Premium Air: product updates

We round up some of the major updates to premium cabins and services

Premium Economy
United is set to become the latest airline to introduce a premium economy cabin – joining its main US rivals American Airlines and Delta which have already added the product in past few years.

The Chicago-based carrier is to introduce Premium Plus on “select” international flights later this year, promising “more space, comfort and amenities” to passengers.

United’s chief commercial officer Andrew Nocella says: “It will take about three years to fully roll out across our international system.” He adds that United has been working on Premium Plus with Lufthansa and other Star Alliance partners which already operate premium economy cabins.

Another United partner, Air Canada, already offers premium economy on transatlantic flights from the UK and Ireland to Canada. The cabin (pictured) will be available on the airline’s new routes from Dublin to Montreal and Shannon to Toronto, which are due to launch in June.

Premium economy cabins have now been added to most global long-haul markets, apart from the Gulf-based carriers and even this may be about to change.

Emirates’ president Tim Clark has been talking about introducing premium economy over the last couple of years. But the Dubai-based carrier has yet to announce firm plans or a potential timescale.

Product updates
Lufthansa has unveiled its design for a new business class cabin to feature on Boeing 777-9 aircraft from 2020. All seats, which will extend into a 2.2m-long bed, will offer direct aisle access in a 1-2-1 or 1-1-1 configuration. Passengers will also be able to control all seat functions from their own personal mobile device. Meanwhile, Lufthansa plans to introduce new mattresses, duvets and pyjamas in business class on long-haul flights during 2018.

Japan Airlines is rolling out its latest business class seat, JAL Sky Suite III, on its Boeing 777-200ER and Boeing 787-9 aircraft. The suite extends into a 1.98m fully-flat bed and offers direct access from every seat in a 1-2-1 configuration. JAL said the seat will be “progressively expanded” on to more international routes this year. The airline is planning to introduce Airbus A350-900s on domestic routes in 2019. The A350-1000 is due to fly on international services from the early 2020s.

United is to open a host of new Polaris business class lounges this year, including San Francisco, Newark and Houston Intercontinental in the summer, followed by a lounge at Los Angeles International in the autumn. United has already expanded its Polaris lounge at Chicago O’Hare. The lounges include shower suites, ‘rest pods’ with day beds, and pre-flight dining.

Virgin Atlantic is to introduce three new seating styles in Upper Class when it adds four Airbus A330-200s to its fleet in March. The seats – Love Suite, Freedom Solo Suite, and Corner Solo Suite – will all feature direct aisle access. The aircraft will initially operate from Manchester to New York, Boston, San Francisco and Barbados. Formerly part of Air Berlin’s fleet, the aircraft are wifi-enabled and will be fitted with Virgin’s premium economy cabin in late 2018.

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