Details: American Airlines Eliminating “Premium” First Class

Details: American Airlines Eliminating “Premium” First Class

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In September 2022, American Airlines announced that it would eliminate its “premium” first class. This announcement coincided with the airline unveiling its new business class seats. Given all the updates there have been since that initial announcement, I wanted to recap all the details of American’s plans, since this change is expected to happen later this year.

American will eliminate first class in late 2024

American is the only US airline to offer a “true” first class product:

American Airlines Airbus A321T first class

To be clear, this “premium” first class refers to planes where there’s also a business class cabin, and first class is a cabin above that. We’re not talking about domestic flights, where the forward cabin is often marketed as first class (but there’s no business class).

The decision to offer first class was made before the merger between American Airlines and US Airways, and suffice it to say that the current management team (originally from America West) has been skeptical about first class since the merger.

In many ways, the failure of first class has been a self fulfilling prophecy — American’s first class product is incredibly mediocre, with little differentiation compared to business class, and it’s often full of employees, so of course most people aren’t willing to pay a fortune to fly in it.

American Airlines intends to eliminate first class as of late 2024 (I wouldn’t be surprised if this timeline gets pushed to 2025, though), coinciding with the carrier rolling out its new business class product:

American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER first class

I assume there will be some amount of time where planes are still flying with these first class seats but the product won’t be sold. It remains to be seen if those seats will just be available for anyone in business class to assign, if they’ll be available to select elite members, or if they’ll be sold at an upcharge.

New American Airlines Boeing 787-9 & 777-300ER business class product
New American Airlines Airbus A321XLR business class product

This isn’t much of a loss, frankly

I wish I could say that American eliminating first class is much of a loss, but… it isn’t. The reality is that the airline has taken a really half-you-know-what approach to this cabin. Just check out my review of American’s first class from Dallas to Hong Kong:

  • The first class seats are only marginally better than current business class seats, and lack privacy
  • Service in first class is highly inconsistent, and there are no standards when it comes to providing “premium” service
  • The soft product was only marginally differentiated back then, and there’s even less of a difference now than in the past
American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER first class

The only aspect of American’s first class that has been excellent is Flagship First Dining, which are some amazing restaurant-quality dining facilities inside Flagship Lounges. It would of course be a shame if these were eliminated, though American hasn’t commented one way or another as to what the future holds for that.

Personally I think it’s likely that Flagship First Dining will stick around, as will Flagship First Check-In. I suspect American could just change the way these are monetized, like with American Flagship Business Plus fares, with the Loyalty Point Rewards system, and more.

American Airlines Flagship First Dining DFW

Bottom line

American Airlines plans to eliminate “premium” first class as of late 2024, on both the Airbus A321Ts and Boeing 777-300ERs.

A321Ts will be replaced by other planes (probably A321XLRs) on transcon routes, featuring an improved business class product. Meanwhile 777-300ERs will be reconfigured with new business class seats, and in the process first class will be removed.

Personally I don’t view this as much of a loss, given how little American has invested in the onboard first class experience, and we’ll see improved business class products introduced.

What do you make of American Airlines eliminating first class?

Conversations (54)
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  1. Tomas Vickerman Guest

    And with fewer and fewer first class seats anyway……‍♂️

  2. AD Diamond

    I've flown it a number of times using systemwide upgrades, as one could reliably confirm business to first on many routes. And like @Ben I'm not interested in the upgrade lottery on a transatlatic flight. It's fine. Sometimes the service is good. I have a good friend who is an AA FA and if he knows the FA working first and tells them I'm flying, I might get better service. Or they might just say...

    I've flown it a number of times using systemwide upgrades, as one could reliably confirm business to first on many routes. And like @Ben I'm not interested in the upgrade lottery on a transatlatic flight. It's fine. Sometimes the service is good. I have a good friend who is an AA FA and if he knows the FA working first and tells them I'm flying, I might get better service. Or they might just say 'hi' and do their normal service.

