Need More Legroom? Buy Some, Says Airline

leg room

Legroom in coach continues to be a big issue with air travelers who would love to stretch out like those lucky people in first class. Side-to-side room is also of interest as those flying on airlines without assigned seating hope no one sits next to them. Now, one airline has a way to make it all better.

Main Cabin Extra makes travel more comfortable by providing you with 4 to 6 inches of additional legroom and Group 1 boarding,” said an email I received from American Airlines encouraging me to pay a bit more for coach seats. That’s an extra fee they don’t have to talk me into either. On American Airlines 767-300, 757 and 777-300ER aircraft I have paid as little as $9 for the pleasure.

Added on up until the airport check-in cut-off time, prices range between $8 and $118 per flight and can be purchased when checking in for a flight through airport self-service machines, AA Reservations, and through select travel agencies.

Different airlines call it by a different name but it all adds up the same: more space.
Ask me to pay $20 for checking a bag (or up to $150 for an overweight bag), $50-$150 per ticket to make a change in plans or any one of a score of other fees and I simply won’t do it. Tell me I can stretch out for a few dollars and I am all for it.

“Airlines aren’t chasing volume anymore, they’re chasing the bottom line,” explains Mike Boyd, chairman of Boyd Group International, an Aviation consulting firm in Evergreen, Colorado, in a Fox News report.

Indeed, holiday airfare shoppers already know that the number of flights is down as airlines choose to fly full planes that generate more profit. Not all that long ago, three classes of seating were available and clearly defined. At the top was first class, followed by business class, then economy coach seating. Today, premium economy is coming more into focus as one of the best travel values available.

“Part of this is this premium economy thing. Business class has become the battleground,” added Boyd. “That went up and up in terms of perks but has become too expensive, so now we’ve gone back to introducing another class – we’ve gone full circle. And internationally, premium economy is what business class was 20 years ago.”

Personally, it surprises me that more travelers don’t choose this inexpensive travel option. There are a limited number of exit row or expanded economy seats available but I almost always find one for a small fee when checking in for a flight.

Another steal, perhaps the gold ring of travel values, is same-day upgrades to first class on the day of departure. Domestic flights are commonly $50 more; international flight upgrades to first class (complete with bragging rights that define one as a savvy air buyer) can be a couple hundred.


[Photo credit- Flickr user Fly For Fun]

Air New Zealand debuts entirely redesigned 777

This morning Gadling is on the ground at King County International Airport (Boeing Field) as Boeing officially delivers Air New Zealand’s newest pride & joy, the completely redesigned 777-300ER.

Air New Zealand has been hard at work for nearly 4 years in an effort to reinvent their long-haul experience. Working with multiple design firms and a series of focus groups, the airline developed two entirely new styles of seats for their Economy and Premium Economy classes in addition to an array of brand-new features never before seen on a 777.

Economy class on the new craft features a design dubbed as the ‘Skycouch‘ (also known as Cuddle Class), with footrests that transform three-across seats into a lie-flat area for couples or families traveling with children.

The new Premium Economy features two types of hard shell designs; inboard seats geared towards couples and those looking to socialize, and outboard seats for individual passengers who prefer to have privacy. Every single seat on the plane has a standard power outlet, USB port, and an S-Video connector to display your personal media on the seat back’s touchscreen.

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The airplane’s galleys are equipped with induction ovens; which will hopefully change the age-old notion of “airplane food” by cooking up steak, burgers, pizza, and proper Kiwi breakfasts on-demand via Panasonic’s custom In Flight Entertainment system.

Air New Zealand has also created in-flight experiences such as a children’s story-time in the rear galley, and a social galley in the front of the plane that will host wine tasting sessions with an Inflight Concierge.

In a time when most carriers are cutting corners and looking for ways to nickel and dime the passenger, it’s incredibly refreshing to see such forward-thinking features in every class of the cabin. And it’s already paying off for Air New Zealand; more than 30 airlines have expressed interest in licensing the new seat designs after an 18 month period of exclusivity for ANZ.

