New American Airlines Business Class Is Coming With Bigger Cabin, Seats With Doors

American Airlines has been taking business class seats out of planes, first from their Boeing 777-200s and then from Boeing 787-8s. That’s left them with small premium cabins and not enough premium seats to sell.

Current American Airlines Super Diamond Business Class Center Seats

They have an opportunity to set this right. Their delayed order for Boeing 787-9s is supposed to mean the introduction of a new business class seat. So too is the Airbus A321XLR. Both new products were confirmed in design.

We’re not just looking at a new seat, but also more premium seats. I wrote last fall that American Airlines is planning to put more business class seats on planes. That’s true both for their widebodies and also their Airbus A319s.

We’re getting some sense now just what this means from two separate recent reports. First there was this reported by an employee,

I just did recurrent training. [Business class] is going to 51 seats. There will be new seats in [business] as well as [premium economy]. The [business] seats will have doors and it will have completely new cabin interior trimming. ..The new designation for the airplane is the 787-9P.

JonNYC also shared this information. You can tell it’s from a different source because of the additional details he offers.

While I am still waiting for comment from American Airlines I have separately confirmed that this represents the current plan. Update: An American Airlines spokesperson offers,

We have not finalized details but are excited to deliver a premium travel experience for customers when we take delivery of our new aircraft in 2023.

The Boeing 787-9 would go from:

  • 30 to 51 business class
  • 21 to 32 premium economy
  • 36 to 18 main cabin extra (this might represent just bulkhead and exit row)
  • 198 to 143 economy seats

In total this reflects a reduction of 41 seats, from 285 down to 244.

The reference JonNYC makes to Thales is to the plane’s seat back entertainment which I detailed several months ago. ViaSat references satellite inflight internet, gone will be the crawlingly poor performing Panasonic which has been planned for some time.

We still don’t know whether American will use the current Super Diamond seat and add doors like joint venture partner British Airways and now Etihad, or will go with the Adient Ascent seat like Qatar Airways on its Boeing 787-9.

Credit: Adient Aerospace

American Airlines already has a good business class seat as far as it goes. Investing in a new premium seat is exciting, though I imagine we won’t see fleet harmonization any time soon. Having more business class seats is exciting, too – both for the airline’s prospects and also for customers being able to actually book those seats.

Meanwhile premium economy has proven to be a popular product. However, American’s seats aren’t super comfortable and lack foot rests except in the front row. All other seats in the cabin have just a foot bar. That’s a definite miss and hopefully something they’ll improve with these new aircraft.

American Airlines Boeing 787-9 Current Premium Economy

We’ll likely have to wait two years to see the new seats in action, though, because there’s a reasonable chance the current timetable for delivery of new Boeing 787-9 aircraft – fourth quarter of 2023 – could be pushed back even further. We might see the new seat on board the A321XLR first.

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. AA seems to be following UA putting in more business class seats. So is flagship first gone for good?

  2. If only they would make business class seats available to book with AA miles that didn’t require 500K points from DFW to Europe.

  3. Gary: how many 787-9’s are to be delivered? 25 or so? over what period? Most of AA’s 772’s were delivered between 1999-2001 — how many years of service do you expect these birds to have on them? Hope you can comment on these points perhaps in your future post! Thank you!

  4. Like Amtrak, AA apparently lacks a Board of Directors with competence and knowledgeable in ops, customer experience, and marketing. How else can AA explain the costly roller-coaster decision-making in the past few years over number and type of seats; prior de-generation of catering, etc?

    Remember, it was just yesterday AA was spending federal funds to convert its jets to Oasis; purchasing new jets with the abominable Oasis built-in.

  5. Good luck getting award bookings on these q-suite wannabes which will likely take up a large portion of the 7MM+ points I think Gary aquired on the cheap (I myself got bit over 2MM) during the promo fire sale last year to make donation!

    Crazy that flights to India/Middle East have so many dates available for 70k AA miles to fly on Qatar Qsuites but on AA metal its almost always 2-3x the miles required. Unfornunately I’ve noticed in last few weeks that QR has virtually no flights with more than 2 award seats in J opened up regardless of any flight or date, which is kind of useless where it needs to be 3 of us traveling (Me + Wife + Daughter). Perhaps will have to pay for one seat in cash which kind of offsets the savings received from the cheap points deal.

  6. Gary, have you ever had a post explaining the revenue breakdown from each fare class? I’ve had commentors claiming “first/business class subsidizes economy.” I’m just curious on this issue since some of those seats are “given away” as upgrades. I love surfing your archives but there’s literally thousands of them and I have not come across any post on that. Could you provide a link if it exists please? I know you are the hardest working person in the miles industry (read your post from years ago on your work schedule-whew!)
    and I’m not trying to start a class war, I’m just curious. Or maybe there is such fare instability that the question is unanswerable? Thanks!

  7. This is genius. Let’s eliminate nearly all the MCE seats so even elites have to buy up to PE to escape misery.

    This will really drive my loyalty.

  8. So they’re removing PTVs from premium cabins too right? After all, don’t J pax bring their own devices?

  9. Any idea if the plan here is to operate 2 sub-fleets of 789 or if the long-term plan is to go J51 on all of them? And for that matter if this is an early sign of plans to increase J capacity across the board? J51 on 789 vs J20 on 788 feels strange to say the least.

  10. @JorgeGeorge
    I think there is an interesting Wendover video on YouTube about the economics of the different cabins and the ticket revenue derived from each. If I remember correctly, airlines need to sell far less than the total number of seats in the most premium cabins to draw more revenue per area than economy layouts. And upgrades aren’t a total wash. They drive incremental revenue down the line by keeping elites loyal.

  11. Does UA have footrests in all PE seats? Or first row only? I know they use the same miQ seat as AA does for PE…

  12. The title of your article says they are adding seats with doors. Then in the body of your article it says we still don’t know if they’re adding seats with doors. ‍♂️

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