American Is Dropping First Class, But May Still Have A Better Seat Than Business Class

American Airlines is introducing a new business class seat with doors both for its new delivery Boeing 787-9 aircraft and to retrofit its Boeing 777-300ERs which will see the elimination of international first class.

They’ll also introduce a new narrowbody business suite for the Airbus A321XLR when it’s delivered, and no longer fly Airbus A321T planes with first class on premium cross country routes (retrofitting those planes as standard domestic A321s).


Credit: American Airlines

Together this means American Airlines will no longer offer Flagship First Class. However that doesn’t necessary meal they’ll no longer offer a seat that’s better than business class – indeed, that’s better than their new business class suite with doors.

Aviation watchdog JonNYC shares to expect a better seat in row one of widebody business class:

Several airlines have premium products within a larger business class cabin. Historically that’s come when an airline eliminates international first class but doesn’t retrofit the seats – food and amenities may be the same as business, but those front row seats are the old business seats. Sometimes they’re sold at a premium and sometimes bookable by an airline’s top elite frequent flyers. For instance when US Airways eliminated their international first class, the first row (former first class) offered true flat seats while the rest of business class had angled seating, and row 1 was bookable by full fare passengers and by the airline’s Chairmans Preferred (100,000 mile) elite members.

Virgin Atlantic’s new business class will include a premium front row. JetBlue’s new business class has a premium front row and American’s Airbus A321XLR business product, the Collins Aurora seat, looks very similar to the Thompson product JetBlue is using. So airlines are now putting this in proactively.

new jetblue mint
Credit: JetBlue

I reached out to American and they offered that they are “excited to unveil our new Flagship Suite seats for our new Boeing 787-9 and A321XLR aircraft” and that as they “may have more to share” as they “get closer to the delivery” of the first new planes.

We’ll see for certain whether they have a ‘better product in row 1 of the plane’ than even the new business suite, whether on their Boeing 777-300ERs, 787-9s, or even Airbus A321XLRs – or even all three. Regardless there are going to be a lot of different business class products on American Airlines for some time.

  • I have to think they’ll retrofit existing Boeing 787-9s with the new cabin
  • I would not expect Boeing 777-200s to see these new suites
  • Currently they use both Super Diamond and ‘Concept D’ business class seats in 787s and 777s, and will likely have both for some time – in addition to these new business suites, though the 777-300ER Cirrus seat will be retired with this refresh.

Several readers have asked, what does this leave for United Airlines and its Polaris seat – always intended as a ‘good enough’ lie flat direct aisle access, but generally considered inferior to the American and Delta (and Air France, Air Canada, and new British Airways) seats? They are planning doors for business class 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 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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  1. At the end of the day all these airlines are selling a mass market commodity. Good enough is good enough and United had the right idea. I just need a flat seat with aisle access. A door is a joke it’s not like I can do anything intimate after I close it, because it’s not a floor to ceiling kind of door.

  2. As a person who loves travel for the sake of travel, I have to admit that when I went out of my way to fly in the AA321T business class seat I was disapointedly underwhelmed.
    The 2-2 lie-kinda-flat seat was very wierd sitting next to a stranger.
    Overall the cabin space felt cramped.
    A one-and-never-do-that-again experience.
    Anything that improves on that (and any other domestic front cabin seats) is welcome.

    Question: will AA eliminate “first class” and just do business and segmented coach as a ticketing strategy? It sure looks so.

  3. Credit Suisse announced that the number of $50M and above net worth individuals has ballooned to a record high. This means you are going to be sitting next to strangers in business class for time immemorial. Flying is bad for the environment so taking up the least amount of real estate onboard is the least one can do to preserve our climate.

  4. @gary – If you look at the render of the widebody seat package the first row of seats has a black door with a red stripe on it and the seat in that section is black. It doesn’t show that way on the render for the narrowbody new first class. Maybe this is a stretch, but it sure looks like based on the pictures that will be an upgraded “business plus” type setup.

  5. @Steve – from the article I get thst there is no more first in the 321T, but my question was broader: will American be dropping the naming convention of “first class” across the board?
    Domestically (if you dont live in LA NY and MIA), first hasn’t felt like first for a long long time. The reality has been economy and sub-premium economy.
    Sadly, moving to business/coach naming convention would remove aspirational goals for the airline to provide better service.
    As well as acknowledge that carrier’s in the USA cannot compete and provide a premium service.
    Looking for insight from Gary on this.

  6. What about economy class? Ordering new planes and retrofitting old ones with improved seats at the front without addressing economy seats is a missed opportunity.

  7. @sharpay,

    Probably best not to lean on Credit Suisse for information, as a general rule of thumb.

  8. The new AA premium cabins for the to be delivered 787-9s and the 321XLRs look beautiful. The color palette is not one I like, but it seems to be aligned with the existing Flagship Lounge design and the upcoming Admirals Club refresh. It all points to a big improvement for AA, even though the current Flagship Business product, depending on the seat, is quite good, though in need of a refresh. The 77Es are likely not getting the updated cabins to save money and presumably these will be replaced at some point, potentially with more 787s (10’s maybe, if the performance upgrades are delivered, or 9’s or perhaps a 777-8 and -9 order further down the road, since the 77Es still have life in them if AA invests in them and doesn’t relegate them to the approach they took with the 763’s as they got older).

  9. Zebraitis, think of Flagship domestic flights and non-Flagship domestic flights. The change Gary is discussing relates to Flagship domestic flights (as well as international). There is no change to non-Flagship domestic flights.

    The current Flagship domestic flights (using the A321T) have Flagship First and Flagship Business. The seat used in Flagship First is roughly the same seat used in business class in older international long-haul aircraft. The seat used in Flagship Business is the one you’ve experienced and don’t like.

    The new Flagship domestic flights (using the A321XLR) will not have Flagship First and will only have Flagship Business. But, with the new aircraft type, Flagship Business will not have the same seat type used in the A321T. Instead, the A321XLR will be fitted with (roughly) the same seat used in business class on international long-haul aircraft. So, think of it as the new Flagship Business seat being similar to the current Flagship First seat but a bit smaller.

  10. When was a law passed that mandates that every aircraft in a given fleet has to have exactly the same configuration? All routes aren’t the same, so why do all aircraft in a given sub fleet have to be exactly the same? And I understand the arguments about interchangeability. All American would have to do is number the sub fleets differently. If I understand correctly, United has differently configured 777-200s.

    But of course, Tim Dunn will come along soon and assert that Delta has already done all of the wonderful new things American is touting, as he did yesterday. That’s the nature of his insecurity, and his apparent desire (as expressed by his constant apples-to-oranges “comparisons”) to see American and United liquidated, so his beloved “perfect airline” has no serious competition.

    As for the idea of an enhanced front row, it seems to me that it’s a no-brainer, since there’s probably going to be some extra space available, why not take advantage of it as JetBlue (not necessarily Delta) has already done? After all, isn’t imitation the highest form of flattery?

  11. Bye Bye Miss American First Class Pie.

    I don’t believe that I cried
    When I learned the end of a favorite ride
    But something touched me deep inside
    The day Flagship First Class died

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