United-Continental offers premium economy as air travel trends upwards

THE competition is moving upwards. As the gap between budget and full-service airlines narrows and as the global economy revives, airlines are betting their dollar on an upward shift in the class of travel. Maybe not quite the big leap yet from economy to premium, but to a sub-class of premium economy.

United–Continental becomes the latest operator to offer premium economy seating. The reconfigured Boeing 757 aircraft will feature 45 Economy Plus seats, making up 30 per cent of economy seats. These are being offered for long haul flights from Newark to Europe.

To be expected, rival Delta is also equipping its aircraft with a similar premium economy (Economy Comfort) product.

In Asia, Cathay Pacific Airways will from March offer new premium economy from Hong Kong to destinations that include New York, Toronto and Vancouver. Cathay’s General Manager for Product Alex McGowan said: “It’s for people in economy who want more space, more exclusivity, and a few details like better catering and wine. It is also about capturing people who may want not to travel in economy but can’t afford to travel in business class.”

The difference lies in trading up instead of down – the confidence reflected even more in rival Hong Kong Airlines’ bold plans to operate all-business class flights to London, a move that some analysts wonder if it is premature, if not unwise, in present times.

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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