American Will Be Going 10 Across in Coach on their 777s

Yesterday I attended American’s event announcing new premium cabin enhancements. The biggest deal was their plan to reconfigure the business class cabins on all of their international widebody aircraft with the same seat they’ll be getting with their new Boeing 777-300 aircraft, the same industry-leading seat that Cathay Pacific has been putting in their planes.

That’s huge news, it’s a better seat in my opinion than anything that any other carrier (other than US Airways, which offers a similar seat in all its A330 aircraft) offers across the Atlantic.

But it’s going to take a long while to get the reconfigurations done, we won’t see the first one in service for about two years.

Buried in the discussion, along with rehashing all of the other improvements coming down the pike — pajamas in first class, new entertainment systems, better meals, inflight wireless even internationally, some coach seats with more legroom — was a discussion of what the ‘regular’ coach configuration would be on the 777-300 and 777-200 aircraft.

Legacy Continental lays out their coach seats 3-3-3, meaning 3 at each window and 3 in the middle, with aisles in between. Legacy United’s 777 version was 2-5-2, so a big wide middle section. In both cases, they do 9 coach seats across.

American’s Vice President of Marketing was asked about the layout of coach, and I don’t think he had the number handy, he gave some specs and then corrected himself.

Commenter jck asked on yesterday’s post, “Are you sure Econ is 3-3-3 ? Is that in some official press release ? The running rumor is that it might be 3-4-3…..”

And I replied,

I sorta believe that in the end it is 3-4-3. But they answered the question about configuration, actually said 3-4-3 and then CORRECTED to say 3-3-3. So they did specifically answer this question, and you sort of do the math I don’t think you get to the # of seats they’re talking about without doing 10 across in back. So we’ll have to see.

This prompted me to query American on the issue, and here’s what I got back:


American’s Business Class cabin onboard the 777-200ER will be arranged in a 1-1-1 or 1-2-1 configuration giving aisle access to all Business Class customers.  Main Cabin Extra seats will be arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration.  The Main Cabin seats will be arranged in a 3-4-3 configuration.



American’s First Class onboard the 777-300ER will be arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration; Business Class will be arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration; Main Cabin Extra seats will be arranged in a 3-3-3 configuration; and Main Cabin seats will be arranged in a 3-4-3 configuration.

There you have it.

This is the first confirmation I have seen that American is going to have more elbowroom in Main Cabin Extra than the rest of coach, and not just more legroom.

And it’s also the first time I’ve seen American acknowledge that they’re going to go 10 across in regular economy, not just 9 across.

That’s not unheard of worldwide (eg Air France, Emirates both offer 10 across in coach on the 777) but it’s certainly more cramped than what United, Delta, and British Airways offer at 9 across.

I’m loving the general direction that American is taking with their premium product investments. I’m looking forward to their new business class seat a lot and wish it would come more quickly. But I do think it’s worth noting that their going to cram a lot of seats in back 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, 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. Ya know… Taking the whole frequent flier redemptions thing out of the equation, I’d love to see someone roll out a big ol 380 with just premium economy. Somewhere between normal premium economy and biz class. Everyone gets free drinks, decent food, lots of legroom, wider seats, good ife, and decent recline. Price it right in between business and economy.

    It’s too risky for anyone to do, but I think that would be an enjoyable / relatively economical experience.

  2. Legacy United started moving 777s to 3-3-3 before the merger.
    And I think they acknowledged 10 abreast when they released the photos of the 77W interior, which clearly showed #-4-3.

  3. The original AA 773 collateral also had the 3-4-3 config in it so I’m not particularly surprised on that front. I am quite surprised that they are going to have 3-3-3 in part and 3-4-3 in part. I wonder if that will mean a hard bulkhead separating the sections as well or if it will just be misaligned seats, making the folks in the first 3-4-3 row doubly punished (teased by the better seats ahead of them and also offset legroom issues).

