A look inside the newly delivered American Airlines Boeing 787-8 with 'enhanced' business class
This post has been updated with new information from American Airlines.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, American Airlines has accelerated its retirement plans for a large portion of its fleet.
Specifically, the Fort Worth, Texas-based carrier has committed to retiring more than 100 planes, including the entire fleet of Boeing 757s and 767s, as well as the Airbus A330-300 and Embraer E190.
With these retirements, AA is paving the way for new jets. Though it's possible that the carrier will pause or defer delivery of some orders, the pandemic hasn't stopped the airline from taking delivery of its newest wide-body jets — a batch of Boeing 787-8s.
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AA has already received two of these new planes. On March 17, the first new 787-8 Dreamliner for AA since 2017, with registration N870AX, flew from the Boeing factory in Everett, Washington to AA's mega-hub in Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW). Since then, the plane has been parked in Tulsa (along with a good portion of AA's fleet).
And just yesterday, April 29, AA took delivery of its second new Boeing 787-8, with registration N871AY. AA expects to receive an additional 10 of these "baby" Dreamliners by the end of 2020, joining the company's existing fleet of 20 787-8s.
Though the new Dreamliners may look the same as the others on the outside, they're radically different on the inside.
Specifically, the new 787-8s feature a new business-class product compared to the other 20. While AA previously installed rocking Safran Concept D seats (that alternate forward and backwards), these new Dreamliners sport the Rockwell Collins Super Diamond reverse-herringbone product.
This above-average seat has been adopted by many international carriers, including Air Canada, China Airlines and Virgin Australia. In fact, this isn't AA's first jet to feature the Super Diamond. The carrier already has them installed on the larger 787-9s and select Boeing 777-200s.
But the Boeing 787-8 features an 'enhanced' version of the seat — never before seen on any AA jet. So, what does that mean?
Related: Best American Airlines seats ranked from best to worst
Well, AA modified its standard reverse-herringbone seat by adding a retractable privacy divider between the two center seats. American's other planes that feature the Super Diamonds don't have any divider between center seats, making them unpopular for solo travelers.
Now, with the addition of this retractable privacy divider, couples and solo travelers alike can rest assured that they can have privacy when they want it.
Additionally, the enhanced business-class product features a larger footwell area. Though we originally told that bed space would be increased, the adjustments were actually made to the footwell and ottoman area to create more "open living space." Nonetheless, this should help make it easier for people with larger feet to sleep.
Unfortunately, American didn't have further details to share about these modifications, but we'll be sure to review the new jet once it's safe to do so.
Though the center seats will certainly be more private, AA didn't elect to install a sliding door like its transatlantic partner British Airways did on its newly-retrofitted jets.
Nevertheless, these 'enhancements' are a welcome improvement to those who've found themselves stuck in a middle seat staring at their neighbor for a long-haul flight. Plus, the extra sleeping space will be much appreciated.
Though it'd be great if AA retrofitted its existing planes with the enhanced biz, I'd bet that in light of the pandemic, the carrier would prefer to save the cash.
Related: American Airlines adds more than 100 jets to those retiring due to the coronavirus
Of the major U.S. carriers, United's the only other operating the "baby" 787-8 Dreamliner. Though UA isn't taking delivery of new 787-8s, it is retrofitting all of its existing 787-8s with the new Polaris and Premium Plus product. I had the opportunity to fly on the first reconfigured jet and enjoyed my flight in the new Polaris mini-cabin.
Either way, I'm excited about AA's new 787-8. It'll feature 20 business-class pods, 28 premium economy recliners, 48 extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats and 138 seats in coach. In fact, the economy product has been updated to the Rockwell Collins Aspire seat.
The carrier has let us know that these jets will be receiving Viasat Wi-Fi, which is a marked improvement from the Panasonic Wi-Fi installed on the carrier's older 787-8s.
All in all, these enhancements were in line with my expectations. I'm looking forward to the day when it's once again safe to fly these new jets. After all, there's nothing like the new plane smell.