    Last time I flew it I had my partner with me and we had two seats together. We got to the airport and I'd been moved. I showed the agent my confirmation -- and much to my surprise -- she fixed the problem and put me back in my original seat. Someone who was clearly a non-rev got on and took the seat I had vacated and glared at me for several minutes...So, yeah, it's full of non-revs and upgraders for a reason.

  3. DrewinNYC Guest

    @Lucky - Why would AA dispatch an A321XLR on transcon routes? I thought the lure of acquiring these new birds is the ability to fly to lower-demand markets in Europe and South America that the LR variant cannot currently reach? Having said that, I’ve been fortunate enough to fly FF on the 321T and the 77W to and from SYD, and will miss these options. While the hard product was nothing spectacular and AA catering...

    @Lucky - Why would AA dispatch an A321XLR on transcon routes? I thought the lure of acquiring these new birds is the ability to fly to lower-demand markets in Europe and South America that the LR variant cannot currently reach? Having said that, I’ve been fortunate enough to fly FF on the 321T and the 77W to and from SYD, and will miss these options. While the hard product was nothing spectacular and AA catering a letdown, riding in these spacious cabins was a significant improvement over the dense J cabins in terms of space and privacy.

  4. ChadMC Guest

    I totally disagree about the seats. They are substantially better than the standard business class seats. Granted, they do lack storage though. These seats have a massage feature built in. They are much wider and swivel. The amount of room in the mini suite is significant compared to business which is tight and a cramped. The business seat doesn't offer much privacy either. When in a laying position your head is next to the aisle....

    I totally disagree about the seats. They are substantially better than the standard business class seats. Granted, they do lack storage though. These seats have a massage feature built in. They are much wider and swivel. The amount of room in the mini suite is significant compared to business which is tight and a cramped. The business seat doesn't offer much privacy either. When in a laying position your head is next to the aisle. I like the business seats, but these first class are way better.

    The service is certainly hit or miss and not up to the high standards of international carriers. At the same time, if I can ever get one of these seats i always do as the comfort is above and beyond the standard business seat.

    1. Andrew Diamond

      Current-state, I'm with you.

      I think what Ben is saying is that the *new* business class seats will be better than the *current* first class seats. Which.. yunno.. we'll see. AA hasn't made a single new product I've liked in the last 10 years, hard to say how this will be different.

  5. Thomas L. Guest

    I use to work for American , the product was Intended to be good , the issue is there is no specific training for crew , people assigned to that cabin has no clue about what is a real
    First class ! You can’t put a I-hope waitress serving in the finest Michelin restaurant without training and affinity correct ? This is what happens in American , anyone can work that cabin , most have no finesse nor know what how looks like this product in a real airline .

    1. Patrice Guest

      It's the same at United. There has been no hands-on premium cabin training in more than 20 years. It got worse with the merger since inflight training moved to Houston and the curriculum for new hires doesn't include any meaningful premium training. They barely know how to mix a cocktail, let alone the subtleties needed for a more sophisticated service.

  6. Kai Guest

    with up to 54 business class seats in a plane this class , except for the hardware , now has the feeling of traveling in coach.
    I will definitely miss first and will book with airlines that still offer it.

  7. Chris Guest

    Ask ridiculous prices.
    + Seats left unsold.
    + Accomodate staff.

    —————————————-

    We really hate our customers

    An easy way to sum this issue up.

    1. Fed up Guest

      What is your issue with accommodating staff? Staff at ALL airlines get this, it's part of compensation. Without it, no one would work for an airline for low pay and crap health benefits

      I hope airlines continue make it impossible for staff to fly and watch everyone quit and they cut flights and food luck to you all.

  8. yiannis93117 Guest

    Good! Glad its totally not needed. Only upgrades or people flying on points. Pay for business and deal with it, it's as good as it'll get

  9. Bert Guest

    Who flying AA metal will have access to Chelsea lounge at JFK other than CK?

    1. Toilet Paper Man Guest

      Anybody who is on AA's Flagship Business Plus ticket presumably.

  10. Andrew Guest

    So any new news or is this just a reminder?

