American (Too) Quietly Announces Premium Economy, Flat Beds, and More Awesomeness

Last week, all the talk was about American filing for bankruptcy. That announcement mostly buried what should have been a much bigger and more exciting announcement than it was. American is doing some great things on its new 777s, but it’s barely talking about it. The silence makes you wonder if the airline just started talking about to in order to counter the bad news and not because it was ready.

American's New 777-300 Stays Under Wraps

American started by ordering a couple of the 777-300ER aircraft awhile back, but it has now grown the order to include 10 airplanes. This will be the new flagship of the international fleet, which currently comprises 777-200s, 767-300s, and some 757-200s. Service starts next year to London, but that’s all we know. What’s so special about this airplane, which will have the most seats and longest range in the fleet?

“Wi-Fi capability to keep customers connected while traveling internationally”
American has domestic wifi, but it hasn’t talked about international wi-fi at all up until now. American wouldn’t comment on who would provide wifi.

“walk-up bar stocked with snacks and refreshments in the premium cabin will be a first for any U.S. airline “
Most US airlines haven’t been able to justify using space for a bar instead of just having more seats, but apparently American now feels otherwise.

“Entertainment options including up to 120 movies, more than 150 TV programs and more than 350 audio selections”
You can get audio/video on demand in the premium cabins, but the 767s and 757s still have overhead screens in coach. The 777s have looping movies in-seat, which is slightly better, but it’s nothing compared to what the new 777-300s will have.

“every seat will feature individual 110 volt AC power outlets and USB jacks”
Today, most of American’s international fleet has those cigarette lighter power ports that require adapters in the premium cabin. In coach, some airplanes have random seats with scattered access to power, but most have nothing.

“feature an updated and enhanced version of the customer-favorite Flagship Suite seat that transforms into a fully lie flat six-foot, eight-inch bed with drop-down armrests that allow for easier access and more sleeping space”
The 757s and 767s don’t have First Class, but the 777s do. This will just be an updated and improved version of that.

“Business Class cabin will also be outfitted with fully lie flat seats – all with aisle access”
Today, American offers that uncomfortable angled lie-flat seat that was obsolete the day it was announced. The airline is finally going to go to what I assume to be a truly flat bed. I say that I assume it’s flat, because the terminology used (“fully lie flat”) is a mix of the traditional “lie flat” (which means angled) and “fully flat” (which means fully flat). I couldn’t get any other information.

“monitor positioned in each Business Class suite”
The angled lie flat beds the airline has today uses a portable unit that’s fitted into a bracket on the seat. So American is getting rid of that and going back to an embedded system.

“Seats throughout Economy Class will have a higher recline pivot, providing increased knee room. The seat bottom will articulate”
This could go one of two ways. Cathay Pacific went with the seat that reclines into itself, and, well, people hate it with a passion. But the idea isn’t a bad one, if it’s done right. Will this be done right?

“American will also offer an Economy Class premium seat product, which will include additional legroom for seats in the forward portion of the cabin”
With United having Economy Plus and Delta having a similar Economy Comfort offering, it’s not a surprise that American is trying this. But will the seat be any different? Will the service be any different? Beats me. No other info was given, though it sounds like it will probably be the same seat.

Reading this, you probably have the same first question I did . . . . Will American roll this out to the rest of the fleet? No clue. I also found out there are no pictures available, and there are really no other details to be had. This announcement, full of tremendously interesting yet incomplete news, has to stand on its own for now. Bummer.

Other than the press release, I did see an email was sent to AAdvantage members, but there hasn’t been much media coverage. Why? No pictures and not a ton of details. Why would you announce such major enhancements like that if you’re American? This is a big deal, and it makes American at least competitive and at best a true leader when compared to its other US competitors. The lack of additional information just seems so strange.

Anyone else have any info about this? Because it sounds fantastic, assuming it happens.

[Hangar photo via Flickr user kevin dooley/CC 2.0]

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