American Airlines has become the third of the three big U.S. legacy carriers to open up award availability for its international premium economy cabins. Unlike its competitors, however, American intends to share the listed prices of the award seats.
Starting this morning, premium economy seats on American’s international flights to Europe, a key market for the carrier will cost 40,000 miles at the low-cost Award Saver level while the standard AAnytime awards will cost between 80,000 and 105,000. By contrast, an economy ticket on the same route would cost 30,000 miles at the Award Saver level and 47,500 or 65,000 for AAnytime. Business class award seats cost 57,500 and 110,000 or 135,000 miles respectively.
Other international destinations are pricing out in similar tiers. American’s award chart lists the full spectrum of fares and costs across the airline’s network.
The airline’s publicly facing award charts and its willingness to share the standard cost of premium economy award seats are unusual in that neither Delta nor United is officially sharing the data. Delta hasn’t shared any part of its award chart for several years now.
American’s official launch of premium economy award seat availability comes in the midst of the cabin’s continued rollout across the airline’s international fleet. Launched in 2016 on American, premium economy on legacy U.S. carriers is a distinctive cabin and product separate from economy and business classes. By contrast, economy plus on the three carriers is simply domestic economy seating with adjustments around leg room and some in-flight amenities.
As all three carriers have invested heavily in business class and basic economy products in the last two years – effectively widening the spectrum between the best and worst experience on the aircraft – the importance of premium economy has become even more relevant. Looking to avoid the pitfalls of basic economy or even regular economy, many mainstream travelers have voiced a desire to pay a slight premium for a better experience. In theory, the international premium economy product should deliver that product.
Award availability for the new cabin officially went live in American’s search engine Thursday morning with an all-new desktop booking tool. Availability, however, will only show up on international flights in which the cabin is integrated. American is in the process of upgrading its long-haul fleet to have the cabin on all aircraft and expects to be done with the process in mid-2019.