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.