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American to add ‘premium economy’ class on international flights

American Airlines’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner begins to take-off for it's inaugural flight at DFW Airport in Texas, Thursday, May 7, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins)
American Airlines’ Boeing 787 Dreamliner begins to take-off for it's inaugural flight at DFW Airport in Texas, Thursday, May 7, 2015. (Star-Telegram/Ron Jenkins) Star-Telegram

American Airlines will add a “premium economy” class of seats on its international flights late next year.

The new service class will be placed behind business class and before the main cabin extra seats, the Fort Worth-based carrier said. Premium economy will include wider seats, more legroom, enhanced meal service and personal on-demand entertainment. Customers in premium economy will also be offered noise-reducing headphones, amenity kits, priority check-in and a checked baggage allowance.

“It’s in response to customer demand,” American Chief Executive Officer Doug Parker said in an interview. “There is nothing between economy and [our business class] full lie-flat seat service.

“Customers let us know ... there’s demand for something in between,” he said.

American is the first U.S. carrier to introduce a premium economy class; however, several international carriers have a similar product. American’s oneworld alliance partners, British Airways and Qantas Airways, both have premium economy seats. Japan Airlines, which also has a joint venture with American and recently launched flights between Dallas/Fort Worth and Tokyo Narita airports, also offers a premium economy class on its Boeing 787 Dreamliners.

American said the first plane to have the new economy class will be the Boeing Dreamliner 787-900. American anticipates getting its first 787-900 in late 2016 and the aircraft will offer business class, premium economy, main cabin extra and main cabin seats.

The premium economy class will also be installed on the Airbus A350, which American expects to receive in 2017.

The carrier plans to add premium economy service to its Boeing 777-300ERs, 777-200ERs, 787-800s and Airbus A330s in the next three years. Parker did not disclose how much the retrofits of its existing international aircraft will cost except to say that it’s a significant expense.

American said it will not retrofit its fleet of Boeing 767-300s as those aircraft will be retired in the next several years.

“[The new premium economy service] allows us to do a better job of segmenting our customers into various products they want to buy,” Parker said.

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

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