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Soubhik Mitra, Hindustan Times
Mumbai, October 15, 2012
Frequent business class traveller Vispy Mistry’s decision to book a premium economy class ticket on a British Airways flight to Canada in June was largely driven by a huge markdown he got on the deal.

What made it better for the Byculla resident was the smile on his wife’s face. “We were allowed 23kg extra baggage each. She could shop as much as she wanted,” said the retired entrepreneur.

The new ‘premium economy’ class introduced by foreign carriers over the past year is not just giving wings to economy class travellers’ aspirations to taste executive luxuries on board; its price is attracting business class fliers.

Switch in bookings for the new class has more than doubled as west-bound fliers are pushing their travel budget for the extra bit of comfort. Virgin Atlantic, for instance, witnessed more than 60% increase in premium economy bookings on its London and New York bound flights from New Delhi this year.

“We have increased our seats in the new A330 premium economy cabin from 35 to 48 seats,” said Stephen King, general manager (India), Virgin Atlantic.

Air France-KLM witnessed a 31% growth in bookings for the mid-level seats on its Europe-bound flights from Mumbai and Bangalore over the past year. “These seats are mainly preferred by small and medium enterprises that are part of our BlueBiz corporate loyalty programme,” said Suraj Nair, marketing manager (India), Air France-KLM.

Tour operators said the new class was introduced in the west during the recession in 2009. “Middle-class travellers are ready to pay Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 more for better seats and food,” said Subhash Motwani, director, Compact Travels.