  11. PCT Member

    IMHO, I agree with the many comments regarding the First Class seat on the 77W. It is WAY better than J but the rest of the product is absolute crap! We soon shall see how good the new Flagship Suite is. As for FFD, my visit with family last month at DFW was pretty horrible or perhaps I had set my expectations too high? Would never waste $$ or miles or loyalty rewards on such...

    IMHO, I agree with the many comments regarding the First Class seat on the 77W. It is WAY better than J but the rest of the product is absolute crap! We soon shall see how good the new Flagship Suite is. As for FFD, my visit with family last month at DFW was pretty horrible or perhaps I had set my expectations too high? Would never waste $$ or miles or loyalty rewards on such a subpar experience. I will be perfectly happy in the Flagship Lounge today on my way to LHR! CHEERS!

    1. Lee Guest

      I was fortunate enough to have experienced the BA Concorde Room at JFK T7 a few times. The Chelsea Lounge shared with AA at JFK T8 is a far cry from it. The Chelsea Lounge is okay at best and I sense things are driven by AA Management's cost cutting imperative.

      Notable in AA first class (long-haul and transcon) is the beef short rib and brisket. I've always senses they were USDA Select (which is...

      I was fortunate enough to have experienced the BA Concorde Room at JFK T7 a few times. The Chelsea Lounge shared with AA at JFK T8 is a far cry from it. The Chelsea Lounge is okay at best and I sense things are driven by AA Management's cost cutting imperative.

      Notable in AA first class (long-haul and transcon) is the beef short rib and brisket. I've always senses they were USDA Select (which is below USDA Choice and way below USDA Prime). For a four-ounce portion, the $3 extra that USDA Prime would cost would significantly improve the experience. I'd pay AA an extra $30 for it. But, AA Management can't get the concept.

  12. D3kingg Guest

    Sure the extra space of 2 inches in flagship first mattered on a 14+ hour flight. I think retrofitting the 777-300s should be low priority. Take deliveries of the new planes and start retrofitting the newer 787s. Although I guess there’s competition on the LHR routes so in that case retrofitting the 777-300s are important .

    1. Lee Guest

      I have flown many long-haul flights in Flagship First and can confirm that the move from the current first class seat on the 77W to the new business class seat is a big downgrade. Perhaps there is a two-inch difference in the length of the lay-flat seat. But, the difference in total real estate for the suite as a whole is like night and day. On a flight last year, due to availability, I had...

      I have flown many long-haul flights in Flagship First and can confirm that the move from the current first class seat on the 77W to the new business class seat is a big downgrade. Perhaps there is a two-inch difference in the length of the lay-flat seat. But, the difference in total real estate for the suite as a whole is like night and day. On a flight last year, due to availability, I had a business class seat from LHR to LAX. As everyone in Y was in awe as they passed through J during boarding, I was thinking how cramped the seat was. Ha.

    2. GUWonder Guest

      Densification hit economy class passengers. Here densification will hit some premium revenue passengers, but AA has had diminishing interest in that market for quite some time and this is yet another sign of AA that.

      I am just waiting to see when they start shrinking business class cabins even more in favor of “premium economy” where it’s been so much of a gravy train for the airlines that they want more of that while...

      Densification hit economy class passengers. Here densification will hit some premium revenue passengers, but AA has had diminishing interest in that market for quite some time and this is yet another sign of AA that.

      I am just waiting to see when they start shrinking business class cabins even more in favor of “premium economy” where it’s been so much of a gravy train for the airlines that they want more of that while being more invested than ever in making economy class ever worst in hopes of milking consumers even more with various “buy up” offers to escape the worst of what this airline deliberately chose to make things worse for the plurality of passengers.

      It’s been quite some time since I’ve even considered paying up more miles for long-haul first class on AA instead of just settling for business class when flying AA. And with AA, there isn’t very much that feels premium to me. The LCC mentality appears to rule AA HQ, but AA has to play to the investment community as a legacy major airline and thus makes an effort to sort of follow what DL does with in-flight product offering.

