American Rolls Out Its Version of Economy Plus, er Economy Comfort, er . . .

When it first started talking about the interiors of its new 777-300ER aircraft, American said it would have a premium economy section. I secretly More Room In Parts of Coachhoped that it would be the first true premium economy cabin in the US, but we later learned that it would be a coach section with more legroom just like Delta’s and United’s. Now, we have more details on the product, and there’s really nothing too exciting and different here. It’s all rather expected.

American will introduce Main Cabin Extra this year, and it will be basically be the same thing as United’s Economy Plus and Delta’s Economy Comfort. The seats will simply be coach seats with four to six inches more legroom. So is this news? Well, sort of. I mean, it’s news that American is doing it, but there’s nothing really new here.

This doesn’t mean it’s a carbon copy of the United and Delta programs. There are a few subtle differences.

American

Delta

United

Free with Full Fare Coach?

Yes

Yes (Y/B/M)

No

Free for top tier elites?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Free for entry tier elites?

For Gold until end of 2013

25 to 50% discount for Gold/Silver

For Silver free at check-in only

Additional recline?

Not stated

On international aircraft

No

Priority boarding?

Yes

Yes

No

Free drink?

No (but already free for long haul coach)

On international flights

No

The onboard product is really just more legroom on all three airlines. In a way, I’m glad to see that American is finally deciding to join the ranks of the other legacy carriers in the US with a premium economy section, but on the other hand, I’m kind of bummed they didn’t try to do something more. International airlines have worked hard to create a true premium economy cabin – different seats, meals, etc. No US-based airline has done that, and I had hoped that American might leap ahead of the rest. It didn’t.

It is kind of funny to think about this. American was ahead of the curve when it rolled out More Room Throughout Coach many years ago. In that plan, everyone got extra legroom. United opted for Economy Plus where it was just a small cabin, and that turned out to be the right way to go. American led with a bold plan that was ultimately a failure because you’ll never get everyone onboard to pay more for extra legroom. But at least it led. Now, it’s the last of the big three to add this offering and it’s not leading in any way.

I shouldn’t get down on American for this. It’s better to have this type of cabin than nothing at all, and it does give American the ability to sell this type of offering on its flights while British Airways sells a true premium economy product. But I can’t help it. American keeps talking about how it’s going to really invest in its product and do something amazing when really it’s just continuing to play catch-up.

For those who are looking forward to taking advantage of these seats, you’ll have to wait awhile in most cases. The 777-300ERs will have the extra legroom section upon delivery. New aircraft deliveries of 737s starting this fall will also have it, but the rest of the fleet will take a long 18 months before it’s outfitted. No other timeline was given regarding when certain fleets would be done, but hopefully more info will be shared eventually.

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36 Comments on "American Rolls Out Its Version of Economy Plus, er Economy Comfort, er . . ."

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Chris
Guest

It’s worth noting that AA announced a while back that they would be giving out free beer/wine on (some) international flights. The distinction between a free drink for being in their premium economy isn’t necessary in that case.

Bobber
Guest

I’ve been on the odd transatlantic United flight where they sporadically give out free booze to coach passengers with meals – it’s always coincided with the release of abominable passenger satisfaction survey data, and rarely lasts for very long:(

Sanjeev M
Guest

I was on FCO-IAD and they offered basic beer and wine with the meal I believe.

Wonko Beeblebrox
Guest

In addition to the better known Delta, United, and now AA… Doesn’t Frontier also offer an extra legroom seat option?

XJT DX
Guest

Yup: Sretch Class. As does JetBlue: Even More Space. Thing is JetBlue needs it the least as their regular economy is the most generous already with 33″-34″. EcoPlus/Comfort/Extra = JetBlue back-of-the-bus.

Dan
Guest
CF, On the one hand, I get your disappointment about how AA isn’t innovating in this area. OTOH, maybe that’s a good thing. After looking at several non-standard economy options for a trip to Europe next year (and Asia in the past), I don’t like the price points of a “true” premium economy. They typically price out at double the cost of plain coach. Although a far cry from J fares, they still hurt… especially when Europe is an 8 hour flight, if that, from the east coast. What I really need is extra leg room, the rest are just… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member

Remember the old days when the ‘special’ coach seats while still 3-across seating would have the center seat folded down so it was window-table-aisle. I think more people would be willing to pay more for that type premium coach seating then still being jammed elbow-to-elbow-to-elbow with just a tab more room for your knees. Not everyone needs more knee room but having a guaranteed empty space next to you would be worth more.

SEAN
Guest

Interesting timeing for this post since Delta started running radio ads in the NYC area for there larger first class section wich includes such things as more leg room & greater oppertunities “to ride up in the front of the plane” as the ad goes.

mjb310
Member

David SF East Bay:
I absolutely love that idea! Unfortunately it might be a significant revenue loser :(

Bill from DC
Guest

surprised to see that UACO does not offer free E+ with full fare coach!

David T
Guest

@Dan

Check out summer fares for British Airways World Traveller Plus. Some legs I’m finding there is no premium for other BA fares and only ~15% premium over best price of competitors in economy. I couldn’t believe it, actually.

skyguyj
Guest

Ok….so “Premium Economy” is SUPPOSED to be PREMIUM!

United/Continental’s Economy Plus is a joke. I am “guesiing so is American’s.

