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American Airlines has been revamping its fleet for a while now, what with the introduction of new 777-300ER’s, A319’s, and the transcon A321. It also has plans to retrofit its aging 767-300’s with an all-new business class. The airline just unveiled what the new cabin would look like, and it’s pretty awesome.
It looks a lot like one of Delta’s BusinessElite cabins, or like business class aboard SWISS or Brussels Airlines with a staggered 1 x 2 x 1 configuration so that all seats have direct aisle access. The cabin will have a total of 28 seats in 7 rows and the new seats will be fully horizontal lie-flats.
“The retrofit project also include the installation of new LCD drop-down monitors onboard, new digital audio systems, refreshed lavatories, and new seat covers and cushions in the Main Cabin that mirror the design of American’s 777-300ER fleet for a more consistent widebody experience,” according to AA. The planes should also be equipped with international WiFi. The airline will begin flying the first of these newly redone planes on its New York JFK-Zurich route on April 1, 2014.
While I prefer the increased privacy of AA’s new flagship business class aboard the 777-300ER, which is in a reverse herringbone configuration like Cathay Pacific’s business class, this is still a huge step up for a very old business class product that was fast becoming one of the most obsolete among the major US airlines. The current 767-300 business class is in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration with tightly packed angled lie-flat seats. No thank you.
American has plans to retrofit about half of the 58 767-300’s in its fleet now through the end of 2015, and to retire the rest as it replaces them with current-generation aircraft like the A321. So when booking travel and you find a 767-300 flies the routes you’re interested in, it’s worth checking the seat map to see if the cabin is configured with the new seats or the old and to make your booking decision that way.
The one major drawback I see is that there are no built in in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems here. Business class passengers will be given 10.1-inch Samsung tablets and those in coach are out of luck. While the airline might stream entertainment wirelessly, you’ll have to bring your own device. Granted, a lot of travelers are flying with tablets and PDA’s to watch content on, but in this day and age there doesn’t seem to be any reason not to include seatback entertainment monitors at every seat on a new product, so I’m not sure what the reasoning was there.
I’m going to keep my eye out for potential awards so I can try out the new product, but if any of you have a chance to fly it, be sure to report back on the experience here!