For some years now, airlines from all over the world have been offering seats in premium economy, a class halfway between class economy is that business to convince travelers to spend a little more in exchange for some advantage. Those who choose it are entitled to wider and more comfortable seats, more room to stretch the legs, cosmetic kits or better meals than the economy: Airlines use the desire for extra benefits to increase their earnings.
Originally the business class was invented in the 1990s for those who had to travel for work and needed to do it in peace during the flight or wanted to rest to work better once at their destination: for example, it had seats with padded headrests and more space to move the elbows while staying at the computer.
Most people who travel for pleasure choose the class economy, the basic one, which costs less, has fewer services and, for example, occupies 70 percent of the available seats of a normal Boeing 737, one of the most popular commercial aircraft models. Lately, however, the small advantages of the premium economy (which, for example, British Airways calls “World Traveler Plus”) also attract those who travel for pleasure and are willing to spend a little more to be able to grant themselves a seat, writes theAtlantic“slightly more attractive », especially on long-haul flights. This is why it is seen as a trend in commercial aviation and a rather profitable alternative for airlines, including in Europe.
Lufthansa describes its own premium economy as «a new travel experience between Business and Economy class, with greater comfort, better services and more advantages». On flights between the airports of Dubai, Paris-Charles de Gaulle, London Heathrow and Sydney, the United Arab Emirates airline Emirates promises “small attentions that make the trip special”, including leather seats, adjustable footrests and headrests and refined tables with wood grain. There are also similar advantages on long-haul flights operated by ITA Airways, the airline that took over from Alitalia since last October: to those who buy a ticket of this type, it offers more space than the seats of theeconomy, discounts on luggage transport, welcome drinks, kit with toothbrush and toothpaste, socks and mask for the night.
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have said that at the moment the premium economy it is the most profitable class among those offered in the respective flights in which it is scheduled. Aviation research firm Counterpoint Market Intelligence estimates that by 2025, airlines will have tripled the supply of this class.
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Rob Britton, associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Business and former chief operating officer of American Airlines, explained to theAtlantic that originally the premium economy was born to attract professionals who could no longer travel in business classfor example due to corporate cost cuts.
Traditionally, in fact, seats dedicated to first class and business travelers were those that drove the profits of airlines, then over time those in the cabin have also become relevant, at least until it was necessary to propose new services and programs for fight competition from companies low cost. Another problem was the growing and general disinterest in first class and that businessincluding following the coronavirus pandemic.
That the premium economy also interests travelers who would have previously chosen theeconomy was something of a surprise, if not a “small miracle” for airlines, notes theAtlantic. According to Britton, one of the reasons is that after the pandemic there is less trouble spending a little more for a more comfortable journey.
However, there are those who criticize this type of incentives, as well as those who argue that behind the intermediate class and other similar systems there are mechanisms that are not completely transparent.
In 2014, competition law enforcement expert Tim Wu created the term “calculated torment” (“calculated misery”) To argue that airlines deliberately offered sub-standard service to force travelers to pay more for services that would previously have been free, such as seat selection or hand baggage check-in. According to Uzma Khan, a professor of marketing at the University of Miami, the expectations created by a few more benefits would be overstated. He refers in particular to some researches for which having more space for legs or elbows would not improve the satisfaction of travelers: what makes the difference, if anything, is the one between one seat and another and the one at eye level “because it is the perception of space is what counts ».
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