American Airlines’ New Business Class Blunder

Ben has already written about the new business class seats on American Airlines 777-200 and 787 aircraft, which leave a little to be desired.

New-American-Business-Class - 1
American’s 777 business class cabin

There are a number of things that are great about them – I like that the reverse-facing seats have more privacy and create a cocoon with the console that separates the passenger from the aisle. Those that prefer a wider seat tend to like the forward-facing seats, which have armrests that when retracted give way to a few extra inches. I also like that there are a number of crevices and compartments that can be used for storing gadgets and personal belongings during the flight. Furthermore, who doesn’t love a new, fresh seat?

American-Business-Class-Seat
American’s new business class seat

Unfortunately, the seat misses the mark… it shakes! Ben and I first discovered this when we flew the 777-200 on American from JFK to MIA. We were lucky enough to be in these seats rather than standard domestic 737 first class, so no complaints there.

However, we were pretty tired as we were on a Panama mileage run, and we immediately reclined the seats after takeoff so we could get some sleep. The seats are connected in pairs – for example 2A and 3A are connected, 1L and 2L are connected, etc. Ben and I sat in 8A and 9A…

No matter how much you love someone, we all have our breaking points – that moment when I’m like “okay Ben, seriously cut it out!” Ben has been known to take pictures of me while sleeping on planes, so it isn’t a far stretch to think he might try to shimmy my seat while I’m resting (a joke, of course…).

On more than one occasion during the first hour or so of the JFK-MIA flight, I nearly leaped out of my seat to berate and beg him to stop shaking my seat! I was trying to sleep, and every time I came close to dozing off, the seat would shift and rattle beneath me. It was maddening! I realized after a few of these instances that the seat was defective and didn’t lock in place, even when fully flat. Ben and I exchanged notes after the flight, and he also had a few moments when he nearly lost his patience.

We thought we understood the problem – the pairing of the seats must cause the shaking. For instance, when Ben moved in 8A, it caused my seat 9A to shift too. Nope.

On our flight to China last week on the 787 from DFW to PEK, I was seated in 2A and was elated to see that 1A was blocked for pilots. “I’ll sleep well this time,” I thought, and for the most part I did. I can sleep almost anywhere – first class, business class, economy, the car, the couch, in a chair… but the seat shook again, throughout the entire flight! And I checked several times just to be sure – the pilots never used seat 1A (they have separate crew rests, so it makes you wonder why they even block the seat). It seems the motion of the plane is a contributing factor, too.

American-Business-Class
American’s 787 business class cabin

It’s kind of shocking to think nobody tested the new seats, noticed the defect, and stopped their installation before it ever took place. Or perhaps someone tested them and decided to let the defect slide anyway?

American has since cancelled their contract with the manufacturer and is seeking a new one for future reconfigurations. In any case, it’s a bummer, as the seat has a lot going for it that unfortunately isn’t redemptive enough to save it from its shifty-shaky blunder.

Have you experienced American’s shaky business class seats on the 777-200 and 787?

About Ford

Ford is a 20-something Angeleno, originally from Manhattan, and raised in Newport, Rhode Island. After completing his studies at Brown University and Phillips Exeter Academy and returning to NYC for a year, he settled in Los Angeles. He’s an avid traveler, bootcamp fanatic, and devotee of life’s ever-changing journey. You can follow Ford on Instagram @fordbeckett.

More articles by Ford »

Comments

  1. Guuuuuurl. Relax. Took the 787 from Hnd to lax. Seat was great though not enough in biz class. Service and food was meh but loved the seat. Behave! 🙂

  2. @David – seriously? The connected seat issue is a major issue on AA’s refurb 772s and 788s and all you can do is make a snarky remark?

    Well written Ford. Thankful not to see the 200th post about the Alaskan acquisition of Virgin America which has 0 impact on 95% of American flyers.

  3. I hate back herringbone seating. Makes me nauseaus Who came up with that idiotic idea? I thought SwE was the only one using aft facing seats. Yuck

  4. I’ve also noticed this “shaky” seat movement on my LAX-GRU flight last month.
    I wonder how come they let this happen. Major flaw imo.

