Mini-Review: American Airlines Premium Economy A330-200 Philadelphia To Munich

Reader and frequent Ask Lucky contributor Ricky W. flew American’s premium economy a couple of weeks ago, and offered to share his experience.


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American Airlines announced their premium economy service back in 2016, and it has slowly rolled out across their widebody fleet since. On a recent trip from Philadelphia to Europe, I was lucky enough to try out the product.

While this is certainly not a comprehensive, detailed review like readers are accustomed to from Lucky, I still wanted to share some thoughts and photos. As I was preparing for my flight, a quick search online for premium economy reviews revealed next to no information on what to expect, so I hope this is helpful.

Without further ado, please enjoy.

American Airlines 716
Philadelphia (PHL) – Munich (MUC)
Wednesday, October 3
Depart: 4:40PM
Arrive: 6:45AM (+1 day)
Duration: 8hr05min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-200
Seat: 6F (Premium Economy)

Background & Booking

While I love my day job for so many reasons, our corporate travel policy is not one of them. Without getting into too much detail, we are required to book economy class tickets with little exception. For flights over 10 hours, we are allowed to purchase extra legroom.

I certainly enjoy treating myself to business class or better on my own, thanks to points and miles, but this was not going to be one of those trips.

Upon learning I was going to Oktoberfest in Munich for work with some customers (see, reason #1 that I do love my job), I still tried to make myself as comfortable as possible. My systemwide upgrade was waitlisted (and ultimately never cleared). In the meantime, I phoned American and inquired about the cost to upgrade to premium economy.

The agent quoted me the extremely reasonable price of $120 to upgrade, so without hesitation, I gave her my card info and locked that down!

The Seat

Premium economy is in its own mini-cabin, in a 2-3-2 configuration, and is advertised as recliner-style seats with 38” of pitch and 18.5” of width.

To me, this sounded a lot like a domestic first class seat that you’d find almost anywhere in the country on any of the US Big 3.

What really sets the hard product apart though, is the addition of a foot rest (or leg rest in the bulkhead).

As seems to be the new norm these days in every cabin, each seat does have its own huge TV screen and individual power and USB outlet.

The Meals

American does offer a supposedly elevated meal experience in premium economy, and I was anxious to find out if it deserved the hype.

Here is the menu for the flight:

I chose the ravioli dish, which was served all one tray. The crew came around about 45 minutes into the flight, and everything was wrapped up about 45 minutes after that.

Personally, I wasn’t expecting fine dining in premium economy, so I wasn’t disappointed by the meal. I’d probably put it on par with one of those higher-end microwavable dinners you can buy at the store these days – hits the spot, but not memorable.

It’s also worth noting that American doesn’t use real glassware or cutlery in Premium Economy.

During the meal service, I noticed my first frustration with the premium economy product (there aren’t many!), and that is the lack of storage space.

The seat provides a small nook to the side to store things like an iPad, passport, cell phone, etc. There’s also the standard seatback pouch. But, other than that, your options are relatively limited.

Once the full dinner tray and drinks were on my tray table, I literally had no other room to use until the crew came to clear my meal.

A light breakfast was served a little over an hour before landing, and consisted of a basic fruit plate with yogurt and a pastry.

Random Pros & Cons

Amenity kit, pillows and blankets

You get a bigger pillow and heavier blanket than normal, which is great. However, American tends to keep their cabin a bit warmer, so the blanket is almost too heavy.

A standard amenity kit is offered, with the usual American Cole Haan branded partnership. The bag itself is a bit flimsy compared to the typical business class kit, but all the amenities are still there.

Arm rests that decline

The lone armrest at each seat (e.g., the one against the aisle in an aisle seat and the one against the window in a window seat) actually lower into the seat.

If you are someone who likes the extra support, this may not be a plus, but for me, it adds an extra few inches to the seat width and makes it so much easier to curl up and nap.

Lavatory

Does premium economy get its own bathroom? Honestly, I don’t know if anyone on my flight knew (flight attendant or passengers).

