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 »

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Comments

  1. TIM DUNN, Deltas business class cabin in already worn out!
    Food is awful.
    Delta’s premium economy food is terrible.
    AA FAR SUPERIOR AS IS!
    THE BEST IS YET TO COME TO AA!
    DELTA ATTEMPTED TO COPY THE TERM “FLAGSHIP”
    SORRY DELTA, THAT BELONGS TO AA!

  2. Having flown the Adient Ascent as QR’s “Business Suite” on their 789s, I don’t see how anyone could call the product roomy or comfortable. It’s incredibly cramped. It has walls and a door, yes, but they’re too low to provide any privacy. At least in QR’s version, there’s no storage at all.

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