American Airlines plans a dramatic revamp to its 787-9 fleet. The carrier will introduce new premium cabin seats on board, according to documentation shared with employees. This includes a significantly larger business class cabin, and sliding privacy doors for those travelers. Upgraded in-flight entertainment and WiFi systems are also in the works.
American’s Business Class Suites
The new layout, dubbed 787-9P in the internal guidance, drops the seating capacity by 15% compared to the existing 787-9 design (285 v 244 seats). The biggest change comes at the front of the plane. The business class cabin will carry 51 seats, up from 30 today. The seats will also feature doors. American indicates that the seats are a new offering, at least for the airline. Specific model or supplier details are not mentioned. A “premium walk-up bar” area will also be available in the business class cabin.
More Premium Economy
The Premium Economy cabin also grows significantly, to 32 seats from the current 21. The carrier describes this also as a new seat to join the AA fleet. Making the seat count divisible by eight does open an interesting opportunity for the carrier to pick four rows of 2-4-2 in premium economy rather than the current three rows of 2-3-2. It also could be four rows of 2-3-2 and then a row of the outside pairs, with a galley pushing the middle three out in one row. Very much a “remains to be seen” situation, but just the chance that the cabin could use 2-4-2, the original economy class layout on the 787, is an interesting consideration.
Smaller Main Cabin
For travelers who just want a little extra legroom in the form of the carrier’s Main Cabin Extra product, the news is less good. That seating option will halve from 36 seats today to just 18 on the new layout. The economy class cabin will drop from 198 seats to 143 in the new config. Both Main Cabin Extra and Main Cabin will use the same seats as are flying on the latest 787-8 deliveries.
The cabin will feature updated trim and finish throughout “that encompasses AA branding and the new Flagship design.”
Less clear is whether the existing fleet will retrofit or if the updated layout only covers new deliveries. When those deliveries might finally resume also remains uncertain.
Updated Entertainment, Wi-Fi
On board entertainment will be powered by Thales Inflyt (presumably the AVANT platform). Satellite-based in-flight wifi service will be powered by Viasat. The current 787-9 fleet carries the Panasonic Avionics kit on board, but American has not been shy about its preference for Viasat of late, even on long-haul aircraft. With the first two ViaSat-3 satellites expected to launch in the year ahead these new planes should have no trouble staying online across a typical route profile.
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