American Airlines adds new seat category between economy and business

 American Airlines passengers will soon get to choose a new seat category on international flights — premium economy.

The announcement of the new roomier seats, to be located directly behind the business class seats, means that the Fort Worth-based carrier will offer a total of six seat categories throughout its fleet, the most of any U.S. carrier.

The premium economy seats will be offered on international wide-body planes, starting in late 2016.

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But don't get the new seats confused with American's “main cabin extra” seats, which are roomier than the basic economy seats but don't include some extras that come with the premium economy seats, such as free drinks, on-demand entertainment and the use of noise-reducing headphones.

Seth Kaplan, managing partner for the trade publication Airline Weekly, said the new seat bridges the growing gap between economy and business sections.

“Business class has become so nice that people want to pay for something more comfortable but they can't afford business class,” he said.

Industry experts say the addition of the new seat category is part of the airline industry's push to try to sell passengers on roomier seats with extra amenities for a slightly higher price.

It's the same tactic that rental car companies use when they pressure you to spend a little more for a full-size sedan instead of the cheaper compact car you reserved.

The new seat category between economy and business is not new to European carriers. Virgin Atlantic first launched a premium economy section in 1994.

“The U.S. carriers are really late to the game here,” said Jami Counter, senior director for flights at the travel site Tripadvisor.com.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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