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Premium Economy Coming to American

On the heels of news that it will debut “bare fares” in early 2017, USA Today reports American will also add a seating class at the other end of the spectrum.

The airline will launch premium economy on its Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in February, making it the “first U.S. airline to officially offer a true international-style premium economy cabin with recliner seats and amenities that are significantly nicer than standard coach,” according to USA Today.

Fares are reportedly already available for sale, though USA Today characterizes this as “informal.”

For now, it seems the new class will only be available on brand-new 787s. Expanding the class to existing aircraft would require taking those planes out of service for extensive (and likely expensive) reconfiguration. Look for that to be complete sometime in 2018.

According to USA Today, some 787s with premium economy have already begun flying between Dallas and Los Angeles, but for now, passengers “will not receive the full Premium Economy experience – just the seat. That will change next month when American begins shifting the planes to international routes.”

When taken in combination with its forthcoming bare fares—stripped down economy fares at reduced prices—American’s strategy is obvious. The airline, and indeed much of the industry, is moving toward something resembling a la carte pricing, where customers are able to select only the services they want to pay for.

American hasn’t released pricing strategy for these fares, but customers can expect fares to fall somewhere between fully refundable economy tickets and business class. American has so far only released general details about its premium economy seats, but customers can expect more legroom, wider seats, upgraded entertainment, noise-reducing headphones, and “enhanced” meal service. Premium economy on other airlines usually includes some checked baggage, but it isn’t clear if that will be the case on American.

Premium economy can be a worthwhile splurge on long-haul flights. It’s expensive compared to typical economy fares, but dollars-to-donuts it offers more value than business or first class seating, which can substantially be more expensive. But if you’ve ever flown it, you know it does provide considerable comfort and convenience above traditional coach class, so long as the fare doesn’t break the bank. Hopefully premium economy catches on and becomes a more widespread (and competitively priced) offering across U.S. carriers.

Readers, have you ever flown premium economy? Do you think it’s worth ponying up the extra cash?

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