There is a lavatory immediately in front of row 6, which means from my seat I could almost touch the door to the lav with my foot. Some flight attendants insisted this was for business class passengers only, some clearly did not care who used it.

Considering the alternative is to walk 15+ rows back into economy, it would make sense that this lavatory several feet in front of the cabin should be available to premium economy.

Upgrade Chances & Priority

American Executive Platinum members do get unlimited, complimentary upgrades into the cabin on the day of departure. A few hours before we boarded, the cabin was only 9 out of 21 seats full. Upon boarding, all seats were taken due to complimentary upgrades.

I was also very curious how American prioritizes upgrades into business class. I am a Platinum elite member, and waitlisted a Systemwide Upgrade to business class (borrowed graciously from my brother). As a Platinum, paid Premium Economy passenger, would my upgrade clear before an Executive Platinum, paid coach passenger? I discussed this for a few minutes with two friendly agents in the Admirals Club and one gate agent before boarding.

The verdict? Status (and dollars) trumps fare class, always. Even an Executive Platinum with less rolling EQD, booking premium economy, would be lower on the upgrade list than an Executive Platinum with more rolling EQDs, booking coach. Interesting.

Ultimately, business went out full before any upgrades cleared, so this was a non-issue on my flight.

Overall thoughts

There are some minor issues that as premium economy becomes more popular, I hope American can work out. But, overall, at a $120 premium over coach, premium economy on a transatlantic flight is an absolute no-brainer. The extra personal space, comfortable recliner seat, upgraded amenities and nicer meals made this flight fly-by.

For any readers out there who, like me, work for a company that does not allow employees to purchase premium cabins, I highly encourage you to consider paying the premium yourself out-of-pocket. Even looking at a very popular route, like say New York to London over Christmas, the premium for premium economy over economy is only $202 each way.

Add that to the increased earning rates for EQMs, and you can bet I’ll be doing this again.

Have you flown American’s premium economy? How was your experience?

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Great addition. Thanks for the review. I’m based out of PHL and have always found lack of premium economy reviews a bit annoying. Thanks for fixing that!!! More reviews like this welcome!

  2. A very nice review! Would also be interested to know more about premium econ compared with other airlines.

  3. Great review, definitely good for people who travel for work. Looks like AA needs to upgrade their PE delivery though. They can’t give real silverware?

  4. I’m glad you like your job (and certainly Oktoberfest in Munich as part of the job sounds fun) but wow is that a stingy policy.

    I can’t imagine a company that doesn’t allow business class on international flights, much less not even on flights over 10 hours! How are you expected to work after landing? Even domestically I can’t get much work done in economy. We typically book first class for flights over 3 hours.

  5. GAO birds!!!

    Good review. Thank you.

    Wawa is the best source of food prior to getting on board American.

  6. Great review. It does seem that the premium for PE slowly rises as the product becomes more established – at least that’s what has happened (with some notable exceptions) with BA and VS.

  7. I upgraded to premium economy on a philly route before but i dont believe it was as cheap as $120. might have been more like $300 but i cant be sure. how far in advance did you make the decision to upgrade to premium economy?

  8. Thanks for the review on AA Prem Eco. I’ve never tried it before, but I have on Delta’s Premium Select cabin and at least to me it does seem from meal point of view, Delta’s service seems slightly better compared to AA’s from presentation and food content point of view. I guess this is personal. DL gives Tumi bag out vs AA’s Cole Haan. At least on DL’s A350 plane, it is clear that Premium Select has it’s own lavatory and I’ve not really noticed Economy passengers coming up to use it despite the non existence of a curtain between the cabins.

    Only items which looks better compared to DL is the pillow size, the one from Delta seems slightly smaller but it is well padded. It does seem nice that AA gives complimentary upgrade to Exec Plat into the cabin, which Delta does not even for their Diamond status holder.

    Cheers!

  9. Good review!

    AA Premium Economy seems to be very reasonably priced. In my opinion, it’s almost a no-brainer, especially on flights to Asia.

