American Airlines Unveils New Business Class Seat And The End Of Flagship First Class

American Airlines announced this morning that they’ll be moving to new business class suites with doors, putting more premium seats into planes, and eliminating their Flagship First Class product starting in 2024.

None of this will come as a surprise to View From The Wing readers.

Now, though, it’s official. New business suites will debut with their delayed order for Boeing 787-9s that we should start seeing in 2024.

New Widebody Business Class Suite

The American Airlines business class suite is the Adient Ascent and it looks gorgeous – a spacious seat with doors which gives a sense of privacy and seclusion. This addition means that you no longer feel like you’re in a sea of people even in business class, but within your own cocoon as though you’re at home in your living room with a blanket, entertainment, and food brought to you. It makes transoceanic flights comfortable.


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines

One item worth noting from the photos is that center seats have a divider, which appear as though they’ll move. After problems with center dividers getting stuck on Concept D business seats, they ordered Super Diamond business class seats without a movable partition at all which creates the least possible privacy between middle seat business class passengers, potentially awkward for sleeping. They’ve corrected this deficiency in the new suites.


Credit: American Airlines

New Widebody Premium Economy Seat

Along with a new business class seat, new delivery and retrofitted widebody aircraft will feature a new premium economy seat as well. I find the current seat uncomfortable, and am hoping for an improvement.

The existing premium economy seats lack one of the important features better international airlines offer in the cabin – a foot rest – except for bulkhead seats. The photos appear to show foot bars in these new seats as well, which is less useful, but saves space in the cabin and allows the airline to fit in more seats.


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines

New Narrowbody Business Class Suite

The Airbus A321XLR which is currently on order and expected in 2024 will feature new Collins Aurora suites as well. American Airlines will put lie flat seats with doors on narrowbody planes. And each seat will have direct aisle access.

These aircraft are designed to fly longer routes, such as between the East Coast and smaller cities in Europe. They can also be deployed on premium cross country flights (although they may not be the exclusive aircraft for this, those routes may see widebodies as well). I’ve written to expect that the current premium cross country Airbus A321T fleet would be retrofitted to match existing A321s, with these new A321XLRs deployed on cross country flights.

That will happen, and the new business class seat is an improvement over the current A321T business seat. It might be an improvement over the A321T first class seat – it has doors but may not have as much space.


Credit: American Airlines

The seat looks just as I wrote that you should expect it to look.

Introduction Of Narrowbody Premium Economy

The Airbus A321XLR will feature premium economy as well, which will be a new addition to cross country flights when deployed in that fashion. What we lose without the A321T, though, is the volume of extra legroom coach seats.


Credit: American Airlines


Credit: American Airlines

The End Of Flagship First Class

American Airlines doesn’t just plan to put their new business suite in new delivery Boeing 787-9s, they expect to deploy it on Boeing 777-300ERs as well. Their fleet will receive new interiors – and lose first class – beginning in “late 2024” – featuring 70 business class (!) and 44 Premium Economy seats.

As mentioned, American’s A321T planes which currently fly premium cross country routes will be retrofitted to match existing A321 aircraft, eliminating a subfleet type. That means these routes will lose international (Flagship) first class service).

American has had the potential to offer a truly differentiated Flagship First Class, even with its existing antiquated first class seats. They have Flagship First check-in and First Dining inside some of their business class lounges. They could have paired that with Five Star ground service which they currently offer for sale. And then they’d have simply needed to improve first class catering and implement better on board service standards.

Instead they’re going the opposite direction. They won’t have the most refined business class product in the air, though they offer a reasonably good ground experience and good bedding. The addition of business class suites will be huge. But the end of first class is a sad moment for aviation and for the airline.

More Premium Seats

We’re not just looking at a new seat, but also more premium seats. I wrote last fall that American Airlines has been planning to put more business class seats on planes.

This comes after years of taking business class seats out of planes, first from their Boeing 777-200s and then from Boeing 787-8s. That’s left them with small premium cabins and not enough premium seats to sell.

With the introduction of the new business class seats, they’re taking the opportunity to put in more premium seats. That’s true for the Boeing 787-9 and the Airbus A321XLR offers a new premium experience to the fleet.

