American Airlines Will Put More Business Class Seats On Planes

Legacy US Airways planes were heavily skewed towards lots of economy seats. US Airways didn’t sell a lot of premium seats, and when they did they sold those seats cheaply, which matched both their route network and their inflight product.

When US Airways management took over American Airlines they set out to take business class seats out of planes and add seats to lower cabins. The one exception has been Airbus A321s where they’ve added four domestic first class seats. For instance,

  • American removed business class seats from Boeing 777-200s that legacy American Airlines management laid out with 45 business class seats and standardized to the 37 business class seats US Airways management preferred when they took over.

  • They also took business class seats out of Boeing 787-8s when they added premium economy to that aircraft. These long haul planes now have just 20 business class seats.

  • On the inaugural flight for the Airbus A321T aircraft, flying Los Angeles – New York JFK, a legacy US Airways Vice President told me to expect new management to remove three-cabin first class from these planes because they’d never be able to sell the product.

American Boeing 787-8 Concept D Business Class

When Vasu Raja was the airlines Vice President of Planning, he complained the airline didn’t have enough premium seats to sell. They were building London Heathrow into their primary European gateway, in conjunction with British Airways. Heathrow is a premium airport. BA had a lot more premium seats to sell and in some markets they felt it wasn’t enough. Yet American primarily had low value real estate to offer customers.

Now that Raja is the airline’s Chief Revenue Officer he reports that the plan will be to go with more premium-heavy configurations. It’s not clear whether that means reconfiguring existing aircraft, or that new planes on order – Boeing 787-8s, 787-9s, and Airbus A321XLRs – will come with relatively more business class seats.

In an interview late last month with Simple Flying, Raja explained:

We want to make sure that we have the right kind of configurations for where the world is going. That if you look back on us, we have operated much of our widebody fleet with a really economy heavy configuration. And certainly we’ve been encouraged by things like premium economy, by having full flat seats in business class even in non-traditional markets, outside of the big European capitals like Heathrow or De Gaulle.

And so we think there’s a lot of ways that we can improve the actual configuration of our airplanes to offer seats that people will willingly and happily pay more money for.

American will be taking new aircraft, with new business class seats, and hopefully Raja is correct that there will be more of them.

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. Why hasn’t any seat manufacturer been able to come up with folding convertible seats that can turn into biz lie flat on high yield routes and economy on low yield routes? 0

  2. Opposite of that ill informed Bloomberg article that said airlines were going to pull out biz class seats in favor of more premium economy

    UNITED rising – ahead of the curve on this with its. game changing Boeing 767-300 premium configuration

  3. I heard they are starting a retrofit project on the 319 fleet. My guess is going from 8 to 12 seats in first? Not sure but will be exciting to see what happens with this and the rest of their fleet as well.

  4. If you just maintained a clipping file on the false starts and business judgment mistakes committed just on Parker’s watch, who in their right mind would fly AA, let alone buy AA’s stock? Can anybody name even one great decision. made by Parker and his management squad?

  5. Wasn’t the A321 supposed to have 24F to match the 757 and then US Air ripped that down to 16F?

  6. And for their next trick, they’ll be spending millions of dollars to install screens right after they’ve just spent millions of dollars to remove them.

  7. Why won’t they rip PTVs out of business class? After all, J pax are very likely to all have their own devices. Right Dougie?

  8. American’s unit costs are already the highest in the industry while their international unit revenues are the lowest of the big 3 – so of course it makes sense to put more premium seats on their aircraft so their costs will go up while they can’t even deliver unit revenues comparable to DL or UA.

  9. I don’t understand, why not go 100% coach? People fly AA for their schedule and awesome hubs.

  10. AA is trash. I personally won’t fly them anymore. I hope Spirit expands Miami and forces them into bankruptcy. Nothing I would like to me more then AA liquidating.

  11. AA has seen better days. Sad but true. They are code sharing with global Low Cost Carriers. What does that say?

  12. Just having more seats doesn’t make the product worth buying. Having lots of great hard product doesn’t make up for a terrible soft product. Tired of being ignored for at least half the flight by AA attendants that prefer galley gossip to actually caring for their premium passengers. Vastly prefer flying the partners/competitors if I’m buying a premium seat.

  13. Seems like this ship has sailed for AA with the arrival of Covid. I think the days of free spending business travelers to fill these seats has gone the way of Zoom. Everybody is anxious to get on a plane to see their relatives but these business people aren’t coming back so quickly.

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