American, Delta and United Airlines have been busy rolling out a true premium economy product the past couple of years. There’s no question these products are a step above standard economy seats. Many international airlines have featured premium economy products to/from the United States. I’ve flown a handful of them, most regularly British Airways’ version of premium economy. While I can’t claim to be a huge fan (I really want to lie down on a red-eye flight if I can) the advent of premium economy is a definite plus for travelers. Now that American Airlines has rolled out premium economy awards, it’s another option for folks to redeem their miles.
While I haven’t flown American Airlines’ new premium economy product, there is a proper seat selection strategy. And, our friend Mike at Coworkaholic did get to try the product on a flight to Europe a couple of months ago. Is it worth it to redeem your miles for premium economy? If so, can you actually find saver inventory? Glad you asked.
American Airlines Premium Economy Award Chart
American Airlines has now added premium economy to their award chart so you can see exactly how many miles a bit more space and a better meal will cost you.
To be clear, you will see prices higher than AAnytime Level 2. I found them on a number of dates. We won’t bother to dig too deeply into the relative value here other than to say it’s pretty poor. I was a little surprised to see 145,000 miles for premium economy on a day with 22,500 mile economy seats available. That’s revenue management for you.
To search for premium economy inventory, you need to jump through a few hoops right now. At the top of AA.com, you’ll see a “Flights” option in the menu bar.
Clicking on that will take you to the advanced flight search page. To make the magical new search option appear, you’ll need to check the “Redeem Miles” box near the top of the page.
From there, you’ll be taken to the new award booking search engine.
After typing in the relevant data and clicking “search”, you’d expect to be taken to a summary of what flights are available. Unfortunately, in this not-for-prime-time moment, you’ll see a lot more of this:
I’d say I easily clicked on the search button 300 times in preparing this post. Many times I would just get the same error no matter what information I keyed in. I did find single seat availability for premium economy between New York and London in February, March and April on a handful of dates.
Finding multiple seats on the same flight was a bit more challenging. After a decent amount of searching, I did manage to find two dates in November where 4 seats were available.
I didn’t manage to find a day where there were multiple premium economy and business class seats available. However, a family of 3 or 4 might consider this as an appropriate strategy to get everyone on the same flight. As it stands right now, the inventory is slim pickings. That’s not surprising given how much American Airlines has clamped down on award inventory on their own flights.
The Final Two Pennies
As I noted recently, you‘re probably hearing too much about which business and first class products you’re supposed to avoid. The best seat is the one that works for you. Premium economy can be a perfectly acceptable way to get across the pond. Since I generally only nap on flights from Europe to the US, I’d be much more likely to try to stretch my miles by booking premium economy on my return flight and hunt for business class inventory for the flight over to Europe. The one exception there is the daytime flights to London. On that flight I’d have less of an issue sitting in premium economy and collapsing at my hotel when I arrived.
Premium economy awards seem like they’ll be a needle in a haystack. But, it’s a useful needle, one that you should keep in mind for a future booking.
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