  5. OMG YES! This is incredibly annoying, the divider is paper thin and you can always feel the other person moving. I’ve told people to stop moving before and they are quite surprised that I tell them as they feel they aren’t moving.

    So perhaps it wasn’t the other person?

  6. I sat in 4A going to NRT and I emailed letting them know every time the person behind me shifted my seat shook…. it was absolutely driving me crazy; so glad to know it was not me.

    Of course customer service didn’t seem to understand what the hell I meant, what a surprise. Was not asking for anything, only to let them know they have a problem.

  7. Noticed this as well. Though I found it went away when both my seatmate and I were in bed mode.

    I did find it incredibly annoying and wondered how it passed final QA.

  8. I’m thinking AA know of this but wanted to lee the re-ferb on track and get the new planes on line. It’s all a business decision which was a smart move I’m sure that AA has a law suite on the seat manufacture

  9. I took this seat last week to and from Europe – it was bothersome (in that it was noticed at all) only for the beginning and end of flight. I get that the shaking is a known issue, but I think that it is quite overblown given that I was expecting the worst and barely even noticed anything.

  10. Just a point of clarification, some seats on AA 787 or 777 are not connected. I specifically choose 6A and L on my last two trips on the 787, didn’t experience any vibrations at all.

  11. I’d guess the seats that aren’t connected to a pair (e.g. 1H) are still better though, right?

  12. I’ve been on quite a few of these on the SCL-DFW route, both 772 refurb and 787. I’ve never had an issue, so I’m always surprised to see the comments. I’m not saying that it’s not an issue in general, but I’ve never felt it. I’m usually in 4L but my last flight was 5L on the 787…maybe less movement there?

  13. How absolutely dreadful for you Ford. I imagine you must think American should scrap their entire fleet due to your drama. Suck it up. Nobody cares about your opinion. You have flown a handful of premium airplane flights and you believe you are a well-seasoned international traveler, when you in fact come across as a self serving, narcissistic twit. Unless you pay cash for you travels, you should really keep you trap shut.

  14. This is a real issue with these seats. It’s not enough to change my mind that overall they are very good, though I prefer the 777-300ER and LUS A330 seats better.

    The dividers between the two center seats that lock either in the up or down position and cannot be changed by the passenger is a big issue as well.

  15. Agreed on the article. Have been on a few refurbed 772’s and have found it difficult to sleep with the abrupt seat movements.

    Not sure why all the commenters are so angry…

  16. “The connected seat issue is a major issue on AA’s refurb 772s and 788s and all you can do is make a snarky remark?”

    Well, when the remark in that triple snap in z formation worthy…

    Shaking seat aside, that is a strangely designed cabin. I guess it works for some since you get both herringbone and reverse herringbone options on the same flight.

  17. @David and LR – You guys are my heroes!!! Those were my precise thoughts as I read through yet another of Ford’s pompous and pious posts about the horrors/downsides of flying international first/business thanks to his “Lucky” boyfriend. Seriously, even Ben said before you guys met last year you had no clue about things like frequent flier programs. Now we’re supposed to read your blogs and think you have years of expertise on the topics?

    Why don’t you go take that golden spoon of yours back to economy where you’re almost guaranteed a non-shaking seat. Please leave the blogging to your b/f who knows slightly more than you. Don’t worry, he can still mention you and share links to your Insta so you can get more followers.

  18. I enjoy Ford’s comments and am surprised they elicit snarky comments. He has written some witty, fun pieces with a fresh point of view. Some can’t look past the pretty face, it seems.

  19. “Unless you pay cash for you travels, you should really keep you trap shut.”
    – spoken by an idiot who has no grasp of the points game

  20. Some of you guys are complete bleeping AAA-Holes. How would you like your own brother…Son…Wife treated like this. New rule: If you want to act like an insensitive pussy include your personal email address in the reply. Don’t know you Ford but you don’t deserve this. vzeoca3w@verizon.net (I guess I can kiss that email address goodbye)

  21. I’m curious to know what Ford does for a living that allows him to take so much leave from work to travel so often, I’m quite jealous!

