Every American Airlines premium seat ranked from best to worst

Jan 14, 2020

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American Airlines has invested heavily in its premium-cabin products over the past few years, from eliminating angle-flat seats in business class to installing premium economy on 124 aircraft in its international fleet.

However, not all of AA’s recent changes have been good. AA’s Project Oasis has ripped out comfortable domestic first-class seats with inflight entertainment screens and installed slimmer seats that lack IFE screens. The feedback has been so bad that the airline is having to re-retrofit at least 71 aircraft.

In addition, AA went through a cost-cutting phase a few years ago that left international Flagship Business-class seats without built-in inflight entertainment screens. Although the flight attendants will hand out tablets loaded with entertainment, that’s clearly not the same experience.

With all these changes, not all American Airlines premium-cabin experiences are created equally. There are 13 different versions of premium seats found on AA’s current fleet of 938 aircraft. Let’s break down which ones are the best and which you’ll want to avoid.

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In This Post

1. Flagship business class on the 777-300ER

Seat Design: Safran Cirrus (formerly Zodiac Cirrus)

Most American Airlines passengers agree: The best seat AA offers can be found on its Boeing 777-300 in business class. Yes, it’s even better than in first class on the same aircraft. The seats recline into a comfortable lie-flat bed, are all forward-facing and provide just the right amount of privacy. If you’re traveling with a special someone, the center seats work well for couples. Additionally, there is a decent amount of personal storage space, and the inflight entertainment screen telescopes and is bright and large.

Review: American Airlines 777-300ER business class from New York to London

Where to find it: You’ll find these seats on American Airlines’ flagship routes, such as:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) to Sao Paulo (GRU), Hong Kong (HKG) and London Heathrow (LHR)
  • New York-JFK to Sao Paulo and London Heathrow
  • Los Angeles (LAX) to Hong Kong, Tokyo Haneda (HND) and London Heathrow
  • Miami (MIA) to Buenos Aires, Argentina (EZE), Sao Paulo and London Heathrow
  • Domestically between Miami and Los Angeles
American Airlines Business Class on Boeing 777-300ER. Photo by Nicky Kelvin.
Business class on American Airlines 777-300ER (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy.)

Related: Choosing the best credit cards for American Airlines flyers

2. Flagship first class on the 777-300ER

Seat Design: Safran Flagship First

One might assume that first class would rank higher than business class, but many AA flyers I’ve spoken with prefer the business-class seat on AA’s 777-300ER to the first-class seat. That said, the first-class seat is still great. With only eight seats in the whole cabin, American Airlines’ first class can feel intimate, and the seat has a unique feature that lets you swivel the seat to face the window to create a mini-office. On the downside, the seat itself lacks privacy and storage.

Review: American Airlines 777-300ER first class from Los Angeles to Hong Kong

Where to find it: You’ll find these seats on American Airlines’ flagship routes, such as:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth to Sao Paulo, Hong Kong and London Heathrow
  • New York-JFK to Sao Paulo and London Heathrow
  • Los Angeles to Hong Kong, Tokyo Haneda and London Heathrow
  • Miami to Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and London Heathrow
  • Domestically between Miami and Los Angeles

3. Flagship business class on the 787-9 and some 777-200s

Seat Design: Rockwell Collins Super Diamond (formerly B/E Aerospace Super Diamond)

A close third are the seats found on AA’s Boeing 787-9 as well as on some of its refurbished Boeing 777-200s. Like the business-class seats on the 777-300ER, these seats are comfortable and provide ample storage. The seat shells and cabin layout make these seats feel especially private. But there are a couple of downsides that keep these seats from taking top prize: The position of the recessed tray table makes it tight for side-sleepers and the IFE monitor doesn’t swivel, making it difficult to watch a movie while you’re fully reclined.

Review: American Airlines 787-9 business class from Shanghai to Los Angeles
Review: American Airlines 777-200 business class from Dallas to Kona

Where to find it: American Airlines operates the Boeing 787-9 on the following routes:

AA has two different versions of the 777-200 that have identical seat maps, so you can’t rely on getting the Rockwell Collins Super Diamond on any specific route.

