American Airlines Will Offer A New Product Above Business Class This Fall

American Airlines is the last remaining U.S. carrier to sell a true ‘first class’. Ever since Continental Airlines began selling a ‘premium business class’ that they called BusinessFirst, and dropped first class, the trend has gone in that direction. Delta has had a first class cabin in years, and United’s top product is now business class.

Now American plans to eliminate first class, too. Or do they? Currently the plan is:

  • Two plane types still have first class at American. Their Airbus A321T offers first class, business class, and coach and flies premium cross country routes. Their Boeing 777-300ER has first, business class, premium economy and coach and flies numerous routes to London, some South America and Sydney.

    Boeing 777-300ER First Class

    Airbus A321T First Class Cabin

  • American is bringing a new business class into the market this year – suites with doors – and dropping first class on their Boeing 777-300ER once they retrofit those planes.

    Credit: American Airlines

  • They’re also introducing the new Airbus A321XLR narrowbody that will have business class with doors. That plane will replace the Airbus A321T on cross country flights, and American will retrofit those planes into a standard domestic configuration.

    Credit: American Airlines

American’s new business class suites will debut on new Boeing 787-9s which begin delivery this year, and on Boeing 777-300ERs which will be retrofit. The retrofit reschedule isn’t fully clear yet, but the first plane will go in for retrofit to become the prototype in August, according to aviation watchdog JonNYC.

Once the retrofits are complete, business class will be American’s top cabin – even though they still have first class dining options inside their lounges in Miami and Dallas-Fort Worth (LAX remains closed) and a first class dining option with British Airways in New York, the Chelsea lounge. They also still have Flagship First Class check-in.

Chelsea Lounge, New York JFK

Flagship First Dining, Miami

Back in September 2022 I wrote that you should expect a ‘better than first class seat’ within the cabin in row 1 of widebody aircraft.

That’s a strategy we’ve seen from other airlines like JetBlue and Virgin Atlantic, making use of the extra space that results from positioning against the bulkhead (and in some other cases by other airlines eliminating first class but not reconfiguring aircraft).

And there was an Easter egg in the cabin rendering that American Airlines shared with their announcement on business suites back then. The first row of suites had a black door with a red stripe on it and the seat was black, too. That was distinct from the rest of the cabin.

Here’s the close-up of a middle seat in row 1 from the American Airlines rendering of new business suites for the Boeing 787 that gave it away:

Given the positioning at the bulkhead, there’s no seat in front that needs to protrude into this one’s space. As a result it’s a more spacious experience.

With the new product mere months away, American has shared that this supposition was accurate. They will call this seat on new delivery Boeing 787-9 and retrofitted Boeing 777-300ERs a different product: the Flagship Suite Preferred seat.

  • More space and more storage areas
  • Different amenities from the rest of business class including branded Nest Bedding mattress pad, throw blanket, memory foam lumbar pillow, Nest Bedding pajamas and a differentiated amenity kit with additional skincare

Credit: American Airlines

Credit: American Airlines

What they’re doing seems to be making it a first class seat with first class amenities without being in a separate cabin, having dedicated cabin crew, or offering differentiated meal service.

They haven’t yet shared how customers will access these seats,

  • Whether they’ll be available to customers buying ‘Flagship Business Plus’ fares that come with first class dining access

  • Whether they’ll be available as paid seat selection for business class customers

  • Whether they might be bookable by ConciergeKey customers seated in business class, or available at the airport on departure if available to status customers.

I believe they should sell it as Flagship Business Plus, with first class check-in and dining (perhaps rebranded) and bundle it with their Five Star ground service of escorts from the curb to lounge and to the gate. That would make it a really premium experience. United, by the way, is planning a premium business class upsell product as well.

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, 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. I’m in 1J for a few 77W TATL flights later this year. Maybe this will be my seat.

  2. to be clear, this will be a sellup business class seat like alot of airlines offer.

  3. Delta didn’t think of this idea so its not good! Its just an “upsell” so it doesn’t matter. AA is not innovative like my best friend Ed’s airline. Just you wait this decision will ruin revenue per seat. Remember Ed and I can never be wrong!

  4. First Class was mostly removed because companies wouldn’t pay for it. Travel departments allowed Business Class depending on length of flights but frowned on First Class. Airlines just renamed the same product as a work around. Just my 2 cents.

