With the sustained recovery in travel, a trend is emerging among airlines around the world: passengers cannot get enough of premium economy seats. Several airlines are reporting that although business travelers have not returned to heaven, bookings in their premium economy cabins are higher than they were before the pandemic.
“Demand for premium products is actually outstripping our corporate touring coach products,” said Glen Haustein, President of Delta, on the airline’s recent conference call. In fact, the Paid Load Factors or the number of passengers flown in available seats in Delta’s Comfort + Premium Economy cabin exceeded 2019 levels. “I think the big takeaway for us was that this was a much wider demand than only business travelers. “
Other airlines are also seeing higher demand. “The payload factors for our Economy Plus are up 10 points this summer compared to 2019,” said Andrew Nocella, United’s chief commercial officer, during the Chicago-based airline’s third quarter earnings conference call. For some airlines, such as subsidiaries of the Lufthansa Airline Group, the cabin class has been so successful that they are considering new premium economy seats to completely replace business class, according to a current Bloomberg report.
It’s not difficult to see the -peal of the premium economy. Upgrading from the coach to the more luxurious cabin means perks like more spacious seats and leg rests, better food, fancy cocktails, and benefits like priority check-in and designer amenity kits.
Many passengers today are looking for a che – upgrade that Business Class used to offer. But now the benefits in this cabin are beyond the reach of average passengers, especially on the longest routes. “Where the surcharge for Business Class used to cost a seat with a deep lying surface or angled lying surface, today Business Class means a special cabin for long-haul flights with spacious, completely flat beds,” says Adam Gavine, editor of the industry magazine Aircraft Interiors International. He also points out that there are numerous other opulent amenities that come with the high price tag. Compared to the regular economy, “a real comfort g – has opened up between the two classes,” he says. “Premium Economy closes the g – in terms of experience and fare.”
The surge in demand could also be partly due to passengers wanting more freedom of movement during the pandemic. “It is plausible that more travelers are willing to pay a small surcharge on long-haul routes not only for additional comfort, but also for more personal freedom and social distance,” says Lukas Kaestner, President of the Crystal Cabin Award Association, who received the award honors the most innovative aircraft interiors every year.
Another effect of the pandemic? The prices for the mid-tier seats are currently low, which makes them more accessible to a wider range of aviators. According to a study by Expedia, tariffs for the premium economy have never been so che -. “In 2021, the average premium economy ticket prices cost almost 290 percent more than economy tickets, while in 2020 they were 365 percent more expensive,” says the data from Expedia. “In 2019, the average prices for a premium economy ticket were a whopping 430 percent more expensive than the economy ticket.”
The cabin class, which began on Taiwanese airline Eva Air in the early 1990s, was already on the upswing before the pandemic. That’s in large part because airline seats are so profitable, “possibly even the most profitable part of a commercial airplane per square foot,” says Gavine. According to the Bloomberg report, Lufthansa’s premium economy seats are around 40 percent more profitable per square foot than those in business class.