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American Airlines is about to start a premium-economy makeover. In a period of ever-tightening economy seats, these premium economy seats provide a middle ground between economy and AA’s excellent new business class seats.

The AA premium economy era began with the installation of premium economy on AA’s new Boeing 787-9s. These aircraft will continue to roll off the line with three classes: economy, premium economy and business class. But, American has always been clear that the 787-9 wasn’t going to be the only aircraft in the fleet with the new premium economy seating.

Now, we know when these seats are going to be added to its existing internationally configured aircraft, too:

American Airlines unveiled its premium economy retrofit schedule this morning.
American Airlines unveiled its premium-economy retrofit schedule this morning.

During Merrill Lynch’s 2017 Transportation Conference this morning, AA released the following schedule for the retrofit:

First, this seems to be a very aggressive schedule. However, American Airlines has been aggressively retrofitting aircraft over the last year — and AA is almost finished re-configuring its fleet of international planes to have lie-flat seats in business class. Now we know what’s next: premium economy retrofits.

American Airlines has some of its best business class seats on flights to Seoul (ICN) and Tokyo (NRT).
Why isn’t AA adding premium economy now while it retrofits the new B/E Aerospace seats onto its Boeing 777-200s?

It’s a bit strange that AA is bringing the 777-200s under the knife so soon after completing another retrofit project on the same aircraft. Since switching from Zodiac seats to the new B/E Aerospace seats in 2016, AA has had three versions of the 772. Just as it’s finishing a project to reduce that to just two, it looks like the new premium economy retrofit project will be bumping that back up to three — along with the associated confusion for passengers about which seats they’ll be riding in.

The good news is that systemwide upgrades still will clear passengers from economy to business… at least for now. When/if AA changes upgrades to merely being from economy to premium economy (and premium economy to business), AA elite status would lose even more value — and it’s already last of the big three based on our valuations.

Have you tried AA’s new premium economy seating?

Know before you go.

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