  22. I’m pretty sure American must have been informed of the issue, and that is why they cancelled the contract.
    Yes it will probably be annoying, but it still beats being in Coach.

    I always tell that to myself when I get a bit grouchy, I think……..Well this beats flying in Coach any day of the week and I get to enjoy this more than most people.

    I like your review, but its more a 1st world problem right 🙂

  23. wow – I actually this post was well written, compared to Ford’s previous posts. But, I will say, Ford, you look terrible with blonde hair, like really awful.

  24. An interesting read. But the comments are priceless.

    Some of the commenters strike me as being “that mother” who is jealous when a 25 years younger woman gets her son’s attention. To all of them I say, Lucky chose Ford above all of you bitches and hos. Get over it and get comfortable with the idea (whether true or not) that Lucky’s gonna spend some miles on Ford.

  25. “I’ve told people to stop moving before”

    I know what I would have told you in return.

  26. LOL @ Josh Greenberg.

    I had the same reaction as you. If that d**khead had told me to move, I would have told him to go $#%#$ himself!

  27. @Ivan: According to the bio above, “He’s an avid traveler, bootcamp fanatic, and devotee of life’s ever-changing journey”

    i.e., he has no real job and apparently is a kept man.

  28. Great post! I am warning my fellow co-workers about this issue. I’ll hope to save them any angst in trans-pacific routes that we tend to fly out of an AA hub. I’d direct them to UA or DL. Even the UA facing each other arrangement is better than not being able to find sound sleep on a transpac.

  29. Sorry Ford. My goodness the American Airlines flyers are an ugly lot. The comments just smack of insane jealousy and misplaced self importance. Sad state of society in the USA. Explains Trump though.

  30. Great post!

    Cant believe the serious negativity from the commentators on here, you guys should lighten up or not read the blog.

  31. I appreciate that you pointed out one defect of American’s biz seat. Maybe it is really so major to some travelers. But the way you described it… are you nuts? A 15 year old teenager girl can talk more mature than you are. I really tried to look beyond a pretty face and blonde hair here, very hard.

    Lucky, please keep the &%$($) in your bedroom, not your blog. Seriously, cut it out!

  32. Comments on seatguru.com mention the shaky seat issue. On an upcoming trip, instead of flying AA from HKG to the U.S. via PVG, I opted for CX (with a U.S. AA connection), whose seat I’ve tried and liked a lot on other trips. Alas, I won’t get to try the Dreamliner on a long haul but a 777ER is just fine and I always sleep well there.

  33. It was hilarious for read those negative comments though. Although all of them got removed quickly… Good job on that, Ford!

  34. Ford, ignore the trolls. They have nothing to offer the world. Since they’re incapable of creating, they are compelled to destroy.

  35. Come on guys, no need to be mean!

    Lucky, your blog is full of useful info. And given that I will be using AA 787s soon (and have choice over some segments), Ford’s post was useful too.

  36. Lucky-

    May I just commend you on your patience with the comments section. In a world when people are chomping at the bit to shut down and silence those with whom they have even the most minor of disagreements, to put up with the horrible and vitriolic comments people have written about someone you love speaks very highly of you.

  37. Thanks Ford! I hope AA gets to the bottom of this and perhaps finds a way to modify the seats in question to fix the problem. Maybe the fix doesn’t involve a complete retrofit of the planes that have the problems. Either way, we now know of the issue and I will make sure I avoid this equipment when booking international.

  38. We recently made a point to fly a American Airlines’ 787 in Business Class that was operating between Dallas and Los Angeles. Prior to choosing our seats, I had read several other posts and comments about the seat movement issue and after experiencing it ourselves, it is definitely a problem. While not terrible for a relatively short flight like we took, I would hesitate to fly in these seats on a longer flight. It would definitely be difficult to sleep.

