Beginning with American Airlines new 787-900 Dreamliner, American became the first legacy carrier in the US to offer a true “Premium Economy” cabin. In the coming years American will expand the premium economy offering to the Boeing 777-200, Boeing 777-300, and Airbus A330 (legacy US Airways) aircraft. For now the only way to fly premium economy on American is to book a flight on the new Boeing 787-9 (789 on AA.com) Dreamliner.
What is Premium Economy?
On American’s 787-8 aircraft the economy cabin features a 3-3-3 seating arrangement with seats that are just 17-18 inches wide and offer just 31 inches of recline. I love the 787 aircraft, but even on the short Dreamliner flights I have flown on American the economy cabin seemed cramped. AA Elites and those willing to pay a little extra can opt to sit in American’s “Main Cabin Extra” seat which are the same width, but offer slightly more recline (36 inches).
On American’s new 787-900 aircraft, the first three rows of the economy cabin (Premium Economy) feature 7 across seating (2-3-2). The seats are 19 inches wide and offer a generous 38 inches of recline. These premium economy seats are essentially just American’s domestic first class seats added to international routes.
Paying for a premium economy seat on American will come with the following perks not offered in standard economy:
- Enhanced Meal Service with Complimentary Beer, Wine, and Spirits
- Larger Entertainment Monitors
- Amenity Kits
- Complimentary Noise-Reducing Headphones
How to Book International Premium Economy?
As of today (Dec 7, 2017) American only has a handful of Boeing 787-9 aircraft so the possibilities to book Premium Economy are limited, but there are still a few options. American Airlines has published a list of city pairings and launch dates for 787-9 service.
Currently, Premium Economy is not a separate “class” on American Airlines’ reservation system which means to sit in a premium economy simply costs the same as paying for Main Cabin Extra (MCE). I quickly checked and the current cost of MCE on a flight from Dallas (DFW) to Paris France (CDG) is from $150 per person. Sure the cost seems a little high, but considering PE is currently the same cost as 9 across MCE, I believe it is a steal right now. I am curious to see how much of a “premium” American will charge for these seats once Premium Economy becomes an actual fare code.
Roughly 16 years ago I was fortunate enough to fly International business class from St. Louis to London Gatwick (TWA Airlines) and the seat was almost identical to American’s Premium Economy seat offered today. In the past decade business class seats have improved significantly and left a gap between regular economy class and business class. American’s new Premium Economy class fills that gap and more importantly justifies paying more for premium seats. I personally find it hard to justify paying $150+ for MCE, but could see myself paying more to fly in the premium economy cabin.
Lastly, if you are interested in flying American’s Premium Economy in the coming months, today may be the best time to book. American’s reservation system has not been properly upgraded to include a PE fare code which means passengers can book PE for the cost of MCE. In fact, AA elites could potentially book Premium Economy for free given today’s elite benefits, but more on that to come.