  10. Why do you find the upgrade ranking interesting?

    AA’s upgrade priority is very clearly published on the website. Prioritizing by status and total EQD, rather than fare class, makes total sense – it recognizes overall long-term spend to the airline rather than just “what did you do for me today”. And think very carefully about the implications of Premium Economy being treated above Economy for SWUs – as that would likely mean that SWUs become only valid for Y–>W, and W–>J, and not valid for Y–>J.

    As for complaining about little storage space. As you said – it’s basically a domestic F seat. What were you expecting?

  11. Thank you! I fly on Premium Economy most of the time and I always enjoy seeing reviews about these seats. Keep them coming!

  12. Many thanks! I will be traveling PHL-MUC soon and yours is the first review of the A330-200 version of AA-PE I’ve seen.

  13. I’m curious. You say:

    “As a Platinum, paid Premium Economy passenger, would my upgrade clear before an Executive Platinum, paid coach passenger?”

    But were you? You *upgraded* for $120, thus someone with lower status who paid for a Y fare (assuming your company purchased an lower priced coach fare) would be listed higher than you (since, again, I assume that if you bought a PE class fare from the get-go, you’d be in a different fare class).

  14. @Bob, It’s just a matter of when before the SWUs will become valid for Y-PEY, PEY-JCL, PEY-FCL. In other words, a one class upgrade. At the moment, I don’t think PEY is a redeemable class. This is another excuse from management to redo the redemption charts.

  15. We flew in this seat on a 777-300 this Summer before it was officially Premium Economy. We got the seat but without the enhanced meal or the amenity kit. Overall, it was great and I would absolutely pay a $120 premium for it. The seat is the SAME seat as the domestic first class seat but with the addition of the foot rest in the non-bulkhead seats and the leg rest in the bulkhead seats. Storage is an issue. The foot rest essentially blocks access to the under-seat storage. Because of this, overhead storage is really at a premium. The bulkhead leg rest is way better than the foot rest and I would in the future try to get a bulkhead, especially as there really isn’t any access to under-seat storage in nonbulkhead rows anyway.

    TL;DR: This is business class from 30 years ago

  16. Nice review!! I haven’t flown American in many years due to the fact they don’t serve the routes that I frequent, but it is nice to see them add the premium economy on long-haul routes. I think more airlines should add this class of service, with a real differentiation between premium and regular economy. It adds a ton of value without a huge premium. I do the same on Aeroflot. Usually, I intentionally book flights between Vladivostok and Moscow and between Moscow and U.S. destinations on flights operated by their 777-300’s due to the fact they have a Comfort Class (premium economy) cabin. The seats are light-years ahead of regular economy seats, the business-class menu is served (using real silverware and plates) and the price difference between Comfort and Economy is generally very small. For example, I am flying VVO-JFK return in December, and 3 of the 4 flights are operated by the 777’s. The difference between Economy and Comfort is just $250, so that is a no-brainer for me. (It is significant to note that after flying two VVO-JFK round trips in Comfort Class earns Gold Status, with less than $2500 spend, as Aeroflot does status based solely on miles or segments flown. It’s absurdly easy to become Skyteam Elite Plus through them.)

  17. Thanks for the review.

    Really highlights a huge gripe that I have with North American carriers – the number of complimentary upgrades. I mostly pay cash for my flights in J, and can’t stand when the cabin gets full with people who just get complimentary upgrades. It’s not a good experience when the cabin is packed. Which is why North America carriers will never get my loyalty.

  18. Thanks for the review. I’ve been flying PE quite a bit this year on OneWorld carriers and have found AA’s product to be the best on average of those I’ve tried – mainly because of the seat. BA, with its business class entrées, has the best food, but is otherwise hit-or-miss (quite nice on the A380 but, not surprisingly, pretty awful on the dilapidated 747). And Cathay’s PE product is just plain bad, with terrible food and a lousy seat.

  19. Great review, and thanks a ton for diving into the upgrade process. These are the important pieces of information that you rarely get in a review, much appreciated!

  20. I guess the goal is to get a PY bulkhead seat with the leg rest. The foot rest in the following rows seems rather useless.

