March 2010 | For cost-conscious business travellers as well as wealthier leisure travellers, premium economy was born as a hybrid between economy and business class and is currently offered by a dozen airlines, mainly from Europea and Asia-Pacific. With company travel budgets squeezed during the economic downturn, this ‘value for money’ class is being offered by an increasing number of carriers. In 2009, V Australia(February 2009) and Air France (October 2009) introduced a premium economy class. Air France says its new Premium Voyageur cabin will increase its operating income by EUR 120 million a year from 2010 on.
Alitalia, Malaysia Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Etihad
In June 2010 Alitalia will introduce a new premium economy cabin, called ‘Classica Plus’. Malaysia Airlines will fit a ‘super economy’ class on its A380’s (first delivery expected in April 2012), saying it would serve “those organisations that maintain an economy-class travel policy for their employees, even after the recession.” On a similar note, Cathay Pacific says changes in passenger demand have convinced it to install a Premium Economy product across its network by 2012, as such a cabin could help capture a clientele looking to trade down from Business Class. Finally, ‘Gulf Gulliver’ Etihad is reported to consider a premium economy zone for its A380s, which are scheduled to start being delivered in 2012.
ANA, Air New Zealand
Recent new premium economy cabins have also upgrade the product, making it business-light rather than economy-plus. Available from August 2010, ANA’s new premium economy product is boosting legroom from 38 to 42 inches, while seats come with a 12-inch screen, iPod connection and privacy dividers. Air New Zealand (ANZ) will introduce its new Premium Economy seat, called ‘Spaceseat’ at the end of 2010. Set in a spacious 2-2-2-abreast configuration, passengers can choose from two types of Spaceseats. ‘Outer Spaceseats’, in pairs by the windows, are angled to provide privacy for people travelling alone, while ‘Inner Spaceseats’, also in pairs, are for people travelling together. ANZ’s new B777-300s will have 50 premium economy seats, 14 more than the current 36 on the carrier’s B777-200s. Air New Zealand already doubled the number of premium economy seats on its B777-200s from 18 to 36 in 2009, saying it showed to be recession-proof.
Update 20 November 2010. Turkish Airlines (THY), Europe’s fourth biggest airline and one of the fastest growing airlines in the world, in October 2010 received the first of 9 new A330-300s and the first of 10 new 777-300ERs it has on order. The new aircraft feature new interiors designed by Priestmangoode as well as a new premium economy cabin, called ‘Comfort Class’. THY will first introduce its Comfort Class (seat pitch 45-inches) on routes to Beijing, Sao Paulo and Toronto by the end of 2010 and will also use the premium economy seat as business class product on narrowbody aircraft.