    The other issue that I found with these seats was how with the way the seats were staggered and alternated between forward and backward facing seats. When you are watching TV, you are almost looking at the person across the aisle, or the person in one of the seats across the aisle is almost looking at you. I had read several other online reviews about this problem as well, and I agree that it is an awkward arrangement.

    It was clear on our flight that the gentleman sitting across from me felt uncomfortable when I was watching TV since my gaze was in his direction. It’s just a poor setup altogether.

    For both of these reasons, I would go out of my way to avoid flying in these seats if possible. I hope American replaces them.

  39. I just returned from a R/T on the 787 to PVG and this issue is very, very real. I also met another EXP that says that he carefully selects his seats to avoid the “connected” seat issue when possible. I have flown this plane before, the 777-200 and the 777-300 and I must admit these flights were the first when I experience the sudden “lurch” that woke me up and annoyed me to no end. It really is beyond belief that these seats passed whatever QC that AA provided. The fact that so many other seats that are very similar do not have this issue indicates the level of incompetence that allowed such a huge investment to have such a serious flaw.

    Regarding the childish, homophobic and obnoxious chatter in this comment section, it makes me very sad to think that folks like this are in this blog space. I agree with the comments above that tell you to get lost if you do not like the content of this blog. I find this and many other blogs helpful and enjoyable even if I do not always agree with the writers’ conclusions.

  40. I flew GRU-LAX 787 on 4/2/16 in 2A (rear facing) & noticed an intermittent “teeter totter” movement of the seat that was startling. This had nothing to do with turbulence that I could discern. I did like the privacy of the seat, but larger people might find the seat constrictive. Isn’t AA suing the manufacturer?
    (The video system was hinky too).

  41. Ford is spot on.

    I’m unsure how anyone could use the 772 seats for more than a few minutes and not notice precisely what he is talking about. You can love American. You can love the new 772 seats. You can dislike me. You can dislike Ford. You can dislike Ben. (I could go on indefinitely.) But regardless of all that, it is objectively evident from flying in the seats that they are extremely prone to shaking. Since people generally both buy and redeem longhaul business class tickets in order to rest, that seems like a problem. I cannot really understand how it would not be a problem, actually. I’m sort of irrational though!

  42. i never understood why American just couldn’t install the same new biz class seats as on their 777-300. The Cathay Seat. Delta has it, so does Air France and a handful of others. What was AA thinking ? I just don’t get it.

  43. You guys should give Dodge a break. The writing isn’t terrible even if the topic a bit banal.

  44. Jeez, after getting pointless posts about Alaska we now get a pointless post telling us that seats vibrate in the air. Come on Lucky you can do better. Is Ford only posting for the tax rebate. I don’t actually see what useful content he brings to this blog – all his posts just sound as though he’s a little spoilt princess. If the seats bother you so much, then fly economy.

  45. I flew 787 SCL-DFW and found it odd that the forward facing window seats had a cross chest seat belt for take off and landing yet my rear facing seat did not. Best advice if you are rear facing is to cinch up the waist belt otherwise on take off you could end up in the aisle.

  46. Just flew DFW to PVG 787 this past week. Was seated in 7H going and 1A coming back (flight attendant told me they switched the blocked pilot seat to 1D from now on). No shaky issues in 7H but happened many times in 1A….thought it was the guy in 2A. Maybe the pilots complained!

  47. @jason

    “A 15 year old teenager girl can talk more mature than you are.”

    She can probably write more mature [sic] than you are [sic], Jason dear.

    Bless your heart.

  48. Folks, each of us free to agree or disagree on objective grounds. But please leave the jealousy and homophobia out of it.

  49. @Ford, AA pilots are entitled (by negotiated contract) both sleeping and relaxing space. On the 77W, they have a crew rest above the first row center that gives them seats and beds. On other aircraft, they have hidden beds, and blocked first class seats for relaxing.