The airline says that “premium seating on American’s long-haul fleet will grow more than 45 percent by 2026.”

  • 787-9s will have 51 business class suites and 32 premium economy seats
  • A321XLRs will have 20 business class suites and 12 premium economy seats.
  • 777-300ERs will have 70 business class suites and 44 premium economy seats.

This represents more opportunities to get out of coach into forward cabins, whether paid, via upgrades, or redeeming miles. Although it’s worth noting that 20 business class seats on the A321XLR compares unfavorably to 30 first and business seats currently on the A321T.

Unanswered Questions

So far American Airlines hasn’t spoken to any plans to retrofit existing Boeing 777-200 and Boeing 787 aircraft with these new, better seats. They’ll be taking delivery of new planes through 2026, which is great, and putting the new seats into 777-300ERs since that’s their largest aircraft and it allows them to drop first class.

However we’ll see numerous different products for quite some time. Hopefully they’ll segregate their new Boeing 787-9s, at least, on specific routes so that we’ll be able to know what product to expect when booking a ticket.

Meanwhile American Airlines has an incredible product in its Flagship First Dining rooms inside of its business class Flagship lounges. These are currently open at New York JFK, Dallas – Fort Worth, and Miami. The Los Angeles location remains closed, with the pullback in long haul international service from LA.


Flagship First Dining New York JFK

It’s not clear what the future of these spaces is, without a Flagship First product for sale. American does now have ‘Business Plus’ fares which bundle access, and has sold access via a premium offering through Five Star. However the future of these facilities has always seemed unclear, even when they debuted. They’re simply a class beyond anything you would expect or have experienced from the airline.

A spokesperson would only confirm that the feature remains available, but offers nothing about future availability when Flagship First Class is no longer for sale.

We are pleased to continue serving our customers in our Flagship First Dining lounges and will continue to provide an exquisite fine dining experience for our customers who purchase a Flagship First or Flagship Business Plus fare on transcontinental and long-haul international flights.

Sad But Exciting At The Same Time

American Airlines already has a good business class seat as far as it goes. Investing in a new premium seat is exciting, though I imagine we won’t see fleet harmonization any time soon. Having more business class seats is exciting, too – both for the airline’s prospects and also for customers being able to actually book those seats.

I just wish – personally – that they’d doubled down on first class instead of dropping it in favor of a new business class. I’m a little bit sad about that, even as I’m anxiously looking forward to trying their new products once they debut.

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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »

Pingbacks

Comments

  1. Any idea if the new PE seats actually allow you to put a bag under them? Last time I flew PE on the -300ERs (pre-pandemic) under seat storage was nothing due to the design of the seat and equipment boxes. Caused a lot of overhead crowding that didn’t need to happen in that section.

  2. What the h___ is Isom thinking? Taking away Flagship, no more reservations on hold.

    Several years ago Bob Crandall said, “They ruined my airline.”

    I wonder what he would say today.

  3. I’d think that FFD remains in some form at JFK, if only because AA and BA will be operating joint lounges, and BA needs a dining room for their First Class.

  4. Gary, it’s actually the other way around. I guess you’re looking at it the wrong way. The mini-cocoons, those are actually the new First Class seats. Premium Economy is actually the new business class. We came back around in circles. Remember when the old “business class” product on US airlines was only a 45 degree recliner?? Cheer up, the best is yet to come!!!

  5. @Gary,

    Do you know whether the remaining 10 787-800 on order will have the same configuration and seats as currently offered or will they feature the new interior with more business class seats? These planes seem to be a challenge for American as often where they are deployed they have the full compliment of 20 business class seats sold out months in advance and the same is often true with premium economy.

    Also, I know you previously mentioned the American AIrlines cobranded credit card agreements were up in 2022. Have you heard about any changes as we are nearing the end of the year already?

