Monday, November 20, 2017

American's New 777-200 Premuim Economy Class Review

I don't think I've ever been this okay with missing an upgrade to First before.  Given that I'd rolled out of bed at 3:30 in the morning on a Monday in Dallas to head to the airport, return our rental car to National, take the shuttle to Terminal E to use my CLEAR membership even though I was flying out of Terminal D, and make a fast stop at the Admiral's Club to shower before boarding, being 'okay' was even more impressive.

At the airport, I learned I wasn't going to clear the upgrade.  Not only that, I was #17 on the list.  This, after having been 1 or 2 all year long, and clearing around 90% of the time!  I had a chat with the AAgents at the Club, and they weren't surprised at all.  There were at least 25- yes 25 (!!) Executive Platinums on the upgrade list, which by boarding had almost 60 people total.  Well then.  Monday morning DFW-LAX lives up to its reputation once again.  On top of that, being 17th or 1st didn't even matter.  Nobody cleared.

This is all just set up to say that I was fine, especially once I gave Expert Flyer (a beyond useful tool that I'll give more info on soon) a last check before I turned in the night before and saw the seat map had changed at the last minute since AA saw fit to put a newly outfitted long haul 777-200 on the route, complete with their new Premium Economy cabin!  Since I'd been booked into one of the first rows of the old Main Cabin Extra and was an Executive Platinum, I was automatically kept in the new seats! 

Instead of just having a little more leg room, like Main Cabin Extra, Premium Economy is an entirely different class of service.  Economy on this plane is laid out in a 3-4-3 configuration, while Premium Economy is 2-4-2.  Removing those two seats means that the seat size in PE is closer to what you'd expect in domestic first class on a 737 or 321.  There's a larger arm rest/console between seats, increased leg room and recline, and foot-rests, as well as nice big screens for the IFE. 

Seat 13J, Premium Economy
I was seated in 13J, which is the aisle seat of the front row.  This makes it a bulkhead seat, so the legroom is more than you could ever need.  The footrest comes out from under the seat, and folds at the end.  I'll say it's a little short- and I'm 5'4" so when you use it your legs don't really stretch out, but it does let you put your feet up.  In this row, the IFE folds out from the center console, which makes the seats slightly narrower (though it didn't bother me), and means you can't watch the IFE during taxi/takeoff/landing.

Nice sized IFE screen
The IFE screen was great!  It has way better resolution than the screens on the 777-300, even in business class, and the touch feature was responsive and easy to use.  As a side note, you can see the attachments in the bulkhead where bassinets would go if this was an international flight.  Something to either aim for (if you have a baby with you) or avoid if you're worried about the disruption.  More on bassinets over at Baby Flyer Blog.

If this flight was international, there would be enhanced menu and drink options, as well as headsets.  However, they didn't feel the need to pull out the stops for the 3 hour hop to LAX.  Overall, it's a solid product, especially since I didn't have to pay extra for it.

AA Premium Econ Cabin example- Photo Credit

It will be interesting to see what AA does with this product going forward, and if it will eventually serve as a degradation of elite benefits, which would definitely be the case if AA decides to make main cabin upgrades go to PE instead of Business class.  Luckily this hasn't happened yet, but I wouldn't put it past them, especially under the current management. 

For now though, it's a nice surprise to get to use when you stumble upon the right plane at the right time.


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