Business class on American Airlines 787-9. Photo by JT Genter/TPG.
Business class on American Airlines 787-9. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

Related: The best credit cards for airport lounge access

4. Flagship first class on the A321T

Seat Design: Safran Cirrus (formerly Zodiac Cirrus)

Although it’s very similar to the business-class seat that you’ll find on the 777-300ER, there are some notable differences that knock AA’s A321T first-class seat down the list. Whether or not it’s actually a smaller space, the seat feels a lot more cramped, both sitting up and lying down. There are storage shelves, but there’s no mini-locker to secure items.

Where to find it: You’ll find these seats on American Airlines’ flagship domestic routes:

First class
First class on American Airlines A321T. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

5. Flagship business class on the A330

Seat Design: Safran Cirrus (formerly Zodiac Cirrus or “Envoy Suite”)

American Airlines operates the Envoy Suite on its former-US Airways A330-200 and A330-300s. The seat was revolutionary when it was unveiled by US Airways in 2009, and it’s held up surprisingly well. This seat was the basis for what would become Zodiac’s Cirrus seat, which you’ll find on AA’s 777-300ER business class and A321T first. However, it’s clearly a few seat generations older. But there are still unique perks on the AA A330 aircraft with these seats, like a coffee machine capable of making a legit cappuccino or latte.

Where to find it: True to its roots, these aircraft fly many routes out of old US Airways hubs — including:

  • Charlotte (CLT) to Barcelona (BCN), Dublin, Frankfurt (FRA), London Heathrow, Madrid, Munich (MUC), Paris and Rome (FCO)
  • Philadelphia (PHL) to Athens (ATH), Barcelona, Dublin, London Heathrow, Madrid, Paris, Prague (PRG), Rome and Venice (VCE)
  • Caribbean: Charlotte to Cancun , Punta Cana (PUJ) and San Juan (SJU); Philadelphia to Cancun, San Juan and Montego Bay (MBJ)
  • Domestically: between Philadelphia and Boston, Charlotte, Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles, Orlando (MCO), Phoenix (PHX) and San Francisco; between Charlotte and Las Vegas, Orlando, Philadelphia and Phoenix; between Phoenix and Charlotte and Honolulu
Image by JT Genter / The Points Guy
Business class on American Airlines A330. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

6. Flagship business class on the 787-8 and some 777-200s

Seat Design: Safran Concept D (formerly Zodiac Concept D)

American Airlines flyers have a lot of opinions on this seat and most of them aren’t great. On the positive side: The seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration that allows all seats aisle access. The seat lies completely flat. There’s a large inflight entertainment screen. And there’s plenty of privacy. That’s enough for some AA passengers to really like these seats.

But we have to point out the flaws here. These seats are arranged in forward- and rear-facing pairs with the seats physically attached, and these connected seats are known to physically rock. So when your attached-seatmate gets up or even rolls over, you’re probably going to feel it. That critical bug has lost me hours of sleep when flying internationally. Also, these seats are especially narrow. That, combined with the high privacy walls, have earned these seats the nickname “coffin class.”

Review: American Airlines 787-8 business class from Los Angeles to Shanghai

Where to find it: American Airlines operates the Boeing 787-8 on the following routes:

  • Chicago to Athens, Barcelona, Dublin, London Heathrow, Paris, Rome, Tokyo Narita and Venice
  • Dallas/Fort Worth to Beijing, Buenos Aires, Frankfurt, Madrid, Munich, Paris and Santiago, Chile (SCL)
  • Los Angeles to Beijing and Tokyo Narita
  • Philadelphia to Amsterdam, Manchester and Zurich
  • Caribbean: Dallas and Chicago to Cancun
  • Domestically: between Dallas and Chicago, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Francisco; between Chicago and Honolulu, Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Phoenix and San Francisco; between Philadelphia and Los Angeles

AA has two different versions of the 777-200 that have identical seat maps, so you can’t be sure if you’ll get the better Rockwell Collins Super Diamond or the not-as-nice Concept D.

Business class seats on American Airlines
Business class on American Airlines 787-8. (Photo courtesy of American Airlines.)

