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February 27, 2024
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Seven years after parent airline Lufthansa, SWISS is set to introduce Premium Economy seats on its fleet from the final quarter of this year. The new class was unveiled on June 28 and puts SWISS among the airlines that want to benefit from passengers who want to pay extra for more space and comfort. SWISS has joined the Premium league.

SWISS’ entire fleet of twelve Boeing 777-300ERs will be retrofitted with 24 Premium Economy seats each. The first few aircraft will be available in Q4, with the refurbishment set for completion before the start of the 2022 summer schedule, which means by late March/early April.

The seats, designed by ZIM and with covers from Lantal of Bern, are reclining into a fixed back-shell to prevent any intrusion into another passenger’s zone. Seat width is between 46-48 centimeters, seat pitch is 99 centimeters. By comparison: Lufthansa’s Premium Economy seats are 46 centimeters wide and have a pitch of 97 centimeters.

CEO Dieter Vranckx says that the new class will strengthen SWISS’ position in the premium leisure market. Not only will PE passengers get a more comfortable seat, but they will also benefit from higher baggage allowances of two bags of 23 kilo’s each, premium boarding, and an upgraded culinary program with more personal choice. Ticket prices will be CHF 250-350 higher compared to Economy.

Lufthansa has Premium since 2014

Lufthansa introduced Premium Economy on its Boeing 747-8I fleet in late 2014 and has rolled out the product since on the rest of the fleet, including the 747-400, Airbus A330, A340-600, A350, and A380. With the 747-400s and A380s in deep storage or having been retired as a result of the pandemic, Lufthansa significantly reduced premium seating capacity. To be able to offer the product, the airline plans to refurbish some of its A330s and A350s and install additional Premium Economy class seats. Currently, the A330s have 28 and A350s 21 Premium Economy seats.

From 2023, the Lufthansa A350s will also get a new First Class product. To bridge the gap until these airplanes have been delivered and to offer First Class again on more routes, Lufthansa announced last week that six A340-600s will be temporarily brought back from storage.

Austrian Airlines also offers Premium Economy, on its Boeing 777-200ERs and 767-300ERs. The triple sevens have 24 and the 767s eighteen Premium seats wide 48.3 centimeters and a pitch of 96.5 centimeters. The product also includes different meals, higher baggage allowances. Even Lufthansa’s low-cost airline Eurowings has been offering a Premium product called BEST, with 21 seats available on the Airbus A330-200s and -300s that offer 115 centimeters pitch.

BA offers World Traveller Plus

Elsewhere in Europe, Premium Economy has become a well-known product. British Airways introduced the class on its A380s in 2013 and has since then rolled out World Traveller Plus on the 777s and 787s. IAG-sister Aer Lingus has no Premium seats and on its A330s and only offers four Economy seats with extra legroom and none on the A321LR.

Iberia Premium Economy

Iberia Premium Economy (Iberia)

Iberia has Premium seating available on the A330 and A350 fleet. At 44-47 centimeters in width, seats are a little more crampy than on the Lufthansa Group airlines. Pitch is 94 centimeters. Travelers can check-in via a fast lane.

KLM will follow in 2022

Air France offers PE on its 777s, 787s, and A350s. On the 777, the pitch is 96.5 centimeters, width 48.2 centimeters. On the 787, the width is identical but the pitch is 101 centimeters. The newer A350 has a pitch of 94 centimeters and a seat width of 47.4 centimeters. KLM will be the last airline to introduce Premium Economy, with the class added to its product in 2022 of the 777-300ER and 787.

The Nordic airlines SAS and Finnair also have Premium Class. SAS has it available on the A330 (56 seats), A340 (28), and A350 (32) as SAS Plus, with a seat width of 55.3 centimeters and a pitch of 96.5 centimeters.
At Finnair, the premium product is called Economy Comfort. On the news A350s, it offers 43 standard seats with a pitch of 88.9 centimeters and width of 45.7 centimeters. The A330s have forty seats with a slightly bigger pitch of up to 94 centimeters.
Finally, Alitalia. It offers Premium Economy on its A330s (17 seats) and 777-200ERs (24). Pitch is 96.2 centimeters, width 48.2 centimeters.

So as SWISS has joined the Premium league, the product seems to fit in well with the offerings from other European airlines. The differentiator might be the service level, which seems to be more Business Class than that offered by its rivals. This could indeed help strengthen the position of the Swiss carrier against the competition inside and outside Europe, with Emirates planning the roll-out of Premium Economy across its fleet in the next couple of years.

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Active as a journalist since 1987, with a background in newspapers, magazines, and a regional news station, Richard has been covering commercial aviation on a freelance basis since late 2016.
Richard is contributing to AirInsight since December 2018. He also writes for Airliner World, Aviation News, Piloot & Vliegtuig, and Luchtvaartnieuws Magazine. Twitter: @rschuur_aero.

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