Flagship First Class is dead. Long live the Flagship Suite. American Airlines will introduce a new Flagship Suite® seat to its long haul fleet from 2024. With that move, the carrier’s Flagship First class cabin will be no more.
The arrival of new long-haul aircraft and the customized seat design of the Flagship Suite® seats will offer customers a truly private premium experience on our long-haul fleet.– American’s Vice President of Customer Experience Julie Rath
The new Flagship Suite seat offers customers a private premium experience with a privacy door, a chaise lounge seating option and more personal storage space.
The transition represents a major increase in premium capacity for the carrier. American will, by the middle of the decade, offer the most premium-heavy long haul configurations of the three major US legacy airlines. This includes a boost to the premium economy capacity on board, in addition to the larger business class cabins.
The new seats will arrive on upcoming deliveries of the 787-9 and A321XLR. These new aircraft are expected to join the fleet beginning in two years.
The carrier will also retrofit its 777-300ER aircraft, replacing the existing business class and first class cabins with the updated business class “suite” product. The A321T transcon fleet will also be retrofit to the company’s standard A321 configuration.
American still plans to offer lie-flat seats on those routes, likely with the A321XLR filling the role. American also notes that it will continue to partner with JetBlue and its Mint fleet for the transcon routes.
It is also worth noting that even as it retires the first class offering, American does not appear keen to make the first row of the new Flagship Suite a more premium option. Other carriers, including JetBlue, Air New Zealand, and Virgin Atlantic all made a play in that direction in recent months.
The new American Airlines 787-9 Flagship Suite Configuration
The new 787-9 deliveries will arrive in the fleet with 51 Flagship Suite seats, in a 1-2-1 layout on board. The current cabin has 30 business class seats. American will add four rows of Flagship Suites behind the second set of doors to expand that cabin capacity. It also appears the carrier can fit an additional row in the forward zone versus the current layout to complete the new cabin.
On the 787s the seats are shown in a herringbone layout, with the passenger head closer to the aisle.
The Flagship Suite offers an angled resting place for a passenger’s mobile phone, as well as options for AC, USB-A, and USB-C power charging. The rendering also shows a QR code on the seat, suggesting perhaps that inflight menus will move to a digital offering on board.
The aircraft will also include a larger premium economy cabin, with 32 seats in a 2-3-2 layout, up from 21 in the current config. The premium economy seats include foot rests in all rows, as well as USB-A and USB-C charging on the embedded IFE screens. They seats appear to be a version of the Safran Z535i.
While American does not explicitly disclose the economy class cabin capacity on the new layout, it appears that nine rows are being removed from the middle zone. Whether an additional row is squeezed into the rear of the plane to compensate remains unclear. But the overall seat count will be significantly reduced on board.
The new American Airlines A321XLR Flagship Suite Configuration
American Airlines’ new A321XLR fleet will fly with 20 Flagship Suite seats in a 1-1 layout. American’s A321T fleet flies with 30 premium seats, 10 in first class and 20 in business class. Most airlines flying single-aisle long haul tend towards a 16 seat premium cabin. JetBlue bucked that trend with a 24 seat Mint cabin on its A321LR aircraft. American appears happy to split the difference with 20 Suite seats and 12 in premium economy.
Unlike the 787-9s, the A321XLR Flagship Suites will be configured as a reverse herringbone, with the passenger head closer to the window than the aisle.
The rendering also shows fewer power options on board for business class travelers on the A321XLR, with the USB-A port apparently sacrificed.
Premium economy will be three rows of 2-2 seating. Despite being a different seating supplier (these appear to be the same Recaro seats as Delta introduced on its A321neo earlier this year) than on the 787-9, the seats on the A321XLR also offer a foot rest and the USB power options in the IFE screen.
The renderings appear to show 14 rows of economy class seats, which is more than American has on the A321T today.
The new American Airlines 777-300ER Flagship Suite configuration
From 2024 American also plans to retrofit its 777-300ER fleet, removing the Flagship First cabin. Those planes will fly with 70 Flagship Suite seats on board (10 more than United’s 777-300ER) and 44 premium economy seats, compared to 24 on United’s config. This is a very premium-heavy configuration, but also makes far more efficient use of the space without the first class cabin on board.
Presumably these seats will be similar to those used on the 787s, given the similar cabin layouts.
The Flagship experience covers more than just the seats on board. American invested heavily pre-pandemic in developing the Flagship First dining areas, for example. Other soft touches are also now somewhat in limbo. Those offerings could remain for high value customers (Concierge Key, or otherwise) or they could be rolled back in to the general Flagship Lounge experience. Worth keeping an eye on, for sure.
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