Sunday, April 19, 2009

International Economy-Plus Cabins Expanding

Air New Zealand is the latest to offer expanded space and amenities in its economy-plus cabins.

The main reason for the growing popularity of economy-plus, or premium coach or whatever it's called ("business-lite" is one of the current marketing favorites) is the crackdown by corporate travel departments on the use of first-class and business-class fares.

The premium coach fares, even though they're considerably higher than coach, get around the problem because they're technically coded as coach. Where there's a will there's a way. And as I always say, companies absolutely owe it to employees to provide a degree of comfort on long-haul flights. It isn't a perk, it's a corporate responsibility.

One of the good things is that some airlines are really providing reasonably business-class-like service for premium coach passengers.

Here's the Air New Zealand announcement:

"Air New Zealand is doubling the number of Pacific Premium Economy seats available on its 777-200ER fleet, with the first of eight aircraft re-entering service ... All aircraft will be completed mid-June, with the number of seats in the cabin increasing from 18 to 36 ...

Says Air New Zealand's long-haul manager Ed Sims, "`Air New Zealand flies further [sic] than any other airline in the world. Despite the challenging economic environment, long-haul customers clearly value the experience and are happy to pay more for the superior legroom, personal space and business class-style service.`"

In the newly configured cabins, seat pitch for premium coach will increase to 41 inches from the current 38 inches, and there will be a new self-service bar area.

By contrast, coach seats have 32 inches of legroom.

It is the third Pacific Premium Economy capacity increase in two years, with Air New Zealand twice increasing the number of seats available on its Boeing 747-400 aircraft, now up to 39 Pacific Premium Economy seats. Air New Zealand introduced the 777-200ER into its fleet nearly four years ago. The aircraft operates long haul routes from Auckland including Hong Kong-London, San Francisco, Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing and on selected Los Angles services.

The new 777-200ER seating configuration on Pacific routes will be: Business Premier 26, Premium Economy 36 and coach, 242 (currently 269).


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