The spread of bona fide premium economy cabins continues.
Spanish carrier Iberia, a member of the Oneworld alliance, just announced plans to reconfigure its long-haul fleet to include premium economy cabins. The cabins, which look similar to the recently launched American Airlines designs, will (among other routes) eventually operate to a handful of U.S. destinations including Chicago O’Hare and New York City.
In terms of product, Iberia’s premium economy cabin will feature completely unique seats apart from standard economy that are 19″ wide with a 37″ seat pitch in a 2-3-2 configuration. Current economy seats are 18.1″ wide with a 31″ seat pitch in a 2-4-2 layout.
Premium economy passengers will also be given extra amenities including noise-cancelling headphones and “upgraded” dining options, though the airline was not specific in how lavish those upgrades would be.
Iberia’s announcement fits in line with the direction that many carriers — most recently, from the U.S. — are now taking with cabin configuration. Earlier this year, American Airlines became the first carrier to launch a distinct premium economy cabin, with distinctive seat designs and in-flight offerings. Delta has also confirmed rumors that it has its own long haul premium economy cabin in the works on its upcoming A350 set to launch in 2017.
In launching the enhanced cabins, airlines are broadening their appeal to the affluent traveling public that’s perhaps fed up with the economy experience but also not willing to spend egregiously for business class. And as the quality of economy continues to decline with “basic economy” fares and business class becomes more lavish, many are expecting these new premium economy cabins to fill in the widening market gap.
Iberia plans to reconfigure its long haul fleet to include the cabin starting in 2017 and extending into 2018. The cabin will also be integrated into the Airbus A350s that the airline will start taking delivery of next year. So far, Iberia has no similar plans for its domestic fleet.