I have flown MANY airlines in “Premium”…I will take Air New Zealand or Virgin Atlantic ANYTIME! The US carriers are a joke! Premium in the US means 3 Inches-TOPS. I just flew ‘Economy Comfort” on Deltra from BKK-via NRT-to-LAX. The seats (old NW) SUCK.

If Airlines are going to offer a “PREMIUM” product……then they need to OFFER it…..seats alone don’t cut it!

(Just my humble opinion)

xoxo
skyguyj@yahoo.com

andrew
Guest

To be fair, none of the US carriers are marketing this as a “premium” economy product. Rather, it’s primarily a “more legroom” option, with DL also giving you a drink on international long-hauls.

Gary
Guest
Even before these efforts, there was TWA’s “Comfort Class.” After emerging from one of its bankruptcies in the 1990’s, and getting rid of the Icahn ownership, the airline needed a game changer to get people thinking “TWA” again. We reconfigured all the coach sections to add extra leg room (and, obviously, fewer seats)….. the whole cabin. We advertised it with NBA stars and the Rockettes. Big spash. It brought people back and we had high load factors. However, long-term, it didn’t pay the bills and people were not willing to pay even a modest “premium” for the extra legroom. “Comfort… Read more »
abigginuk
Member

The US carriers need to take a look at the pioneer of ‘Premium Economy’ and see what it should really be about…Virgin Atlantic!! Nothing beats their Premium Economy cabin. A truly seperate cabin, check-in, meals, you name it…they have it.

CP
Guest
I suspect that one reason AA did not offer a true Premium Economy product (as Qantas and British do) is that American (the country, not the airline) companies don’t pay for it — I think they either pay business or coach. In my experience, the Premium Economy product on BA and QA is twice as much as regular economy. Cranky, you’re right in that it’s a good product for the price — slightly wider seat, more legroom, meals on china and of higher quality, etc. Yet, I know many people who work for companies that will not pay for the… Read more »
Cook
Member

Sorry to say it, but COACH is still coach. The added fees for this ‘Coach Plus’ are mostly a non-funny joke and not worth the bucks. WHen on wants (or can) spend a bit more, the only reasonable buy-up is BC (J or similar). Short of BC, the experience is not going to improve a lot. Sorry, but it really is that simple.

Jesse
Guest

I can’t help but grin by just reading the title of this post. Economy and comfort may not be a good term for that. :P

Ian L
Member
Depending on what prices end up being and how much extra legroom you get, I might buy this on AA flights. No, it’s not Premium Economy, but I wouldn’t want to pay what they’d want to charge for that anyway (sad to see AirTran Business Class go, despite never having flown AirTran). That said, 3″ of legroom on even a four-hour flight isn’t worth much in my book (haven’t done a really long flight yet). Frontier’s prices for more legroom are low enough, and the additional seat pitch high enough (five inches or so) that I’ve upgraded a few times… Read more »
Bryce
Guest

It’s so sad how American has fallen behind. It used to truly be “America’s” airline. Now it just seems to be moving with “also-ran” strategies and being second or third movers in adoption of industry trends. It’ll be interesting to watch how the U.S.’s most interesting airline case develops.

Alex Hill
Member
True premium economy looks to me to be a lot like domestic first class in the US. With the enormous gap in both product and price between long haul coach and long haul flat bed business, it seems like there really is a place for something in between. (Wasn’t that the original idea of business class, in a day when first class was less fancy that today’s business class and coach was much nicer than today’s coach?) That said, I’m in the camp that will pay for DL/UA/CO-style economy plus (or choose an airline on which I have elite status… Read more »
Nick Barnard
Member

Any clue what took AA so long? Or are they just tryin to gussie up things do they can claim to their creditors that they’re running the business properly?

E.
Guest

I would do pretty much anything to have a more comfortable flight–well except pay exorbitant first class fees. I’m glad that more airlines are listening to customers about wanting more leg room, free drinks, etc. I’m super glad American is doing its best–let’s hope they’re telling the truth about these improvements.

Joshua
Guest

I am nearly a million miler with American, and have been platinum with them for 10 years (50,000 mile status). I have to say that having this section in flights to Europe is nice when I’ve not made the cut to a Business up grade. It lessens the pain of being bumped back .. and generally Exec Plat fill these cabins first, so when I loose upgrades to them I take their seat in the section if I booked to late to get there from the start .. it might not be business.. but it sure beats coach..

Joe
Guest

I’ve actually flown in premium coach on all 3 airlines.I personally try to get extra legroom when I fly due to my height. From my perspective, the legroom amount on all 3 airlines is pretty close, about 36″ average, but it’s still a good amount of legroom and within premium coach standards. Also, both Main Cabin Extra and Economy Plus seats do offer more recline, up to 2″ more. Plus the Main Cabin Extra seats on AA’s 777-300 are also both wider and in a less dense 9 across setup instead of the tight 10 across setup in coach.

RayLRiv
Guest

Just how uncomfortable these ‘Comfort Class’ seats are? I take it they don’t lay down fully flat. We’re traveling from DFW to Beijing May 29th for an adoption trip and my wife booked these seats. We’re facing a 15+ hr flight and it sounds like these seats will not be much wider than Coach. Pissed that my wife did not book Business Class

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