Last updated: 06:00 PM ET, Mon October 24 2016

Is American's New Premium International Economy A Game-Changer?

Airlines & Airports | American Airlines | Paul Thompson | October 24, 2016

Is American's New Premium International Economy A Game-Changer?

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

American has become the first U.S.-based airline to offer a true international premium economy class product, with the introduction of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft which entered service this month.

While most airlines have extra legroom products like “Comfort Plus,” ”Economy Plus" or "Main Cabin Extra," those are simply regular economy seats with a little more legroom. American's new Premium Economy is a completely different seat — a wider recliner-style seat like one would see in Business Class on many domestic flights. The seats also feature head, leg, and foot rests that extend.

American’s Marketing Officer Andrew Nocella said, “We continue to innovate new ways to meet our customers’ expectations with the products and service they value.” Premium Economy also includes some extra perks, in the form of free alcohol, noise-reducing headphones, an amenity kit, better food, and one free checked bag. Each of their twenty-two new 787-9s will have 21 of these new seats — configured in three rows with seven seats across the cabin (2-3-2). Each seat will also have 38 inches of seat pitch, an AC power outlet, and a USB outlet.

READ MORE: How American Airlines is Reinventing Itself

American's 787-9s will have 285 seats in four classes, along with some of their Boeing 777 fleet. Once the airline begins fitting Premium Economy into some of its older planes, we could potentially see five classes on American: Main Cabin (Economy) Main Cabin Extra, Premium Economy, Business, and First. According to SeatGuru.com, none of Delta’s widebody aircraft have four seating options, but United does have four classes on some of its aircraft.

The new seats by B/E Aerospace will only be available on American’s widebody fleet, including the Boeing 777, 787, Airbus A330-200s, and A350-900s.

Is this new seat a game-changer? Maybe. In my opinion, it will only be a matter of time before Delta and United add something similar in order to match American's offering. On long haul flights, I expect Premium Economy to be a draw to travelers who demand the extra comfort, but can’t afford the big bump up to a Business Class fare. The 787 is not a popular aircraft for economy travelers, because of its narrow 17-inch seats in 3-3-3 rows. Delta doesn’t have any 787s, but United does.

Although the seats aren’t currently for sale, American’s Advantage members of certain tiers can upgrade to these seats when making seat selections. on current flights. Premium Economy entered the market on American’s flights from Dallas-Fort Worth to Los Angeles on October 6th and will remain on that route until November 3rd. After that, the first scheduled international routes will be from DFW to Madrid, Spain, and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Flights from DFW to Paris and Seoul will begin early next year.

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