Last updated: 05:13 PM ET, Thu August 25 2016

Could More Seating Make Premium Economy Class Cheaper?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | August 25, 2016

Could More Seating Make Premium Economy Class Cheaper?

Photo courtesy of Thinkstock

Air New Zealand is undertaking a major project to revamp the premium class cabins on its long haul fleet. The upgrade will include, among other things, an increase in the number of premium economy seats.

Airlines in general seem to be putting more stock in premium economy and business class. Delta will also be making upgrades to its premium economy offerings next year, following the lead of international carriers like JAL, British Airways and Lufthansa. 

We are seeing more and more premium economy seating, but will that mean that fares or upgrades for the class will get cheaper?

ANZ’s new, bigger premium economy class

The law of supply and demand would certainly suggest that fares should come down. However, in explaining its decision, Air New Zealand suggested that it was adding more premium seating in order to meet increasing demand. 

ANZ’s new Dreamliners will have 27 business class and 33 premium economy class seats, which is up from 18 and 21 respectively. The airline is also revamping its Boeing 777s, increasing the number of premium economy class seats from 44 to 54. 

Read More: Delta Will Add Full Premium Economy Product Next Year

In some respects, the premium econ class on the 777s will be getting a downgrade. The custom “Spaceseats” that the airline now uses will be replaced by more common Zodiac seats. ANZ is still ahead of its competitors in some respects. For example, even the new Zodiacs will have leg rests in every row instead of only in the front row, which is the most common setup on other airlines. 

Little extras like this are the reason that ANZ was awarded Best Premium Economy Class at the recent Skytrax World Airline Awards. 

Can airlines fill their premium economy seats?

Meanwhile, US legacy carriers have been putting more stock in premium economy class as well.

Segmenting cabins seems to be a major part of their strategy going forward. The big question for upgrade-seeking and deal-seeking fliers is whether or not airlines will be able to fill these more-comfortable cabins. If they can’t, fares should drop and upgrades should be easier and cheaper to get, right?

Read More: American Airlines To Add ‘Premium Economy’

For airlines in 2016, every dollar counts

Another trend picking up steam alongside the growth of premium economy class is that airlines have been toying with upgrade auctions for some time now. The practice of allowing passengers that chance to bid on upgrades has become more and more common. Virgin America has even begun holding such auctions live via a mobile app

This trend shows that as airlines expand and improve their premium class offerings, they are intent on getting every possible dollar out of their investment. 

The intense pressure to improve unit revenue figures means that every dollar counts for airlines when it comes to upgrades. Because of this, cheap upgrades, while perhaps occasionally possible to find, will probably be hard to come by even as the number of premium economy class seats rises. 


You may use your Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook information, including your name, photo & any other personal data you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on Click here to learn more.

Discover Club Med All-Inclusive Vacations

Hotels & Resorts