American Airlines to Launch Premium Economy on 777s in December

May 30, 2017

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Update 5/30/17 11:46am: An American Airlines spokesperson has confirmed that our speculation is correct: premium economy seats will be treated as part of economy (Main Cabin Extra) until December 15:

As retrofitted planes begin rolling out, the seats will be sold as a part of the Main Cabin. Once we reach near completion, we’ll begin selling them as MCE until we finish the retrofits which is targeted for that mid-December timeframe.

A couple of weeks ago, we learned that American Airlines is starting its premium economy makeover very soon. Although premium economy seats are currently only available on the airline’s Boeing 787-9s, these seats are going to be installed on the Boeing 777-200s starting in June.

American Airlines unveiled its premium economy retrofit schedule this morning.
American Airlines’ aggressive premium economy retrofit schedule.

AA flew with premium economy seats on its 787-9 classified as part of the economy cabin from October 2016 until the airline finally started the premium economy class of service in May 2017. This gave AA Platinum and Executive Platinum elites the chance to check out these seats for free, while AA Gold members got 50% off the Main Cabin Extra surcharge for these seats.

Given the delay in launching the premium economy class of service on the 787-9s, we were curious when the retrofit 777-200s would be sold as premium economy. Would the logistics of having just a few retrofit aircraft force AA to treat these premium economy seats as part of economy for a while?

It seems that we’ve got our answer: American Airlines is beginning to sell premium economy on the 777-200 for flights departing on and after December 15.

This delay from installation starting in June to being sold separately in December is great news for AA elites. As these retrofit 777-200s start showing up on routes, elite members should get free access to these seats featuring extra legroom, bigger IFE screens, leg rests, wider seats and armrests — all for the price of a regular economy seat.

With the seat map of the retrofit 777-200 revealed, we now have confirmation that AA is installing a 2-4-2 arrangement in premium economy vs. 3-4-3 in economy. This is great for traveling couples to be able to snag a two-seat row together by the window. But, it’s less than ideal for the six middle seats it creates (two per row over three rows).

Another potential downside: bumps. The newest version of retrofit 772s only have 273 total seats. Version 1 has 247 seats, version 2 has 260 seats and the latest iteration has 289 seats. For flights sold as 289 seats, if a 273-seat aircraft shows up at the gate, there might be an unpleasant version of musical chairs.

Are you excited about AA’s 777 premium economy retrofit?

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