AA Premium 1

Image via American Airlines.

APEX Insight: In our premium economy blog series, Happy Medium, we looked at airline strategies for this value-added cabin, positioned between business and economy. American Airlines is the first US carrier to introduce a fully differentiated mid-market product to its fleet. We spoke with its vice-president of Global Marketing, Fernand Fernandez, to learn why this step made sense for the airline.

Competitors in your region have opted for a “plus” product in this middle market class. Tell us about the decision-making process at American Airlines in favor of offering customers a fully differentiated, true premium economy class.

Fernand Fernandez, vice-president Global Marketing at American Airlines.

Fernand Fernandez, vice-president of Global Marketing at American Airlines.

We understand travelers want more choice when they fly and have unique preferences depending on each trip. Since introducing our two-class aircraft with fully lie-flat seats in business class, we’ve seen a desire from customers for a more elevated main cabin experience.

Our decision to add premium economy was based on delivering a product that customers consistently asked for us to deliver.

Premium economy allows more customers to select a travel experience that meets their needs and wants for international flights. In addition to premium economy, we will continue to offer Main Cabin Extra, which offers customers up to six inches of additional legroom.

With choices from main cabin to first class, customers can choose from the level of service they want for their international journey.

Our decision to add premium economy was based on delivering a product that customers consistently asked for us to deliver.

What can you tell us about the product design? What prompted you to select this B/E Aerospace seat?

We looked at what many international carriers offer and we wanted to create a similar product for a customer segment we know is present.

The premium economy seats will be new, wider seats with more legroom. Customers in these seats will receive an upgraded meal service, noise-reducing headphones, amenity kits and priority boarding.

B/E Aerospace had a best in class seat that would allow us to have an elevated experience from the main cabin and deliver on key customer needs: space, in-seat entertainment and comfort.

What is your expansion plan for this class?

American will introduce premium economy on its Boeing 787-9 when it enters the fleet in late 2016. All international wide-body aircraft will be delivered or retrofitted with premium economy seats – this includes Boeing 777-300ER, 777-200ER, 787-8, Airbus A330 and A350 aircraft. The Boeing 767-300 will not be retrofitted because those aircraft will eventually be retired.

For an interactive look at American Airlines’ new premium economy product, visit the dedicated microsite.

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Visitors to American Airlines’ premium economy microsite can explore the new cabin class’ amenities, food, entertainment and more.

Marisa Garcia was once locked in a hangar in Oberpfaffenhofen while fine-tuning Gandalf’s new seats. Seriously. The firemen got her out. Writing is less confining, but she has lovely memories of those hands-on days.