    I’m a Christmas leisure travel person to Europe and it’s been relatively easy to use my SWUs for Business Class seats in recent years. I have noticed that, on many of these flights, mainly CDG and FCO, the abundance of empty seats in Economy with many passengers having four center section seats to themselves on the A330 aircraft flying out of PHL. So if the past is any indicator of Christmas flight capacity, it seems everyone wins in all cabins.

    Good job with your first review Ricky! Always enjoy your advice on Ask Lucky.

  21. Thanks for the review! Great style, succinct and informative.

    That pastry is hilarious though! It’s so tiny. Even Lucky might eat that one. 😉 lol

  22. @Andy

    I booked this back in March. I was watching the flight pretty regularly hoping the upgrade to biz would clear, and it was definitely closer to $350ish as departure got closer.

  23. @Bob wasn’t expecting a ton of space, but somewhere to put the free bottle of water they gave me while my dinner was on the tray table would have been nice 🙂

  24. @Seattle Eric

    I was in a PE fare class from the get-go. As you can see from the earnings, I was booked in P class. Company was paying for Y, and I got the quote from American for $120 more to get into PE. I put the $120 difference on my personal card.

    Sorry, goal was to keep the review short and sweet, so I did gloss over that a bit. Hope that clarifies!

  25. Nice review! How was the recline? Other airlines publish it. Like Cathay’s A350 states 9” recline, which I was easily able to sleep with. RE: upgrades, I doubt they sold out the J cabin, most likely, CK and EXP passengers with high spend cleared days before, but the airport upgrade list didn’t clear anyone.
    @EthFlyer, it’s great you pay for J always, this means you literally have no use for loyalty to any airline, but those of flying 150K plus miles a year, are spending a significant lot more than you are on a handful of J flights with whoever you chose, so those cabins fill in with the customers that actually support the particular airline financially. I would quickly hop away from loyalty were it not for the complimentary upgrades.

  26. Did AA charge you a change ticket fee to upgrade to PE or just the fare difference? Just curious as my employer only allows coach and I would like to upgrade at my own expense sometimes.

  27. Maybe his company paid a not so cheap price on economy, and they had a discounted premium economy fare available to charge only $120 to upgrade.

  28. As a shareholder in my company, I choose to be frugal with company funds as it directly impacts me. I travel to Europe once per month and nearly always connect in Heathrow. I’ve found the premium economy is perfectly acceptable, even at 6’4″ and with wide shoulders. When I have to fly from my home (LAX) instead of from the East Coast, it gets a bit tiring, but I have found that booking a connection in PHL or JFK makes it more palatable.

  29. Ricky:
    Excellent review. I know others have been asking for premium economy reviews, nice to see one.

    Being 6’3” tall, I would not be happy with my employer if they didn’t provide a little more love when it came to air travel. Having said that, the upgrade cost was really reasonable in your case. An absolute no brainer.

  30. @Jetset: Most companies don’t book business for long haul flights because the cost/benefit doesn’t make sense. Take a random example I just priced out, LAXLHR about 3 weeks out. I can find nonstop economy fare options between $700 and $1200 nonstop. The cheapest business class options are >$6000, and the nonstop ones are $10,000. Unless you’re paid extremely well, the company would save money by booking you on economy, giving you a day vacation with hotel on each end, and having you do no work on those days.

  31. @Rob – You praised AA for it’s great PE seat and criticised CX for its lousy PE seat. The CX PE seats (at least in the A350) are exactly the same as the AA seats pictured above except they are covered in cloth.

  32. @Nick – We typically don’t have buffer on international trips to pad with a day of no work (I’m in consulting) so the extra time isn’t an option. I do agree the prices are absurd (my last two international flights were $8,500 and $10,700 respectively) but I still can’t fathom a 10+ hour flight in economy for work.

    Certainly for personal travel I can make those trade off decisions but for big corporations I don’t think it’s as excusable. I do understand how tightly finances need to be managed for small companies though so for those who are directly impacted (e.g. part owners or shareholders etc) I can see how it makes sense.