  6. I think the move to the “Suite” and eliminating Flagship First makes the best business sense and glad to see it. I would image that the 787-9 and -8 previously brought into the fleet will be standardized after 773 and the 772 will likely be phased out as the 787-9 come in (I suspect more orders of that type or even some -10s). AA is shifting, their domestic and international premium services are gaining ground and inflight service is improving (as is the food). I suspect that the international fleet will be standardized by 2028 just like they did with the domestic fleet the past 3 years. AA is making strides that will put it up against DL in the near future. Good to see AA coming back.

  7. The 788s need to be retrofit. As many have said, 20 J seats isn’t nearly enough. Also, many of those frames have the terrible “rock-n-roll” concept d seats. Next to impossible to sleep in those

  8. @JC I don’t think they’re actually *up* this year (maybe next) but they’ve been doing the re-up negotiations, as for the new 787-8s I believe those get the current Super Diamond seats.

  9. Seems like a net positive to me, and makes sense in an environment going forward where: 1) more people who traditionally buy F are flying private, 2) fewer business travelers can justify F, and 3) J demand will remain high due to a mix of business and upmarket leisure travel.

    In particular, I think the narrowbody layout is promising. Of course, a lot of it will depend on pricing. The J product looks, as Gary notes, to be at rough parity with the existing 321T F product, and the PE product is basically domestic two-class F. I’m curious, then, how they price it – to what extent will they bracket two-class F fares with the new J and PE fares?

  10. I’m not sure how this is earth-breaking. Delta has had doors on its suites on its A350s and A330-900s for years and on its 777s before that. Delta also has had footrests on its premium economy seats as well. Delta is also supposedly working on a second generation suite.
    What is clear is that American still loses massive amounts of money operating its international network – over $1.1 billion just in the first two quarters of this year although it broke even YTD on domestic.
    There is far more that needs to be fixed at AA than the hard product in its international premium cabins.

  11. So we’re not gonna talk about this hideous brown and blue they’re pushing? Doesn’t match their brand.

  12. Did you regularly pay out of your own pocket for first class or have a company that would pay for it on business travel? If not, then that’s part of the reason they (and every other airline in the world) are reducing first class or eliminating it entirely, there’s not enough demand for it at the price they would have to charge. It’s not just AA, BA reduced a number of cabins from 14 seats to 8 seats, Singapore cut their A380 suites from 8 to 6, Emirates cut their 777 first class from 8 to 6, Etihad has basically eliminated it, Qatar is only going to have first class from Doha to London and Paris, Korean Air and Asiana basically eliminated it other than for now ICN-JFK and ICN-LAX, Qantas is going from 14 seats on their A380 to 6 on their sunrise A350 in what ought to be perfect for a highly premium configuration (the Singapore ultra-long haul flights are business and premium economy only, the reduction in seat count comes from the lack of economy). There’s not a single airline anywhere in the world, including state-backed ones that don’t even need to make shareholder returns and that have a history of trying innovative things, that see the demand to increase first class, so it’s pretty difficult to make a compelling argument that there’s a great market that AA could tap into if they could just get their product right

  13. @Dominic Kivni – There’s a market for long haul international F, it is smaller but the fact that others have pulled back leaves is available to capture. I have family members who have very regularly flown paid international F for work, most of my business travel is domestic though I just got added to the manifest of a private flight for work yesterday.

  14. @Tim Dunn – no one says this is ‘earth-breaking’ but the Delta Thompson Vantage XL seat is pretty meh, Adient Ascent should blow it away, there’s no question Delta needs to work on a better seat.

  15. The domestic carriers have/had no first class product close to the international carriers. Delta figured that out several years back. Now work on domestic first class as it currently compares to coach years back when flying was so much better than today. I will say I was very impressed with all aspects of AA @ the new LGA. Check-in (priority), Admirals Club, ground crew, FAs, the whole experience was impressive. If you ever pay attention, when is the last time you actually saw the crew chief salute the captain holding the gear safety pin? A real salute, military style. For me a good sign (professionalism). Yeah I know who cares, but some of us do & know.

