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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

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