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American Airlines has been updating its fleet for years, giving it one of the youngest fleets in the airline industry.  While there are still some old planes (and interiors) flying around the world wearing the AA logo, you’ll find plenty of new planes such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  Last year, American Airlines doubled down on the Dreamliner, placing another large order. The airline placed orders for both the 787-8 and larger 787-9 aircraft, which gives them a lot of flexibility for new route expansion and for retiring older aircraft.

A recent announcement to employees by AA’s Vice President of planning, Vasu Raja, says that the Boeing 787 is coming to Philadelphia:

“The 788 will take out the 767-300. The first big wave of that will start to happen in January 2020. We’ll have 3 787s that go into Philadelphia. By the end of 2020 the 78 will have replaced the 767 in Philadelphia and after that it take out the 767s that remain in Miami.”

“As part of our recent Boeing order we aren’t just taking 788s we’re taking 789s too. The 789s are very much there to provide future international growth to the airline. That’ll come in any number of our hubs. Over time, and this is going far into the future, the 787 will realistically fly in any of our widebody hubs today and maybe a few others.”

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a much more comfortable aircraft for long-haul travel. Passengers report less jet lag and other flying fatigue, likely due to the lower altitude and increased humidification in the cabin.

Business class seats on American Airlines
Business class seats on American Airlines’ Boeing 787-8.

Taking a look at the December/January timeframe, we can start to get a sense of what routes we’ll see the Boeing 787 Dreamliners pop up on. In his announcement, Raja notes that January will see three 787s in Philadelphia. Right now, American flies both the Airbus A330 and the Boeing 767 out of Philadelphia. There are exactly three routes that are scheduled to see a 767 in December before the projected changes:

  • Amsterdam (AMS)
  • Manchester (MAN)
  • Zurich (ZRH)

While it’s no guarantee, these routes seem the most likely to swap one-for-one with the new 787s Raja references. The 787 is a great replacement for the older 767 when it comes to the quality of the seats.  However, that will mean a few less seats in business class, as the 787-8 is currently being configured by American to have 20 seats, down from 28 originally.

Business Class Losses Are Premium Economy Gains

Some of the seats being taken away in the business class cabin are being replaced with the new premium economy product.  American Airlines appears to see promise in the growth of premium economy demand, as they’re putting a bigger premium economy section (28 seats) on the smaller 787-8 versus the 21 seats on the larger 787-9.  The premium economy cabin is comprised of seats similar to a domestic first class seat, though they recline farther and come with footrests/legrests.  Not all seats have the same footrest, so seat selection can be important. JT Genter, Senior Points & Miles Reporter at The Points Guy, covers the full premium economy experience in a detailed review.

The Bottom Line

Bringing the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Philadelphia is definitely an upgrade for American Airlines passengers heading to Europe.  Though there is a reduction in business class seats the first 787s to find a home at Philadelphia should have more total premium seats overall for passenger comfort.  The international destinations that American currently serves out of Philadelphia are nowhere near a challenge for the range of the 787.  The 787 Dreamliner can fly more than 8,000 nautical miles, where the current European routes only cover about half that distance.

With American Airlines drawing down capacity at New York’s JFK Airport, Philadelphia is increasingly becoming the connecting airport to Europe for passengers living in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic.  The range of the 787 gives us hope that Western Europe won’t be the only far away region American Airlines will take us to in the near future.

Know before you go.

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