  16. Welcome to becoming Delta American
    Cramped business class seating with prison doors ,over priced redemptions and now no holds for reservations.Nothing to differentiate from others
    Looks like I have to turn to the Middle East airlines for premium air travel once again
    Average airline at best with horrible management.Flying to Europe this week and avoiding them once again.Pathetic

  17. Regardless of whatever seat American puts on its international aircraft, it can’t turn into profits. That was true before covid and it is true now.
    I get the “wow factor” with shiny new things but American hasn’t figured out how to profitably run its transatlantic and transpacific operations where the vast majority of its widebody fleet is deployed.
    In contrast, Delta has done the best job of the big 3 in getting passengers to pay what is necessary to generate profits on its international network.
    All of the large jet US airlines are publicly traded, for-profit companies. All of the new gadgets and routes in the world don’t matter if they can’t make money. That is simply definitional.
    Feel free to let us know the last longhaul Delta international flight you actually took.

  18. @Gary Leff – other carriers have pulled out of the market precisely because it’s small and shrinking, state owned carriers don’t “have” to do anything for economic reasons unless it’s a serious problem, and flying around mostly empty seats that take up a lot of space seems to have gotten to that point for them. If anyone could deliver more international first class, it’s the gulf carriers, and even they don’t see that as an opportunity

  19. Any idea of what the pitch is on A321XLR, looks very short?
    I wonder why choosing an herringbonne when you have reverser herringbonne giving access to the window?

  20. The new business class seat looks nice and more premium seats is another improvement. The premium economy seat looks a lot like the new Delta domestic business class seat. As sad as it is that American is breaking up with first class, first class and American is a bad fit. First class is not a concept that is part of American Airlines’ core competency.

  21. I like the images – if you’re not innovating, you’re falling behind, and these new cabins will give AA’s aircraft a solid refresh.

    On a semi-related noted, I just came back from a short UK trip, flew AA 787-9 outbound and BA 777 with new Club Suites return, so an opportunity to test two almost identical seats back-to-back, with the notable exception of the door. My reaction was that these “pods” offer enough inherent privacy that the door is a needless addition of weight, cost and ongoing maintenance. Just one person’s opinion, obviously.

  22. 77W J seat is the best thing AA has done. It’s been in decline ever since. Add a door but reduce shoulder space. I flew BA J with doors, thought it suvjed compared to an 77W J seat. When lying down, couldn’t raise my knees. Not enough rooms for my arms comfortably at my sides. And I’m only 5’20”.

  23. No mention if the switch from 321T to 321XLR will keep IFE. Widebodies and 321Ts still have it as opposed to the removal of it in all other aircraft. If any widebodies eventually serve the trans-con market, the entertainment experience should be the same regardless of aircraft flown. I still find it uncompetitive to have to bring tablets for everyone on a family trip.

  24. No mention if the switch from 321T to 321XLR will keep IFE. Widebodies and 321Ts still have it as opposed to the removal of it in all other aircraft. If any widebodies eventually serve the trans-con market, the entertainment experience should be the same regardless of aircraft flown. I still find it uncompetitive to have to bring tablets for everyone on a family trip.

  25. It is nice to see AA doing something other than reducing, eliminating, downgrading, and minimizing. This looks like a great new product and I’m excited to fly it.

    Someone above mentioned how nice it is to fly AA at LGA now. Sure, there are some deserved complaints about the new terminal — it’s not perfect, and nothing ever is — but it’s a huge improvement. I’ve flown in/out of there a few times now and one thing I really noticed is how upbeat the AA employees seem. Especially at the Admirals Club, they are beaming with pride. Last time I visited, the agent who checked me in was overflowing with “you have to check out the new area over there, it’s so great” and seemed to happy and enthusiastic. It really made me feel good about the airline and being a customer.

    The point being, I hope AA is able to leverage these new products to also improve employee morale and service levels. I’m not holding my breath, but one can always remain optimistic.

  26. Compared to Qatar Business Class and other Airlines, it’s not even in the same class; I instead fly them. It looks like BA’s exact config, and it’s not great. All the Business class seats feel small, and if you close the door, it’s pretty tight and not comfortable.

  27. Gary,
    while you count the number of illegals you are housing at your house, we’re still waiting for you to tell us when you actually were last on a Delta longhaul international flight.

