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

American, Inflight Entertainment, Seats

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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18 comments on “American (Too) Quietly Announces Premium Economy, Flat Beds, and More Awesomeness

  1. Hey Brett any likelihood that American will have to get rid of some gates at O’Hare, providing more room for JetBlue or Virgin America? Or is that more of a pipe-dream for someone (like me) who wants more discount airlines flying in and out of O’Hare to the coasts?

    1. Virgin America and Chicago have to be profitable for either of them to want it. And I don’t see either wanting to add more flights to an already congested market dominated by United. I just think they are both happy to be there. And that’s IF AA had to give up gates.

    2. Why would American have to get rid of gates? If American wants to get rid of gates, then they could try to shed them in bankruptcy, but there isn’t anything that would require them to shed gates. There is more room for JetBlue and Virgin America on the L concourse already. They probably just don’t want more gates at this point.

  2. Sounds more like this was all in a hurry to counter the bankruptcy news. The courts could nix the money for all this right?????

    We know what happen the last time AA (and others) had bars on their planes, they went away for more seats. With high fuel costs, do they really think a bar will bring in more high paying flyers then more seats?

    1. I think the bar, depending on location, might be an optimization of unused space. Assuming we are talking about it between First and Business that might coincide with on of the entry portals to the plane. Airlines can put a bar there, that meets FAA regulations on access to the exits, and it wouldn’t mean a huge loss of seats. It may mean shrinking the First class cabin, but that isn’t where the money is anymore anyway.

    2. Well, the airplanes are coming and I doubt those orders would be canceled, so with that in mind, they’ll have to outfit them somehow. I don’t think the courts would say anything about how an aircraft is being configured.

  3. AA has Not said much because there are NO pilots to fly these planes yet. AA Pilot contract has to be amended for any training to start on these new planes.
    No Amendment No new planes. They have a dilemma to settle before anyone rides on these new planes. Most were purchased for the long haul Asia routes.

    1. Not just Asia routes, also to provide much better economics than the 15 year old 772’s that are currently flying deep South America and Europe (aka LHR).

    2. In fact, the first announced destination is Heathrow, so Asia is on the list but not at the top. They’ll figure it out with the pilots – that shouldn’t stop them from giving more detail on the interior stuff.

  4. It is disappointing that it looks like bankruptcy has forced American to contemplate changes which many international competitors made long ago, and in many cases their main US competitors have too…

  5. Interestingly, they’re advertising the new beds here in London, with pictures of people sitting on different types of chairs, and – you’ve guessed it – no picture of the bed themselves.

  6. A couple of corrections: the handheld entertainment units are only used in 757 and 767. 777-200 has built in screens in F and J.

    Also, the current 777 entertainment system is AVOD in F and J – it only loops in Y.

  7. Actually the current business class seats entertainment systems are embedded in their 777’s, they are only individual systems on their 767’s.

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