American Says They Need More Premium Seats – So They’re Getting Rid of Premium Seats

The American Airlines anti-trust immunized revenue sharing joint venture with British Airways, Iberia, and Finnair is incredibly important to the airline. British Airways is really the focus and they see Heathrow as a hub, and their New York – London flights as a shuttle.

They basically split transatlantic revenue based on the amount of capacity each carrier has in the market. And they make decisions about this capacity, and their schedules, in coordination with each other. So now that British Airways is flying an Airbus A380 between Chicago and London that’s clearly because American and British Airways together think there’s that much more demand for travel between those cities.

American Boeing 787-8 in Chicago

In fact, responding to an employee question about British Airways flying an A380 and a 747 in addition to American’s four daily Boeing 787s Chicago – Heathrow, American Airlines Vice President – Planning Vasu Raja suggested that rather than being too much capacity, it’s not enough capacity. And despite British Airways flying premium seat heavy aircraft, they don’t have enough premium seats in that market.

It’s not enough. We don’t have enough seats into Heathrow…Heathrow is our hub just as Chicago is or Dallas is… when you think Heathrow think Dallas it’s the same way, we can’t be big enough. We would be bigger at Heathrow if we had more slots to operate there.

Increasingly what you’ll see with us at Heathrow, BA will do things such as flying to more cities outside our hubs. They’ve flown recently to Austin, to Nashville, to New Orleans. They’re going to probably do more of that stuff. We will fly bigger and bigger jets from the hubs that we have. … not enough seats, and not enough business class seats.

Interestingly American Airlines is predicting that British Airways will fly to more mid-sized US cities than they do today, and that American is going to increase the size of the planes they fly to London Heathrow.

However despite complaining that there aren’t enough premium seats flying Chicago – London, American currently plans to reduce the number of premium seats flying Chicago – London (and to reduce the number of premium seats on two major aircraft types they fly).

They’re removing business class seats from Boeing 777-200s that today offer 45 business class seats and standardizing the model at just 37 business class seats. That completes the transition from old (legacy American) management’s plan for Boeing 777-200s to new (legacy US Airways) management’s plan for the aircraft type.

American Boeing 787-8 Concept D Business Class

They’re also going to have to take business class seats from Boeing 787-8s when they add premium economy to that aircraft. That’s the plane type which currently flies Chicago O’Hare – London Heathrow.

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. Speaking of AA policies, This may have already been covvered but I just heard about it today, friend of mine (another exec plat) whose upgrade did not clear, informs me that exec plats are now limited to ONE free drink when travelling in coach. Said the flight attendant even showed him the new “rule” on a piece of paper from AA. This new?

  2. You don’t think they’d upgauge ORDLHR to 787-9 for the extra seats without having to use more slots? I think that’s the possible take-home hint I got from this.

  3. You can change headquarters and airline livery, but America West lives on. There were few minor reversals in amenities and service but the overall direction AA is going is very clear.

  4. @Rick, that’s technically always been the case. Most FAs ignore it though, especially if you’re decently nice to them.

    Keep in mind MCE seats now include free alcoholic beverages, so this rule is only relevant in standard main cabin seats.

  5. Aahhh thanks for the clarification. I had never had that issue if I did get a seat in exit row for instance. Good to know.

  6. Given that LHR is severely slot-constrained, BA was right to get the A380 and AA made the wrong decision. I guess AA could always buy a few for this purpose, but its luxury image probably doesn’t mesh well with them.

  7. One time a couple of years ago, an FA actually went to the business cabin to get me a better wine for the “free” drink; many other occasions they have obliged with a second without being asked (I do try to be “decently nice”).

  8. Pretty much every AA aircraft has an insufficient ratio of business or first class seats. Popular routes are often sold out days or even weeks in advance, and the same day first class flight change has become nearly useless as a benefit. The low premium ratio compared to Delta and others cannot be a good long term decision for AA as premium travel is their only real differentiator from low cost carriers.

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