New American Airlines Suites Will Fix A Big Mistake From Current Business Class

When American Airlines rolled out their ‘Concept D’ business class seat with the Boeing 787-8 and installed them on some Boeing 777-200s there were several problems. Some of the seats weren’t mounted to the floor well and passengers in one center seat could cause movement in another. In addition the dividers between the center seats would get stuck in the up or the down position.

These are the ‘forward and rear-facing fully flat seats’ American was buying from Zodiac.

American locked the center seat dividers in place. If they’re up, they’re up and passengers traveling together couldn’t see each other. If they’re down passengers in center seats lack privacy.

When the airline switched seat providers and began installing ‘Super Diamond’ seats in their Boeing 787-9 aircraft and the rest of their 777-200s, they decided not to offer dividers at all for middle seats. Business class passengers traveling solo and stuck in middle seats just wouldn’t have privacy from their neighbor.

Here’s the Super Diamond seat on a Boeing 787-9. The center seats have no divider between them.

This is especially problematic for women. Several female readers have told me that lacking a sense of privacy from their neighbor while sleeping.

The new Boeing 787-8s American has received don’t have exactly the same interiors as the planes that they began taking delivery of in 2015. They added dividers between business class center seats, and put different seats into coach. They’re manual dividers, not electronic, but do the trick.

The great news is that the American’s new walkthrough video of their new cabin product shows the divider is back on the new delivery Boeing 787-9s as well. So the old ones won’t have them, but those with the new suites will.

It would have been… odd… to put in doors for privacy, but not offer privacy from the passenger sitting in the seat beside you.

This symbolizes a larger issue, I think, about the new cabin product. There’s a greater attention to detail. The Super Diamond seat was rushed, and the decision to remove center dividers was about serving the airline’s own operational ease rather than serving the customer.

While I personally think that the current United Airlines and British Airways business cabins are overall aesthetically more pleasing, not to mention KLM’s and Air France’s latest cabins, there’s much greater attention to design in business class seat stitching. I see a nice lamp at each business class seat – much nicer than a snake light. The Flagship logo at the back of the cabin, too, is nice.

Credit: American Airlines

There’s really nothing that can be done with the MiQ premium economy seat. That’s just a pedestrian product no matter who installs it, and each seat needs enough space to offer footrests, not just foot bars protruding from the seat in front.

The large seat back entertainment screen and American Airlines logo embroidered into the seat even in coach is a nice touch, combined with the airline refreshing economy class bedding.

Within the confines of what American Airlines is going to be willing to do – space on the aircraft comes at an incredible premium, so I while I wish the space for midflight snacks was larger I accept certain tradeoffs – they’ve clearly gone much further in working on the details of this product.

Of course I haven’t seen it in person yet. The first plane hasn’t been delivered, and we’re a couple of months until the first Boeing 777-300ER goes in for retrofit to create a model for future work. But the imagery that’s coming out is exceeding my expectations.

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. and the question is how long it will take AA to retrofit its existing seats. They have generally moved fairly quickly on cabin retrofits and they have a considerably smaller international fleet than Delta but there are huge constraints in the supply chain.

  2. @Tim Dunn – they plan to put the first 77W in for retrofit (to create a prototype for certification) this summer. After that the schedule is not yet clear. There is no announced plan to retrofit existing 787-9s or any 787-8s/772s.

  3. It is a nice Premium Economy product. I wonder if that would cannibalize Business revenue. I would consider that product for a transcon flight.

  4. The dividers on the super diamond seats was a maintenance nightmare. Passengers pulled and pushed on them until they were broken. The new dividers should do the trick. Cabin looks great! Looking forward to the retrofit on the 77W as well.
    I recently flew OGG DFW, had to do a double take as all B/c seats were forward facing. The newer 78-8s ditched the zodiac in favor of the super diamond. I hope AA, uses the super diamonds they are removing from the Triples to retrofit the 788s and the 772s that have zodiacs currently.

  5. @Joseph – That’s been a concern for every airline that offers PE yet more airlines are still adding it while no airline is removing it so the numbers must work out.

  6. AA’s big mistake in current business class is their horse$hit service and that’s unlikely to change no matter how nice of a seat they put in.

  7. Don’t disparage the MIQ seats in PE! I’m old enough to remember when the UA and AA 767 J seats were worse than the MIQ seats, with the exception of an extra inch and a half of pitch. And they cost about $4000 in early 1990s USD to fly round trip from Chicago to Scandinavia.

  8. Renee – I recently flew CDG ORD in AA business class and the service was outstanding! Food and wine were excellent and the flight attendant was very attentive.

  9. That sentence is poorly phrased “Several female readers have told me that lacking a sense of privacy from their neighbor while sleeping.”.
    You obviously missed something in here.

  10. The video looks great!
    Still, I’ll be testing a switch over to BA as my carrier of choice. As an AA EP, I think the game here is over. I’ll still fly AA, but credit my flights to Avios.

  11. I have flown on the AA Biz Class seats that have no divider, but they did however, have compartments that had flip up lids that made an ideal barrier between center seat mates if privacy was wanted. The pop up privacy barrier spoken about in the article was not needed.
    Unlike a lot of reviews on here, I have fortunate to have stellar service on American. I quite enjoy flying them

  12. jetdoc,
    then let me add “AA has a considerably smaller widebody fleet than DL AND UA”
    And we still don’t know how long it will take for AA to retrofit this into any current aircraft other than the prototype.

  13. AA took thousands of dollars from us during Covid! Will never fly with them again, and I was a AA Advantage Member!
    Basically no refund or rebooking
    Just took all our money!

  14. It would be nice if the old 773 flagship business seats could replace the Zodiac seats on the older 787-8 and 772, if the suites are not being installed (espcially on the old old 772). It could create a more common experience.

  15. Maybe the flying experience would be wonderful if all passengers were flying with a positive attitude and a smile, and leave the attitude at home. Flying would be so much more enjoyable… And just maybe the flight attendants would go out of their way to make it that much more enjoyable. I’ve been in the industry for 35 years, when it was the business class people flying, then through deregulation, that’s when it went to crap. The greyhound passengers showed up, with their attitudes!

  16. I flew a 16+ hr flight recently in AA ‘first’ class. They forgot to serve me breakfast even though I was awake.

    With 8 passengers, only half of whom are awake, how does cabin crew forget to serve breakfast 12 hrs after the last meal?

    AA really needs to up its customer service.

  17. It would be awesome if they would take the premium economy and make that domestic first class. That would be a game changer for domestic travel. `

  18. Recently flew LAX/SYD and AKL/DFW on a 773 and a 789 in business. Service was excellent on both (for a change).

  19. Besides the grammar issues, the below is insulting; for the record, I am male and need privacy too.
    This is especially problematic for women. Several female readers have told me that lacking a sense of privacy from their neighbor while sleeping.

  20. Recently flew DFW-AKL on the 787-900 in business class. Amazing product and the very best service! Coming back was no different. The plane was spotless, and the crew magnificent!

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