First Glimpse Of New American Airlines Domestic First Class Seat

On Wednesday’s American Airlines flight AA1822 from Philadelphia to Charlotte, customers got the first glimpse of a new first class product especially for legacy US Airways A320 aircraft. Seat 3D is extra premium, it comes with a foot rest:

Since the US Airways takeover of American Airlines, the dominant view internally has been that the product is the schedule rather than the customer experience. There’s no question that operating a reliable airline matters, but that’s table stakes and something every airline needs to do.

American, with its cost structure and debt, needs to be the preferred carrier of premium customers, not ‘the low price leader.’

CEO Doug Parker once told employees they thought they could get away without seat power, and that the real problem was that American Airlines had power while US Airways didn’t. US Airways customers knew devices needed to be charged before they boarded, while American flyers did not. (Good luck on a US Airways plane connecting from Florida, through Charlotte, to the West Coast.)

It was more than six months after American’s new standard domestic interior was flying before the CEO even tried out the product. And he was amazed at how much meals mattered to first class customers, after he cut those back dramatically post-merger.

So it’s not uncommon to see planes flying around in this condition.


Depart With Seats Looking Like This? No Problem!


Doesn’t Work? Just Tape It!

When I’ve asked about this in the past, I’ve gotten an apology to the customers affected while noting that it wouldn’t have been desirable to delay the flight.

That misses the point though because American’s operation needs to have seats in working condition for the day, every day, and all too commonly they aren’t. American flying with fewer first class seats, meaning fewer upgrades, and a generally poor product environment from those who are buying first class seats isn’t just a last minute tradeoff decision about delaying a flight it’s about all of the processes that lead up to the flight and whether they’re getting those right or wrong. And by the way, American flight AA1822 was delayed anyway.

The airline talked throughout the pandemic about its ‘Green Flag plan’ to come out of Covid-19 ready to race ahead of the competition – but that has tradeoffs that aren’t easy to navigate. Schedules want more flying for each aircraft, but that trades off with maintenance. And lack of maintenance of customer experience items trades off with the carrier’s ability to attract premium revenue.

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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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Comments

  1. I wondered when you would have another one of these “footrest” stories. It’s been a while. You know how these things work, and that it’s not something that is unique to AA. However, you will find any reason, pick one out of the sky, to try and make a “thought provoking” story about AA. I’m waiting on your upcoming story about DFW and how you will rehash “Doesn’t Function Wet.” Heck, we might even get an Expedia story today .

  2. I’m not saying it’s unusual to see seats inop, but I fly 50 flights a year and I don’t think I’ve ever seen a first class seatback completely missing.

  3. I’m hitting myself for falling for this clickbait. And here I thought there was going to be something worth reading.

  4. Lord I can’t stand you. I thought I was getting an interesting story, and all I got was clickbait about a maintenance item that could be on *any airline*.

    AA has its issues, but damn you’re annoying.

  5. Oh please, I’ve had a FC seats on DL that the back colasped after take off and they moved me to Coach! I’d rather have it blocked then forced to sit in it.

    Much of this is due to supply chain issues, all the airlines are experiencing it.

    Guess Gary had to find something bad to say about AA, oh, the ONLY US Airling flying relief aid to Haiti. . .I guess you left that out.

  6. Every time Gary does clickbait stories, there is outrage.

    The only thing that will matter is if we stop reading. Otherwise he still gets the ad revenue and it feeds this “journalism.”

    It won’t stop unless we stop paying him through viewership.

  7. Dumbest article I’ve ever read. Who ever wrote this clearly has issues with the airline. Seems personal. Maybe Gary should start and airline with 140000 employees and see how that goes perfectly

  8. I am always amazed at the number of posters who seem to take negative reviews personally as if they owned a given airline.

  9. I decided I’m not flying American for awhile. I’ll qualify for platinum simply thur credit card spend. Did a few days at Alila Marea Beach (thanks to your review) and flew AS first out. Flew DeltaOne home on a newly refreshed 767 SAN – ATL. Much better than some Oasis configured airplane.

  10. Wonder what AA did to the writer. Someone seems hurt. Who hurt your feelings over there

  11. Clickbait at it’s best. You know that is not AAs product. I’ve had flights where a person of size was in F and the seat back snapped on takeoff. Guess you would rather we cancel the flights and put 1500 people each day from traveling. Running a global airline is not any easy task.

  12. As a retired a.a mechanic this is a very common practice. They have 10 days to fix it properly. Problem is they nolonger have qualified mechanics, or if they do finding one wanting to do the job. Way to go duggie. American airlines , more fare less care. Or we’re not happy till your un happy. Terry a. Washow

  13. Look at how nice those seats are!!! Heck, they should keep two seats like that on ALL planes (all the time) and call them “First Class Ottoman Seats” and charge $300 extra !!! Doug’s missing out on a lot of ancillary revenue. Do they need me to come run that department for them?!?!

  14. AA is way behind improving any of their products post-covid. Always chasing someone. Now Delta’s seats. With Spirit in the back.

  15. Gary – First off I love post like this. Really funny.

    Next up – Is this really safe to fly? I mean w/out seat in front how can you get into safe crash position? Most Delta One seats (with no seat in front) have the “air bag” belt or 3 point seatbelt.

    Thanks!

  16. All these readers ranting about how the author focuses on citing AA’s inadequacies is hysterical.

    I hit nearly 1m miles with them and stopped flying several years ago due to unreliability and an eroding product. The employees were not treated well and this was apparent in service.

    The industry metrics on performance and customer service confirm there’s something wrong here.

    I switched to Delta and while they too, have issues to work through, there is no comparison in the service and product. I attribute this to their management and the empowerment of their employees.

    American needs to get rid of their leadership team and realize that their employees are brand ambassadors AND their biggest asset.

  17. What I really like is hearing on the MSM that alcohol sales have been stopped till January of 22. What the MSM do not say most of the time this is in coach ( or as I call it peasant class) only.

    Heaven forbid we get the ruffians all juiced up.
    Because it’s a well know fact that in FC and B people can hold their alcohol without picking a fight with employees.

    Next up a rum and coke in a paper cup.

  18. Wonder if AA’s Board members actually fly their airline; actually notice the flaws that devastate customer experience, or, even talk to the customer? If so, do these Board members relay their experience to Parker and demand answers?

    Or, is this Board–and its corporate management a mirror of those at Amtrak who don’t want to waste their time riding outside the Northeast Corridor and overnight services, despite those trains being the essence of their company?

  19. So when exactly did USAirways “take over” American Airlines?? Seems that Doug had his eyes on AA since his early days there and had to wait until he screwed up 2 other airlines.

  20. First of all, American already has both the worst reliability and the worst passenger experience so what could go wrong here? If they were in the transport business, rather than sales and marketing, I might be more impressed. The only thing for sure is that there will be less legroom and the seats will be less padded. That is always the case. In fact, they would also be narrower except that as long as it is 2-2 seating they don’t gain much doing that…although it might save 1 pound and translate into $100 fuel saving per month for the fleet. So I guess they will do it. They have also undoubtedly been looking at 3-2 seating in first with the 2 side being 50 percent more expensive than the three side. Or the old 3-3 trick and block the middle seat. This has nothing whatsoever to do about the customer experience. AA could care less as long as you pay them as much as possible as soon as possible and have no way to do anything about it when they don’t even get you there.

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