Econ­omy Class War­fare

Frequent Flyer Destinations - - CONTENTS - BY ARAM GE­SAR

Class war­fare does ex­ists when we fly. The seats, the food, in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, the light­ing, and ev­ery­thing else on first or busi­ness class are way more lux­u­ri­ous than what you’ll find in econ­omy class, or worse in ultra low-cost air­lines.

Still, ex­cel­lent news thanks to with much lower fu­els costs, Econ­omy class pas­sen­gers are get­ting sweeter ameni­ties, some perks do trickle down from the front cabin, and bet­ter still more air­lines in the USA, over the At­lantic and the Pa­cific are in­tro­duc­ing great Pre­mium Econ­omy cab­ins.

Dis­count air­lines are spread­ing their wings across the At­lantic, driv­ing down ticket prices and ex­pand­ing ser­vice to ma­jor and sec­ond-tier cities in the big­gest shakeup to travel across the pond in decades, and most of them of­fer Pre­mium Econ­omy seat­ing at low prices.

In Econ­omy the new slim-line seats, first in­tro­duced in 2013, al­low air­lines to squeeze in an ex­tra row without sac­ri­fic­ing legroom, but are of­ten stiffer and un­com­fort­able for flights over two hours. Some of the new de­signs are The seat al­most looks like a cross be­tween fu­tur­is­tic roller coaster and a rac­ing car. Maybe the up­side is cheaper flights?

Econ­omy rid­ers have less con­trol but hope­fully less jet lag than be­fore too. Mood light­ing now avail­able newer Air­bus A350, Boe­ing 787 and up­com­ing 777X mod­els keeps your cir­ca­dian rhythm on track, and are pres­sur­ized at 6,000 feet. Cur­rently, most air­lin­ers have cabin air pres­sure equiv­a­lent to that of an altitude of 8,000 feet.

The re­cent Ok­la­homa State Univer­sity study found that pas­sen­gers who go from sea level up to 8,000 feet of altitude saw the oxy­gen con­tent in their blood fall 4%. Although this didn’t trig­ger full on acute moun­tain sick­ness, it did bring on what the study called “in­creased preva­lence of dis­com­fort af­ter three to nine hours” of ex­po­sure.

Since there isn’t a per­fect one-to-one cor­re­la­tion be­tween altitude and jet lag, Boe­ing has taken ad­di­tional mea­sures to mit­i­gate the symp­toms. These mea­sures in­clude an in­crease in cabin hu­mid­ity as well as a new air-fil­tra­tion sys­tem.

At 30,000 feet, the first to go are your taste-buds. Add to that the white noise — a steady, un­vary­ing sound — in­side the cabin dis­tort­ing a pas­sen­ger’s per­cep­tion of food, and you can ex­plain the no­to­ri­ety of in-flight meals. Air­lines are hir­ing su­per­star chefs to beef up their food op­tions in all classes. Even econ­omy pas­sen­gers in the back may see more va­ri­ety, but al­most but usu­ally for a fee.

Air New Zealand has a unique econ­omy fea­ture called Sky­couch. A row of three seats can be eas­ily con­verted into a flat bed, large enough to fit two adults ly­ing

down. If it’s just two of you fly­ing, you can pur­chase the third seat to make up the full row for half price. Re­ally smart!

PRE­MIUM ECON­OMY

With the in­tro­duc­tion of new air­craft like the Boe­ing 787 or Air­bus A350 more car­ri­ers are of­fer­ing Pre­mium Econ­omy, a sep­a­rate class of seat­ing and ser­vice, that dif­fers from stan­dard Econ­omy. Pre­mium Econ­omy is found mostly on in­ter­na­tional flights or on coast to coast flights in the US and, com­pared to stan­dard Econ­omy, of­fers about 5-7 inches of ex­tra legroom, typ­i­cally 36 or 38 inches, as well as ad­di­tional ameni­ties.

Pre­mium Econ­omy ameni­ties, which can in­clude: 1-2 ex­tra inches of seat width. 2-3 ex­tra inches of seat re­cline. Ad­justable head­rests, leg rests, or lum­bar sup­port. Some air­lines out­fit their planes with softer leather chairs, and up to 47 inch pitch, and they can ad­just elec­tronic shut­ters and dim win­dows.

Pre­mium econ­omy fares typ­i­cally cost 30-50 per cent more than an econ­omy ticket. How­ever, the dif­fer­ence can soar much higher dur­ing peak sea­sons or when heav­ily dis­counted econ­omy fares are fac­tored in. So, is it worth it? Well, it all de­pends on the route, air­line, and whether you re­ally think those few ex­tra inches and ex­tra drink or meal will make the dif­fer­ence to your flight, es­pe­cially on flights longer that two or three hours.

A Pre­mium Econ­omy fare is gen­er­ally 65% less ex­pen­sive than a Busi­ness Class fare. For space and ameni­ties, these two classes are very dif­fer­ent with Busi­ness Class of­fer­ing up to 50% more legroom, sig­nif­i­cantly greater re­cline, more sub­stan­tial legrests and head­rests, and su­pe­rior food and wine of­fer­ings.

