Last September I wrote about how Austrian was planning on gradually introducing premium economy throughout their longhaul fleet of Boeing 767s and 777s.
At the time we learned that Austrian would introduce premium economy between the winter of 2017 and summer of 2018, and planes would feature the following number of premium economy seats:
- Austrian’s 767s will each feature 18 premium economy seats (2-2-2 configuration)
- Austrian’s 777s will each feature 24 premium economy seats (2-4-2 configuration)
Well, it looks like Austrian is making good progress when it comes to this, as they’ve just started reconfiguring their first 767 with premium economy, and premium economy tickets are now on sale for travel starting March 6, 2018. The timing of them starting to reconfigure planes makes sense, as it’s the end of the busy summer travel season. Austrian has now also revealed more details about the new product.
As expected, Austrian’s premium economy will be similar to Lufthansa’s premium economy (given that Austrian is part of the Lufthansa Group), and will feature 38″ of pitch.
Here’s how Austrian describes their new premium economy product:
- New seat with a broader surface and generous spacing
- Footrest starting in the second row or leg support with integrated footrest in the first row
- Always a separate central armrest with fold-out table and cocktail table
- 12-inch screen with remote control for the in-flight entertainment system
- Own power outlet and USB port on the seat
- 2 x 50 lbs. free baggage
- High-quality food selection with menu card
- Welcome drink
- Amenity kit with useful travel accessories
In terms of pricing, premium economy seems to be ~$400-500 one-way more expensive for US routes than the cheapest economy fares. I’m not seeing any premium economy fares between the US and Vienna for less than $2,000 roundtrip, which is… steep.
Now to the really bad news — it looks like premium economy is coming at the expense of business class seats. For example, here’s the new 777 seatmap for business class and premium economy:
Austrian’s 777s currently have 10 rows of business class, so Austrian is cutting 10 business class seats in order to add 24 premium economy seats.
Meanwhile here’s the new 767 seatmap for business class and premium economy:
Austrian’s 767s currently have nine rows of business class, so Austrian is cutting 10 business class seats in order to add 18 premium economy seats.
While I can’t blame Austrian, this new premium economy cabin is very bad news for business class award space. I guess that’s not surprising given that Austrian business class awards are wide open, often even between Los Angeles and Vienna (Los Angeles is usually a market in which it’s really tough to snag transatlantic awards).