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.