  50. @Jorge, how often have you flown in reverse seats (aside from Southwest)? I don’t know anyone who finds them sick-making. I myself get terribly car-sick if I ride a train facing backwards, or a car in the back seat, or a bus not in the front row, yet I find backwards facing seats (such as BA’s Club World) perfectly fine. It’s completely different being in the air than being on the road.

  51. @James, you said “I’m pretty sure American must have been informed of the issue, and that is why they cancelled the contract.” My understanding is that AA cancelled the contract because Zodiac couldn’t keep up with the terms. The seats were terribly late, forcing AA to delay 777-200 refurbishment and delay receiving new 787s from Boeing (which incurred penalties). As far as I know, the vibration and privacy issues were not a consideration.

  52. Alright geniuses, AA cancelled the contract not because the seats are “horrible,” and if you think they’re horrible btw go fly on a PMUA 777, but because Zodiac kept delaying delivery of the seats, that’s why this has been the longest refurbishment in history. This is no big secret and has been advertised everywhere.

  53. 2 other things.
    The last row of business looks directly into the the next cabin. It’s uncomfortable reclining and looking directly at 6 people sitting there…
    Also the rear facing ajoining seats you can’t lower the divider. Not great if you took seats with someone and you can’t see them.
    @ford don’t listen to the haters… They are reading!!!

  54. Thank you Ford for this article.

    I was on a 787 from DFW to PEK when the first officer in 1A told a passenger in 2A that the seat will shake when the pilots come to take a rest during the flight.

    My seat was shaking most of the flight as well due to the movements of my nabor. I will go out of my way to avoid this aircraft in the future. It was horrible.

  55. I had a horrible experience with american airlines n am not likely to fly with them again. We were delayed 3 hours after hearing our plane was too hot. I was in pain had an air cast on my ankle after a severe sprain payed extra to fly with American airlines plus one hundred extra for my bags plus food n ear buds n was told by the gate boarding agent that my children were rude. Her lack of customer service in such a late flight was disgusting.

  56. Can we just clarify something? Commenting on someone’s writing / tone is not homophobic, even if the comments are critical and the person who is being criticized is gay. Ford, Lucky, etc. all knew what they got into when they started writing a blog, and as “writers,” they should face scrutiny for their lack of writing skills. Simply pointing this out is not homophobic (and I am gay!).

  57. Is this seat unique to AA? It looks very similar to one I had recently on Vietnam, SGN-CDG. But that was an A350. Given a strong preference to have as little interaction with any other passengers as possible, the arrangement suits me very well. Wouldn’t like the shaking though.
    Just ignore the loonie fringe misanthropes and their malevolent crap.

  58. I mean, Ford, if you were in my seat I’d like to think it’d be rocking. 😉

    But aside from that, I agree – this is a terrible oversight on AA’s and the seat manufacturer’s behalf.

    Ideally they address it with a fix.

  59. @Keith – Bingo. A little criticism here and all of a sudden you’re a himophobe. That doesn’t even make any sense.

  60. The B/E Super Diamonds on the new AC 787s seem superior (at least to me) in build and comfort compared to the Zodiacs in AA (no rattling or shaking). Only thing I dislike about the Super Diamonds is that the tray table does not disappear into a cubby, so depending on how you sleep, your knees may end up hitting the table when moving around.

  61. lol – comments are priceless – funny how ppl take these blogs so seriously… it’s a blog which has a readership of ~100 thousands to millions…hardly worth becoming so invested in the articles…

  62. Interested to read more about this setup, especially thoughts on best seating as a couple. It seems you need to find a balance between window/aisle, forward/rear, and connected/independent seats.

    Wife is flying over to Asia in 5L. On our return I currently have 1L/2L. Read some negative comments on 1L with the galley view/noise, and 2L will have some movement. I had thought 1L/2L might put our heads near each other so we could communicate some, but seems unlikely on second thought.

    She wants front facing, I’m fine with rear or front. I like a window, she is indifferent.

    Options are
    5A/5D
    5D/5H
    6L/6H
    6A/6D
    3 through 5 D/H
    All of A.

