American Airlines Announces Premium Economy Awards, New Award Booking Tool

Jan 23, 2019

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American Airlines was the first US-based airline to roll out a true premium economy product, starting with its first Boeing 787-9 in October 2016. Since then, AA has retrofitted more than 100 widebody aircraft — including all of its Boeing 787-9, 777-200, 777-300ER and Airbus A330-200 aircraft. And it’s in the process of retrofitting its Boeing 787-8 aircraft and expects to complete that retrofit in mid-2019.

Throughout this process, the question has been: When will travelers be able to book premium economy awards?

Now, the long-awaited day is almost here. On Thursday, Jan. 24, American Airlines will launch premium economy awards. Unfortunately, that’s all we know at this point. American Airlines isn’t sharing the mileage prices for these awards with us quite yet.

One of the things I’ve been most pleased about American Airlines’ premium economy product is how reasonable of an upsell it has been from economy. I generally find that premium economy is about $200 more than economy each way. For a wider seat, more legroom, much better catering and better elite-qualifying multiples, that’s not a bad price for those that don’t want to slum it out in economy and can’t afford business class.

Window seats in premium economy on American Airlines' Boeing 777-200. Image by JT Genter / The Points Guy
Window seats in premium economy on American Airlines’ Boeing 777-200. Image by JT Genter / The Points Guy

So, we will have to see if American Airlines prices these premium economy awards competitively vs. economy award prices. If AA splits the mileage difference between economy and business class, it’s going to be a hard sell for travelers. However, if it’s just a reasonable premium — say 40,000 for US to Europe vs. 30,000 in economy and 57,500 in business class — it might be a good redemption option.

New desktop award booking tool: The other bit of news that’s coming from this pre-announcement is a “new desktop award booking tool” that’s also going to launch on Jan. 24. This is supposed to “give customers easier access, at a glance views of the lowest mileage days, availability” and more.

Although it was unclear at first what exactly this entailed, an American Airlines spokesperson reached out Thursday morning to clarify that this is a new online award search tool built into the desktop version of its website. This won’t be a downloadable application.

Once this rolls out, travelers have four ways of booking awards — including premium economy awards: the revamped desktop website, the mobile website, AA’s mobile app or calling reservations.

Systemwide upgrade impact? Many American Airlines Executive Platinum elites have worried that the introduction of premium economy awards might lead to limitations on systemwide upgrades. Currently, systemwide upgrades can be used to upgrade a traveler from economy (or premium economy) to business class.

The good news is that’s not changing on Jan. 24 with the introduction of premium economy awards. Of course, AA could add this limitation later — but at least it’s not doing so now.

For more on American Airlines Premium Economy, check out:

This post has been updated with a clarification from an American Airlines spokesperson that the “desktop award booking tool” isn’t a downloadable application.

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