American Airlines Launches Premium Economy Awards

Many readers may have gotten an email recently from American telling them that Premium Economy awards are now available. I thought that it might be interesting to take a look at the segment.

Premium Economy

premium economy

The AA Premium Economy cabin

Premium economy (PE) is a long-haul product that fills the space between traditional economy and business class. It’s not as spacious or luxurious as the seat up front, but it offers bigger seats than coach and is often 2X2 seating.* Think of it as similar to domestic first class. In other words, civilized. Prices vary, but a good estimate is usually twice the main cabin.

US airlines have tried the service before. For example, American launched it in 2000-2001. Demand was strong, particularly internationally, and they hoped to target high-end coach traffic. Not great timing, and it was 15 years before somebody tried again.

Premium Economy Awards

American Airlines Premium Award Chart

American Airlines Premium Award Chart

It was inevitable that, once the airline started selling the seat, that it would also offer PE as an award. American categorizes its awards based on demand, so the actual mileage you pay will differ by day. On the plus side, unlike Delta, at least they have a published award chart.

In perspective, the prices aren’t terrible. The jump from coach to PE is 25-30,000 miles, although the difference in the South Pacific flights is a lot more. From PE to business class, it’s another 30-50,000 miles, so a bit more of a premium.

I’ve found Premium Economy to be a bit of a sweet spot, particularly on day flights. There’s enough room to move around and the service is definitely better. Overall, it’s not a bad way to go.


*Beginner’s Hint: Most airlines also offer a similar product, which goes by the name “Economy Plus,” “Economy Comfort” or something similar. This seat has a bit more leg room and a few other perks, but it is not nearly the upgrade that Premium Economy is. Since the names are similar, be careful of which product you are actually buying.

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