American May Remove Several Business Class Seats From Boeing 787-8 Aircraft

Last week I wrote that American is taking business class seats out of some Boeing 777-200s.

  • 13 of American’s 47 Boeing 777-200s are in the original pre-merger lie flat configuration with 45 business class seats.

  • Once US Airways management took over, these planes were given 37 business class seats.

  • Now they’re planning to reduce the number of business class seats on these planes to 37 to standardize the fleet.

It turns out that the Boeing 777-200 isn’t the only plane that looks to be losing business class seats. The Boeing 787-8 aircraft is the last aircraft that will be reconfigured with premium economy, and that’s expected to be completed by mid-2019.

Boeing 787-9s Have Been Delivered With Premium Economy

JonNYC, who often has excellent sources at American, suggests that the Boeing 787-8 will lose business class seats with the addition of premium economy.

Premium economy has reportedly done very well for American. The planes are flying several routes from Chicago O’Hare, which is less of a premium market than New York JFK for instance. You have Chicago – Tokyo, Beijing, Shanghai and London for instance operated by the aircraft. The Beijing and Shanghai flights from Los Angeles also operate with the aircraft, great for utilization and because the China routes may have lower yield than some of the other long haul Los Angeles routes.

Boeing 787-8 Concept D Business Class

So you could imagine losing a row or more likely the two row mini cabin, and losing some dedicated Main Cabin Extra seating, to squeeze in premium economy.

Dropping to 24 or more likely 20 business class seats would make awards and upgrades super difficult on the aircraft (awards are nearly impossible now in business class as it is). It would represent a loss of 14% or 28% of the business class seats on the aircraft. In contrast United’s Boeing 787-8s have 36 business class seats. British Airways 787-8s have 35 business class seats.

Boeing 787-8 Concept D Business Class

This is definitely developing but American did not deny the plan to remove business class seats as part of the premium economy retrofit for the Boeing 787-8 — as I would have expected them to do if this was false. Instead they offered only, “Our [premium economy] retrofits will run through the mid-2019 and the 788 is the last fleet to be retrofitted. It’ll be a bit before we have more details to share on the 788.”

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. It makes sense. All of us in the points and miles game generally don’t like to pay for business we want to use our upgrades and miles instead. If people aren’t willing to pay for business but are willing to pay for premium econ then it makes sense for AA to do this. You can’t give away your best products and expect to be profitable all the time.

  2. Not to be a rude (and you may have spoke to him prior to posting), but JonNYC requested that those tweets to not be blogged in the first tweet.

    I, like you, appreciate JonNYC for sharing certain information and don’t want to ruin that.

  3. I don’t remember the exact number of biz seats on JAL 787 flights but I am sure the number is larger than AA. For example on the route DFW–NRT. And the layout worked better IMHO.

  4. The has been covered elsewhere since Jon tweeted, it’s no longer a form of private conversation. It’s posted not just on Twitter but elsewhere on the internet as well.

  5. “(no blogging this one please.)”

    It’s not a question of right, you have a right to blog about whatever you wish. But I’d recommend deference to a regular reader of yours, regular commenter, and reliable source when he makes a polite request.

    I’m sure he has his reasons as to why he didn’t want it to be blogged about, whether it’s highly speculative or has sensitive sourcing or whatever. Ignoring that is bad form.

  6. Definitely definitely definitely appreciate the support and the concern about info I may be able to bring to the table, but it is true that it appeared on flyertalk (and at least one other place) and, based on that, I understand why Gary would have then sought confirmation from AA (which seems to indicate he did,) and, at that point, I’d defend his right to share the results.

    And UNLIKE SOME OTHERS, Gary (Ben as well,) have **always** given full attribution to me in cases like this and I damn sure appreciate that as that’s most certainly not the case with others, historically.

    So, again– VERY much appreciate those here who expressed concern– but I’m good, personally, on this.

  7. Curious if there’s some element of demand for J decreasing due to PE (and possibly this ending up a breakeven in terms of J demand). I have tangentially heard of some companies that have shifted their prior “J for longhauls” policy to instead be “PE for longhauls” – and that’s easier than ever to do now that the big 3 will soon all offer PE.

  8. i’m curious as to the rationale of a public tweet but with a “no-blogging” disclaimer. it’s like telling the paparazzi “no pictures thank you” on the Oscars red carpet.

  9. All this premium economy stuff is pointless…it’s just business class from 30 years ago. All they did was rebrand business class into premium economy and first class into business. Reminds me of Google Wallet becoming Android Pay becoming Google Pay. Pointless renaming.

  10. @Ray
    Sure. Except for a fraction of the price.

    Let’s remember that AA had 2-3-2 recliners in J as recently as 2 years ago. And they were charging full J pricing. That’s $4000+ to Asia in a worn out AA recliner. They’re still charging the same prices for J, but delivering what used to pass for a first class (ie private) seat, in a more compact format. And at PEY, they are offering better recliners than the old J, but at a price 1.5x higher than Y instead of 4x-6x higher.

    Everyone who pays for their seat themselves comes out ahead here. However, anyone who relies on upgrades or points (ie most of us), is getting the shaft.

  11. The last place I want to spend my Award Miles is a premium AA,BA, UA or DL cabin seat. I want to fly in the front cabins of CX, JL or QF and these carriers still have either F or large J cabins with accessible award availability for my flexible needs. AA knows how many J seats it can sell out and is finding PE an equally profitable use of cabin space. We generally earn fewer miles now, and ExecPlats got cut down to four SWUs from 8, so demand for upgrades has leveled off, and awards cost much more so accounts depleat more quickly. AA is optimizing its fleet while UA has decided to keep big C cabins though most of those seats will be occupied by upgraders. Remember also that UA’s cabin is 2-4-2 vs AA’s (and most other carriers) 1-2-1. Even UA’s Polaris cabin is really 2-4-2 just staggered enough to give aisle access to window and middle seat passengers. But now that its conversion program has slowed to a crawl, and hints are for a PE product soon, look to UA to shrink its C cabin to make room for more profitable products and thus fewer upgrade opportunities.

  12. The larger picture is: the points game is going away. Bank cards that allow you to buy cash are the only meaningful currency that’s going to be left. Airlines are going to get creamed by the market once the analysts realize that the airlines have choked off their own golden goose.

    Done. Next up: I’m taking over for Jared on Middle East peace.

  13. @Ray. Yep, that’s the way I see it too and I flew up front ( the forward facing window seats) for 40 years. I don’t agree with Jon that it is a fraction of the price … have you priced a walk up PE seat on AA lately? I have ID90 privileges (retired) but sitting in the airport for a day or two is just not worth it and really don’t like Economy. PE is J class of bygone days with one possible exception, not price but IFE.

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