Skip to content

American Airlines Stripping Out Business Class Seats on 787-8 Retrofit

July 22, 2018
4 min read
American Airlines Stripping Out Business Class Seats on 787-8 Retrofit
This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Over the last two years, American Airlines has worked to revolutionize its fleet — for good and bad. One of the positive developments has been the quick installation of premium economy on its long-haul aircraft. Before United's first premium economy seat took flight in June, AA had 85 aircraft with a total of 2,030 premium economy seats already flying.

So far, the premium economy retrofits have been positive for flyers. While business class seats were pulled from some 777-200s to simplify the fleet, the airline has otherwise maintained the business class cabin and pulled space from economy to install premium economy. One of the results of this retrofit is that business class seats make up a higher percentage of the aircraft — and standard economy seats became a smaller percent of the aircraft. That means it became easier to get a business class upgrade... or at least an extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seat.

AircraftFirstBusinessPremium EconomyMain Cabin ExtraMain CabinTotal
A330-200 before20
(8%)
16
(6%)
222
(86%)
258
A330-200 after20
(8%)
21
(9%)
54
(22%)
152
(61%)
247
(-11)
777-300ER before8
(3%)
52
(17%)
45
(14%)
205
(66%)
310
777-300ER after8
(3%)
52
(17%)
28
(9%)
28
(9%)
188
(62%)
304
(-6)
777-200 V1 before45
(17%)
55
(21%)
160
(62%)
260
777-200 V2 before37
(13%)
58
(20%)
194
(67%)
289
777-200 after37
(14%)
24
(9%)
66
(24%)
146
(53%)
273
(+13/-16)

Unfortunately, that positive trend is ending with the Boeing 787-8 retrofit. The first seat maps for the retrofit aircraft are now showing up on ExpertFlyer, and it's bad news for those looking to get a business class upgrade.

American is stripping out eight business class seats and reducing Main Cabin Extra by 13 seats to make room for a four-row, 28-seat (2-3-2) premium economy section. Unlike most of the other retrofits, the total number of seats on the aircraft is going up:

AA 787-8BeforeAfter
Business2812.4%208.5%
Premium Economy2812.0%
Main Cabin Extra5524.3%4217.9%
Main Cabin14363.3%14461.5%
Total226234(+8 seats)

Premium Economy is already on sale on the AA 787-8 for flights starting May 2, 2019. The first 787-8 flight that I see with premium economy for sale is Flight 86 from Chicago's O'Hare (ORD) to London Heathrow (LHR):

In addition to the loss of 13 Main Cabin Extra seats, there's another downside to this reconfiguration for window seat lovers: American is putting almost all Main Cabin Extra (MCE) seating into the middle column of the aircraft:

Sign up for our daily newsletter

We reached out to American Airlines and an airline spokesperson confirmed that the seating arrangement we found is reflective of the airline's plan for the retrofit. However, this could change as aircraft prototyping won't start until September and installations won't begin until 2019.

H/T: Sensei on FlyerTalk

Featured image by Mike Headley

Top offers from our partners

How we chose these cards

Our points-obsessed staff uses a plethora of credit cards on a daily basis. If anyone on our team wouldn’t recommend it to a friend or a family member, we wouldn’t recommend it on The Points Guy either. Our opinions are our own, and have not been reviewed, approved, or endorsed by our advertising partners.
See all best card offers