American Now Calls Front Cabin “Premium Economy” When Using Domestic Plane For Transatlantc

American’s new domestic first class seat is literally the same seat that they use in premium economy, except that it lacks a foot bar or foot rest. The seat is, therefore, premium economy-lite. It’s disingenuous in the extreme to call it ‘business class’.

Airbus A321neo interior, credit: American Airlines

However on some routes, up until now, that’s what they’ve done when flying Boeing 737s to Latin America. It’s especially galling when they replace a Boeing 757 or larger aircraft that has flat beds up front, sold as business class, with a 737 that has only a larger domestic seat – and still call that business class.

American, though, is finally taking Delta’s lead in branding domestic first class as premium economy when it flies transatlantic. When Delta runs domestic Boeing 757s across the Atlantic, as they do to Iceland, the forward cabin is called ‘Premium Select’ and there’s no business class offered.

That’s exactly what American is doing when their Philadelphia – Keflavik flight resumes June 3, 2021 operated by an Airbus A321neo. “W” is the fare class for premium economy:

As of now, the flight resumes June 3 and June 3 is that very farthest out that American’s schedule is published. So only one day is available for this flight, and oddly will only sell it so far in coach.

And unfortunately this practice doesn’t appear to have been extended to other routes, for instance American is still selling the front cabin of the Airbus A321 serving Miami – Lima as ‘business class’ despite offering a domestic product.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. H.L. Mencken would have made mincemeat out of AA’s pathetic attempt to manipulate the public’s trust of AA just to be deceived.

    Interestingly, Amtrak plays the same shell game on its “Northeast Regional” between Boston-Washington by referring to a standard coach as “business class”—no food&beverage area or upgraded/different seats.

  2. This is due to the transatlantic JV that requires business-class seats to be lie-flat. Hence these domestic recliners cannot be labeled as J.

  3. I would like to see them extend this policy to domestic flights booked with Avios. So we could fly so-called Domestic First at the Avios price of Premium Eco (1.5x) rather than Business (2x)!

  4. I hope this is not foreboding of an upcoming change to how SWUs and Mileage Upgrades work.

    Currently, you technically cannot upgrade from Y to W., only Y->J or W->J

    I’m hoping AA does not use this opportunity to eliminate Y -> J upgrades …

  5. Gary: I think it is a rather unfortunate development. AA can sell the same domestic F seat as discount business (I) or premium economy (W) and charge identical price. Now, discount business would give you 200% EQM and access to lounges whereas W gives you no lounge access and 150% EQM. Also, catering in W is worse than in Business. I do not see any benefit unless AA would drop the price.

  6. Interesting that they are defining the class based on the seat and not service. Shouldn’t they make this consistent with wide body jets that offer different generations of business class seats then ?

  7. DL is doing a fabulous job at positioning itself as the premium airline you can trust. Bravo.

  8. Delta also flies “premium economy” to Ireland and London-Gatwick. The biggest issues with rebranding to “premium economy” are (1) you can’t get a complimentary upgrade as an elite and (2) the seats don’t come with lounge access. I don’t know why anyone would fly Delta to Iceland, except Icelandair’s horrible handling of coronavirus by keeping passenger money to use as no-interest loans. Icelandair’s product up-front is better than Delta — especially catering and wine. Plus, you get the local feel flying it to Iceland. Delta’s Iceland flights suck, especially the JFK flight. It’s way too short to justify paying for “premium economy.” You’re better off buying a row of economy seats and having a poor man’s business-class bed.

  9. What a second — am I missing something?

    “American’s new domestic first class seat is literally the same seat that they use in premium economy, except that it lacks a foot bar or foot rest. The seat is, therefore, premium economy-lite. It’s disingenuous in the extreme to call it ‘business class’.”

    So does this mean when flying domestic first, the premium economy seats are actually BETTER because they contain the foot rest? There’s certainly no difference in so products right now.
    But surely the pitch and spacing must be bigger up front?

  10. I assume the flights from PHL to Iceland aren’t using the same 757 (likely retired) that used to fly the DFW-Iceland route. I have taken that and can assure you the first class cabin did have lay flat seats. It was an odd configuration that, to the best of my knowledge, was only used on that route (similar to the AA A321s that fly transcon w 3 classes of service).

  11. If the J seats are categorized as “Premium Economy”, are revenue purchases reflecting the Premium Economy prices?

  12. What a crock of bubbling price gouging. Shame shame. No shame to their game! Ugghhh!

  13. Maybe legacy carriers should simply brand this class of service instead of trying to define it. On the surface “premium economy” and domestic “first-class” look pretty similar. I believe Delta calls its premium economy cabin “Premium Select.” That’s perfect. It says nothing, yet it sounds good. Maybe American could brand its service as “Admiral” a name it’s used for years. Maybe United could call its service “Gershwin.” After all, he wrote “Rhapsody in Blue: which has been United’s theme for years.

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