American’s New Planes Will Have Fewer Business Class Seats

In early May, American announced the details of their newest business class product, which they’ll be installing on the longhaul aircraft they take delivery of going forward. They’ll be installing the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat, which is the same seat you’ll find on Air CanadaQatar Airways, Virgin Australia, etc.

American-BE-Aerospace-Seat

This seat is somewhat different than the reverse herringbone seats they have on their 777-300ERs (they didn’t install this configuration on other planes, because it was only licensed to American for this type of aircraft).

American-Business-Class-777-03

It’s also not the same as the seat they have on the 777-200 and 787-8which American has had significant issues with, causing them to seek out a new manufacturer.

American-787-Business-Class - 5

With that in mind, View from the Wing has shared a leaked document which explains the number of seats American is expected to have on their 787-9s, as well as the A350s, which they’ll soon be taking delivery of.

How many business class seats will American’s 787-9 and A350 have?

The A350 will feature a total of 318 seats, allocated as follows, as a percentage of overall capacity:

  • 32 business class (10%)
  • 24 premium economy (8%)
  • 262 economy (82%)

Meanwhile the Boeing 787-9 will have 277 seats, allocated as follows:

  • 28 business class (10%)
  • 21 premium economy (8%)
  • 228 economy (82%)

My first thought is that those are extremely small business class cabins for planes that size. However, it’s worth noting that these planes will also be the first American planes to feature premium economy, so I’m guessing that’s why the business class cabins are getting smaller. They want both business class and premium economy, but don’t want to compromise too much economy capacity to make that happen.

How does this compare to configurations on other planes?

As a point of comparison, let’s look at some of the other planes in American’s fleet.

The Boeing 787-8 has a total of 226 seats, allocated as follows:

  • 28 business class (12%)
  • 198 economy (88%)

Meanwhile the Boeing 777-200ER has a total of 260 seats, allocated as follows:

  • 45 business class (17%)
  • 215 economy class (83%)

Lastly, the Boeing 777-300ER has 310 seats, allocated as follows:

  • 8 first class & 52 business class (19%)
  • 250 economy (81%)

As you can see, the first & business class capacity on these planes ranges from 12-19%. The moral of the story is that American’s business class footprint will be significantly smaller on their planes going forward.

Is premium economy to blame?

Starting this year, American has cut Executive Platinum systemwide upgrades from eight to four, which presumably will lower upgrade demand a bit. But the real question is what implications premium economy has on upgrades. We still don’t know whether upgrades will only be valid from economy to premium economy, or whether upgrades will still be from economy to business class.

American-Premium-Economy-1

I suspect the former will be true, at least down the road when premium economy is pretty widespread. The problem is, regardless of which system they use, there are a very limited number of seats to upgrade to, since the footprint of premium economy and business class will be quite small. I suspect that’s by design.

Bottom line

As American installs premium economy, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that they’re being more conservative with how many business class seats they have on their planes. On one hand that’s smart from their perspective, since it allows them to better segment the market. At the same time, for those looking to upgrade this is pretty bad news, as both cabins will be quite small individually, limiting all around upgrade potential.

Comments

  1. Everytime airlines come with “premium economy”, a massive recession hits and the product is removed.

  2. It’s like American is actively daring me to switch to Delta. Given that I’ve learned that on MS (via their credit cards) alone I can make Platinum, I think it’s the makes sense to switch. I fly around 50k per year for biz and another 50 for personal. If you can MS 70k or so MQMs, add some rollover from the previous year, and then fly around 50k….You have Diamond Medallion. Starting to look like a no brainer.

  3. I think this is simply the new paradigm we’re entering for both domestic and international travel, which is simply, you want to sit in F/J, you pay for F/J.

    The silver lining is just that paid domestic F and now even international J is far more affordable than it was years ago when many would never see a premium cabin absent some form of upgrade instrument.

  4. Interesting post. Any chance we could get a follow up comparing an airline such as DL/BA/LH that are also doing Prem Econ?

  5. United is expected to have 60 seats upfront on their upcoming 77Ws and a similar seat count on the upcoming A350s

  6. I think it’s a sign of the times Even AS is reconfiguring their FC taking out four seats and adding premium coach seats. EK is getting on the band wagon as well. Look it does make long haul a little more comfortable at an affordable price. My last EK biz tickets on AMEX PLT 2 for 1 was $8900. discounted FC

  7. So with only 4 evips and only Y->W or W->J or J->F, the benefits of EXP have really fallen far in recent months. And it’s getting harder to get. And Y is now squeezing into 9 across on 787 and 350s and 10 across in 777s which is fully 10% narrower than in JL or KE or SQ. And the majority of transoceanic J seats are still not lie-flat.

    The new AA, run by HP/US execs, is really seeking to become the Spirit of frequent flyer programs.

    Where are people putting their miles now? BA? AS?

  8. @Owen,

    The A350 is actually a bit wider than the 787, so 9-across on the A350 leads to a quite reasonable 18″ seat vs 17″ on the 787.

  9. I thought the 772s are only going to have 37 J seats. Originally they were going to have 45 but that was changed at some point.

  10. Lucky, you can bet the bank, upgrades using SWU will by Y to PEY and PEY to J. They have JVs with the QF, BA, etc, etc. I’m sure they gave AA an earful. Align the product and stop this Y to J upgrade nonsense.

  11. I have no proof to give you but can say that upgrades from coach will only advance a passenger to Premium Economy or from Premium Economy to Business. Although, until Premium Economy is widely available the cabin will be available to Aadvantage elites free of charge. I’m not 100% sure on this one, but, I believe while the cabin is available to elites the service will remain as economy. Once the cabin becomes it’s own fare class is when amenities such as enhanced meals (domestic first class meals), expanded alcohol, and amenity kits will become available.
    Whether the 777-300 sees a change remains to be seen but I suspect once some of the current reconfiguration programs wrap up you’ll see an announcement. First will remain at 8 seats, Business will be reduced to 36 seats like the entire 777-200 fleet, Premium Economy will be introduced, and Basic Economy will be expanded.

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