  28. AA desperately needs to choose a single seat and stick with it. They now have 5 different business class seats on their wide body aircraft, 2 different PE seats, and a narrow body fleet that doesn’t look anything like their wide bodies.

    Retire the 772, retrofit the existing 788/789 to match this new product, and order another round of 787s to return to the international capacity offered in 2019.

  29. @Tim Dunn > “In contrast, Delta has done the best job of the big 3 in getting passengers to pay what is necessary to generate profits on its international network.
    All of the large jet US airlines are publicly traded, for-profit companies. All of the new gadgets and routes in the world don’t matter if they can’t make money.”

    I think this is the core disconnect with your comments in most aviation forums Tim: the vast majority of us are evaluating airlines thru the lens of the flying experience rather than as shareholders. I honestly don’t want my loyalty airline to be the most profitable one, because that’s my money making those excess profits! If AA and UA want to have awesome networks with top-notch new planes and seats while only being marginally profitable, that’s the best of all possible worlds for us as flyers!

  30. Tory,
    the only disconnect is that you don’t seem to understand that all publicly traded companies get their money from investors that look for the best opportunity to invest
    No US airline is a charity and neither will succeed in they act like Pan Am that thought it needed to serve every city around the globe that looked sexy on a route map.
    American and United are taking similar versions of Pan Am’s strategy although in different parts of the world.

    You are the one that doesn’t understand the business – and it is a business – that American and United are actually in.

    If American or United can’t turn their routes and new seats and aircraft into returns for their stockholders, they have failed.

    It really is that simple.

  31. And you just proved my point. The only lens you use is as a shareholder, but that’s not what we care about. I didn’t say you don’t understand the business – you clearly do. But that’s also your only frame of reference. Failure also depends on the frame of reference. If they don’t maximize returns for investors relative to other options, but they provide a great flying experience at a reasonable price, then they’re a complete success from our perspective as flyers! Conversely, Delta may provide great, profitable service at too high a price (mainly from hub monopolies) – or they don’t go where we want to fly because they’re too conservative – which would be seen as a failure from the perspective of a flyer!

  32. Tory,
    in a capitalistic environment, nothing is sustainable if it does not meet the economic goals that a company set out to achieve.

    American and United could change their charters to be non-profits if they want… but they have not.

    Jr,
    naw… I just love pointing out that American and United aren’t anywhere near what they say they would be. If they were, then Delta wouldn’t consistently beat them
    Do you realize that, in the 3rd quarter, Delta is expected to post a profit more than American and United combined?
    After 50 billion in taxpayer money, it still comes down to how well a business is run. ‘

    As a free market capitalist, I love highlighting who wins and who loses.

    btw, how do you manage to get a paycheck?

  33. > in a capitalistic environment, nothing is sustainable if it does not meet the economic goals that a company set out to achieve.

    So Delta doesn’t run any routes that return less than their cost of capital?

  34. This will increase avaliability of paid business seats which is always a good thing. Most people don’t pay for International first class. Most of those seats are paid with miles, cash upgrades, or with elite status on a handful of airlines. I rather the space be taken with a hard product with doors that’s better than both existing cabins even if it’s smaller. The more business class seats avaliable, the more reasonable pricing will be for those who purchase early or 90 days before.

  35. MAX,
    where did I say I was offended by AA’s seat offering – now or in the future?
    I did say that product isn’t going to make a difference if AA can’t make money flying its international network, on which American has lost billions of dollars since the merger with USAirways – in good times and bad.
    United’s losses on its international network – including over the Pacific where it has been the largest airline since Delta decided to step back from size and focus on profits – are not as large as American’s but still mind-boggling.
    When any company that is in the top 5 in its industry loses money on all or part of its operations while others make money, there is something fundamentally wrong that is not going to be addressed by simply a few relative tweaks in product.

    And, at its core, if a company can’t consistently make money on any line of business that it offers, the future of that line of business is not good – which is bad news for passengers.

  36. First, United has the oldest fleet at 16.5 years on average according to airfleets.
    Second, the DOT actually measures airline performance and Delta’s on-time performance yearto date at 80.7% is the highest of any mainland based airline and second only to Hawaiian.
    DOT data also shows that Delta’s completion factor year to date at 97.4% is the highest of the big 4, beat only by Hawaiian and by Alaska which cancelled only 1/100th of a percent fewer flights than Delta.
    Repeating the same incorrect over and over doesn’t make it true.

