Chances Of Getting American 777 With New Business Class?

Reader Matt S asked the following in the “Ask Lucky” forum:

My wife and I are planning a trip to France next summer. I was able to snag (on hold) two first class seats on AA80 DFW>LHR, then onward LHR>CDG. Having read your post about AA removing F from all 777-200s, I’m wondering if I should expect this flight to have an F cabin or not. The AA seat map showed three classes, while SeatGuru shows two configurations for this flight – with and without F. If I do end up in J, should I expect to receive the mileage difference back? The flight is June 2016, if that helps. Thanks!

I figured I’d answer this question here, since I know many are in a similar boat.

American-777

American is in the process of refreshing their longhaul fleet

For a while now American has been in the process of refreshing their longhaul fleet. This is coming both in the form of taking delivery of new aircraft, like the 777-300ER, as well as reconfiguring their existing aircraft with new cabins, including the 777-200 and the 767-300.

As part of their 777-200 reconfiguration process, American is going from their current three cabin configuration to a two cabin configuration.

Currently American has a first class cabin…

American-777-First-Class-01

A business class cabin, with angled seats…

American-Business-Class

And then an economy cabin.

As part of the reconfiguration, American will be eliminating first class, and will instead be installing a new business class product.

American-New-Business-1

American-New-Business-2

The new business class product will be a huge improvement over the old one, given that business class seats are fully flat and all feature direct aisle access.

Odds of getting the new 777-200?

So Matt S has tickets in 777-200 old first class for next summer, and is wondering the odds of his plane being swapped to a refurbished 777-200, which won’t feature a first class cabin anymore. Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • So far only a handful of the four dozen or so 777-200s have been refurbished
  • The process has been slower than anticipated, and as of now I believe American is optimistically aiming to finish the 777-200 refurbishment by late 2017
  • Never trust SeatGuru when it comes to seatmaps for a specific flight; always go with what the seatmap published directly by the airline shows
  • 11 months out it’s really tough to predict what kind of a plane you’ll have next summer, so I wouldn’t count on getting one type of plane or another, necessarily; airlines frequently optimize equipment/schedules as the departure date approaches

What to expect if the plane is swapped

Assuming you’re booked in first class and a flight is swapped from an “old” 777-200 to a refurbished 777-200 without first class, what should you expect? I’d say:

  • The difference in miles between the two tickets (in this case a 12,500 mile refund, since you’re going from first class to business class)
  • Being rebooked on another route in first class on American metal, even if there’s no award space (perhaps on a 777-300ER)

Those are the two things I would reasonably expect. And to be honest, in your shoes I’d be hoping for an equipment swap. I’d almost take American’s new 777-200 business class over the old 777-200 first class, or at the very least use it to swap to American’s 777-300ER first class.

American-777-First-Class-01

Bottom line

It’s tough to know what American is thinking 11 months in advance. I wouldn’t count on an equipment swap, but it also wouldn’t surprise me. And frankly if you do get an equipment swap, I think you’ll get a more favorable outcome that way.

Comments

  1. Ben, a somehow similar question: I purchased a business class round-trip ticket from MIA-EZE in business class a couple of months ago. AA was selling only business class tickets even though this particular route was operated with a 777-200 featuring both first and business class. I obviously selected a seat in the first class cabin since I would at least be getting fully flat seat. Unfortunately, AA sent me an email a couple of weeks ago stating that there was a schedule change, which is a rather misnomer, and they started selling first class tickets. As a result, my selected seat was erased and I had only the ability of selecting seats within the business class cabin, i.e., the old angled seat. This situation is rather annoying: if AA is not sure about what plane will be operating this route and it is not selling first class under the hypothesis that the route might be operated by a refurbished 777-200, AA should have only sold seats in the business class, as it did at the time of booking, and should have only allowed to select seats within the business class cabin, as it did not do at that time of booking. As customer, I could have purchased my ticket with LAN, where I know for sure that I will be getting a fully flat seat. At this moment, the option is not feasible since the cost of flying LAN is astronomical. I have obviously reached out to AA in order to try to find a solution, but they have not given me any other than “sorry for your inconvenience”. I faced a similar situation when a refurbished 777-200 was switched at the last minute, on that occasion, the Key Concierge, I am only EXP, was kind enough to re-book me with another carrier within OW on the same route. Any suggestion? I know it is not the end of the world, but I find the way AA goes through this is, firstly, misleading and, then, rather, not proactive enough when providing a solution would not be that hard.

  2. personally i would be hoping for a refurb; getting downgraded to the new biz class (plus collecting 12.5k miles back) is in my opinion better than the old first class – which is tired, dated and nothing to write home about.

