The Frequent Business Traveler Guide to Premium Economy
Over the past several years, a new cabin has made its appearance in thousands of aircraft across the globe. Variously called Economy Plus, Main Cabin Select, Premium Voyageur, and Economy Comfort among other designations, it is essentially a premium economy section.
Several U.S. airlines, including Delta, and United, offer premium economy seats on most if not all flights, and American Airlines will join that group soon. In addition, international carriers ranging from British Airways to Air France to Air New Zealand offer this as well. But there are dramatic differences between what the U.S. carriers offer versus what the foreign airlines do.
Premium economy is a separate class of seating that may or may not be in a separate cabin section. All premium economy seats offer roughly five to seven extra inches of legroom plus other amenities that, depending on the carrier, may include a wider seat, greater seat recline, a footrest and better headrests, larger in-flight entertainment screens, electrical outlets, and upscale food.
In the beginning, there were no separate sections and all seats were equally comfortable (or uncomfortable, as the case may have been). When first-class seating originated in the late 1950s, it was located in the back of the plane, away from the propellers and engine noise. By the time jet airliners were introduced, first class cabins had moved to the front of the plane.
Business-class cabins came about in the late 1970s when airlines including KLM, Air Canada, and American started to put full-fare coach passengers at the very front of the main cabin and, in the case of American, began leaving the middle seat unoccupied. In 1978, British Airways introduced Club Class, Pan Am launched Clipper Class, and the concept of business-class flying was born. As time went on, business class became much closer to first class in terms of seating and amenities (although improvements were made to first class as well) and premium economy was created to fill the much bigger gap between coach and business. In addition, many airlines moved from three- to two-class cabins (eliminating first and offering business-class and coach), which also made the gap between classes more evident.
While Eva Air offered premium-economy seats back in 1991, twenty years later there is still little consistency and standardization among the offerings. Here’s a look at domestic and international premium economy offerings today.
Domestic Carriers (includes international flights)
Main Cabin Extra
Front portion of Main Cabin in Boeing 777-300ER (when launched at the end of the year), with 4-6” of additional legroom and priority boarding privileges. Other aircraft to follow in 2013.
First three to five rows of Economy Class, available on all Delta mainline aircraft and over 250 two-class regional jets. Passengers receive priority boarding and 3-4” of additional leg room, as well as 50 percent more recline and complimentary beer, wine, and cocktails on select long-haul international flights.
Even More Space
Rows 1 through 5, 10 and 11 on Airbus A320s (seats 10A and 10F do not recline), and rows 1, 12, 13, and 14 on Embraer E190 aircraft. Passengers receive at least 38” of legroom, both early boarding and access to overhead bins, and expedited security with Even More Speed, which is available in select cities.
Front rows of cabin onboard 737-500s, 700s, 800s, and 900/900ERs, as well as on 757-200s, 300s, 767-400s, and 777-200s. Passengers receive extra legroom near the front of the cabin.
Main Cabin Select
Rows 3 and 8 in Main Cabin of Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft, with custom black leather seats and 38” seat pitch. Flyers receive complimentary food, drinks, and entertainment, dedicated luggage space, priority check-in, more leg room, and one free checked bag.