American unveils initial A319 routes and seatmap

As part of their fleet renewal, American will soon be taking delivery of their first Airbus A319 aircraft. They’ll be going into service in mid-September, and will initially operate out of Dallas to secondary markets. The initial schedule has them flying between Dallas and Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis, Wichita, Dayton, Lubbock, El Paso, Huntsville, McAllen, and Toronto. So these really aren’t premium routes. You can find the full details of the new A319 routes here.

The more interesting news is the seatmap of the new A319, which has now been published. It ain’t pretty. Before we get too much into it, let’s be clear that the A319 is more or less replacing the MD80 in American’s fleet, which has 16 first class seats, 40 Main Cabin Extra seats, and 79 coach seats.

The A319, on the other hand, will only have a total of eight first class seats, making it the smallest first class cabin in American’s fleet. American’s 737s and MD80s all have 16 first class seats, and even their regional jets have nine first class seats. So this is a huge reduction in first class capacity.

Then there are only three rows of Main Cabin Extra for a total of 18 seats, which is less than half the size of the Main Cabin Extra cabin on the MD80.

Then there will be 102 coach seats.

Just to be clear, the plane itself is a huge upgrade over the MD80, though as an elite member hoping for a first class upgrade or Main Cabin Extra, this will be a plane to stay away from.

I’m a bit conflicted on what to make of this. The configuration itself is bad news for elites, and I think we should’ve all seen this coming with the merger. It’s simply not sustainable for American to have 16 seat first class cabins, and have a third of their coach cabin be Main Cabin Extra. At least not on an A319, which has fairly high operating costs. That being said, this is the other extreme.

That’s why I kind of wonder whether American plans this configuration for their entire A319 fleet, or whether they’ll have sub-fleets of A319s. I can’t imagine there’s all that much premium demand between Dallas and Cleveland, for example, but I imagine American will also be flying these in more premium markets eventually. For example, currently flights between Chicago and Dallas are almost exclusively operated by MD80s, and even with 16 first class seats, they often sell out in advance. If you cut the number of seats in half I think we can all kiss goodbye to upgrades on the route ever again.

Anyway, here’s to hoping that this configuration is only for a sub-fleet of their A319s, and that the A321s have a much larger first class cabin.

What do you guys think? Will this be the configuration throughout the A319 fleet, and how many first class seats do you think they’ll have on the A321s?

Comments

  1. Well UA only has 8 F on their 319s and it seems like it would be hard to justify more. Always a harder upgrade but E+ goes back to the exit rows so there is usually plenty of that to go around.

    This is rough though if you are flying AA a lot and were hoping for a big upgrade from the the Mad dogs. Still have the exit row too I guess as another defacto premium row, no?

  2. It’s already a battle when I fly on USAir on their airbuses. Can’t imagine how it will be when these two merge.. pandemonium lol 🙂

  3. Define ‘fairly high operating costs’, please. As compared to which other aircraft in the AA fleet, and why would a ‘bankrupt’ airline be investing in aircraft more expensive to run?

    Thanks,
    Eric

  4. This is 4 more seats than US puts on the A-319. US has them configured to 124 (12 F and 112 Y). I wonder if this will become the standard on for pmUS after the merger.

  5. Why are you blaming it on the merger? That hasn’t actually closed yet, and the seating plan was almost certainly decided upon before the merger was announced.

  6. Wow – MUCH worse than the UA A319, which while having the same 8 F, also has 40 E+ seats, whereas this config only has 24 “good” seats (MCE+exit row).

  7. Ouch. As for YYZ-DFW not being a premium market.. have you seen the premium lines at YYZ? The last time I flew YYZ»DFW, there were about 100 Priority AAcess types on the flight. I wasn’t elite on OW at the time, and the boarding area was nearly empty by the time they got to Zone 1! A big downgrade from the 737s on this sector.

  8. This sounds absolutely terrible. I look forward to a dozen or so MD-80 upgrades a year on AA. Also if I fly in coach, I want the two seat side on an MD-80. Six abreast coach is insane – travel groups of 3 are quite rear compared to groups of two. I am not going to book a ticket at all unless I have a reserved MCE, exit row, two side or first. BTW I have flown all of those routes at one time or another, except Charlotte and Huntsville.

  9. Sounds like Doug is already in charge. Welcome to the NEW American Airlines.
    Fasten your seatbelts.

  10. As another poster mentioned above, this has nothing to do with the merger, US or Doug Parker. These decisions were likely planned months ago… let’s not forget that AA decided to switch to 3-4-3 in coach on their 77Ws way in advance, and basically kept it a secret until the seat maps were released. Remember– they had a rendering of the cabin that was released when the order was announced that made it seem like it would be 3-4-3 in Y, which they later cropped so you couldn’t really tell.