  13. SMR Guest

    Those seats were WAY better than business class...not marginally better. Food is not something you should eat in either class and service was not better. AA had no business in the F class market

  14. Lee Guest

    The schedule at the end of 2024 is already showing 777-300s without first class. Clearly, some of these aircraft have been pulled out of service for retrofit. The schedule is still reflecting T-Birds through the end of the year. The new business class suite on the XLRs is a Super Diamond and not meaningfully different from the current first class seat on the T-Birds.

    1. Lee Guest

      Flagship First Dining will remain. "Regular" Flagship Business will only have access to Flagship Lounges (or Greenwich Lounge at JFK or Admirals Club in other locations) but not FFD. "Premier" Flagship Business will be an up-sell that includes FFD. Initially, FFD access was only going to be for revenue tickets. Now, FFD will be available for (likely) 40k points per person.

    2. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Lee -- Interesting, on which routes are you seeing 77Ws scheduled without first class? Also, what am I missing regarding Super Diamond seats on the A321XLRs? These seats face the aisle and not the window -- those are herringbone seats, and not reverse herringbone seats.

    3. Lee Guest

      JFK-LHR for the 77W. What I saw was absolutely not the 772. Regarding the seats on the XLR, there will be *noticeable* differences but there will not be *meaningful* differences. I fly FF between LAX and JFK a few times a year. I don't expect to feel worse off. And, I'm hoping that the first row will be like AF's new A350-900 first row business. Regarding FFD at LAX, about two years ago, a management-level...

      JFK-LHR for the 77W. What I saw was absolutely not the 772. Regarding the seats on the XLR, there will be *noticeable* differences but there will not be *meaningful* differences. I fly FF between LAX and JFK a few times a year. I don't expect to feel worse off. And, I'm hoping that the first row will be like AF's new A350-900 first row business. Regarding FFD at LAX, about two years ago, a management-level person told me that it was going to be closed permanently. But, recently, I was told that it would be resurrected upon the completion of the LAX T4 refurbishment. Flagship First check-in is supposed to have direct access to the Flagship Lounge and FF Dining. What was not clear was whether Flagship First check-in will have private TSA a la LAX T3 Delta One check-in (or BA's LHR T5 First Wing).

    4. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Lee -- Do you have a particular flight where you see that? Because I see all 77Ws listed from JFK to LHR for late this year as still showing first class for sale. And I'm also still not following the Super Diamond comment, but maybe that's just me?

    5. Lee Guest

      Regarding the flight, I just don't remember. Sorry.

      Regarding the XLR seat, perhaps the best way for me to frame it is that I don't expect it to be a subjective downgrade from the existing seat. Sorry for any lack of clarity.

      In your review of the new Air France A350-900 Opera seat, you noted the extra space in the bulkhead seat. I'm hoping the same is the case with AA's XLRs. With the...

      Regarding the flight, I just don't remember. Sorry.

      Regarding the XLR seat, perhaps the best way for me to frame it is that I don't expect it to be a subjective downgrade from the existing seat. Sorry for any lack of clarity.

      In your review of the new Air France A350-900 Opera seat, you noted the extra space in the bulkhead seat. I'm hoping the same is the case with AA's XLRs. With the current T-Birds, there is the cabinet top in front of you, which is typically used for displaying in-flight snacks. Which is not a bad thing. If some of that space were allocated to that bulkhead seat, it would be particularly nice. Sorry for any lack of clarity.

  15. Andrew Diamond

    At LAX AA club, I got an offer for 7500 miles on check in for club access or 15000 miles for flagship dining. I think it's probably going to look more like that.

  16. Brett Guest

    It sounds like XLRs will only have 20 business class seats vs. 321Ts have 20 b-class + 10 first class seats (10 more premium seats per flight). As an EP, I have seen many cabin rolls where I get the last upgraded seat to business as they fill the very front of the plane. Any thoughts on impact on upgrade space? Seems like a big downgrade with reduced capacity on this route.

