Iberia premium economy

Iberia’s premium economy cabin features 19-inch-wide Recaro PL3510 seats, giving passengers 37 inches of pitch and an adjustable 7-inch recline. Image: Marisa Garcia

APEX Insight: Iberia revealed its premium economy cabin today, after consolidating customer feedback and data from partner airlines. APEX Media spoke with Iberia chief commercial director Marco Sansavini to learn about the role of this new cabin in repositioning the airline’s brand.

Iberia revealed its  premium economy cabin on an A340-600 aircraft during a special event in Madrid today. It features 19-inch-wide Recaro PL3510 seats, giving passengers 37 inches of pitch and an adjustable 7-inch recline. The seats are also equipped with articulating headrests and feature Panasonic Avionics’ eX3 in-flight entertainment 13-inch high-definition seatback displays.

Iberia premium economy

APEX Media spoke with Iberia chief commercial director Marco Sansavini to learn about how the premium economy cabin is helping to reposition the brand and the process the airline went through to analyze the viability of this new product. “Iberia went through a profound transformation in 2012-2013,” he said. “That was the moment when we decided to change our economy and business class. At that stage, it was so essential to have an improvement in those parts of the experience that we did not consider premium economy.”

As Iberia’s transformation evolved to include greater operational efficiencies and improvements, the airline went back to its market to consider consumer preference for a mid-cabin product.”We realized that economy and business class now have an excellent net promoter score, but there are some consumers in economy that tell us, ‘if you create a new product, we are prepared to pay a bit more than what we pay in economy,'” said Sansavini.

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APEX Media spoke with Iberia chief commercial director Marco Sansavini (right) to learn about how the new premium economy cabin is helping to reposition the brand. Image: Marisa Garcia

Iberia conducted in-depth consumer surveys and applied conjoint analysis in order to determine what product features its customers valued most, and which elements they were most willing and likely to pay for. The airline was also able to rely on insights from its IAG partner, British Airways, which introduced a four-class cabin in 2000, and oneworld partner, American Airlines, which revealed its premium economy cabin last year. “We asked American Airlines and British Airways for their experience and their data. Putting together the pieces of the puzzle, with our consumers’ feedback and the data of our partners, we decided to go for the premium economy,” explained Sansavini.

“It’s not by accident that the seat is the same as British Airways’.” – Marco Sansavini, Iberia

Partnerships have also helped with the deployment of the new cabin and, in the long term, will help make maintenance more efficient. “It’s not by accident that the seat is the same as British Airways’, because there are group synergies in doing things together … You also look at what happens in BA … We learned that this product is really of interest to consumers for buying up but the distance between business class and premium economy is such that there is no significant dilution of passengers buying down to Premium Economy,” Sansavini says. As more airline alliance members crunch their numbers and share consumer insights, premium economy may go even further.

While Iberia’s Joaquín Rodrigo A340-600 aircraft is the first to offer this new cabin option, the airline will be carrying out an aggressive retrofit program over the next year, introducing premium economy on its long-haul A340-600s and A330-300s. The cabin will also appear on the new A350 aircraft expected to join the Iberia fleet starting next year.

Iberia will launch its premium economy cabin on flights to Chicago, New York and Bogota, with service to Mexico starting in June and additional flight to Miami and Boston in July and August. Iberia’s premium economy will be the first mid-cabin product offered on direct flights between Spain and Latin America.

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.