  11. “Just to be clear, the plane itself is a huge upgrade over the MD80”

    Does everyone else agree with that statement? I don’t. Yes the MD-80 is older, but it has a comfortable (and, as mentioned, large) first class cabin and a two-seater on the AB side. In both regards this new A319 is worse. I’ll take the Mad Dog any day

  12. ‘A319 has fairly high operating costs’?? From the A319/320/321 family, yes, but it will be wayyy…. cheaper to operate than the MD80!

  13. @Michael– the A319s have transcon range. The initial routes were likely decided based on utilization issues; in time, as AA takes on more deliveries, I would not be surprised to see these spread throughout the system, on flights of varying stage lengths. Also, DFW-YYZ is 1,200 miles– not exactly a short hop.

  14. @Eric – operating costs in terms of CASM (cost per available seat mile). Being that the A319 has a fairly low number of seats, compared to the A320/A321/737, etc, its operating costs are spread out over fewer seats, giving it a higher CASM. On the flip side, you’ll need to have a higher RASM (revenue per available seat mile) to cover the higher CASM, otherwise it’s an unprofitable flight.

    Two basic ways to improve the economics:
    1.) Lower CASM, through more seats on the aircraft (hence the reason for AA following the other A319 operators with smaller FC, more coach. With 128 seats vs, say, 118, your CASM will be reduced. Think about NK… I think they have roughly ~160 seats on their A319s!

    2.). Increase RASM, through higher fares and fees. Most would probably agree that AA’s A319s aren’t going be getting any sort of revenue premium.

    So when you are left with an aircraft that is inherently expensive to operate, the easy financial decision is to try and squeeze a few more seats onto the plane.

  15. @ Eric, pt. 2

    AA is investing in this “expensive” airplane due to the fact that it fills an important capacity gap in their fleet. Previously, their smallest mainline aircraft was the ~145 (??) seat M80. That’s a HUGE jump from the regional aircraft. So, for smaller markets that don’t have a lot of demand, the new A319s will fill an important void and better match capacity with demand.

  16. US has 12F on their A319’s and no MCE (yet). I assume AA found just enough extra leg room for 3 rows of MCE by replacing one row of F with one row of MCE. An MD80 with no MCE has 16F and 10 exit row seats. The AA 319 will have 8F but 24 coach seats with extra leg room. It makes economic sense for AA to follow UA’s lead and try to make elites happy with E+ rather than F, particularly if AA drops the upgrade fees.

  17. @james, Yes the MD80 is a good plane, but cannot be compared to 319 (just look at the cockpit) it just cant compete, which is fairly normal considering the “generational” gap between the 2. We are talking Grand pa’ vs 18 years old here.

  18. @ Eric — It’s much more efficient than the MD80 of course, but compared to the A320/A321 it has fairly high operating costs on a per passenger basis.

  19. @DiscoPapa
    The CASM for the A319 is only slightly higher than an A320, but either is dramatically lower than MD80 family.

    I think this Y-heavy config has little to do with CASM and more to do with demand. And nothing to do with the merger. At all.

  20. @ James K. — I like the MD80 in a way as well, but from an overall passenger comfort perspective I think it’s hard to argue against their new A319s, which will have power at every seat and personal televisions. Also keep in mind that the seats on A319s are wider than on 737s.

  21. @ Michael — As DWT says, the concern is that these planes will eventually fly transcons. A319s are long range aircraft and I can’t help but think they’ll eventually be operating high frequency transcon routes, possibly like MIA-LAX.

  22. @ Seth — Didn’t mean merger as much as “new” American. I’m really referring to the post-bankruptcy American, since obviously they can’t pick up a bunch of shiny new planes if the numbers don’t work out for them.

  23. To paraphrase Darth Vader “I find your lack of MCE seats disturbing” To me that’s more relevant than the F seats. I’ll always have a soft spot for the Mad Dogs though, even without any personal TVs or in-seat power.

  24. Good, w/ more economy seats maybe there’ll be more SAAVER award seats available in that class?!

  25. Fair point Lucky. I hadn’t thought of power at every seat. I just hate 3-3 seating and small F cabins

  26. I especially like this FT post (self identified AA employee from IAH):

    “Cry, cry, complain, complain: I can’t believe that I will not receive my F class seat. How dare AA try to improve their bottom line and not give me complimentary upgrades. It doesn’t make sense why they are configuring the aircraft like this.

    The point of upgrades for elites is to keep the elite happy by giving them upgrades if there are any other seats available. If you want F, buy F.

