Business travel still hasn’t recovered from COVID, but airlines are adding more “premium- class” type seats in response to surging demand from leisure travelers willing to pay more for comfort on flights.
“Premium economy seats are playing a larger role in airline offerings and seating layouts, with rising numbers of high-end leisure traveler and former road warriors opting for seat choices with more amenities,” according to the Airline Economic Analysis 2022-23 published by consulting firm OliverWyman. “While business travel was down, the willingness to pay for more amenities allowed airlines to replace some of the revenue lost from corporate purchases of high-fare tickets.”
Carriers are expanding the availability of premium seating classes, particularly on long-haul flights. American Airlines, for example, announced new “Flagship Suites” and expanded “premium economy” class seating coming next year on its new Airbus A321XLR and 787-9 aircraft, and will also remove the first-class cabins on its older 777 and A321 aircraft to make room for the new seating classes.
Travelers Seeking Premium Airline Seating Now More than Ever
Premium seating is expected to increase by 45 percent on long-haul American Airlines flights, the company said.
The trend of passengers being willing to pay more for these types of seats began during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delta Air Lines, Lufthansa, Air France, Emirates, Finnair and KLM are among the other airlines that have moved to expand premium seating aboard their aircraft, according to Airline Weekly.
Delta, for example, now offers 15,000 more premium seats daily than it did before the pandemic, Reuters reported, and has premium-class seats across its entire fleet, even smaller narrowbody aircraft.
A 2023 report by industry consultants Cirium said that 84 percent more commercial aircraft had premium-class seating in 2022 than in 2017.
For more on that economic analysis, visit oliverwyman.com/our-expertise/insights/2023/may/airline-economic-analysis-2022-2023.html.