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Plane truth about premium econ

Since this is much discussed, here are some clips from a recent WSJ article on the subject. It's behind a paywall so can't give a link.

Airlines confirm that premium econ bookings are up, which they predicted a few years ago but is just now happening. Full service carriers really need the added income to make up for lost business travel. Corporate flyers used to make up 15% of passengers but 40% of revenues and often 75% of profits on some flights, so that is how all those cheapo econ fares were subsidized.

Regional jets are being replaced with planes like a 737 MAX to accommodate premium econ seating. Airlines love PE because while business class seats can take up the space of five ordinary seats, PE only takes 1.5 times the room but are priced higher.

Still, leisure passengers are concerned almost exclusively with price.

Posted by
9988 posts

We've been upgrading to PE since it was invented (unless we can score Bus Class). Well worth it to be front-of-cabin and have priority boarding.

Posted by
5221 posts

I too have gravitated toward PE as gravity increases with age. I need the legroom and have the money (also age-related). Regular econ is still OK for shorter hauls like west coast, but PE to the east coast. I'd love one of those lie-flat "upper-class" seats on an overnight, but I just can't swallow that price. You can get a pretty good RS tour for what some airlines charge for a (maybe) good night's sleep.

Posted by
1026 posts

I think that the increased choices of fare class are great. For a long time, conditions in economy and now basic economy have been driven by customers. It was clear that for most, the dollar was more important than the quality of the experience. I am willing to pay more or perform behaviors that earn miles to get a better product. I don't want to pay the huge step up in price to lay flat seats, so I am very happy for the intermediate classes. So, premium economy, premium select etc. availability is also being driven by the customer. If nobody booked those seats they obviously could not be sustained.

What I don't understand, however, is when folks that are booking economy and basic economy get so upset about the product they get. It seems worse when they know there are people that are more comfortable. Yes, but we are paying for that!

Posted by
13382 posts

I love United Basic Economy. You and your loved one end up in distant randomly assigned seats and you are allowed to carry on only a clean pair of skivvies. No carry on luggage and no checked baggage of course. Picture yourself standing in Paris with nothing but clean skivvies in your hand.

You guys will hate yet another plug for Turkish Air (but i really owe them a number of favors) but every seat gets the same service and food (if not better) as a typical Premium Economy. The only option you have is leg room and that you buy on each individual leg by buying a particular seat ($14 to about $65 each depending on the flight). And everyone gets a carry on, personal item and two checked bags. So basically the price they advertise will get you a practical trip.

Posted by
7410 posts

I sadly find that that Premium Economy costs way too much more for my meager budget than regular economy.

Posted by
5766 posts

Do keep in mind that the article, which I believe I was able to read somewhere else, is talking about a relatively new class of seating. For international flights, airlines had gravitated to a premium class, a "plus" type economy, which was basically the same seat as economy, just more room, and main cabin. Most had done away with a distinction between First and Business classes long ago, I believe of the big 3, only AA still has something they sell as "Business".

The airlines then moved premium class to the lay-flat seating, and even compartments; leaving a big gap between "Premium" and "Plus", so in comes "Premium Economy".

Delta only introduced this in the last year or so, calling it Premium Select, so on a trans-Atlantic delta flight, you will find Delta One, the lay flat option that takes up lots of real estate, Premium Select, Comfort Plus, and Main Cabin. Premium select uses a little wider seat, more leg room, and the seat is more like a recliner, having a foot support. They added a larger entertainment screen, but most everything else is main cabin amenities. It is a bit like bring back "business" class, but geared for travelers that want some comfort, but do not want to shell out to lay flat. Bonus for the airline is that they can sell a premium ticket without taking up much more space than a main cabin seat. Cost point wise, Plus runs about 1/3 more than main, Premium is double main, and Delta One 3-4 time main. Main also sees discounts periodically, for Premium and Delta One, prices are much firmer.

Even though it is tempting, I have not tried Premium Select. I am cheap, Main Cabin is fine, and they nearly always upgrade me to Comfort Plus immediately. I know many on here will not fly less than First Class, I guess I would prefer to spend that money on meals and things in Europe.

An Edit: If you have not flown Delta in the last year or know, the Covid adding Premium Select, that pushes Comfort Plus back, so now Comfort Plus is basically over the wing...not a big deal, but a bit frustrating for a window person like me who likes to see the scenery.

Posted by
1877 posts

Delta had a mileage fare sale a while back on Delta One so I have a flight to Europe in that cabin. Unfortunately for me due to work I had to change the return and am now doing Premium Economy back.

I have to be honest, the big "fly D1" impetus on this flight is space. I just took a day trip to Orlando to visit a family member and got upgraded to "First" on both flights. Both planes were actually international widebodies currently being used for domestic travel and you just have a LOT more space around you.

I know that mask wearing on Delta is generally very good but between Atlanta and Paris people are going to have to eat and drink so....I decided that space was worth the miles (If I get Covid coming home I will be isolated at my house not spending money in Paris to not enjoy the city!)

Posted by
2378 posts

The PE concept is not only handled differently by different airlines but also is affected by the equipment. I had a very nice experience with Delta's PE, however (you knew that was coming) if I was more of a complainer, I would have sent them a very sternly worded letter about how they handled the two middle seats on a retrofitted 767. As in, for some reason nothing lined up anymore so there was no space under the seat in front of me. As in, virtually no space! Forget about not getting my backpack under there, there was barely room for one of my feet. So the backpack had to stay overhead for the entire flight. The only reason things worked out is the legroom was big enough that my feet didn't need that underseat space.

PE is yet another reason to stockpile those FF miles, use them to upgrade from steerage.

Posted by
1026 posts

I am willing to pay for premium select. I recently used miles to get a Delta one seat to CDG this fall down to $1400. I call that a bargain. I will be flying premium select for the first time (hopefully) in May to MUC. I am picturing it similar to domestic first class.

Posted by
206 posts

I flew United's "Premium Plus" Brussels->Dulles back in 2019. This was when United was just introducing the Premium cabin. Seat was comparable to Domestic first class, with wider seat, much more legroom and recline, foot rest, etc. Food was better, served on china with stainless flatware and glassware, and cloth napkin. Better booze. Amenities kit looked to be the same as provided in business.

Outbound on that trip I was supposed to fly PDX-DEN-MUC-LIS, with Lufthansa's PE on the DEN-MUC leg, but the engine check light came on at the end of the runway leaving PDX and I missed the DEN-MUC leg (and got re-booked through SFO and a flight from hell in vanilla economy, but that's another story), so unable to compare the Lufthansa PE service.

This was, of course, pre-Covid and service cuts, so any comparisons with current service are moot. However, PE is now my minimum service level for transatlantic travel.