Do I Lose My Business-Class Upgrade on a Plane With New Premium Economy Seats?

Jun 16, 2017

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“Reader Questions” are answered three days a week — Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays — by TPG Senior Writer Julian Mark Kheel.

It’s exciting when you’re able to upgrade from economy into a business-class seat, but TPG reader Kevin is concerned about what might happen if his plane suddenly ends up with a premium economy cabin…

I’m flying to Japan in October with American on a 777-200 and I used 25,000 AAdvantage miles + $300 to upgrade from economy to business. If they add Premium Economy to my plane, will I get downgraded from business to Premium Economy?

TPG Reader Kevin

American Airlines has been in the process of rolling out its new premium economy cabin since late last year. The cabin, which involves a physical seat and level of service better than regular economy but not as good as business class, is already in place on the airline’s 787-9 planes, and is scheduled to be installed on four other types of aircraft — the Boeing 777-200, the 777-300ER, the 787-8 and the Airbus A330-300 — by June 2018.

While premium economy is certainly a step up from regular economy, if you’ve already paid miles and cash to upgrade, you want your business-class seat, right? Well, I have two pieces of good news for you, Kevin. First, while AA has begun to install premium economy on its 777-200s, the airline won’t begin selling it as a separate class of service until December, and that’s assuming it doesn’t get delayed like the 787-9 rollout did. That’s because it will take American several months to have the new seats in place across multiple 777-200 aircraft. Until that time, premium economy seats will be treated as Main Cabin Extra seats in the regular economy section, so you shouldn’t find yourself having to worry about a true premium economy cabin as early as October.

AA-787-9-Premium-Economy-bulkhead-legroom-830x552
Premium economy is better than regular economy, but it ain’t business.

But even once AA starts selling premium economy on its 777-200s routes as it already has on its 787-9 ones, if you’ve already paid to confirm your upgrade into business, you shouldn’t get bumped down to premium economy just because it’s now on your plane. Yes, there’s always the possibility of an airline downgrading you in the event of an equipment change or an overbooking situation — even if you have a fully paid first or business-class ticket — but unless it’s a last minute issue, you shouldn’t end up in a different cabin.

However, if a reconfiguration does result in fewer business-class seats, you could find yourself rescheduled on a different flight or itinerary in order for the airline to keep you in business class, which is why it’s important to always check existing reservations on a regular basis. If you get moved to another flight or a different type of plane that you don’t want, make sure to call and have yourself rebooked, which the airline should be willing to do without charge.

Enjoy your trip in business class, Kevin, and thanks for the question. If you’re a TPG reader who’d like us to answer a question of your own, tweet us at @thepointsguy, message us on Facebook or email us at info@thepointsguy.com.

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