American Announces Real Premium Economy

American Airlines will become the first U.S. airline to offer a true premium economy cabin in most planes used for long-haul intercontinental travel.

American Airlines will become the first U.S. airline to offer a true premium economy cabin in most planes used for long-haul intercontinental travel. In contrast to the line’s current extra-legroom option, also offered by Alaska, Delta, Hawaiian, JetBlue, and United, American’s cabin will feature seats wider than regular economy, with 38-inch front-to-rear spacing of seat rows.

Travelers in Premium Economy will also enjoy priority boarding, an increased checked baggage allowance, and meal and beverage service superior to regular economy. American’s product will closely resemble true premium economy offerings on Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, and several large Pacific carriers.

American will introduce the cabin on new planes scheduled for future delivery: 787-9s in late 2016 and A350s in 2017; the line will also reconfigure its existing fleet of 777s, 787s, and A330s over the next three years. It will not reconfigure 767s, which are due for retirement fairly soon.

When completed, the reconfiguration will leave American with five distinct cabin options: first class, lie-flat business class, premium economy, “Main Cabin Extra” extra-legroom economy, and basic economy. That’s an industry high.

All in all, more options are generally good for consumers. The problem with premium economy, however, is that it’s often priced too high to attract many leisure travelers. You’ll have to watch American’s pricing to see if it fits your needs.

More from SmarterTravel:

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

By Ed Perkins

A nationally recognized reporter, writer, and consumer advocate, Ed Perkins focuses on how travelers can find the best deals and avoid scams.

He is the author of "Online Travel" (2000) and "Business Travel: When It's Your Money" (2004), the first step-by-step guide specifically written for small business and self-employed professional travelers. He was also the co-author of the annual "Best Travel Deals" series from Consumers Union.

Perkins' advice for business travelers is featured on MyBusinessTravel.com, a website devoted to helping small business and self-employed professional travelers find the best value for their travel dollars.

Perkins was founding editor of Consumer Reports Travel Letter, one of the country's most influential travel publications, from which he retired in 1998. He has also written for Business Traveller magazine (London).

Perkins' travel expertise has led to frequent television appearances, including ABC's "Good Morning America" and "This Week with David Brinkley," "The CBS Evening News with Dan Rather," CNN, and numerous local TV and radio stations.

Before editing Consumer Reports Travel Letter, Perkins spent 25 years in travel research and consulting with assignments ranging from national tourism development strategies to the design of computer-based tourism models.

Born in Evanston, Illinois, Perkins lives in Ashland, Oregon with his wife.