7. Flagship business class on A321T

Seat Design: Rockwell Collins Diamond (formerly B/E Aerospace Diamond)

As we descend the rankings, these business-class seats lose an element critical to many business-class travelers: aisle access for all seats. The best of these seats in AA’s fleet are the Rockwell Collins Diamonds (not to be confused with the much better Rockwell Collins Super Diamond seats).

AA has multiple versions of the Diamond seats, but the best is found on its premium A321T domestic transcontinental aircraft. The 20 lie-flat, business-class seats on this aircraft earned AA the #2 spot for domestic business class at the inaugural TPG Awards — outscoring both United and Delta, but falling short of JetBlue.

Review: American Airlines A321T business class from Boston to Los Angeles

Where to find it: You’ll find these seats on American Airlines’ flagship domestic routes:

Photo of American Airlines A321T business class by Kevin Song.
Business class on American Airlines A321T. (Photo by Kevin Song/The Points Guy.)

8. Flagship business class on the 767-300

Seat Design: Thompson Vantage

The positives: The all-aisle-access seats lie flat and there’s a universal power outlet. However, the seats offer practically no privacy, the reclined seats feel very close to the floor and there’s no built-in personal inflight entertainment system.

On international flights, flight attendants will hand out tablets after takeoff and collect them before landing, leaving passengers for up to two hours without IFE systems (so pack your own if that matters to you). The tablets’ limited storage means there are two-thirds fewer entertainment options than on AA’s other aircraft. Although we are focusing on seats, AA’s 767 aircraft have had especially poor operational performance, likely because the average age of these planes exceeds 20 years.

Where to find it: American Airlines 767s are currently scheduled to operate on the following routes:

  • Miami to Guayaquil (GYE), Lima (LIM), Montevideo (MVD)
  • Philadelphia to Amsterdam (AMS), Berlin Tegel (TXL), Budapest (BUD), Lisbon (LIS), Manchester and Zurich
  • Caribbean: both Miami and Philadelphia to Cancun, Punta Cana and San Juan (SJU); Philadelphia to Sint Maarten (SXM)
  • Domestically between Dallas and Miami and Kahului, Maui (OGG); between Miami and Chicago, Dallas, Las Vegas, New York-JFK, Philadelphia and San Francisco; between Philadelphia and Las Vegas, Miami, Orlando, San Francisco
The 767-300 isn
Business class on American Airlines’ 767. (Photo by Eric Goldner/The Points Guy.)

9. Flagship business class on the 757 international fleet

Seat Design: Rockwell Collins Diamond (formerly B/E Aerospace Diamond)

These seats are almost identical to the Rockwell Collins Diamond you’ll find in business class on AA’s A321T. However, there’s a notable difference: no built-in inflight entertainment screen. As with AA’s 767 aircraft, flight attendants will hand out tablets with entertainment choices. In addition to not having these during taxi, takeoff and landing, these tablets are much smaller and have far fewer entertainment options than the built-in systems.

Not having aisle access is fine on a domestic flight, but AA is operating these aircraft on overnight flights between the U.S. and Europe, meaning you or your seatmate may be sleeping when the other needs to use the restroom.

Note that not all American Airlines 757 aircraft have these seats. Of the 34 Boeing 757s in American Airlines’ fleet, 24 have them. The other 10 have standard domestic first-class recliner seats and are used for flights between the U.S. mainland and Hawaii.

Review: American Airlines 757 business class from Philadelphia to Amsterdam

Where to find it: For international routes, the 757-200 flies between:

  • Dallas/Fort Worth to Anchorage (ANC), Lima, Reykjavik (KEF)
  • Miami to Brasilia (BSB), Lima, Quito (UIO), Santa Cruz (VVI)
  • Philadelphia to Edinburgh (EDI) and Shannon (SNN)
Photo of business class on American Airlines
Business class on American Airlines’ international 757. (Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.)

10. Domestic first class — legacy American Airlines

Seat Design: Safran 6850

Excluding the A321T and international aircraft operating domestic routes, my favorite American Airlines traditional domestic first-class option is on legacy American Airlines aircraft like the 737-800. These seats are well-padded, provide a universal power outlet and have a large and crisp inflight entertainment screen.

