American’s new business class seat is the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond going into their Boeing 787-9, Airbus A350, and later retrofits of Boeing 777-200s.
I had the opportunity to try out the new seat on American’s inaugural domestic run of its first Boeing 787-9, flying Dallas – Los Angeles. For the return flight I opted for premium economy (removing my upgrade request from the reservation just to be safe) so I could compare that other new product, a first in this aircraft, as well.
This wasn’t a true inaugural flight. It had been scheduled to be, but they send the plane to London Heathrow and back earlier in the week. So there were no gate festivities at all — no gift bags, no food, no speeches. And the captain didn’t have any challenge coins to distribute either.
Nonetheless I had the chance to climb on board about 20 minutes early for some good photo taking opportunities.
The B/E Aerospace Super Diamond is one of the world’s best business class seats. Virgin Australia uses the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond as its new business class seat. So does Qatar.
Having spent about 3 hours with the seat — though without having slept on it over a long tranatlantic or transpacific journey — I can say that I like it better than American’s Zodiac “Concept D” seat on the Boeing 787-8 and already-retrofitted 777-200s. I’m not sure I like it better than the Zodiac seat on American’s 777-300ERs. There are some pluses to the seat, some minuses, but overall it’s a very good business class product that stacks up with some of the world’s best seats.
I asked and was told by a flight attendant that no carry on bags are permitted in the foot well during takeoff and landing, you have to stow your bags (even personal item) in the overhead. In practice I doubt most flight attendants would notice, the foot well is deep and angled.
The seat is controlled electronically.
On my first run through the seat had the slowest recline to flat I have seen. It was probably the first time that particular seat was moved to the flat position. I tried it again and it worked much faster the second time.
The seat has ample storage, although I miss the palette of the 777-300ER and a mirror.
Another issue was the windows. There’s the great Boeing 787-8 dimming windows, and they do dim enough, but they were very slow to open up. Others in the cabin didn’t have that problem.
I chose seat 1A for the flight, the two bulkhead aisles in business class are my favorites even though they’re closer to the forward lavatory. I like not seeing the entire cabin in front of me, I get a much greater sense of privacy (like a little child closing its eyes, if they don’t see you you can’t see them).
I found it interesting that the front of business class has small lavatories, while just behind the curtain between business and premium economy there’s both a small and a giant lavatory. I expect that many in business class, especially at the back of the cabin, will prefer the right side lavatory behind them.
So it’s a gorgeous seat, it’s fully flat and with direct aisle access from all seats. I found the seat comfortable upright, lounging, and as a bed. It also felt plenty wide enough at the shoulders, and the sense of spaciousness is enhanced by an armrest that moves up and down.
There are some negatives to the seat, however.
- No dividers between middle seats. This is a show-stopper for solo passengers in the middle seats, in my opinion, the aisle seats are the only ones a solo passenger will want (though the middles are great for traveling with someone). Since the middle seats are even angled slightly towards each other, the lack of privacy is accentuated.
Put the storage console flaps up and you have your own ‘ghetto privacy divider’:
- Tray table is flimsy and lacks multiple positions.
- Space between seat and aircraft wall. There’s a rubber piece covering up the space but it’s flexible, some of the passengers on the inaugural domestic flight referred to this as “the iPhone hole.” There will be passenger items falling between the seat and the wall, and they’ll be tough to get back.
- Television doesn’t move you can’t bring it closer to you or angle it.
- Shoulder belt during takeoff and landing you have to belt the shoulder belt as well as the standard seat belt. I don’t think this is much of an issue, but worth pointing out.
- Power outlets aren’t super tight and I expect them to wear out quickly. My advice is to bring a UK-style power adapter and plug that in to ensure your cords don’t flop around, with power going in and out. I do like that there’s both a standard outlet and USB power, which is great for powering a phone and laptop at the same time.
Bottom-line is that while I think more work and thought could have gone into some of the ergonomics, I’ll be thrilled to fly this plane in business class. I’ll just choose my seats — window versus middle — based on whether I’m traveling solo or with someone.
And if I can do that, I’d take the 787-9 seat over American’s 787-8, 777-200, 767, and 757 seats in a heartbeat. It compares only to the 777-300ER seat in my opinion (which also has a first class cabin).
I also prefer this seat — again, comparing seat only not soft product — over the bulk of Delta’s business class seats and over United’s new Polaris seat — as long as I get my choice of window solo seat or middle paired seats. We’ll see how Delta’s coming business class seat with doors works out, however. And I’d generally take the new United and Delta soft product over American’s, of course.
American currently only offers pajamas and enhanced catering in business class on four routes: Los Angeles – Sydney, Auckland, and Hong Kong and Dallas – Hong Kong. With United’s new Polaris product American will need to speed up enhancing this element of service.