be available right away, but we’ll add this functionality later. Until then, you’ll be able to upgrade to Business Class from both Main Cabin and Premium Economy.” – aa.com

Currently, it is still an add-on option for customers to pay for like they would any other extra legroom seat. The hope is however, to add it to much of the remaining mainline fleet in the future, focusing on the long-haul market. While these new products from both AA and Delta are exciting, they are already behind many of the other international carriers which implemented a standard premium economy a long time ago. I personally still remain skeptical however as to just what this will mean for elites hoping to be upgraded to business class. Delta currently already has their extra legrooms as their own class of service instead of an add-on purchase and medallion members still get to bypass Comfort+ if a first class seat is available. However, seeing as Delta doesn’t upgrade anyone to business class on their international premium routes (or other routes serviced by Delta One) perhaps AA will use this move to standardize themselves in line with the other leading carrier. United, which still has not announced formal premium economy plans yet, upgrades their top tier members even on premium routes, so who knows where A will decide to place themselves.

320x180-pe-leg-noheadrest
Photo: American Airlines

As for the product, let’s have a closer look at it. Like Delta’s which we reviewed yesterday, they’ve completely redesigned the seat to stand on its own as opposed to enhancing a regular economy seat which they were currently doing (as was Delta and United). It will include the following amenities:

  • 1 Free Checked Bag
  • Larger fixed-shell seat, with pull out footrest and more legroom
  • Power outlets and USB ports at every seat
  • Personal on-demand entertainment screens (same as in regular economy)
  • Amenity Kit
  • Noise-Reducing Headphones
  • Enhanced Meal Service with complimentary alcoholic beverages
320x180_pe_amenities_v3
Photo: American Airlines

Like Delta, most options are the same with only a few minor differences. To be honest, they look to be mostly the same. All that truly matters on a long flight are the amenity kits and legroom. Just as we saw yesterday, American too seems to fit right in line with the rest of the international industry on making the product reflect more of a domestic business class seat.

320x180_pe_ife
Photo: American Airlines

Seats in Premium Economy cannot be purchased until early 2017, but still can be experienced on select routes flying from Dallas Fort Worth (DFW). Just make sure you select rows 9-11.

  • Sao Paulo, Brazil (Starting November 3, 2016)
  • Madrid, Spain (Starting November 4, 2016)
  • Paris, France (Starting January 2, 2017)
  • Seoul, South Korea (Starting February 16, 2017)

Until available as its own class of service, elites will continue to enjoy its preview at special rates

  • 50% off for AAdvantage Gold
  • Complimentary for AAdvantage Platinum and Executive Platinum

Personally, I’m not surprised to see US carriers jumping on the bandwagon for premium economy options. From a business standpoint it can turn out to be very profitable from customers of medium-sized companies who don’t want to pay high premiums for their travelers to fly in first class. Instead they can pay a more modest price and get decent benefits, thus enticing them to no longer buy the lower fare economy tickets.

We’re still waiting for United to get on board with what is becoming the new “normal”, but we’ll just have to wait and see what they end up deciding to do. As for now with AA and Delta, only time will truly tell how this product stacks up to their history, especially seeing how elites certainly don’t want to lose their first class chances.

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