Confirmed: American Removing Business Class Seats From Boeing 787-8s

Back in February I wrote that it seemed likely that American Airlines would be removing business class seats from Boeing 787-8 aircraft. That’s on top of removing business class seats from some Boeing 777-200s. At the time American didn’t deny the move, but said simply “It’ll be a bit before we have more details to share on the 788.”

Boeing 787-8 Concept D Business Class
American is retrofitting Boeing 787-8 aircraft to offer premium economy. I suggested premium economy would almost certainly go into the two row mini-cabin at the back of business class, where 8 out of the 28 business class seats currently are.

Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy

We now know that American is dropping down to just 20 business class seats on 787-8 aircraft. They’ve loaded seat maps for converted planes next year. (HT: @xJonNYC)

Here’s the new business class cabin with just 20 seats:

And the new premium economy cabin with 28 seats:

This makes awards and upgrades super difficult on the aircraft (awards are nearly impossible now in business class as it is). A 20 passenger business class cabin is a loss of 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.

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. “awards are nearly impossible now in business class as it is”

    Come on. You know that blanket statements like this are straight-up false. I’ve cleared two SWUs longhual Y-J on AA 788s this year.

    It will become more difficult after this change, sure. But I’m happy to have PE as an option – since in a lot of cases my company’s policy will allow purchase of it, whereas J is not allowed.

  2. I hate this change. Not only does it make upgrades and SWUs harder, AA is removing the best business-class seats which were the rear facing ones and eliminating the best cabin which was the two-row section just aft of the second boarding door. The rear-facing seats had a console on the aisle as well as one by the window. Plus in the small cabin, the rear-facing bulkhead seats have a nice storage locker at the bulkhead that is perfect for storing bedding, hats etc. Seats 6A and 6L were the best seats on the plane.

    Another potential disadvantage of going from two to one business-class cabins is the spread of mid-flight snacks may be downgraded. On AA planes with two business cabins, the FAs set up a beautiful spread of snacks, sandwiches, deserts and beverages in the galley between the two cabins. On planes with one business cabin, the spread is not as elaborate. AA’s snack spread is one advantage the airline has over other airlines.

  3. Just a quick note to thank you Gary for being so out in front of Aa’s very sad regression. Brings a tear to this lifetime platinum 4 million mile flier.

  4. Complain about BA business cabin having too many seats. AA reduces seats. Complain about that too.

  5. Then don’t fly AA, fly JetBlue. And stop the rat race to dumbed-down “elite” status.

  6. Gary why don’t you start your own airline. You complain about AA so much it seems you can do a better job running an airline than an airline blog.

  7. Based on previous airline marketing patterns, in a few years Premium Economy will drop “Economy” from its name and have lie-flat seats and Business will have individual caviar service, Dom P. champagne and enclosed suites.

  8. This is really brutal for ORD Elites. That’s 32 less total J seats just to LHR available for SWUs. Ouch.

  9. Correction — The second sentence of my comment should read: “Not only does it make awards and SWUs harder…”

  10. I have to say that I don’t understand AA. Who would want to fly them or deposit miles with them when they remove business class seats? Strange airline.

  11. I also foresee award redemption changes, as a result. More for business, and premium economy a little less, but above economy.

  12. I am so glad I got my aadvantage account below 1000 miles, used up all my aadvantage points to take my last award trip back in February, and am done with AA forever. It was a good run with AA, from the inception of frequent flier programs years ago, but it is time to move on to a different airline alliance. All of my credit card spending and flying will now be with UA and *A members. I had not been able to get a business class award seat on AA metal for the last 4 years, used oneworld partners. Buh bye, AA.

  13. The thing is, premium economy really isn’t that great. Yes a little more room, but limited recline so the ability to sleep is still marginal.

    I’ll be interested to see how well PE actually sells. Personally I wouldn’t pay more than $150 premium for a transatlantic flight

  14. I don’t really care about this change’s affect on SWU or J award availability. What matters to me as a paid J passenger (i.e. the exact type of passenger to which AA wants to cater) is that a smaller cabin means much less last minute paid availability, which, for me at least, is critical, as my travel tends to come-up last minute and I rarely ever fly home on the day for which I originally reserved. If I cannot easily move flights, paid J loses much of its value and I will have to book elsewhere where there are more available seats.

  15. And… AA tends to have the most expensive Business Class fares. This Platinum for life will be flying other airlines for the foreseeable future. I am in DFW, but do not mind one extra stop. Enough is enough.

  16. Confusing move, considering that another employee Q&A recently had them saying what a good market ORD-LHR is for business and needed bigger aircraft/bigger premium cabins. So they remove premium seats from the plane making ORD-LHR 4x/day.

  17. Have a round trip business class seat 7L on an AA788 ORD-CUN in Dec 2018. Will this change?

  18. Agree with the comment to thank Gary for keeping on top of this. Given all the “customer-unfriendly” moves that AA has made over recent years, it’s surprising that they are still in business. One can only hope that the next time this airline goes belly-up due to financial mismanagement, the US government finally lets them fail.

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