  63. Some of the comments here are priceless. 😉

    One of my favorites “Unless you pay cash for you (sic) travels, you should really keep you (sic) trap shut.” And this on a miles and points travel blog ! XD

    I also loved the ineloquent “A 15 year old teenager girl can talk more mature than you are.” Seriously, if you hate that Ford’s posts remind you that Ben is openly gay, just check the name at the top of each post. If it says Ford, then just ignore it. Problem solved….

    As for the post itself, this is exactly the type of information this blog is designed to impart. If you are going to pay thousands of dollars/miles for a 14 hour business class TransPac flight, you very much want to be able to sleep. Why in the world anyone would call this post “whiny” or “first world problem” is totally beyond my comprehension. 🙁

  64. @keith — simply criticizing someone’s writing is indeed not homophobic. but when people begin to call someone they don’t know a “gurl” and throw around “bitches” or “hos” it crosses or gets close to a line. maybe you didn’t read all the comments.

  65. @Ford if you are going to continue blogging – perhaps you could take a writing course before your next post ?

  66. @Mike – do you know any gay people!?!? Lots of gay men refer to their gay friends as “gurl” “bitches” “hoes” etc. Can gay men be homophobic??

  67. What a hot mess of a post and comments we have here. First, @Mike – Homo Lingo 101: if using the term “gurl” there’s pretty much a 100% chance you’re gay, too and obviously not being homophobic but just throwing shade. Second, @ADS – yes, we can all see that Ford isn’t going to be getting a job at the New Yorker anytime soon. But heck, he’s no worse than Travis and I don’t see everybody piling on Travis when he posts. Oh course, Travis isn’t touting a CV with Exeter and Brown on it. Maybe that’s part of the problem. He reminds me of what Molly Ivins said about George W. Bush. “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.” And then there’s poor Ben. Who wants to be the guy that falls in love and when he brings the new boyfriend along half his friends find him irritating as hell? Like I said, it’s all a hot mess. But I guess that’s why I watch way too much Bravo, too. Where’s Erika Jayne when you need her?

  68. @keith @travel4b. You guys assume that everyone who called Ford a bitch or a girl was gay, and you argue that therefore, that is ok. Do you guys know that for a fact? Just asking.

  69. @mike – It’s gurl, not girl. There’s a difference. “Know that for a fact?” Well, I guess not but I’ll take it to the bank any day that if a guy says “guuuuurl” he’s batting for our team in a big way. And if you re-read the comments you will see nobody called Ford a bitch.

  70. “Some of the commenters strike me as being “that mother” who is jealous when a 25 years younger woman gets her son’s attention.” <— I think you have to hate women to write something like that

  71. @tara,

    I’m sorry I don’t understand why you have that reaction. “Hate women” is a pretty strong choice of words. What am I missing here that is so offensive?

  72. This article was very helpful . I’m going to be on either the 777-200 or 767 in business class next month to either SCL or MVD so I hope this isn’t an issue.

  73. Is the shaking problem mainly with the 2 window seats or does it also affect the center seats also?

  74. This is without a doubt a problem on the AA business class seats. My better half and I took a flight from DFW-LAX and back home. First opportunity to fly the 787 domestically and on a relatively short route. Both times the seats for both of us shook when the other person moved in front of and/or behind us And for me I had a snarky lady behind me ask the FA to have me stop moving. Needless to say I had a few choice words to convey to both the lady and the FA. If they (AA) want me to piss the seat so I don’t have to get up to go to the lav so as not to upset my fellow travelers I can accommodate. However, back to reality, these seats need to have a service bulletin by the manufacturer to fix the problem or they need to be replaced. Immediately.

  75. That happens to every reverse-herringbone seat I believe. When I was on board the Zodiac Cirrus seat on an 787 (not AA), the seat shook and woke me up when the person sitting behind me moved his leg during and hit the wall during his sleep. Since then I only choose to sit at the back of the cabin when it comes to a long-haul flight.

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