But this product is endangered. After taking a break to deal with safety issues, American Airlines restarted Project Oasis in September 2019. That name for the project seems ironic as American plans to rip out these comfortable seats and replace them with less-padded seats without inflight entertainment screens, a clear downgrade.

Review: American Airlines A321 first class from Chicago to Miami
Review: American Airlines 737 first class from Boston to Los Angeles

First class on American Airlines 737. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

11. International premium economy

Seat Design: Rockwell Collins MiQ

In October 2016, American Airlines’ first true premium-economy seats took to the skies aboard its Boeing 787-9 aircraft. Since then, AA has retrofit more than 100 widebody aircraft with this new cabin, which required ripping out some business-class seats. The resulting seats don’t have the most padding, but they’re a notable improvement from economy. The seats have a solid 38 inches of pitch, allowing a generous recline. The well-designed seats have a built-in storage well with universal power outlet, and the seatbacks have a large, crisp inflight entertainment screen. And if you get a seat at the bulkhead, there’s a leg rest that extends from below your seat.

Review: American Airlines 777 premium economy from New York to London

Where to find it: You’ll find premium-economy seating on all American Airlines Airbus A330-200 (15), Boeing 777-200 (47), 777-300ER (20), 787-8 (20) and 787-9 (22) aircraft. While mostly found on international routes, these aircraft are also found on select domestic routes. On most of these routes, the premium-economy section isn’t being sold as a separate cabin but as part of AA’s extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra product.

Photo of American Airlines 787-9 premium economy by JT Genter / The Points Guy.
American Airlines’ 787-9 premium economy. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

12. New domestic first class

Seat Design: Rockwell Collins MiQ

Those same seats that you’ll find labeled as American Airlines premium economy are also found flying as domestic first class on AA’s Boeing 737 MAX, Airbus A321neo and Project Oasis 737 and A321 aircraft. Although labeled as first class, these seats are a step down from the premium-economy product as they have less legroom and there’s no built-in inflight entertainment screen. Even on long routes, AA isn’t providing IFE tablets on these aircraft. If you don’t have your own device or bring printed materials, you don’t get any entertainment. That’s not very first class.

Review: American Airlines A321neo first class from Orlando to Phoenix
Review: American Airlines 737 MAX first class from New York LaGuardia to Miami

Photo of domestic first class on American Airlines 737 MAX by JT Genter / The Points Guy.
Domestic first class on American Airlines 737 MAX. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

13. Domestic first class — legacy US Airways

Seat Design: Rockwell Collins Spectrum First or Millennium

Last, and certainly least among the American Airlines premium seats, is first class on former US Airways aircraft. These planes have been integrated into American Airlines’ fleet in name only. I wrote in April 2017 about the relative misery of flying on these aircraft. And while AA has invested considerable amounts in its lounges, Wi-Fi and premium economy, these aircraft have only gotten new seat covers and carpet.

The first-class product on these aircraft is embarrassingly bad for first class — lacking power outlets, inflight entertainment, legroom and overhead storage space. These are the only aircraft in AA’s domestic fleet that will benefit from Project Oasis modifications. Those retrofits began again in September 2019.

Bottom line

American Airlines’ premium-cabin seats range from excellent to pretty miserable as far as first class goes, with plenty of steps in between. If you’re looking for a top-notch seat, you’ll want to stick to business and first class on American Airlines Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft. The A330s are aging but still offer a solid business-class product.

Although they’re fine for a domestic flight, the 757s and 767s fall short of a best-in-class international business-class product. Flying domestically, the A321T offers some of the best domestic premium-cabin products in the sky.

The legacy American Airlines first-class seat is the best of the recliner seats, followed by American Airlines’ true premium economy seats. Near the bottom, you’ll find the new Project Oasis retrofits, the Boeing 737 MAX and Airbus A321neo. At the very bottom are the old US Airways first-class seats, which are the only ones that will benefit from an Oasis retrofit.

Related reading:

Featured photo by The Points Guy.

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