It’s been a while since American announced details on the new fleet of aircraft it had ordered from both Boeing and Airbus, and while I’ve personally gotten to try out the new business and first class cabins aboard its 777-300′s, the airline finally took delivery of its first A319 a couple weeks ago and unveiled it in Dallas yesterday, where I asked my friend Scott to tour the new aircraft (his comments on the event below).
American Airlines added its newest narrowbody aircraft to their fleet on Wednesday when they unveiled the first Airbus A319 in Dallas, which will begin flying on September 16, 2013.
“Everything about the new A319 aircraft has been designed with the customer at the center,” said Virasb Vahidi, American’s Chief Commercial Officer, in the official announcement. “The introduction of the A319 is another important step in building a strong foundation for the new American. We’re pleased to be partnering with Airbus.”
The 260-strong fleet American has ordered aims to set a high bar for both comfort and amenities and will service mostly domestic routes out of Dallas to start. These new A319′s will have all leather seats, WiFi and in-seat entertainment throughout the aircraft, plus power outlets and USB outlets at every seat. On international routes, the WiFi will function like Gogo domestically, meaning it will turn off outside North America as opposed to the 777-300 where it works internationally.
First class customers will enjoy a complimentary selection of up to 200 movies, 180 TV programs, more than 350 audio selections and up to 15 games, on a 12.1-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitor at each seat. Each seat throughout the Main Cabin will have 8.9-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitors with an assortment of entertainment options, including movies, TV programs, games and audio selections.
As well as increased connectivity and technology, the new modern Airbuses are also more fuel efficient and environmentally friendly due to aerodynamic improvements such as sharklets on the wings and other modifications to reduce fuel burn.
Services will begin on September 16, 2013, from Dallas/Fort Worth to select cities, and then will increase throughout the year. The scheduled routes from DFW so far are as follows:
- Beginning September 16: Charlotte, NC, Cleveland, OH, Memphis, TN, Wichita, KS
- Beginning October 1: Dayton, OH, Lubbock, TX
- Beginning October 14: El Paso, TX, Huntsville, TX, McAllen, TX, Toronto, Canada
- Beginning November 1: San Salvador, El Salvador
- Beginning December 19: Vail, CO, Crested Butte, CO, Jackson Hole, WY
The newest members of the AA stable are set to take over their aging planes as the current fleet of domestic Boeing 757-200s and MD80s are retired over time. Per Scott, an airline representative informed attendees that the A319 will be used to serve thinner markets with greater frequency an more efficiently than a Super 80. For example, some routes that previously were only served 3 times a day on a Super 80 may be served 5 times a day on an A319.
According to the fact sheet released by American Airlines, other key details in the A319 for each class include:
- The First Class section will have eight leather First Class seats supplied by Weber and arranged in a 2-2 configuration.
- Customers in premium classes will get a complimentary inflight entertainment selection of up to 200 movies, 180 TV programs, 350 audio selections and up to 15 games
- 12.1-inch HD-capable tilting touchscreen monitor positioned in each seat
- Complimentary earbuds
Main Cabin and Main Cabin Extra:
- Outfitted with leather seats in a 3-3 configuration
- Articulating seat bottom, producing an innovative cradling motion to better distribute weight while increasing the recline angle of the seatback for increased personal space
- Each seat is equipped with one universal AC power outlet and USB jack
- The 24 Main Cabin Extra seats will have six inches of additional legroom
- Main Cabin Extra customers will receive early boarding privileges
- 8.9-inch HD-capable touchscreen monitors at every Main Cabin seat with movies, TV programs, games and audio selections
Here is Dallas-based TPG contributor Scott Schieffer’s first-hand account of the unveiling event held at American’s DFW hangar on Wednesday.
The seats in First Class are really comfortable. I especially like that there are two holders for drinks in addition to the tray table. When a passenger in front of me fully reclined, I was still able to cross my legs comfortably (even though it was fairly tight), so it will certainly be fine for the shorter flights that this plane will fly. However, the fact that there are only 8 seats in First Class is going to make upgrades competitive.
In the Main Cabin, the bulkhead row has a generous cut-out that will make it a nice option to exit the plane quickly when traveling in Economy, plus having the various options to purchase in-flight entertainment using the seat-back display is a huge upgrade. Each seat has a small step on its side for passengers to use to reach the overhead bins to save shorter people for asking for help, which will also make it easier for everyone to retrieve items from the back of the bin. Although the seats have a thin side profile, the bottom cushion provided a lot of padding and would be comfortable for shorter flights.
I really value having either a 110 volt plug-in option or the USB option for electronics that is provided throughout the plane.
Overall, the A319 is a nice addition to American’s route network that allows it to economically serve short-haul routes in a well-designed and comfortable new plane with connectivity and entertainment options not currently offered by its narrowbody fleet or its older 767-300s. As an elite AAdvantage member and frequent flyer, of course, I wish there were more First Class seats on this plane, but for short-haul travel, I am less concerned about an upgrade and would prefer Main Cabin Extra or the exit row on the A319 to the Super 80 or 757.
The A319 joins other members of the new fleet, which includes the forthcoming A321T, which is scheduled to begin service from New York JFK to Los Angeles and San Francisco in early 2014. The A321 will have a three-class cabin, plus fully lie-flat First and Business Class seats. The A320neo aircraft with next-generation engine technology will begin service in 2017.
The new aircraft are just the latest changes for AA, and the impending merger of US Airways and American Airlines naturally sparks speculation about what will happen with their elite travel programs and what benefits will still be available for each. I recently took a close look at American’s Elite Rewards and how to qualify along with comparing the program to US Airways Special Dividends. It is not yet known exactly how the US Airways and American Airlines merger (if approved) will affect either AAdvantage or Dividend Miles holders, however, I would predict that the new airline will take US Airways’ model for elite status and expand its program to include four tiers (25,000/50,000/75,000/100,000) instead of the three (25,000/50,000/100,000) that American currently has.
All of this is of course contingent on the result of Tuesday’s announcement that the US Department of Justice is suing to block the merger of US Airways with American, which had been proceeding smoothly up until this point.
The merger was officially announced back in February, and the $11 billion deal was approved by a federal judge in March as part of American’s plan to reemerge from bankruptcy. The merger was also approved by US Airways shareholders and American’s creditors over the summer, but only time will tell if it actually goes through. At least we can watch what happens from the comfort of these new planes, though.
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