"Premium economy" coming to some Air Canada international flights
Following the lead of other airlines, including rival WestJet, Air Canada today announced it will introduce "premium economy" to some of its international flights.
Many airlines have brought in similar classes of seats by reconfiguring planes in the hopes of luring folks who want something between basic economy and business class. It's a good idea, given the cost of business class.
Air Canada said the new setup "will offer customers a wide range of benefits including a dedicated cabin featuring larger seats that are wider, providing more recline, with seven more inches of legroom than Economy." It also said passengers will never be more than one seat from the aisle due to a 2-4-2 seating configuration in premium economy class.
"Customers will also be offered premium meals with complimentary bar service and priority check-in and baggage delivery at the airport. More information on Air Canada's new Premium Economy cabin is available at www.aircanada.com/premiumeconomy."
The service will be introduced on Air Canada's Montreal-Paris flights effective July 11, 2013. Additional routes offering Premium Economy will be added over time as new aircraft enter the carrier's mainline fleet.
"With the introduction of Premium Economy, Air Canada will begin offering customers a new, high-value option for enhanced comfort and service on international flights," said Ben Smith, Executive Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer. "The delivery of five new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft over the next 12 months provides us with the right opportunity to launch a new cabin of service that will be offered on more of our international flights over time as we take delivery of new 787 aircraft. We will continue to adapt our product to ensure our customers have competitive options to choose from - whether traveling on Air Canada mainline routes or with our leisure carrier, Air Canada rouge, to its vacation destinations."
The Star's Vanessa Lu reports that the new wide-body jets will be configured with three different types of seating — 36 executive first seats, 24 premium economy seats and 398 economy seats, for a total of 458.
Instead of three rows of three seats across the plane, Air Canada will use a three-four-three configuration.
On a comparable Boeing 777, Air Canada currently has 42 executive class seats and 307 economy seats for a total of 349.
The seat pitch in the newest aircraft in economy will shrink by 1 inch to 31 inches, airline officials say the seats are thinner, so it will be able to squeeze more than 100 extra seats on board.
WestJet (which, by the way, will announce some destinations for its new regional service, Encore, on Monday of next week) has said it will start offering three different fare bundles this spring as it introduces premium economy to Canadian travellers.
As Lu reported recently, The Calgary-based airline is "courting business travellers will to pay more for legroom, priority screening and boarding and flexible cancellations or flight changes."
WestJet plans three fare bundles or groups: Econo, Flex and Plus, all with various fares and fees.
The airline already has started reconfiguring all its Boeing 737 planes to offer better room on 24 seats the front of the aircraft, Lu reported.
The lowest fare, Econo, will target price-sensitive travellers. There will be fees to change or cancel a flight. The Flex bundle gives more options and flexibility but some extras will cost you. The Plus fare includes the ability to change flights and refund tickets to credit cards and will include on-board snacks and meals and alcoholic drinks.
Also, for the first, time, Plus passengers will get to board first and have access to overhead luggage bins before the rest of us lugs clamber on board with our oversized bags.