Now flying on American Airlines: First class on every route from Washington, DC

Apr 19, 2021

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American Airlines is sticking to its word.

The Fort Worth-based carrier made a notable schedule update during the weekend for its Washington flying, per Cirium timetables. Specifically, American removed the Embraer 145 regional jet from routes to or from Reagan National (DCA) airport through the end of the schedule in April 2022.

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AA is upgauging the affected service, including short hops to Albany, New York, and Lansing, Michigan, with larger regional jets, like the 65-seat CRJ-700, 76-seat CRJ-900 and Embraer E175. American’s Embraer 145s had just 50 seats in an all-coach configuration with just three seats marked as extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra.

This means that every route to or from DCA (as well as those at nearby Dulles/IAD airport) will be operated by planes featuring both a first-class and coach cabin, a long-term play that was promised alongside American’s move to the new 14-gate DCA regional concourse.

For years, American’s regional operations from DCA were largely confined to the universally hated and notoriously overcrowded Gate 35X, a ground-level bus operation that served 14 remote stands for regional operations that saw more than 250,000 flights during its tenure.

Washington airport authorities, along with American Airlines, built a brand-new concourse to replace the bus operation, giving each regional aircraft its own jet bridge and terminal waiting area. That concourse opens Tuesday (April 20), marking one of the airport’s biggest improvements in nearly two decades — and one that comes amid the broader “Project Journey” initiative that will reshape DCA’s main concourse.

DCA’s new concourse opens on Thursday (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

During TPG’s preview tour of the new regional concourse, American’s managing director of DCA operations, Radney Robertson, explained that it “allows us to offer more connections. There will be no 50-seat aircraft in this market. Our entire regional product will be in a two-class regional jet with a first-class cabin. From service to more seats to more connections, it’s a win-win.”

American’s making a similar move about 200 miles away along the Northeast corridor. Flying larger regional jets equipped with a first-class cabin was one of the major selling points for AA’s new Northeast alliance with JetBlue. As part of the pact, American promised to upgauge all New York flying to jets equipped with a first-class cabin.

Related: First look at the new 14-gate DCA concourse

This spring, AA is adding 22 spacious, 65-seat Embraer 170 jets to its Eagle subsidiaries to support its upgauge strategy in New York. By offering first-class cabins on every flight, American likely is hoping to woo business travelers who are booking with a corporate budget and might appreciate the extra space.

Upgrading its Washington and New York regional operations comes as American is gearing up to retire its smallest jet, the Embraer 140, this May. Brian Znotins, American’s vice president of network planning, recently told TPG that “we are publishing our plans now to phase out that aircraft type. As we continue bringing larger regional jets into our system, the Embraer 140s are the first we are phasing out.”

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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