BEST SEATS OVER THE AT­LANTIC:

OpenSkies - Boe­ing 757-200 with 47 in. pitch & 20 in. wide

Nor­we­gian Air - Boe­ing 787-8/-9 with 46 in. pitch & 19 in. wide Eurow­ings - Air­bus A330-200 with 45 in. pitch & 18 in. wide

BEST SEATS OVER THE PA­CIFIC

Air New Zealand - Boe­ing 777-300ER with 42 in. pitch & 20 in. wide

Ja­pan Air­lines - Boe­ing 787-8/-9 or 777-300ER with 42 in. pitch & 19 in. wide Vir­gin Aus­tralia - Boe­ing 777-300ER with 41 in. pitch & 19.5 in. wide

BEST SEATS TO/FROM LATIN AMER­ICA:

Aeromex­ico - Boe­ing 787-8 with 38 in. pitch & 17.2 in. wide

Air France - Air­bus A340 or Boe­ing 777 with 38 in. pitch & 19 in. wide

Lufthansa - Air­bus A340 or Boe­ing 747 with 38 in. pitch & 19 in. wide

Vir­gin At­lantic was the first air­line to in­cor­po­rate the idea of pre­mium econ­omy back in 1992. To­day air­lines are con­fus­ing pas­sen­gers, pre­mium econ­omy is called dif­fer­ent things. While Air Canada calls it

Pre­mium Econ­omy, Vir­gin Amer­ica calls it Main Cabin Select, Bri­tish Air­ways uses the term World Trav­eller Plus and SAS call it SAS Plus. It’s all the same thing: econ­omy with some added legroom, slightly bet­ter food or the same food and in­flight en­ter­tain­ment, with added cost, of course. That said, it’s not any­where near as much as busi­ness class air­fares.

Ibe­ria will launch its pre­mium econ­omy cabin on flights to Chicago, New York and Bogota, with ser­vice to Mex­ico start­ing in June and ad­di­tional flight to Mi­ami and Boston in July and Au­gust. Ibe­ria’s pre­mium econ­omy will be the first mid­cabin prod­uct of­fered on di­rect flights be­tween Spain and Latin Amer­ica.

Ibe­ria re­vealed its pre­mium econ­omy cabin on an A340-600 air­craft dur­ing a spe­cial event in Madrid in April 2017. Air­bus A340 air­craft is the first to of­fer this new cabin op­tion, the air­line will be car­ry­ing out an ag­gres­sive retro­fit pro­gram over the next year, in­tro­duc­ing pre­mium econ­omy on its long-haul A340600s and A330-300s. The cabin will also ap­pear on the new A350 air­craft ex­pected to join the Ibe­ria fleet start­ing in 2018.

The new pre­mium eco cabin fea­tures 19-inch-wide seats, giv­ing pas­sen­gers 37 inches of pitch and an ad­justable 7-inch re­cline. The seats are also equipped with ar­tic­u­lat­ing head­rests and fea­ture in-flight en­ter­tain­ment 13-inch high­def­i­ni­tion seat­back dis­plays.

Ibe­ria con­ducted in-depth con­sumer sur­veys and ap­plied con­joint anal­y­sis to de­ter­mine what prod­uct fea­tures its cus­tomers val­ued most, and which el­e­ments they were most will­ing and likely to pay for. The air­line was also able to rely on in­sights from its IAG part­ner, Bri­tish Air­ways, which in­tro­duced a four­class cabin in 2000, and oneworld part­ner, Amer­i­can Air­lines, which re­vealed its pre­mium econ­omy cabin last year.

Not all pre­mium econ­omy prod­ucts are limited to in­ter­na­tional routes. Amer­i­can, Delta, JetBlue, United and Cana­dian car­ri­ers have of­fer­ings that are more mod­est than some prod­ucts sold over­seas, and sev­eral in­dus­try ob­servers com­pare them to the stan­dard econ­omy classes of a few years ago.

BEST SEATS IN THE USA & CANADA

JetBlue - Air­bus A320 or A321 with 3741 in. pitch & 18 in. wide

Vir­gin Amer­ica - Air­bus A320 with 38 in. pitch & 18 in. wide

WestJet - Boe­ing 737-700/-800 with 36 in. pitch & 17 in. wide

Clearly the three re­main­ing U.S. net­work car­ri­ers are mak­ing reg­u­lar econ­omy so un­com­fort­able that they’re wean­ing fliers out of econ­omy into pre­mium econ­omy. It seems like they’re tak­ing what used to be called plain old econ­omy class and re­la­bel­ing it pre­mium econ­omy.

Be care­ful what you’re buy­ing. Pre­mium econ­omy can vary widely from car­rier to car­rier, so make sure you click on an air­line’s spe­cific de­scrip­tion of this ser­vice be­fore you click on the “pur­chase” but­ton.

Not all book­ing chan­nels make it easy to search for pre­mium econ­omy prod­ucts. For ex­am­ple, Ex­pe­dia, Kayak and Price­line of­fer search tools that in­clude this class, but Hotwire, Or­b­itz and Trav­e­loc­ity do not pro­vide it on the ini­tial search page. You may need to click on fea­tures such as “ad­vanced search” or “ad­di­tional op­tions” to lo­cate such seats.

Make sure you’re clear about the ex­act price of the prod­uct for your spe­cific flight, since some air­lines’ fees can vary widely for pre­mium econ­omy.

For busi­ness trav­el­ers who are pro­hib­ited from fly­ing in busi­ness or first classes, pre­mium econ­omy may of­fer a more com­fort­able flight without break­ing com­pany pol­icy.

Re­mem­ber, Pre­mium econ­omy fares can be re­duced sig­nif­i­cantly the closer you get to your de­par­ture date, so keep this in mind when shop­ping. Spoiled in­ven­tory means you may be able to up­grade for much less on your day of travel, so ask about this op­tion.

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