American Airlines to Phase out International First Class

American Airlines to Phase out International First Class

DALLAS – American Airlines (AA) has announced that it will phase out its first-class cabins on all its international services.

The seating will be replaced by an expanded business and premium economy offering. First Class will, however, remain on AA’s domestic offering. The airline currently offers first class on its Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A321T (Transcontinental)

A321 (N102NN) is configured in AA’s ‘Transcon’ layout. Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways.

“Customers Aren’t Buying It”

Chief Commercial officer Vasu Raja said during the airline’s Q3 2022 earnings call, “The first class will not exist…at American Airlines for the simple reason that our customers aren’t buying it. The quality of the business-class seat has improved so much. And frankly, by removing [first class], we can provide more business-class seats, which is what our customers most want or are most willing to pay for.”

Despite being the first US airline to debut long-haul premium economy seats in 2016, AA is one of the last American majors to retain first class on its international flights after Delta Air Lines (DL) and United (UA) dropped theirs.

The new ‘Flagship Suites’ cabin on the 787-9. Photo: American Airlines

New Flagship Suite

The move comes after AA unveiled its new “Flagship Suite” business class. The new suite, intended to increase AA’s premium seat offering by over 45% by 2026, offers customers a sliding privacy door and a lie-flat bed. It will be included on all Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 deliveries beginning in 2024.

The Boeing 787-9 will feature 51 Flagship Suites and 32 premium economy seats, while the Airbus 321XLR will have 20 Flagship Suites and 12 premium economy seats.

American will also retrofit its 20-strong 777-300ER fleet with 70 Flagship Suites and 44 in premium economy, starting in late 2024. Its A321T airliners will also be retrofitted.

Premium Economy on the 787-9 will feature an extra eleven seats. Photo: American Airlines

All about the Flagship Suite

Speaking of the new cabin, American’s Vice President of Customer Experience Julie Rath said. “The arrival of new long-haul aircraft and the customized seat design of the Flagship Suite seats will offer customers a truly private premium experience on our long-haul fleet.”

Raja explained that the airline has chosen to focus its efforts on its Flagship Suite mainly because its passenger profile has changed in recent years. Previously, around half of AA’s passengers were corporate travellers. Now roughly 60% of bookings are “leisure demand that is willing to go and pay more for the quality of the business class seat,” Raja said.

Featured Image: The airline will retrofit its 20-strong 777-300ER fleet with the new cabins. Photo: Brandon Farris/Airways

European Deputy Editor
Writer, aviation fanatic, and Airways European Deputy Editor, Lee is a plant geek and part-time Flight Attendant for a UK-based airline. Based in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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