    It also doesn’t change that American is set to spend over $3 billion more on jet fuel to generate less total revenues than Delta this year which analysts expect will result in a total yearly loss for American while Delta is expected to make a couple billion dollars.

    The government might have bailed out the airline industry during covid but individual airlines are demonstrating very different abilities to make money post covid.
    The type of seat in business class won’t make any difference in the grand scheme of things.

  37. Tim
    The topic and article is about a new seat at aa, not airline profitability. The fact that you feel like you have to come on to any article about a new aa seat and defend delta is just yet another example of your enormous insecurity. God knows why. Delta does plenty of things well, but let’s not pretend that delta’s profitability vs peers is everlasting (no one else has forgotten delta’s bankruptcy) or that it’s a simple “this is why”. There are a number of reasons like multiple monopoly hubs and non union workforce that contribute to delta’s profits, little to do with their service or product.
    Go write your own blog. See if anyone reads your drivel. Stop trolling every aa article on the internet.

  38. Given that American execs have said they were not profitable on many international routes and cannot continue to fly routes that lose money, AA’s profitability or not absolutely matters where this seat will be seen and for how long.

  39. You’re such an idiot.
    A few aa execs say some routes are unprofitable and you extrapolate that zero delta routes are unprofitable (in Tim fantasyland, “how could they be: it’s delta”) to your own ends. Zero surprise but your incompetence and ignorance about anything financial never ceases to amuse. But also goes to explain why you spend your dying days trolling the internet looking to feel relevant.
    Delta does many things well. But you need some accounting skills
    There’s a reason you make zero money from your other “financial” blogs and feel forced to troll the aa article universe.
    Again
    To the internet. Delta fired this man. He loves to acknowledge it sometimes then deny it at others, trying to play coy. But know your source. A guy even delta fired.
    Troll somewhere else, tim.
    Your days as delta troll in chief, worldtraveller, on airliners.net are not forgotten and there’s a reason every IP address you own is permanently banned.

  40. Certainly will miss seat 4J in the old American 772s…four windows, desk and a swivel recliner. Those were the days.

    Aside from the hard product, there was never enough differentiation to justify spending $10K+ each way to LHR. This is evident on the 77Ws.

    AA should try retain “Flagship Business”, etc. for full fare business and CK members on the international routes.

  41. Multiple sources are saying that Vasu, AA’s chief revenue officer, is once again saying that AA’s international network will be smaller and will be increasingly reliant on its partner hubs to serve other parts of the world.
    It is clear that some people can’t handle the reality that the AA/US merger DID NOT produce an airline that could compete with DL and UA in the global marketplace.
    And the difference between DL and UA is that DL runs its international network at a profit – and already managed to return all 3 global regions to profitability in the 2nd quarter, something either AA or UA have managed to do. Since neither consistently operated all of their international regions profitability pre-covid, it is highly unlikely they will do so now.
    And a big reason for DL’s much higher profits internationally is because DL used the pandemic to get rid of its 777s which is still the least fuel efficient widebody aircraft in the US carrier fleet. DL also has spent 10 years reducing the number of regional jets which are far less fuel and labor efficent than mainline jets.
    Add in that DL is paying substantially less for jet fuel because of its refinery and burning less of it than AA or UA to generate more total revenues and it really isn’t that hard to see why AA and UA’s profits lag DL’s and the gap will only grow.
    Some people struggled to hear that AA would declare bankruptcy years ago and they still struggle to accept the reality of AA and UA’s financial situation now. Given that airlines do publish enormous amounts of data, it really isn’t hard to see what really is going on for those that want to – but it is also abundantly clear that there are people that are hellbent in not just ignoring reality but also trashing anyone that tells the truth that they don’t want told.

  42. Its a reduction in lie-flat premium seats on the cross country flights- the A321T has 10 in First and 20 in Business, so this will be reduced by a third in the A321XLR.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.