The latest trend in airline premium seating is putting a door on a business class seat and calling it a suite. Yesterday, American Airlines joined the parade and announced the introduction of the Flagship Suite in business class and a revamped seat for premium economy on some widebody aircraft and single-aisle aircraft. American is also increasing the number of seats in its premium cabins. These improvements, however, come with the demise of American’s international first class product.
Beginning in 2021, new Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 aircraft will be delivered with American’s new Flagship Suites, business class seats with a door, a “chaise lounge” seating option, and more personal storage space. These planes will also come with a new seat for premium economy that promises more privacy and storage space. American also plans to retrofit existing 777-300 and A321T aircraft with the new products.
American’s New Flagship Suite On Widebody Aircraft
No one has experienced the Flagship Suite yet, but it sure looks like an upgrade over the current seat. Flagship Suites will use the Adient Ascent seat in a lie-flat, all-aisle-access 1-2-1 arrangement like American’s existing business class. American’s news release shared photos of the new seat.
I immediately like the color scheme that departs from American’s historically dull “50 shades of gray” motif. Color preference is subjective, and the brownish tones aren’t my favorite; however, a splash of just about any color is an improvement.
I also like the little fold-down tray at the entrance to the seat. It will be a convenient place for flight attendants to set drinks and snacks without having to reach over passengers to set things on the console.
For comparison, here’s American’s primary business class seat, the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat, and business class color scheme.
Bye Bye Miss American First Class Pie
Currently, American flies 20 B777-300 aircraft with eight first class seats. The good news is that American is adding more business class seats (Flagship Suites) to its 777-300s. The bad news is it is removing international first class to do so. While it is often joked that the world’s best business class is American Airlines first class, I’ll be sorry to see first class go.
Bye Bye Miss American First Class Pie
I don’t believe that I cried
When I learned the end of a favorite ride
But something touched me deep inside
The day Flagship First Class died
American’s first class seat was outdated in that it wasn’t a suite with a door. On the other hand, it had one feature I liked. The seat swiveled 90º to face a convenient work desk under the window.
American’s flight attendants do their best but are unable to match the 5-star service and cuisine provided on airlines like Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Etihad, ANA, Lufthansa and Air France among others. American was the last U.S. airline, in fact the last airline in the Western Hemisphere, to offer international first class. Dropping first class is probably a reasonable business decision because first class service and cuisine is not one of American Airlines’ strengths.
American’s New Flagship Suite On Narrowbody Aircraft
American’s A321XLR, which is scheduled to enter service in 2024, will feature new Collins Aurora suites with doors. These suites have lie flat seats and direct aisle access.
New Premium Economy Seat
New and retrofitted widebody aircraft and new A321XLR planes will sport a new premium economy seat as well. Premium economy will be added to A321T aircraft that are used on domestic transcontinental flights.
American is keeping the 2-3-2 arrangement in premium economy on widebody aircraft and going with a 2-2 premium economy on the A321XLR and A321T.
American’s Fleet Will Have More Premium Seats
With the introduction of new interiors on its long-haul aircraft, premium seating on American’s long-haul fleet will grow more than 45% by 2026. For example, American B787-9 aircraft will have 51 Flagship Suite seats and 32 Premium Economy seats. Currently, American B787-9s have 30 seats in business class and 21 seats in premium economy.
American’s B777-300s will be refreshed with the new interiors starting in late 2024. They will have 70 Flagship Suites and 44 Premium Economy seats compared to eight first class, 52 business class and 28 premium economy seats. The increase in the number of premium seats is impressive but tainted somewhat by the fact that American had decreased the number of these seats only recently.
American Airlines is making bold moves with the new suites and seats. The pictures look fantastic. However the butt-in-seat test will tell if there is much improvement in comfort and passenger experience.
There could a significant difference between Flagship Suites on the 787 and 777. A 787 cabin interior width is approximately 18 feet (550 cm). The 777 cabin is 19 ft. 3 in. (587 cm) wide. The extra 15 inches could be used to make the suites slightly wider on the 777-300, or the space could be wasted on wider aisles.
Slapping a door on a business class seat doesn’t really make it a suite in my view because passengers aren’t getting more space. When the seat is reclined, our feet must still protrude into a narrow slot under the console of the seat in front. That and closing the door can make the seat feel tight. And while retrofitting and new deliveries are ongoing, figuring out the type of seat you will have will be take some work. Still, I can’t wait to try these new seats.
What do you think of American Airlines’ Flagship Suites and new premium economy seat?
Photo credits: American Airlines unless noted otherwise