Comfort at a price

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 April, 2012, 12:00am

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As competition intensifies, airlines are constantly rolling out new products and services to woo passengers.

Cathay Pacific has introduced a premium economy class, a new seating class with 24 to 36 seats located between the business and economy sections, that offers better seating and services than ordinary economy class.

These include a 96.52cm seat pitch (15.24cm more than economy class), a wider seat and a larger range of recline.

In addition, there is also a larger meal table, a cocktail table, a three-position footrest, more spacious overhead stowage bins, a 26.92cm personal TV, and an in-seat power outlet.

There is also a USB docking point and an iPod/iPhone outlet for passengers to charge their electronic devices and display their own data and video on the screen.

Other benefits include dedicated check-in counters, priority boarding and a higher baggage allowance.

The airline says the improved seating and service cater to needs in the market. Passengers are willing to pay the premium, it adds, especially those who want to stay close to their family members and working partners sitting in business class.

The price of premium economy is 50 to 80 per cent higher than ordinary economy class.

New-class seating has been available on selected flights on routes to and from New York, Sydney, Toronto and Vancouver since April 1, and will be introduced on the London route from May.

By the end of this year, the airline will have installed the new configuration on 48 of its aircraft.

'This is exciting to see more airline upgrades, which are always well-received by the travel agents and travellers,' says David Fraser, managing director of FCM Travel Solutions.

He adds that while there will be some demand for Cathay Pacific's premium economy class, it is still too early to say how strong that demand will prove to be.

'As business travellers who currently fly business class don't want to downgrade and corporations won't want to upgrade staff who previously flew economy, it may end up being more of a premium leisure product.'

Meanwhile, United Airlines is to rebrand its international, long-haul premium-cabin services by introducing United Global First (first class) and United Business First (business class), following the 2010 merger with Continental Airlines which led to the demise of the Continental Airlines name from last month.

In the second quarter of this year, United will upgrade long-haul first-class amenities, such as additional in-flight food choices, more comfortable bedding, and branded skincare products.

It will also extend Continental's Business First products to United, such as an additional entree option, a new ice cream sundae dessert option, duvet-style blankets and higher-quality pillows and hot towels.