Premium financial system: Why this would be the hottest airplane seat in 2021

(CNN) – Premium Economy. The two words seem like an odd combination when it comes to airline, given that it’s a rare airline that economy seats feel top notch these days. But those seats between bus and business class on international flights were heating up even before Covid-19, and as we all start traveling again in 2021, they will be a must for many passengers.

Why? It’s a combination of factors.

First, the economic downturn means business-class travelers are “migrating” to the premium economy – whether they are people flying to work whose travel policies are tightened, or upscale vacationers who are feeling the pinch in their wallets, but don’t feel like it. Feel it on your knees or elbows.

Second, frequent flyers have to burn miles after a year of reduced travel, and given the tight travel policies that business travelers end up in the economy, some of them will likely improve their points to the slightly better seats. This is next to pent-up holiday travelers who are looking for a bit of luxury even in difficult times.

Third is the fact that after more than a year of Covid-19, psychologically we are simply no longer used to being cheek to cheek with other people. It will be very strange to think about on the plane, so the extra space in the Premium Economy will be welcome.

Emirates recently unveiled its latest A380 with luxurious Premium Economy seats.

Courtesy of Emirates

What is it?

But what is premium economy? Basically, it’s a bigger seat, says Ben Orson, a designer responsible for many of the most successful seats in the last decade and now the director of Orson Associates.

“The most important part of what a Premium Economy seat offers the passenger is a significant improvement in comfort compared to the Economy. Premium Economy seats usually offer around 5 to 10 inches of extra legroom, a more generous bed area with leg supports and a improved entertainment experience with a much larger screen. “

The seats are also about two to three inches wider, and there are typically one to two fewer seats in each row: eight in a Boeing 777 or Airbus A380, compared to 10 seats in most economy classes.

“This approach has paid off for airlines,” Orson says. “Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic say that the premium economy per square foot is the most profitable part of the aircraft.”

Premium economy is often associated with an improved catering service.

Premium economy is often associated with an improved catering service.

Courtesy British Airways

The premium economy can be found metaphorically and in the actual aircraft between the increasingly spacious and luxurious business classes and the increasingly less spacious and less luxurious economy classes.

Airbus calls this growing gap the “Comfort Canyon”.

Matt Round, chief creative officer at Tangerine design studio, explains that bridging this gap is helpful for airlines and that there are some additional benefits associated with having this larger seat.

“Airlines generally offer premium economy passengers access to more priority services such as free seat reservations, priority boarding and increased baggage allowance. The services offered vary by airline.”

Who is flying it?

Passengers generally approach the Premium Economy from one of two directions: either an upgrade from the Economy or a downgrade from the Business.

“Prior to Covid-19, the premium economy did well for leisure passengers who want a light reward or for cost-conscious businesses large and small,” explains Round. “On some routes, there was a tendency for passengers traveling on business to fly premium economy during the day and return in business class on a completely flat bed on night flights.”

EVA Air's premium economy cabins were among the first in the world.

EVA Air’s premium economy cabins were among the first in the world.


But how have premium economy seats changed since they were introduced almost 30 years ago on board Virgin Atlantic and EVA Air, where business class seats have become more spacious and economy class seats in both legroom and legroom? Freedom of movement have shrunk?

“They don’t really have that,” says Peter Tennent, director of the Factorydesign design house.

“When we designed British Airways’ first World Traveler Plus seat in 2000, the seat adjustment basis was an aging business class platform. Those conventional but larger reclining seats were gradually being replaced by expanded business class offerings, quite a bit obvious option to downgrade them from business to a reduced offer between business and business. ”

Despite many advances in in-flight entertainment and connectivity features like on-demand in-flight touchscreen entertainment, power outlets, WiFi and more, not much has changed at the base seat, according to Tennent.

“There have been a lot of new Premium Economy seats, some bespoke, others derivatives of existing platforms, but all still follow the same principle.”

What about the future?

According to Martin Darbyshire, Tangerine’s Chief Executive Officer, the Premium Economy “is a lifesaver for me as a privately owned business traveler who cannot justify flying in Business Class whenever I want.”

“For a day flight in particular, Premium Economy is a comfortable way of flying with an appropriate quality of service. The smaller cabin is also an advantage, as it creates a more private space.”

Premium Economy is also very popular with seniors on vacation, especially because they can usually book early for cheaper tariffs.

More legroom is a key benefit of premium economy seats.

More legroom is a key benefit of premium economy seats.

Chris Rank / Delta Air Lines

Business travelers, on the other hand, can find it expensive at the last minute, Darbyshire notes. These passengers – especially if they are also frequent fliers – are among the first to be promoted to Business Class when the Premium Economy cabin fills up.

Overall, Orson said, “Premium Economy will continue to be attractive to very tall people, the elderly and anyone else for whom Economy Class is too much of a physical challenge.”

Looking to the future, however, he ponders: “Could it be that the approach that first and foremost brought the premium economy to life – a considered selection of the aspects of business class that are really important to passengers today, such as a more technologically sound approach to comfort. ” , more privacy, improved connectivity or a more detached boarding experience – could this be reapplied to create a new way of traveling that is perfectly tailored to the ever-changing needs of our passengers of the future? “

Whatever the future, Factorydesign’s Tennent notes, “Aviation is a battleground for differentiation. If an airline can offer or claim something better, different, or novel than its competitors, it offers a commercial advantage.”

Top photo by Philippine Airlines. John Walton is an international transportation and aviation journalist based in France specializing in airlines, commercial aircraft and the passenger experience.

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