Why American Airlines’ Aircraft Change Is Bad News for Los Angeles Flyers

Aug 14, 2019

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There’s enough demand on the route between Los Angeles and London to justify a combined nine daily flights across five different airlines — American Airlines, United, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and even Air New Zealand. Given the strong premium-cabin demand, you’ll find some great business and first class options on this route.

American Airlines currently operates its flagship aircraft — the Boeing 777-300ER — twice daily. But starting October 28, AA is swapping in a not-as-premium aircraft on one of its flights: the Boeing 777-200ER.

At first glance, most travelers probably don’t notice a difference in those two aircraft types, but the switch from the -3 to the -2 has important implications for travelers — especially those hoping to book a premium cabin.

Here are the differences:

No First Class Seats

AA’s Boeing 777-300ER is one of only two aircraft types in AA’s fleet that has a true first class cabin, which the airline refers to as Flagship First Class. Although the first class seat falls short of other true first class products, flying first class on American Airlines grants passengers access to Flagship First Check-In, Flagship First Dining and better service, meals and beverages on-board.

Image of American Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER first class seat courtesy of American Airlines.

However, the Boeing 777-200ER doesn’t have a first class cabin. That means that there’s no option of getting these additional perks no matter how much you’re willing to pay — with cash or miles.

Less Business Class

In addition to having a first class cabin, AA’s Boeing 777-300ER has a massive 52-seat business class cabin. Meanwhile, the 777-200ER only has 37 business class seats.

The reduction in business class seats is bad news for award travelers hoping to book business class on this 10.5-hour flight. Award availability is already extremely rare on this route with 52 seats per flight, and it’s only going to get worse with 15 less seats.

Similarly, the smaller supply of business class seats might drive the cash price up for those paying for business class seats.

Variable Business Class Product

There’s no doubt which seat type you’re going to get when booking an American Airlines 777-300ER aircraft. All 20 aircraft have the same Zodiac Cirrus business class seat.

AA's 777-300ER business-class cabin.
AA’s 777-300ER business-class cabin. Photo by Zach Honig/TPG.

This seat is widely regarded as an excellent business class seat, and it was one of the best business class seats when it was introduced by Cathay Pacific. Although other business class seats have leapfrogged it — like Qatar’s Qsuite — it remains a solid option.

Meanwhile, American Airlines’ 777-200ER aircraft have two different business class seats. One is almost as good as Zodiac Cirrus, but the other one falls far short. And, since American Airlines arranged the 777-200ER with both business class seats in the same arrangement, you can’t be sure which one you’re going to end up on. That means you can end up on the solid B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat:

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

Or, you could get the Zodiac Concept D seat — which are often referred to as “rocking chairs” due to their unstable mounting.

Business class on American Airlines Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Image courtesy of American Airlines.
Business class on American Airlines Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Image courtesy of American Airlines.

Less Premium Economy Seats

Although less notable than the other downsides, this aircraft swap means slightly fewer premium economy seats. The Boeing 777-300ER has four rows of premium economy seats in a mostly 2-4-2 arrangement for a total of 28 seats, but the 777-200ER has three full rows of 2-4-2 seating for a total of 24 seats.

More Extra-Legroom Economy

There is an upside to this aircraft swap. As part of the premium economy retrofit of its Boeing 777-300ER, AA removed a significant amount of extra-legroom seats, leaving just 28 Main Cabin Extra seats. And 16 of those 28 are at the bulkhead or the emergency exit row, meaning even less seat width than the already-tight seat width in the 3-4-3 arrangement in economy.

Main Cabin Extra on American Airlines’ 777-200ER. Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy.

The Boeing 777-200 retrofit project was much kinder to the Main Cabin Extra section of the plane. There’s 66 extra-legroom seats on the -2. That’s over 30% of the 212-seat economy cabin, meaning that you might luck into one of these seats even if you don’t pay for it.

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