American Taking Business Class Seats Out of 787-8s, Now They Don’t Know What to Do With the Aircraft

When American ended Chicago – China service they freed up Boeing 787 aircraft and seemingly didn’t know what to do with them. They’ve scheduled flying 787s now to Cancun and also to Anchorage.

Then they freed up even more 787-8 flying time. Since they removed business class seats from 787-8 aircraft, with the new configuration featuring only 20 seats up front, the plane no longer works for premium markets.

American Airlines Boeing 787-8 in Chicago

American is extending their Boeing 787 Cancun flying into the summer. That’s when you’d expect them to be expanding their Europe schedule and deploying 787s across the Pond.

Chicago O’Hare – Cancun 06JUN19 – 01SEP19 1 daily (2 weekly from 20AUG19)
AA1417 ORD0805 – 1206CUN 788 D
AA1417 CUN1300 – 1657ORD 788 D

Dallas/Ft. Worth – Cancun eff 02APR19 1 daily (Except 03MAY19 – 05JUN19; Following schedule effective 06JUN19)
AA1343 DFW0715 – 0954CUN 788 D
AA1343 CUN1105 – 1402DFW 788 D

As one industry insider observed to me, “Wow. Crazy. They are just out of ideas.”

They’re taking brand new Boeing 787s including 787-8s. While they deploy 787-8s on far lower value routes than anticipated, indeed on routes where the 787’s range is wholly unnecessary.

The airline plans to retire cheap 767s – which are great for coach passengers and replace them with more (and more costly) 787s, even though American seems to lack a vision for how to deploy 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. Waiting for the day they name you CEO of AA. Your one of the few people with an actual vision for how the airline should be.

  2. This is reminiscent of when US took out power ports, only to put them back in as AA. Stupid cost-cutting move that backfires.

  3. Does this sheer lack of thought and planning surprise anyone? Dougie should have taken his prized merger, appointed a real industry CEO and enjoyed the ride, no pun of course. Now they’re becoming the joke of the industry, Can one imagine what past executives of AA are thinking now?

    And AS wants to join One World

  4. I’m gonna be honest. I agree with Gary, but I keep on watching AA leadership and thinking that those “well educated MBA’s” running the show clearly know more than little ‘ol me.

    Yet time and time again, year after year, the grand plan for AA never comes to fruition. Just more of the same.
    AA thinks it can be everything for everybody, and thus refuses to set itself apart. It is the venerable jack of all trades (but master of none).
    – Not the cheapest
    – Not the most comfortable domestically
    – Not the most comfortable internationally
    – Not the best service
    – Not the best route network to Europe
    – Not the best route network to Asia
    – Not the best route network to Africa
    – Not the best performance
    – Not the best award program
    – Not the best award redemption

    After years of AA’s poor leadership, what have they done to say that they’re the best at… well… anything?

    The only imaginable thing AA is the best at are South American routes.

  5. I’m terribly curious to see how much longer Doug Parker makes it there. When the consensus is that everyone dislikes the culture/strategy he’s created (everyone = employees, customers, and investors), how is he still afloat there?

  6. Doug Parker is a problem solver, but he’s demonstrably bad at identifying problems. The best work he’s done in the biz is the work he did as an underling during America West’s bankruptcy. I’m not sure what’s been successful at since then besides getting bailout dollars and putting together mergers.

  7. US airlines in the last decade have had the most favorable market conditions since deregulation. Consolidation has led to little competition. Couple that with a booming 8 year bull run in the economy and it would have been literally impossible to lose money. But now conditions are softening, airlines like Spirit and Norwegian have made an impact in the market dynamics and gained greater share. The last few years is where management matters.

    AA management is just a bunch of bean counters who literally just copy the competition and sit back and collect bonus checks. There isn’t one thing they’ve done that is innovative. Sure, they have a great business class product and the FL lounged are nice, but it’s not like that constitutes inventing the wheel.

    Businesses are created to make money. But AA management has forgotten that companies can make money while not bending your customer over and really giving it to them at the same time. Their customers are unhappy. Their employees are unhappy. And I don’t know how their shareholders can’t be unhappy. They need a radical change and i think management needs to go. The Parker’s and Kirby’s aren’t the answer.

    Sidenote…as someone who flies ORD-CUN several times a year i think the 787’s on that route is an amazing idea 🙂

  8. How about flying these nice planes from JFK to Europe? No – American has apparently given up on the New York market.

  9. How is Dougie getting away with such incompetence? 788 to CUN … just wow. Most of us would no longer have a job if we were this bad at ours.

  10. I would replace be using them to replace the 767 out of Philly and use 321 on Cancun routes. Hey maybe I should apply to be AA CEO!

  11. AAs strategy with their 787 configurations just completely boggles my mind. Was looking at their Oz flights for next month from LAX. There are weeks where there isn’t a J seat left for sale. They seem to have completely missed the mark on their premium cabin mix with their very small J cabins compared to other carriers. Maybe they need a a sub fleets of high/low density premium cabin but having only one option seems to just leave so much revenue on the table for premium routes.

