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

Jul 22, 2018

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.

Aircraft First Business Premium Economy Main Cabin Extra Main Cabin Total
A330-200 before 20
(8%)
16
(6%)
222
(86%)
258
A330-200 after 20
(8%)
21
(9%)
54
(22%)
152
(61%)
247
(-11)
777-300ER before 8
(3%)
52
(17%)
45
(14%)
205
(66%)
310
777-300ER after 8
(3%)
52
(17%)
28
(9%)
28
(9%)
188
(62%)
304
(-6)
777-200 V1 before 45
(17%)
55
(21%)
160
(62%)
260
777-200 V2 before 37
(13%)
58
(20%)
194
(67%)
289
777-200 after 37
(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 787-8 Before After
Business 28 12.4% 20 8.5%
Premium Economy 28 12.0%
Main Cabin Extra 55 24.3% 42 17.9%
Main Cabin 143 63.3% 144 61.5%
Total 226 234 (+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:

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

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

WELCOME OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION*: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
17.49% - 24.49% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.