  3. I can shed some light on this. My girlfriend and were scheduled to fly JFK to LHR December on a 77W in J, and I booked the mini cabin. Booked this in February. About 3-4 days ago I got an Award Wallet notification that our seats had been changed to 12A and 12D, but the plane type still said 77W. I went online to change them back and see what happened and saw that the whole plane was now a 772 with new business class with alternating rows facing backwards. Went on Expert Flyer to double check and they had indeed taken a 777-300ER off the JFK-LHR route and replaced it with a retro fitted 777-200. I called American, got a rude lady who begrudgingly rebooked be on an earlier flight that was a 3 cabin 77W. I asked for compensation for the hassle of having to change our plans for the day of departure. We were each given a $100 evoucher.

    http://imgur.com/th7fOEi

  4. I think the chances also depend on the route. High-yield routes are more likely to receive the new J. With a lot of South American routes, especially those to Brazil as of late, they would be the last places to get the new J.

  5. Having flown both the New J and Old F in and out of South America this month, I’d say you should hope for the New J!!.

  6. @ keith — Keep in mind that’s a double edged sword for American. In theory they’d want to put refurbished planes on high yield routes (in terms of ticket costs), but ideally not on routes which high premium cabin demand. That’s because the old 777s have lots more premium cabin seats than the new 777s.

  7. @ David — That’s definitely a frustrating issue. I’m afraid it’s an area where you may not get all that far, though I totally agree with your frustration. American doesn’t guarantee plane types/specific seats, so they certainly have a defense. That doesn’t make it any less frustrating as a customer. In practice I think the best they’ll do is throw some miles or a voucher your way. Sorry. 🙁

  8. I have an award flight on AA F for LAX-MIA with the 777-200 in Nov (32.5k AA miles), and the return MIA-LAX flight on AA F with the 777-200 paid (only $452!). I’m hoping but not expecting for these 777-200 flights to have the new J class so I can evaluate it. But I’m not expecting the refurb by this Nov, to be honest. The AA seat maps still show the 3 class config, and it’s less than 4 months to the flights. But crossing fingers–since I’d love to get the 12.5k miles back and possibly get some sort of credit for the paid drop from F to J, as well. (I am burning AA miles as fast as I can since I expect the AA devaluation to come in the next several months.)

  9. We have two F seats on AA in Sep for that DFW-LHR on a 777-200. I’m hoping we get the retrofitted planes and 12.5K miles. Those seats look great!

  10. I have 3 award tickets on MIA-MAD in mid-March. This is one of the routes that were announced announced to have the retrofitted 772s, but is still showing the old configuration. Haven flown in the new seats I am holding my breath that we will get the new configuration.

  11. It’s gonna be even more tricky to anticipate moving forward, because by then they may be sharing metal on legacy routes (i.e, using a US A330 with Envoy on DFW-LHR). Most airlines finalize their schedules only 60 days out (prior to crew bids take place, station staffing plans take form, etc); up till then it’s anyone’s guess. If DL/NW and US/UA are any indication, there will be a lot of changes right up till then.

  12. Our recent MIA-LHR flight went from a 77W to old 772. They had either added a 2nd MIA-LHR flight, or switched aircraft, as there was a later flight that was still listed as 77W. We had F seats using miles. I called the EXP line and asked to be switched over to our original choice of F on the later flight. There were not seats available. I said I would prefer to fly in J on the 77W and after several minutes of silence, she came back on and said she was given approval to make the switch. New J on the 77W is hands down better than old F…and we were refunded 12.5k miles each.

  13. I’m on a 777-200 from ORD to LHR in March 2016, right now in F. American doesn’t ever seem to be in a hurry to upgrade the flights in and out of ORD, I have a feeling my flight will be the old configuration. And that’s fine, I’m fussier about the location of the seat than the actual seat itself. I wonder if the 777-200 retrofit seats have the same issue I’ve been reading about the 77W seats, that people in the back-to-back seats can feel each others’ movements. I wouldn’t care on a daytime flight but at night while trying to sleep that could be really annoying.

  14. As most of us here talked about milage refund, but in the case of Fare Paying F class changed to New J class. Should I be expecting more than fare difference?

  15. I am traveling from LHR to MIA on AA on Oktober 15. (AA 57). Seatguru is telling me the flight is on an 777-200/300 which well doesn’t tell me anything basically. How can I find out if this 777 will feature the new business class or not?

  16. Thanks to all for the great info! Flying one way to SCL and using miles. So far the plane is old 772 with 3 classes. The difference in miles between business and first is 110K vs 160K. I’m still going to switch to first although if the aircraft changes to 2 class, I’m not hopeful of the mileage refund.

  17. Flying next May, 2016 from DRW to Paris. Flight says 777, but does not define which model. Going business class. Will seating be older version (tilt) or new lay flat? Seems configuration on some 777 is 1-2-1. Thoughts? Thank you.