  12. When I booked out flight next month to Cancun I was amazed it was a 787 on the way back, not a 737-8, for the CUN-ORD. What more today the cabin is half empty for a flight one month from today, sure its a Wednesday flight but.

    Even more odd, my wife got the targets AA Platinum status offer. Aside from one rewards flight last spring she hasn’t flown AA in over a year. If she got that offer it true dilutes the value of Platinum status as from the 60% earning during the promotion.

  13. @Stu – Cancun actually has high fares – higher fares than China at the moment. You can routinely get fares from NYC or CHI to China for $500 roundtrip. Fares from Chicago to Cancun are in the $500-$600 range. It makes WAY more sense to dump China and put those planes on Cancun. So, while on the surface it looks weird, the reality is that there’s more, higher yielding demand to Cancun at the moment than there is to China. So, for the time being, that’s where you put your plane.

  14. I’d be happy if they’d change the seating arrangement on the 787-800s to eliminate the backwards facing seats.

    And to the person who commented on the LUS A321s with no in seat power, I’ve given up on transcons through CLT and for the most part PHL for that reason. The one bright spot are the A330s that fly SFO-PHL and back that do have power. And it seems that many flights out of PHX to the east coast are now operated with 737-800s, which of course have power. While I feel that the LUS A321s are more comfortable than the 737s, traveling cross country with WiFi but no power is simply unacceptable. And there seems to be no urgency to fix that.

  15. Someone isn’t thinking at AA. I haven’t seen an empty business class seat for years, and on some routes if you don’t book early you are SOL. Think CLT-LHR for example.

  16. Well, since Delta is flying the A-220 in AA country to demonstrate how much better it is compared to the MAX, AA should respond in-kind with the 788 on the same routes ;). Seriously though, why don’t they use it in to DBV (there’s no way that’s going to be premium heavy)?

  17. Looks like they bring the 788 back to both ORD and DFW in the late afternoon to act as the spare widebody in case another widebody scheduled for longhaul to Europe goes tech.

  18. I’m back.

    So what’s AA’s justification for not putting their 787-8’s on lighter long haul markets? MIA-NRT, MIA-JNB, MIA/DFW-ICN, DFW-HND?

  19. JFK (or PHL if they want) to secondary cities in Europe would be great. Even adding some destinations or frequencies from high value hub/focus cities like DFW or LAX to Europe (or Asia) would seem to make a lot of sense. Deploying them to Cancun year round (when nobody is paying extra for it vs 737 on a competitor) is just ridiculous.

  20. Mr. Bob Crandall must be ready to have a stroke seeing what Dougie has done to his airline that he worked so hard to make an industry leader in the airline business. Now it is an airline fighting RyanAir for the most bottom of the barrel airline in the world. Congratulations American, keep up the good work and you shall achieve what you have been working so hard for..

  21. Their A330-200 also only has 20 business-class seats, and the -300 only has 28. They make do with those planes, so why is this any different? I say let them sink these planes into cheapskate leisure routes the way USAir did, and save the 789’s and 77W for flagship service.

    And these planes may be more costly than the 767’s, but at least they’re not 30 years old. Customers were really starting to notice those planes’ age.

  22. Yesterday I flew Norwegian for the first time on a brand new 787-9.

    Maybe American could steal an idea or two from their playbook?

  23. I don’t see how this is such terrible scheduling. The DFW-EZE goes 788 in the summer months, which means that’s easily a frame they can turn around to CUN after it lands from EZE… and it still gets back for a late afternoon / evening departure to Europe or South America. Since they are sending more 789 to Asia from DFW, that 788 would be sitting at the hangar all day if it did not do a turn to CUN.

    Then we are taking about *one* 788 from ORD. They are already flying these from DFW-ORD all the time, so I really do not see how this is such poor utilization. Couldn’t you make the same argument for an ORD-SFO 777 with UA?

  24. They are send 787 to Cancun ,and the falling apart 767 to Philadelphia to fly summer trips to Europe , those planes where always broke on jfk and Miami ,now that the mechanics are furious only a miracle to make them fly ,good luck AA

  25. Would make more sense to deploy those 787s on PHL-Europe routes and use the 767s to CUN and ANC.

  26. I travel ORD-PHX for work frequently and AA added a frequency on this route using the 788. A welcome change for me personally, although I do agree with the consensus in the other comments.

  27. “Businesses are created to make money. But AA management has forgotten that companies can make money while not bending your customer over and really giving it to them at the same time. Their customers are unhappy. Their employees are unhappy. And I don’t know how their shareholders can’t be unhappy. They need a radical change and i think management needs to go. The Parker’s and Kirby’s aren’t the answer.”

    Well, the employees ‘wanted’ the Parker / Kirby tandem. Reap what you sow.

    Bring back Tom Horton.

  28. I agree with the obviously wrong config on these birds, but Gary, come on, its a bit dramatic to compare and ORD-China turn to a CUN, the plane is only gone for a few hours and as others have said, can cover a red-eye before and after, be shuttled back to DFW or used as a spare. Lets see what they come up with now that they have some lag, but this clearly isn’t it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *