I’m beginning to think the airline industry is like fashion: If you wait around enough, old ideas will come back into style.
Today, the example is premium economy. We published a ranking from Bloomberg of the world’s eight best products this week, and it strikes me that most look like business class from the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, most long-haul airlines had three classes: first class, business class, and economy class.
We again have three. They’re just labeled differently, with business class replacing first, and premium economy replacing business. The cabin is genius, because customers may pay double the coach price for a seat that doesn’t take up twice as much room as an economy class chair.
It’s little surprise a cabin that’s both so popular and profitable is making a comeback. What’s more interesting, I think, is its name. Rather than give it a fancy moniker that makes it seem more impressive than it is — remember United Airlines’ old Connoisseur Class? — many airlines seem to want to put “economy” in the name.
Perhaps this is because airlines want to encourage passengers to buy up from economy, rather than down from business. Presumably, they have calculated few business travelers accustomed to flat beds will rough it in any version of economy, even if it’s roughly equivalent to the business class of 1995. Eventually, though, I wonder if more airlines will drop “economy” from the name, as United (Premium Plus) and Delta (Premium Select) have already done.
What do you think? Let me know via twitter or email.
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Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [firstname.lastname@example.org] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.