    I’m starting to laugh at the notion of people actually choosing to inconvenience oneself by flying a more indirect routing to avoid this aircraft.”

    You can join the conversation in the FT AA forum…

  27. In some ways I don’t mind the smaller F cabins, but I think three rows of Main Cabin extra are a bad decision, especially A319s only have on rows of exit seats – AA should have at least introduce one or two more rows of MCE! I hope AA does not plan to use these A319s on these heavy premium routes that LGA to DFW or LGA to ORD, or between its major hubs.

  28. I have lots of friends working at Centreport ( DFW AA HQ, used to work there) and rumored has it the new management likes Delta’s RM model. Yuck!

    I hope they are wrong but he last few moves leads me to believe that they want a revenue model and reward those premium customers.

    thougths?

  29. Fighting over shrinking upgrade space shows why Executive Platinum continues to devalue. The A-319 config is just a glimpse of things to come. Glad I’m about to be traveling a lot less.

  30. @John (#21) — I think this is it exactly. What American has done relative to the US Airways starting configuration is exactly the same as what Delta did relative to the Northwest starting configuration when Delta introduced Economy Comfort — pull out a row of First and use that space to expand the legroom in the first few rows of coach. The legacy airlines have realized that if you’re giving away most of the first class seats for free, why have so many of them?

  31. Interesting that they’re flying them here to HSV. As far as I’m aware it will be the only modern twin coming in here. Everything else is RJs and MDs of one flavor or another…

  32. Well, like the 777-300 was initially put on DFWGRU, it no longer flies that route. No doubt, the initial A319 routes are test routes. I believe we will see the 319s on routes international routes out of DFW like LIM, CCS, Central America, etc, replacing the 7378s.

  33. 2 rows of First class? This is a huge disappointment. How can AA have made such a silly decision, when its wants to portray itself as a premium carrier? First class with 8 seats is less than any of the other major carriers, including its merger partner, US Airways!

  34. I agree with most that 8 seats in First seems really low but my understanding is that this aircraft will fly mostly markets that are currently or used to be served by CRJ’s or ERJ’s. As previously mentioned this aircraft will fill that gap between a 50-70 seater RJ and a 140-160 MD80 and 737. As far as the ORD-DFW, ORD-LGA, and other high premium passengers routes they will most probably get replaced by additional 737’s still being delivered to AA. And it has already been announced that the A321’s will have 3 classes and will be used for transcon flights.

  35. The A319 is an AWFUL aircraft. I am in the Wichita market, so I fly to DFW routinely. The plane experiences almost DAILY mechanical issues, largely related to its computer systems. Flights into and out of Wichita are almost invariably late now. S80 planes have even replaced the A319 on certain days. Economy is a joke–tight,cramped, and virtually no room to walk down the aisle. I could care less about LED lighting and entertainment systems when there is so much that AA has cut corners on with this plane and this route. I’m an EP and have lost a lot of respect for American.

  36. I could not agree more with the comment that the main cabin seating in the A319 is a joke. Except there’s nothing funny about it. Cramped would be a gross understatement. Could not even open my laptop fully. Two hours of loss productivity. Join the chorus in protesting to AA — with enough input from business travelers and frequent fliers perhaps sanity will prevail and they will reconfigure the seating arrangement in the A319. It’s not all about the almighty dollar!

  37. Ben, not sure if you read these comments, but I noticed that AA put the 319 on the DFW-BOG route, which is different than the middle america short hops.

  38. Flew it (a319) from DFW to CLE. The seat forces you to sit up perfectly straight…my feet were numb before the flight took off. My tray table would not fold down in the extended position and barely folded down in the “half” position. A quick look around the cabin and I noticed my fellow passengers were having the same issue.

    After deplaning, the various conversations of people exiting the plane were exclusively about the lack of room on that plane. I requested a Exit row seat on the return flight. Felt like heaven. Don’t ever sit in a “regular” seat unless you are a below average sized person.

    If I could buy my own tickets (for business travel) I would NEVER fly this plane.

  39. I flew one of these planes from Charlotte to Dallas. I literally had about 8 inches from my nose to the seat back in front of me, and the seat in front hadn’t even reclined. I could barely fit a paperback book between my nose and the seatback. My knees were pressed hard against the seat in front of me. The tray table, even folded in half, would barely come down. (Admittedly I am a large guy, but not nearly as large as the two people seated next to me.) I couldn’t even fit a paperback book in the seatback pocket in front of me and had to hold it on my lap during takeoff and landing. I will avoid this plane whenever possible, even if it means switching off of American and going to another airline.

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