Is Premium Economy here to stay? A brand review of All Nippon Airlines

I flew the Premium Economy class on the Japanese All Nippon Airlines when flew back from New York (JFK) to Singapore, via Tokyo a few weeks ago. This wasn’t the first time that I was flying this Economy+ class, as I often flew Singapore Airlines’ Executive Economy from Singapore to Newark, which has now been replaced by an all-business class flight. But there was a stark difference this time – while Business class was not quite full, Premium Economy was jam-packed! But what could be the reasons for that?

The ANA Premium Economy Class

I think Premium Economy is good value for money. From ANA, you get lounge access prior to your flight, which is great for business people, since they can get some work done and have a nice meal. That also means that you can board whenever you want, rather than 40 mins before take off. The queues at boarding tend to be shorter as well. So at least in this aspect, the experience is much better than Economy Class.

Once you get to the seat, you’ll find yourself in a small, almost private, section with just 3-4 rows of Premium seating, between Business Class and Economy Class. The biggest advantage of the product itself is that the seats are a little wider than Economy class, recline more, have a greater seat-pitch and have extensible calf and foot-rests. On a long haul flight that I was on, from New York to Tokyo, all these little things make a difference. What remains the same is the food and service – no additional frills there.

But my favorite feature was the dedicated power socket and a LAN cable port for each seat – again catering to businessmen who want to get some work done. I took a break and watched a movie on my widescreen Mac =) Overall, I was very pleased by the fact that passengers would not have to pay Business Class prices to obtain a better product and service than Economy Class.

Why Premium Economy may be here for the long haul?

Recently, a number of airlines operating long haul services, like Air New Zealand, Qantas and British Airways have all announced plans to cut down on their First Class cabins, and expand Economy and Premium Economy seats. Qantas’ A380s already come pre-installed with this cabin. And there’s got to be more than just the slowing Business Class demand that is prompting such long-term changes.

Here’s why I feel Premium Economy is here to stay, and airlines like ANA are on the right track:

  1. It delivers the best of both worlds – Better-than-economy product and service, at prices much lower than Business Class
  2. Perfect for new long-haul planes, like A380, B777 and B787, as it adds in another product category on-board that airlines can make money from. Diversification is good.
  3. Works well for businesses that want to cut costs, and senior executives who don’t want to be un-productive at the back of the plane.

What do you think? Is Premium Economy a good investment for the customer? For the airlines? Should more airlines be doing it? What can be learnt from the ANA experience?

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam

Shashank Nigam is the CEO of SimpliFlying and a globally sought-after consultant, speaker and thought-leader on airline branding and customer engagement strategy. He is also the youngest winner of the Global Brand Leadership Award and has addressed senior aviation executives globally, from Chile to Canada and from Sydney to San Francisco.Shashank's perspectives have found their way into major media outlets, including CNN Travel, CNBC, MSNBC, Bloomberg UTV, Mashable and in leading publications like Airline Business, ATW, Aviation Week, and others.Shashank studied Information Systems Management and Business Management at Singapore Management University and Carnegie Mellon University. Hailing from India, he splits his time between Singapore and Vancouver, among other cities.
Shashank Nigam
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