American Airlines is getting into the premium experience — with a twist.
The Fort Worth-based service on Tuesday unveiled new business class and premium economy cabins on its newly delivered Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A321XLR aircraft in 2024.
The airline will refurbish two of its most expensive aircraft with new products, although it will cover initial costs with its current business-class aircraft.
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There’s a lot to unpack about the announcement, so read on for more details.
American has introduced new business class sets
Introducing the news title is the introduction of a new commercial grade product for American. The carrier is installing private suites in the forward cabin of all new 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft starting in 2024.
These so-called Flagship Suites feature a 1-2-1 configuration and direct aisle access for every passenger. Additionally, each seat will have a privacy door, lounge seating option and expanded personal space. There also appears to be a privacy divider between the middle seats.
American’s new seat was custom designed for the carrier and is based on the standard reverse herringbone design. All seats face away from the aisle for added privacy and personal space.
This move has been a long time coming for Americans. The airline has long been rumored to be installing private pants in business class on its new Dreamliner planes, but now it has been officially confirmed.
In fact, back in April, news broke that American would be outfitting the new Dreamliners in a premium-heavy configuration with new seats. Dubbed the “787-9P,” the new aircraft will feature 51 business class pods, 32 premium economy seats, 18 coach seats with extra legroom, and 143 standard economy seats.
American’s existing 787-9s have 30 biz pods and 21 premium economy recliners, so the new jets will skew more premium. It wasn’t immediately clear whether American plans to retrofit existing Dreamliner planes with the new product, and we’ll update the story as we learn more.
Airbus A321XLR also got a new seat
In addition to the widebody Dreamliner, America’s narrowbody fleet is getting an upgrade.
As the carrier launches the Airbus A321XLR in 2024, this single-aisle jet represents a comprehensive business-class product for the carrier.
The Airbus A321neo sports 20 Flagship Suites arranged in a 1-1 configuration, resembling JetBlue Airways’ new mint business-class pods.
These seats feature sliding privacy doors, large storage areas and HD personal televisions. Unlike the new long-haul business-class suite, these seats face the aisle in a herringbone configuration.
These A321XLRs feature 12 premium economy recliners.
American plans to deploy these jets on transatlantic flights where there may not be enough demand for large-body jets, and perhaps these planes will be deployed on premium continental flights – more on that below.
It will get a premium economy upgrade
The most noticeable changes are in Business Class, where American is introducing a new premium economy suite on its new 787-9 and A321XLR fleet.
With new privacy wings and extra storage space, these seats are likely to be popular among those looking to upgrade their travel experience without settling for a business-class seat. Based on the reviews, these seats don’t seem to feature leg rests.
These seats are identical to Delta’s new custom-designed cabin first class recliners that debuted on the Airbus A321neo earlier this year.
American will install 32 of these seats on the 787-9 Dreamliner and 12 on the A321XLR.
Notably, this will be the first time an American narrow-body aircraft will feature premium economy. However, given the airline’s deployment plans for the jet — on long, thin transatlantic routes — it makes sense for the carrier to add this popular cabin.
Along with the new cabins, American is officially retiring its flagship cabin.
Because from the end of 2024, the airline will retrofit existing Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A321T jets with these special seats.
Historically, the Airbus A321T is one of the most expensive aircraft in the US, as the carrier only deploys it on premium routes from New York and Boston to Los Angeles and San Francisco.
This A321 fleet currently has 10 Flagship First pods, 20 Flagship Business lie-flats and 72 economy seats, half of which are in the extra-leg configuration.
Going forward, American will replace 16 A321Ts with the rest of its A321 fleet, although the carrier has promised to continue offering lie-flat seats on its premium transcontinental routes from New York and Boston.
Meanwhile, the airline’s 20 Boeing 777-300ER aircraft are equipped with eight Flagship First Pods, 52 Flagship Business lie-flats, 28 premium economy recliners and 216 Economy seats.
After the revamp, they feature a whopping 70 Flagship Business Class suites and 44 Premium Economy seats – but no Flagship First pods.
It was not immediately clear what American would do with the airport’s Flagship First dining facilities, which currently offer the airline’s high-premium flyers a restaurant-style pre-departure dining experience.
Perhaps the airline will open up these outposts and sell them at an additional cost — a move the airline began experimenting with earlier this year.
Although the bigger story line is American’s investment in the premium experience, it’s worth noting that the airline still suffers from a number of product inconsistencies.
While the newly delivered Dreamliners, 777-300s and A321XLRs will feature new seats, the carrier has not announced plans to update the rest of the widebody.
That means the existing 787-8 and -9 Dreamliners will continue to offer a separate product alongside the 777-200s. To make matters worse, the airline still flies the far-lower Safran Concept D zig-zag style business class seats that look forward and aft.
Of course, the airline may decide to retrofit more existing aircraft, but only time will tell if the carrier decides to do so.
Meanwhile, American is running out of time to put its new seats into service, starting with its newly delivered jets in 2024.