A little more space, a little more baggage, a little more comfort. The Embraer E190-E2 fleet does not offer the option for Air Astana to highly differentiate a premium cabin on board, but the carrier’s new Premium Economy service is a solid step up from the regular economy class product. But it also might not really be an upgrade for the carrier’s offerings.
A reasonable premium economy play
It is hard to deliver too much premium on the E190-E2. Switching the seating layout to a 1-2 arrangement rather than 2-2 is possible but otherwise the footprint is pretty well fixed. And Air Astana did not choose to adjust the seating. Perhaps a bit of extra legroom compared to the rows further back, but nothing truly special. Most notable about the on-board experience is likely the pre-departure drink and an upgraded meal featuring “an extensive range of local and international refreshments to choose from.”
Premium economy passengers also receive priority check-in and boarding and an increased checked baggage allowance of two 32kg bags. Earning in the frequent flyer program will match business class fares. Even business lounge access is included. All of which is to say that it essentially is just business class.
Or a downgrade from business class?
Keeping the experience on board nearly identical to the business class offering that Air Astana used to sell on those planes is where this gets particularly interesting. Nearly everything is the same, other than the marketing name. Premium economy passengers will have a few rows of dedicated space at the front of the cabin with additional space and a curtain to separate them from the economy class cabin.
The carrier claims to be dropping fares ~35% relative to business class, perhaps because the A321s that also overlap on many routes have much larger seats and better in-flight entertainment options. Spot-checking the fares seems to bear that out.
But the company also seems to be struggling with the transition from business to premium economy. Air Astana is using the same booking classes (J and Z) and business class flights on other aircraft. This results in third party sales channels not properly reflecting the new offering and even makes searching on the company’s site more difficult. Searching business class (rightfully??) skips flights operated by the E190-E2 while searching for economy class shows everything. And it is not easy to switch the search back and forth.
So there’s a new class of service on offer, but it is really just the original offering with a different name. And probably a more realistic name. But very much the same for passengers.
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