  33. Very enjoyable reading your review. That last cut/paste of the actual statement from AA is from the AA website after your trip? Correct?
    I wish AA would be a bit more transparent on EQDs / EQMs before the trip. (I know they give you a snapshot when you book ticket but then it seems to vanish when you get your actual reservation.) My new habit is to change name of reservation to the EQDs….. in this case, for you it would have been “12746”. Otherwise, its very difficult ahead of time to know what those EQDs are.

  34. Since when does AA offer unlimited, complimentary upgrades on transatlantic (or transpacific) flights? Am I missing something? I guess there could op-ups, but I have yet to experience that on AA (and only once on US before the ‘merger’).

    Scoring a SWU upgrade on a 330-200 out of PHL is hard. I have only missed once once on PHL-LHR or the return over the last 3 years, but am only at 50% on 330-200s (to/from MAN, MAD, or BCN).

  35. @Jason Lynn

    Ticket was around $1400 – definitely a bit steep but with AA’s only nonstop option to Munich during Oktoberfest, it was worth not having a connection

  36. @Rob in Miami

    That’s a great idea for the EQDs! Might be stealing that one

    And yep, that’s straight from my account page after the flight

  37. @CMTinPHL

    Sorry for confusion. The complementary upgrades are economy to premium economy. Not all the way to business. That still requires a SWU

  38. I’ll never understand the whole misunderstanding in the reasons behind upgrade priority. Person X spends $30k per year on travel with that airline, but on this one trip person Y spends $120 more for PE and thinks they should get priority over person X. Of course EQD and Status matters more than single fare $$. The fact there was a time this wasn’t the case is simply corporate idiocy.

  39. @Ricky – gotcha… I was trying to think why I didn’t know that, and then realized the last time I flew a -200 PE had yet to be installed. Heading to Dublin in a few weeks, and bought PE on the way over, though hoping a SWU clears (only one J seat left, so doubtful). Do you know if this is the same PE seat as Bon A’s 787s? FWIW, I thought BA’s PE seat pretty good, but soft product was barely better than economy. Maybe we just had a poor cabin crew.

  40. Thanks for the review. I like the premium economy product. I tried it for a $300 upgrade on a NRT to LAX flight recently. I would pay this again!

  41. most companies I worked for only paid for coach no matter how long the flight unless you were the CEO or his minions. If you were smart you flew out a day earlier than you needed to and recharge or paid for the upgrade out of pocket, (some do some don’t) or weasel the upgrade because it was only a few dollars more because of the extra baggage allowance.

  42. Nice review and thank God that my company’s travel policy is much more generous (First domestic and international).

  43. @Ryan I 100% agree that the airline should prioritize those who spend more. That’s logical business sense.

    However, if both person X and person Y are equal elites trying to upgrade to 1 seat in business class, but person X is eligible for a complimentary upgrade to person Y’s seat, then why not upgrade both? Person Y gets the business class seat and person X gets person Y’s former premium economy seat.

    An upgrade is an upgrade in my mind, so if AA can upgrade two customers instead of one, that’s two happy customers. Right?

  44. @CMTinPHL

    We flew BA 787 on the return. I didn’t pay as much attention since I had no plans of sending to Lucky! I thought the seat was pretty comfortable, especially for a daytime flight. Got a few hours of sleep

  45. @Jan

    EQD is a rolling tally of how much you’ve spent on fares with American each year, and one of the factors they use to calculate your elite status. Stands for Elite Qualifying Dollars.

    Not sure EQC 🙂

    EQM is similar, Elite Qualifying Miles

  46. The one thing I will correct you on is the cutlery. The cutlery in PE is Metal full sized 3 piece silverware, not the 5 piece you’d get in Biz, and not the plastic that you’d find in Main Cabin.

  47. @Ricky considering your initial paid fare was $1400 it makes sense that youre upgrade was only $120. You were booked in P class which is the lowest option for the cabin. Had it been W class then you’d probably be paying about $500-$800 or more for that upgrade. It’s similar if you found a deal of $700 in economy, the upgrade would be about that as well.

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