  4. I was avoiding Air France transatlantic because of their 10 abreast in coach. Now I get to avoid AA, but it might not happen for another 2 years on my main route (transpac). Good thing United flies it non-stop too, with Economy Plus and flat seats in business, and both are available right now.

    Bad AA. Bad.

  5. As an AA Platinum that mostly flies international Economy, I’ll still take 3-4-3 on an AA 777 and earn 100% bonus miles than ne on a UA 3-3-3 777 that only offers mid-tier elites 50% bonus miles. That’s not even taking Main Cabin Extra and Economy Plus into consideration.

  6. Well I’ve been a fan of American for years. Purposely choose to fly them because of the seat arrangement, and other aspects. This is a deal breaker for me. I’ll be finding a new airline, likely. If I want to be cramped I’ll take a Greyhound, and if it’s international, I’m sure not going squeeze into a 8 hour torture device and pay someone a grand for the privilege to do so.

    Goodbye American.

  7. Don’t get lost with all the smoke and mirrors, Gary.

    “But it’s going to take a long while to get the reconfigurations done, we won’t see the first one in service for about two years.” should uppercase, bold AND underlined in this post WITH “(IF American even survives as a going concern for that long.)” added to the end.

    This feels like a last desperate attempt on American’s part. So they gathered a bunch of influential Premium-Cabin travel writers, gave them some freebies, gave a slick presentation and somehow “forgot” how many more poor victims they’re going to cram into steerage in order to please the travel gods they’ve gathered today. In the IT biz, it’s called vaporware. During the Tech Boom, these events would usually occur just before the last round of venture capital dried up… a last desperate attempt at a fresh round of cash from the suckers.

  8. I have switched to UA as my primary airline, but no way would I do 10 across. I’m with Liv, no long-haul torture devices for me, not for those prices.

  9. @RandyH getting lost in the smoke and mirrors? I’m the one that called them on 10 across in coach! Sorry you prefer bolding and underlining with upper case 🙂 And I really disagree with you on “if American survives as a going concern” for two years. Could they be merged or acquired? Sure. But I don’t want to fuel that meme, I think it’s less likely than much of the rest of the world does, as I’ve written here in the past.

  10. Kevin, it can be done, as shown by Porter up in Canada. Free lounge access for all customers as well…

  11. How do you go from 2-5-2 (9 across) to 3-4-3 (10 across)? That’s 18 inches to be taken from somewhere. But where?Assuming we are talking about existing planes, I just don’t see how it will work. I think something is wrong or the seats are going to have to be almost 2 inches narrower. Last time I checked Americans are not getting any smaller. Maybe they will remove the armrests and we will all cram in together for the ride…. Narrower aisles too? I was excited about the remodel in the hopes of riding up front on an eVIP, but now I am more concerned than anything as I am usually in back. It would really be interesting to know how they will find the space for the extra seat. The only 10 across I have been on is a 747. I know the A380 is 10 across as well, but a 777?

  12. So that’s less room for most passengers on some of the AA planes? Tighter seats for a huge proportion of passengers — when passenger size is increasing (as obesity incidence is still expected to rise for many years) — is going to make a lot more peoople a lot more uncomfortable as the changes get instituted.

    Cattle class is to become roach class — not a great development for me, as someone who books a huge proportion of my flights within 24 hours of departure and end up in economy class.

  13. Man, 10 across is rough. I get that many people here will be interested in the MCE or Business Class, but this is going to be brutal in the back. I always preferred the 2 seats together for couples. But now, its not anything special.

  14. My experience with premium economy seats (such as when flying Jetblue) is that I noticed that the majority of them were empty. For a 2 hour flight, it wasn’t worth $30×2 to my wife and I to pay for it. For a taller guy, I’m sure it would have been more than worth it. The regular economy seat was comfortable for us, we got free soda and a bag of snacks, and could watch TV with our own headphones. And a free bag (on jetblue.) So normal economy was fine for us.

    But for the airline, it was a bust. Sure, a few tall guys paid an extra $30 but about 20 seats were empty representing easily $4K worth of lost revenue for that segment.

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