by John Webber
American Airlines will introduce a Premium Economy Class with bigger seats and more legroom on two of its new Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners, the company announced early July.
The 787-9s, larger version of the 787-8 Dreamliner, are set to begin service out of DFW International Airport in November 2016.
American will be the first U.S. carrier to introduce the new class, which offers more amenities than a typical coach fare but costs less than sitting in pricey business class. Several foreign carriers offer premium economy on international routes.
The new class will be available on flights from DFW to Madrid and Sao Paulo beginning Nov. 4, and tickets for those flights go on sale Sunday. Passengers won’t be able to book premium economy seats until 2017; until then, elite status fliers and passengers who book main cabin “extra” fares may wind up on premium economy rows.
“We continue to innovate new ways to meet our customers’ expectations with the products and service they value,” American’s chief marketing officer Andrew Nocella said in a written statement. “The 787-9 is going to be a fantastic addition to our widebody fleet, with international Wi-Fi and an inflight experience that’s second to none.”
The Premium Economy Class will be line-fitted on all future 787-9 and Airbus A350 deliveries, and American said it plans to retrofit most of the rest of its widebody fleet with the new seats over the next several years.
The Premium Economy Class is the latest way American and other U.S. carriers are looking to further divide the airplane cabin, offering options with escalating amenities at different price points. While a passenger might not be able to afford a business class ticket, she might pay a few hundred dollars more for an upgraded premium economy seat, the thinking goes.
Delta Air Lines debuted a no-frills basic economy class last year that’s cheaper than other coach offerings but doesn’t come with things like advanced seat assignment or ticket changes of any kind. American and United have indicated they’ll launch a similar product, but neither has announced details.
American’s new 787-9 will have 285 seats — 30 lie-flat seats in Business Class, 21 Premium Economy Seats, 27 Main Cabin Extra Seats and 207 Main Cabin Seats. That compares with 226 total seats available on American’s 787-8s.
The Premium Economy seats feature 38 inches of pitch compared with 31 inches in a typical coach seat, along with extendable foot, head and leg rests. On international flights, premium economy customers will receive amenity kits and enhanced meal service with complimentary alcoholic beverages, American said.
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