American’s Boeing 787-9s were the first to offer a premium economy cabin, delivered that way from the factory. Their Boeing 777-200s have been reconfigured to offer premium economy, except for the the subfleet of 13 planes that have 45 of the Zodiac ‘Concept D’ business class seats. And reconfiguration of Airbus A330-200s are underway.
American Airlines Premium Economy Boeing 787-9
There hasn’t been a plan to reconfigure Airbus A330-300s or Boeing 767s. Both aircraft types are supposed to leave the fleet in a few years, though it looks like the 767s are sticking around longer than originally planned.
That leaves two aircraft types to reconfigure with premium economy: Boeing 777-300ERs and Boeing 787-;8s. The 777-300s are my favorite plane in the fleet.
- They offer a first class cabin
- They’re premium-heavy, with 52 business class seats
- They have a great business class seat
- Main Cabin Extra is 9-across seating in coach, rather than 10-across
American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER Business Class
American hasn’t publicly shared details of what the configuration of the 777-300ERs (“77W”) would look like once premium economy is added — what those seats will trade off with.
- I’ve expected American to keep first class on these planes
- I assumed we might see fewer business class seats. When US Airways management took over they changed the configuration of 777-200s to go from 45 to 37 business class seats
However it looks like premium economy just comes out of the coach cabin. Of course we’ll lose 9-across Main Cabin Extra seats, that beautiful feature of the plane was never going to survive US Airways management and the push towards ‘densification’.
American Airlines Premium Economy Boeing 787-9
American’s plan for retrofitting these planes has been to start at the very end of 2017 and fully retrofit these 20 planes in the first half of 2018.
The first plane with the new cabin was flown from Dallas Fort-Worth to Paine Field on December 3.
According to the unofficial American Airlines fleet site this plane has gone from 8 first class, 52 business class, 44 main cabin extra, and 202 coach to 8 first class, 52 business class, to 8 first class, 52 business class, 28 premium economy, 28 main cabin extra and 188 coach. (The current configuration Main Cabin Extra has 30 seats in the 9-across forward section of coach, while the other 14 seats come from the exit rows in 10-across economy further back.)
Traveling for Miles points out that American seems to have loaded a new seat map for all of its 777-300ERs effective April 19th showing premium economy but with those seats blocked. In other words, they haven’t loaded which planes will fly which routes as of which dates — but they don’t want anyone booking a coach ticket and securing themselves premium economy without an upcharge (or for Executive Platinums and Concierge Key members, a last minute upgrade).
Today rows 16-19 are 9-across Main Cabin Extra. Seat maps in mid-April show 8-across (i.e. premium economy) for rows 16-19, with those seats blocked.
It appears that American fits premium economy into the same cabin that Main Cabin Extra sits today. Of course American’s Main Cabin Extra on the Boeing 777-300ER in that section is generous with 36 inch pitch. On the Boeing 787-9 premium economy has 38 inch pitch. It wouldn’t surprise me to see 37 inch pitch premium economy meaning they need to find 3 inches in that portion of the aircraft.
What I’m not certain I understand is rows 20 and 21, currently assignable and showing 8-across rather than 10-across seating but that shouldn’t be premium economy seats in the coach cabin (given that the forward premium economy fits all the seats of that type we expect the plane to have, and that these rows are assignable).
With American’s international fleet largely re-configured to offer premium economy, there are two risks that I’ve written about in the past.
- Systemwide upgrades become valid for a one class of service upgrade only. Want business class? You’ll have to buy premium economy. Buy coach and your upgrade only gets you premium economy. I’d be surprised if this didn’t happen it’s just a matter of when.
- Award chart devaluation to make room for premium economy. When American finally makes it possible to redeem for premium economy awards (and upgrades), the price of business and first class awards may rise. Take Europe, where one way coach is 30,000 miles and one way business is 57,500. Say that premium economy is priced at 45,000 miles the increment to redeem for business class isn’t “enough.”
Update: @AirlineFlyer points out that American is selling premium economy on Boeing 777-300ERs effective June 26 for Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York JFK – London Heathrow as well as Dallas – Hong Kong. I see it on Miami – Buenos Aires and Miami – Sao Paulo as well, so it seems as though this is an effective date for 77W routes generally.