Austrian Airlines is the latest to introduce a premium economy cabin into its long haul fleet of Boeing 767s and 777s sometime during the Summer 2017 season.
First reported by Aerotelegraph, Austrian Airlines (OS)’s new cabin will be slotted between existing business and economy. The airline started a €15 million programme to retrofit the eleven aircrafts in its long haul fleet (6 Boeing 767-300ERs and 5 Boeing 777-200ERs). An additional 777-200ER with the new cabin of service would be delivered separately in 2018.
The plan is to retrofit 18 premium economy seats in a more spacious 2-2-2 configuration on board the 767-300ER. There are currently two versions of this aircraft in service. One has 214 seats (36 business and 178 economy seats) and the other has 225 seats (26 business and 199 economy). The new cabin will likely take away four rows of economy (28 seats) and replace it with three rows (18 seats). This will create a net loss of capacity of ten or between 4.4% to 4.7%.
In the larger aircraft with 308 seats (48 business and 260 economy), the current design is to create a premium economy cabin with 24 seats in a 2-4-2 configuration. This is achieved by craving out four row of economy seats (40 seats) which will create a net capacity loss of 16 seats or 5.2%.
Austrian Airlines belongs in the Lufthansa Group which also include SWISS Air Line International, Brussels Airlines, and Eurowing. As such, it is able to procure a similar premium economy seat used by sister airline Lufthansa with some minor design tweaks. Common with competitors, this seat will have a 38″ (97cm) pitch and a 19″ (48cm) width. Total volume is approximately 50% more than a normal economy seat. Passengers in this cabin will also enjoy an inflight entertainment system that has a screen size up to 33% bigger at between 11 to 12″ (28-30cm). Connectivity is provided by individual AC Power and USB ports.
Service and Amenities
Service and amenities have not been finalized but will likely include the following to match competitors and in line with Lufthansa:
- Advance seat assignment
- Priority check-in at Vienna International Airport (VIE)
- Priority boarding
- Up to 2x more baggage allowance than economy
- Between 4 to 6x more status and award frequent flyer miles in the Miles & More® Program
- Food served on fine china with a welcoming drink, a bottle of water on longer flights and a printed menu
- Paid access to specific lounges and a lower cost to upgrade to the next cabin of service
- Individual amenity kit
The Vienna International Airport based airline is the third from the Central Europe region to offer this cabin. The other two are Lufthansa and LOT Polish Airlines both belong in Star Alliance.
Lufthansa’s Premium Economy (All Rights Reserved)
While reducing total capacity, airlines use the premium economy cabin to increase over yields and cater to travellers who want to enjoy some business class-like perks without breaking the bank. Austrian Airlines consistently scores well in food quality through its partnership with DO&CO catering, in flight service and a refined coffee menu in business class. The airline can use these strengths to heighten the premium economy experience and differentiate itself from competitors.
Multi-Modal Transport Hub Strategy
Vienna International Airport (VIE) is the home hub of the airline. The airport is close (18km/11 mi) to the city centre and serves as a multi-modal transport hub for local (Vienna S-Bahn Line S7, City Airport Train) and regional train service (ICE and ÖBB Railjet). This creates fast and easy connection to the airport within Austria and from Germany / Czech Republic.
Austrian Airlines, in partnership with ÖBB Railjet, allows passengers to book an AIRail connection with an OS flight number all within one ticket. AIRail customers can check in for their flight at selected train stations using self-service terminals.
Austrian Airlines commenced 6x weekly service to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) on April 10, 2017. This is its seventh North American destination. It is important to note that these destinations are served with one or more airlines with a premium economy cabin.
Celebrating 60 years in operations, the “Blue Danube” airline also serves seven Asian/African destinations. There are a signifiant number of non-stop and one-stop options to Asia. The introduction of premium economy equalizes some of the advantages enjoyed by Asian competitors like Singapore Airlines (refer to our coverage here) and Cathay Pacific Airways. This new cabin may also take away some marketshare from the Middle Eastern airlines who do not have premium economy and have an ever increasing gap between economy and business class fares.