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Special Report, Going Global

Class Distinctions

 Airlines bound for Asia are rearranging the chairs at 35,000 feet to make room for premium economy 

From the outside it may look like all aircraft are created equal. Out on the tarmac, one 777 (aside from its livery) may appear to be identical to another 777 sitting next to it. Open the door, however, and differences are instantly obvious, specifically the seats and how they’re arrayed. Getting the service and seat mix right – especially when it comes to long trans-Pacific flights – demarks winners and losers.

The trick of course for carriers heading to Asia is to find the right alchemy that allows them to fashion a seat that’s reasonably comfortable while in the same instant packaging service that’s comparably affordable.

Enter premium economy.

While its adoption in Asia and Oceania hasn’t been universal, premium economy (PE) is making an indelible mark on long trans-Pacific routes, those half-a-globe-away runs that can exceed 15 hours and a bit more nonstop. Qantas’ Dallas/Fort Worth-Sydney is perhaps the prime example.

The price proposition is what drives PE. “Right now the price point for going to China [from the United States] is about a multiple of five,” says Mike Boyd, president of Boyd Group International, a Colorado-based aviation consultancy. That multiple is the approximate difference between a $1000 economy fare and a $5,000 business class ticket to ride.

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