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American Airlines to ditch first-class seats for business class ‘suites’ on international flights

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American Airlines will phase out its first-class seats for more business-class seating on its long-haul international flights, the corporate said Thursday.

The airline will offer an upgraded premium experience with the launch of its latest “Flagship Suite,” offering passengers a reimagined aircraft interior and premium seating. 

In an earnings call Thursday with investors, Vasu Raja, the airline’s chief industrial officer, said first-class seating is being discontinued because “the shoppers weren’t buying it.” 

With latest deliveries of its Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 aircraft, debuting in 2024, the Flagship Suite seats will offer air travelers a non-public premium experience with a privacy door, a chaise lounge seating option and more personal space for storing. 

Single-aisle planes on domestic flights will retain first-class seating on the front of the jets, the corporate said.

American Airlines will more add business and premium economy seats, and drop top notch seats on long-haul flights. NurPhoto via Getty Images

American Airlines will add Flagship Suite and Premium Economy seats on new aircrafts and retrofit existing aircrafts with them. American Airlines will add Flagship Suite and Premium Economy seats on latest aircrafts and retrofit existing aircrafts with them. Bloomberg via Getty Images

“We should not eliminating first-class seats on domestic flights,” said an American Airlines spokesperson. “This move is barely for our international flights, with the introduction of recent aircraft.” 

American plans to extend its premium seating capability by 45% on its long-haul fleet by 2026 with 51 Flagship Suite seats and 32 Premium Economy seats on the Boeing 787-9, and 20 Flagship Suite and 12 Premium Economy seats on the Airbus A321XLR aircraft. 

The airline can also be looking into refreshing its existing aircraft, the Boeing 777-300ER, to incorporate Flagship Suite seats. The corporate plans to retrofit 20 of those planes with latest interiors starting late 2024.

They’ll feature 70 Flagship Suites and 44 premium economy ones. Its Airbus A321T fleet, consisting of 16 aircraft, might be aligned with the remaining of its A321 fleet, the corporate added.

“This is usually a reputation change. Business class at most carriers is what we might have called top notch 20 years ago,” airline consultant Mike Boyd told CNN.

The new seats will have better privacy and more in-seat storage space. The brand new seats on the aircrafts can have higher privacy and more in-seat space for storing. Bloomberg via Getty Images

During Thursday’s call, American forecast that fourth-quarter profit would exceed analyst estimates after posting better-than-expected earnings within the third quarter, as demand for travel remained resilient despite higher airfare and growing risks of an economic recession.

The corporate, the No 1. US airline by fleet size, said there aren’t any signs of a slowdown in consumer demand and expects air travel demand to remain “robust” next yr. Nevertheless it warned that its capability to fulfill the demand would remain constrained resulting from delays in aircraft deliveries and a shortage of pilots at its regional partners.

American is the most recent airline to offer an upbeat demand outlook at the same time as a worsening economic outlook has sparked worries about travel spending.

“As we move into 2023, the constraints facing our business today will remain,” Chief Financial Officer Derek Kerr said on an investor call.

 

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