Premium economy hits the spot

THE premium economy cabin is a money spinner, with travel agents and airlines reporting that this cabin is more popular than ever in South Africa, drawing clients from economy- and business-class cabins.

“Premium economy has become so popular that it is one of the most difficult cabins in which to find availability,” says Marco Cristofoli, ceo of BCD Travel. 

“We mostly see corporates booking this product. They may have downscaled their travel policies from business class but still want to offer employees an upmarket flying experience that comes with perks such as extra baggage allowance, more leg-room, a relatively private cabin and lounge access.”

Singapore Airlines introduced a premium economy cabin to its South African route three years ago. Market development manager, Sally George, says the cabin is popular and fills a gap between available products.

“We see many passengers upselling from economy to premium economy during high season – this is because the high demand at this time of year results in a smaller gap between fares in the two cabins. We’ve also seen some corporates downgrading from business class to premium economy to cut costs.”

According to Bobby Bryan, Delta Air Lines commercial director – Africa, the airline will introduce its refitted Boeing 777 on the Johannesburg-Atlanta route later this year, which brings the premium economy cabin, Delta Premium Select, to South Africa for the first time.

Demand for Virgin Atlantic Airways’ premium economy seats continue to grow with forward loads looking strong, says Mandy Lerena, the airline’s commercial manager for SA.

The Wander Wall – an interactive space where premium passengers can get up, stretch their legs and grab a snack or treat – is a major premium economy drawcard, she says.