  5. Wait are all the seats getting Nest bedding, and this suite just getting extra? Or are just these seats getting Nest bedding, and the rest still getting Casper? Cuz part of me feels like it’s kind of odd that there would be two different providers for bedding on the same airline.

  6. This is a retraction of my question I just posted. I just noticed the previous article.

  7. Some how I just see a lot of maintenence issues with sliding doors. We all know how destructive passengers can be. No r3apect for property

  8. Can I get in on the game?

    How can you say Delta doesn’t have First Class. Delta is the top premium airline in the universe. All their seats are premium and First Class — even the economy coach next to the stinky toilet in the back. 🙂

    Just couldn’t help myself….

  9. I’m a KEY with AA and they invited us for a “demo” of their new business class and when it’s launched it will be a significant upgrade to what both Delta and United offer today. Food offerings will be upgraded. Food will be plated with multiple courses and better quality and quantity. They told us that customers wanted “more “ choices and more food. Many “healthier” snacks will be offered in addition the main meal. A second meal will be offered with a choice on all coast to coast flights. The only negative that we were told (from a customers perspective) was that “upgrades” from Main cabin to business (domestic and international) would be “challenging”. In other words an increase in mileage or money to upgrade to ALL higher cabins including main cabin extra and NO UPGRADE possible when you purchase basic economy, even for KEY. Yes pillows and blankets will be offered in all premium cabins, but not domestic main cabin. They are looking at offering customers blow up “u” shipped neck pillows and a blanket that you can take home for PURCHASE. Long story short, for those that purchase both domestic and international business class you will be highly impressed. Kits will be offered in a both domestic and international business class and staffing will be increase in the front cabins.

  10. @Mark S: So you’re saying there will be more FA’s to service the premium customers by throwing down all the courses within 10 minutes of the “ding” going off at 10,000 feet on a 15 hour SYD-LAX flight?
    More healthy snacks like the raw broccoli tray I was offered in first?
    More “tenderloin ” of beef that’s actually a cheap cut of almost uncuttable beef?

    Why do I think the staff will be a fail?

  11. I think the “cabin in the cabin” idea is challenging and risks simply making the rest of the cabin feel jilted when you see someone a row in front of you getting different amenities and service in spite of both being in the same cabin. Or in a relatively empty cabin where someone may want to move seats and not understanding what the difference is since they’re ostensibly both business class. I feel like these seats will need some very obvious labelling. When US did this with the first row of Envoy on the A330’s it felt like they were just two cheap to roll it out to the whole cabin and it made the entire business product feel less premium. Hopefully AA does a better job executing.

  12. I wonder what would a mileage requirements for that cabin? Probably more than a “regular” business class..

  13. So it’s a seat and service above business class.
    Wasn’t that what First Class was? ‍♂️

  14. @loungeabuser, it will be a fail because the F/As will not be offered any training on these new seats and there won’t be any added F/As in the cabin. You have 3 for 30 now and will have 3 for 51. The F/As will get to see their new galley 15 minutes before you walk on. They will get to see the new seats 15 minutes before you walk on. AA only cares if you have a seat and the door closes on time. Anything else doesn’t matter. Don’t blame the crew. Lift your head and look up really high. That’s who you should be blaming.

  15. There’s a typo here! It should read Delta hasn’t not Delta has:
    Delta has had a first class cabin in years, and United’s top product is now business class.

  16. It’s just seems unsafe, now if the plane goes down, you have to exit a sliding door too?

  17. Constant articles about new and better first and business class amenities and seating. When will economy passengers get some better seating and amenities? I’ll answer that, never as the airlines don’t care about us.

  18. [ I mentioned this in another post, but it’s more appropriate here, so repeating]

    I flew a 16+ hr flight recently in AA ‘first’ class. They forgot to serve me breakfast even though I was awake. I thought there were 2hrs left (in fact, it was 1) when I asked them and they said they couldn’t serve anything hot now since they were preparing for landing.

    With 8 passengers, only half of whom are awake, how does cabin crew forget to serve breakfast 12 hrs after the last meal?

    If AA is serious about first class, they should provide a first class product.

  19. @Jon F…when you say there was no food between first service and 12 hours later, then that’s when I don’t believe a word of what you claim. Did you by chance sleep through it all? I also just came off a long haul and there was plenty to eat.

  20. Looks like I still have a shot at the mile high club in that A321 with a door! Sweet!

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