The good news from Air Canada this week is that they are going to be offering a new Premium Economy product in their longhaul fleet. Their 777-300ER will start to see some planes converted to support the new cabin layout this summer and the specs on the Premium Economy product are pretty solid. They will be 2-4-2 across, with 38" pitch and 20" width. Every seat will have power and also larger screens for the AVOD systems than the regular economy cabin. Premium meals, too, from what the carrier is advertising:
Enjoy a welcome beverage as you settle into your seat, and then make your choice between two delicious hot meals served in a china casserole with glassware and cutlery. Your hot meal is also accompanied by a refreshing salad, warm bread and dessert.
Breakfast offerings in Premium Economy include: fresh coffee, juice, pastries and yoghurt.
That sounds quite a bit like business class service. They even have hot towels on offer. And the seats look pretty nice in the press shots:
Air Canada is also rebranding the premium cabin on their Rouge flights as Premium Rouge, with basically the same benefits, though they really are just the same seats that are currently installed on those planes.
So that’s the good news. Now for the bad news. All these benefits in Premium Economy come at the expense of the regular economy cabin. Air Canada is shifting from 9-across to 10-across in the back, leaving passengers with just a 17" seat width. And if that wasn’t bad enough they are also cutting the pitch on the seats from 32" inches to 31". The net result is a notably smaller space and a LOT more passengers on board. The new config will be 36/24/398 compared to the current 77W layout of 42/307. That’s more than 100 additional seats on board and, from what I can see on the seat maps, no additional lavatories added.
About the only good bit here for economy passengers is that Air Canada will not be considering Premium Economy as part of the upgrade path for passengers. That means you can still upgrade from coach into the business class ("Executive First") cabin.
So, yeah, the Premium Economy product is nice. But at what cost? Things are not going to be fun for the other nearly 400 passengers on board. And if this kills the upgrade options, too, that’s even worse.