American Airlines Asks Government Permission To Put Suites With Doors In Business Class

Installing doors on business class seats actually requires more than just FAA approval – the way nearly everything on a plane does. It requires an actual exemption from federal regulations that are in place banning doors inside passenger cabins.

There are no doors between coach and business class cabins, there are curtains, for a reason – facilitating evacuation of the aircraft. And doors on business class seats are… doors inside the passenger cabin.

American Airlines has formally requested exemption from 14 CFR 121.310(f)(5)(6) & 25.813(e) in order to install doors on business class seats, in a letter dated on Thursday and posted by the FAA on Monday.

It’s been 100% clear that American Airlines plans business class seats with doors on their new delivery Boeing 787-9s, but until now the airline hasn’t been willing to confirm this officially. This letter to the FAA effectively does so. It also lays out the safety protocol for doors, and flight attendant staffing requirements to verify that requirements are met, and even outlines a protocol for potential electronic doors.

In the process they’ve also confirmed to the government the number of seats in each cabin which was leaked back in April by JonNYC. In their filing they collapse Main Cabin Extra and economy, since those are considered the same cabin, but the distribution will be as follows:

The Boeing 787-9 would go from:

  • 30 to 51 business class
  • 21 to 32 premium economy
  • 36 to 18 main cabin extra
  • 198 to 143 economy seats

In total this reflects a reduction of 41 seats, from 285 down to 244.

Ironically in justifying the exemption American makes the point that fewer passengers on the plane is safer for evacuations. Yet they’ve spent years densifying planes! They’ve added seats to nearly all of their aircraft since US Airways management took over, and continued to do so throughout the pandemic.

American submits that replacing conventional seats with mini-suites in a cabin will considerably reduce the number of occupants, which inherently improves safety

In any case the doors aren’t necessarily reducing the number of occupants on the plane! Adding business class seats means fewer passengers (which they can do with or without doors). The FAA will approve this, since they’ve already approved doors on business class seats across the board. It’s just that, since there’s a specific regulation touching on the subject, a formal exemption is required.

Doors in business class are a real improvement because they create the illusion of privacy. Here are leaked images of what the new seat may look like.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Still don’t get the cult about a waist high “door” in business class. The minor things that get some people excited is a mystery to me

  2. I bet the same people whining about too many seats on Spirit being a safety issue, probably do not see the safety issue regarding doors that can get stuck 🙂

  3. Agree on the fascination about having “suites with doors”. The new Delta suites give me claustrophobia.

  4. Fly a BA A350 or 777 with the new Club Suite. I didn’t think I would care but closing the door developed a level of privacy that I had not experienced before. You can leave it open if you like but made sleeping or just reading more relaxing. Will I go out of my way for a door, unlikely but do enjoy the extra privacy.

  5. With the clientele today, take out all seats and install hang straps. Even Business class is full of bus people

  6. I like the door in these seats, since there is a lot of space around you. I think in other seats it might be claustrophobic. Having flown Q-suites many times and thinking it would be a gimmick before I tried it the first time, I was surprised how much it really made a difference in terms of quiet and privacy, especially when sleeping and not “feeling” or hearing people walk by. It really was a game changer.

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