  18. Flying DFW to CDG in May, 2016. Aircraft listed at 777; no details. Shows old seat configuration. Traveling with wife. Any idea what to expect? Flying back ZRH to JFK to DFW.
    Thank you.
    Ted Lamb

  19. I’m with you Ted, just a week later on that DFW CDG route. Paid J. Figuring to up to F as it’s only $125 more, R/T, but sure would prefer new J over old F. Lucky’s reasoning per his 7/18 post is troubling because it makes a good business case. Besides, tons of EXPs base out of DFW; they will want upgrades for the obligatory annual family trip to paris. Way more will get their upgrades (miles, SWUs, whatever) in the old J, with seats left over to sell, too. Why fill new J to capacity early with non-rev award travel when you can sell it for retail in other markets? Fence-sitting at the moment.

  20. FYI, ten days out, I received an equipment swap from old school 777 R/T to 763 and 772, both retrofit. I’m happy, product appears to be equal to or better, and I am receiving a 12,500 credit for each leg.

  21. I was just swapped out 4/11 for a 777-200 with new business. Going to ask to be moved to AA first out of LAX or BA First out of SEA.

  22. re-routed to LAX on the 77W and the new first product. yay me, 30th birthday first class around-the-world for two passengers still intact.

  23. Booked last year FRA-DFW-SCL both sectors in 772 Old First, the wife and I paying our way but crediting to BA Exec Club, flying at the end of Feb. The DFW-SCL sector is now showing as 787, seated in business. Do I play the British stereotype and not make a fuss in the knowledge that new business is better than old first?

  24. You’ve answered your own question- new business far outpaces old first. British or otherwise, enjoy the new “first”! That said, a fare difference refund may be in order but that is very much dependent on the fare booked.

  25. Thanks Colin for confirming my own thoughts. About the fare difference, I guess that would be based on the cost difference at the time of booking?

  26. our CDG-JFK 777-200 on 10JUL just got swapped with a new 777-200 with true lieflat…forward and rear facing seats (no F cabin)…luckily I checked the booking as we had been seated in separate individual pods (the flights is still pretty empty) so I was able to snag 2DH forward facing seats together. Perhaps AA has put their summer a/c schedule in now?

  27. Last year had a 777 booked in F to buenos Aries downgaged to 767 two class; used miles. Was offered a reroute to keep F or else keep the original routing and receive a refund of the F/J mileage differential. But had to call the desk and ask for this.

  28. Hmm, trouble is, the F ticket was actually cheaper than the remaining J fares when I booked, hence my reticence!!

  29. Whoa- can’t help you with that one. AA is aware the new J product is nice, but still…. And per Mark above, what great fortune! Not thrilled with the 777-200 CDG-DFW I have set for June in the old J and hoping the refurb program regains traction to allow that route to gain the transition too. Hoping, anyways.

  30. My flight for Oct 9th JFK-FCO has just been changed to the new 777-200…called to get my 12, 500 miles redeposited since I had F cabin tix on miles, thought it was too good to be true…..but the new business cabin does look nice…….still in seat 2A

  31. Well, there you go. Turned up for my DFW-SCL leg on the 787, having seats in biz, and at the gate get told we’re bumped into economy as biz is overbooked. The agent said that I this happened as we had paid a cheap advance purchase first class fare.

    So despite having known about the equipment change, and thus no first class on the flight, for months, AA did not communcate with us at all. We would have happily re-routed. Lesson learned for me there. Also, I asked the gate agent if the same would happen on SCL-DFW….she checked the system and yes, we had already been bumped back to economy. (I wonder when we were going to be told about this if I hadn’t asked…at the gate again?)

    So we are now flying SCL-MIA-DFW-FRA.

    We were offed vouchers as compensation, but even this was underhand as they have words such as ‘accepting this voucher releases AA of any liability regarding this flight’. Not willing to accept this, I handed them back.

    To make matters worse, my wife’s booked gluten free meal was not loaded, so all she had to eat on a 9hr flight was one yoghurt. Cabin crew refused to see if there was anything left in biz after their meal service that would be suitable.

    Never going to fly AA again after this.

  32. I booked two first class reward tickets for MAD-MIA in September 2016, and the aircraft was changed from an older 777 to a reconfigured 772 without first class. I called American and they offered to refund 12,500 miles for each ticket or move me to another route. In the end, they opened up two first class seats from LHR-LAX on the 77W which simplified my route home.

  33. You wrote: “I’d almost take American’s new 777-200 business class over the old 777-200 first class”. Why is that? Is the new business class…slightly better? Slightly worse? Simply more modern? You say “almost”…that makes it sound like the old 1st class was better? In what way?

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