Check back for updates and full impressions as Gadling joins the inaugural flight of ZK-OKM to LAX and on to Auckland!

Air New Zealand thinks THIS is an economy seat? (with video)

Well, Premium Economy, at least. But we’ve sat in Business Class seats that weren’t this comfortable.

Apparently Air New Zealand has a larger proportion of leisure passengers than other international airlines, so they’ve focused more of their efforts on enhancing the Economy and Premium Economy cabins. We covered the upcoming changes to the Economy section, including the option for passengers to choose the new Skycouch layout when booking their trip, but the Premium Economy redesign may be an even bigger story. It’s surely going to cause other airlines to take a fresh look at their offerings.

Air New Zealand currently offers a Premium Economy cabin that offers a larger selection of meal options at a much higher quality, nearly approaching the level of service seen up front in their Business Premium cabin. It’s likely one reason they were awarded ATW’s Airline of the Year for 2010. But they don’t seem ready to give up the title for 2011.
Space Seats

With their new Premium Economy “Space Seats” which enter service in November of 2010, the airline has managed to match their seats to the enhanced meal service. The combination could even rival the business class sections of other airlines.

Premium Economy passengers can reserve a seat based on their requirements for privacy or if they’re traveling with a partner, they can choose a more social arrangement. They do this by installing two different types of seats in the Premium Economy class.

Inner Space

The center seats face outward at a 23 degree angle and are called “Inner Space.” The two armrests in the middle of these seats can be lowered to create nearly enough room for a third person to sit, which could be helpful for a family flying with an infant.

With the armrests up, two people could share a meal or play a game of cards on the center console, with room for at least one person’s legs to fit underneath, like a small table.

Outer Space

The “Outer Seats” also point at a 23 degree angle and face the windows. With the new, larger 787 windows that are coming-depicted in the mockup pictures-these seats will be perfect for those who enjoy looking out. It felt a little like sitting on the front porch in a chair while taking in the view.

Another improvement over the current Premium Economy is the ability to recline without impeding anyone else’s space. And when the person sitting at the window is ready to get up, there’s enough room for the passenger at the aisle to pivot their legs to allow access. The seat width is now three inches wider at 20 inches, but there’s no obstruction, such as a fixed armrest on either side of the seats, so it feels even wider.

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“Otto” Pilot

Since there are now foot rests built into the seats, a stuffed foot rest that Air New Zealand has coined “Otto” which is short for ottoman will be provided. Ed Sims, the project manager on this effort remarked, “We readily anticipate that these will get stolen in huge numbers.”

Just like the rest of the cabin, Premium Economy will feature snacks on demand which allows a passenger to order complimentary drinks or snacks in between meals via the in flight entertainment screen.

The IFE screen is a pull-out, 10.6″ screen that provides more content than the current 8.4″ system, such as an expanded range of kids shows, exclusive offerings and a viewers recommended section. Applications such as hourly updated weather will be featured on the new graphical user interface that was designed by Air New Zealand.

A USB port or iPod connector will allow passengers to view their own content they may have brought with them. This will also be offered in the standard Economy class as well. No word on device compatibility, but the iPod and iPhone are sure to be on the list.

While looking at the innovative seats for each cabin, I couldn’t help but wonder where I’d prefer to sit. I suspect it will come down to who I’m flying with. If I were traveling with just my wife, the center, or “Inner Space” seats in premium economy would be preferable.

If we brought along our two kids, I’d love to try the two standard Economy center seats for us while the kids could take up the outer Skycouch seats for sleeping.

And if someone else is paying for the trip, well, there’s just no other option than to give the Business Premier cabin a try. Because if they consider these seats to be just a step up from their regular Economy seats, then wait until you see what they’ve done with their Business Class seat. We’ll have a review for you next week.

Gadling was briefed on the Space Seat prototype Tuesday at the Hangar 9 facility in Auckland, New Zealand. See it for yourself: