FORT WORTH, TX — American Airlines (AA) is making history this evening when it deploys its 787-9 Dreamliner on international routes, beginning with Dallas/Ft. Worth to São Paulo (November 3rd) and Dallas/Ft. Worth to Madrid (November 4).

This will be the first-ever scheduled International Premium Economy Class service offered by a U.S. carrier.

AA received its first 787-9 in September 2016, and entered the aircraft into scheduled service on October 6, 2016 between Dallas/Ft. Worth and Los Angeles. Tonight’s service to São Paulo will officially pivot the aircraft towards its intended target market by offering a multi-cabin product on long-haul services.

The -9 series carries an additional 59 seats over the -8 series (285 in total on the -9 vs. 226 on the -8, per American’s chosen seating configurations). While the number of Premium Cabin (First and Business Class) seats will remain relatively similar on both frames, with 30 on the -9 compared to 28 on the -8, the real difference lies in the Main Cabin, where American Airlines will offer fewer Main Cabin Extra seats in exchange for a “true” Premium Economy class cabin on the 787-9.

On the -8, American seats 55 customers in Main Cabin Extra, primarily located in the first 4-6 rows of the Main Cabin. The seat product itself is the same as in the Main Cabin, with 17-18″ width, but offers an additional 3-4 inches of legroom. Main Cabin Extra can be purchased as an ancillary product for non-elite tier customers, or selected at booking or check-in by various status holders within American’s frequent flier program.

On the -9, American will only seat 27 customers in Main Cabin Extra (MCE), with only three rows featuring the same seat design on the -8, but will offer 21 Premium Economy seats.

American’s Premium Economy Class will offer customers an expanded seat width (19″) and seat pitch (38″) in a two by three by two configuration (versus 9 abreast in Main Cabin Extra and the Main Cabin). The seat also has a footrest and, in some cases, an armrest-lowering feature that will allow passengers in aisle seats to move pivot 90 degrees and prevent window or middle seat companions to have to climb over them to get up and stretch.

Airways had the opportunity to tour and photograph one of American Airlines 787-9s, just a few hours prior to its launch into international revenue services. Today’s tour took place on Ship #8LC (N822AN • MSN 40642 • LN 485), which flew its maiden flight on September 30, 2016 and was delivered to American exactly a week ago, on October 27, 2016.

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Customers traveling in Premium Economy will also receive Noise-Reducing Headsets, an Amenity Kit (with socks, eyeshade, toothbrush and earplugs), a Printed Menu and complimentary Liquor and Spirits selections, in addition to the complimentary Beer and Wine options offered in the Main Cabin. Furthermore, American will offer an enhanced dining experience where 4-course meals will be served in fine china and glassware.

American Airlines Premium Economy class amenity kit contents. (Credits: Author)
American Airlines Premium Economy class amenity kit contents. (Credits: Author)

“The inspiration for the menus was to make everything fresh and be an upgrade from Main Cabin,” said Drew Altimore, Market Manager for Latin America, Flight Services (Food and Beverage). “We’ll always have a vegetarian option and protein option. The appetizer, salad and dessert will be served cold, whereas the entrée will be served hot.”

American Airlines Premium Economy printed menu - November 2016, (Credits: Author)
American Airlines Premium Economy printed menu – November 2016, (Credits: Author)

For the breakfast service on the 787-9 in Premium Economy, the bread will be heated, but the overall meal will be Continental-style.

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American currently has two 787-9’s in service with an additional 20 on order. In September 2016, the carrier announced that it will send the 787-9 on its Dallas/Ft. Worth – Paris route starting January 9, 2017 as well as from Dallas/Ft. Worth to Seoul, South Korea on February 16, 2017.

Customers flying on these routes can currently book Premium Economy as a Main Cabin Extra product through early 2017, before American officially begins to sell the seat as a separate cabin Product over MCE.

“We’re letting customers know that they’re getting a little bit extra in Premium Economy versus Main Cabin Extra, and right now, for those flying international flights through early 2017 can enjoy it for a Main Cabin Extra Price,” said Sunny Rodriguez, who works in Corporate Communications for American.

Editor’s Note: Airways contributing editor Luis Linares will be onboard American Airlines flight AA963 from Dallas/Ft. Worth to São Paulo tomorrow, November 4. Don’t miss his detailed trip report, which will cover AA’s most recent cabin product. Stay tuned!