    1. Lee Guest

      DL & AA have adopted a practice that makes complimentary upgrades less and less likely for elites: discounted paid upgrades to the elites most likely to receive a complimentary upgrade (on a given flight). The elite's perspective: a guaranteed discounted paid upgrade is better than a probabilistic complimentary upgrade. So, elites have been paying . . . and complimentary upgrades have been evaporating. I don't see upgrades as a realizable benefit.

  17. D3kingg Guest

    The 77W seats were spacious for sleeping. The 2 somewhat inches wider seats than business class made a difference on an ultra long haul .

  18. Steven E Guest

    American premium First class (aka Staff Class)
    What will they do now

  19. Kay Ma Guest

    The thing that is hard to take with American (compared to Swiss or BA) is that they don’t sell first on some routes and then don’t let full-fare business passengers use the first lounge (eg London, Miami etc) even for Exec Plat members.

  20. Brad Guest

    Back in the late '80s ( I know ancient history ) I HAD to fly AA from SFO to JFK. A lot. BUT I got to fly F. I thought is OK at the time...until I got bumped to UA and then TW and saw what domestic F should be. I was from a PA background and just thought crappy service in the US was a given. Years later, I convinced my thrifty boyfriend to...

    Back in the late '80s ( I know ancient history ) I HAD to fly AA from SFO to JFK. A lot. BUT I got to fly F. I thought is OK at the time...until I got bumped to UA and then TW and saw what domestic F should be. I was from a PA background and just thought crappy service in the US was a given. Years later, I convinced my thrifty boyfriend to fly F class...AA was the only option. HUGE waste of money and HUGE eating crow on my part. I LOATHE AA and really wish the would merge with Frontier and get it over with.

  21. RF Guest

    Let's see United's replacement for Polaris.

    1. Gravelly Point Guy Guest

      Spot on!

  22. Mick Guest

    As per an article on Live and Let Fly last month American basically told a customer that international first class was the same as business class….. writing on the wall.

    Seriously how much premium for AA flagship dining?! If that was a standalone restaurant how much would you pay for a meal there? $50-60-70 dollars pp? Mind you as much as I love flying J and F the whole thing is somewhat ludicrous. Even...

    As per an article on Live and Let Fly last month American basically told a customer that international first class was the same as business class….. writing on the wall.

    Seriously how much premium for AA flagship dining?! If that was a standalone restaurant how much would you pay for a meal there? $50-60-70 dollars pp? Mind you as much as I love flying J and F the whole thing is somewhat ludicrous. Even the emirates new F is equivalent to a $50 comfort inn. Like can you imagine walking into a hotel and they say “your room is this one. It’s based on the new Singapore suites first class. It has a revolving armchair, and a small tv. And a small bed. But if you buy two rooms you can kinda share with your significant other. That will be min $10k thanks”

  23. Lee Guest

    FF Dining is NOT returning to LAX.

    FF Dining at JFK will be replaced by an as yet unconfirmed space in the new joint AA-BA lounge that is under construction.

    Given AA management's focus on cost reduction, it's hard to imagine that FF Dining in other locations will survive. All of this when Delta One Dining begins it's rollout in 2023 and 2024.

    1. Lee Guest

      In the interim two years, this comment has been overcome by events. Disregard.

  24. BenjaminGuttery Diamond

    Ben, can you do SEVERAL articles on the ridiculous pricing right now? $14,000 for old Business Class seat from DFW-PHL-ZUR. $12,000 for the same old seat DFW-MAD-GVA, $1,600 for domestic "First Class" DFW-TYS. $1,400 for the same domestic FC DFW-DEN. The pricing for seats is insanity right now. Even Main Cabin tickets are just ludicrous, but for Premium Economy/Business on most International flights are just unattainable with cash right now.

    1. BenjaminKohl Gold

      Unfortunately some amount is supply and demand

  25. Treat Guest

    As someone based in NYC, I will write a defense of the a321T F cabin. A small, private cabin allows for personalized service, quick boarding and leaving, and relative calm. Compared to the ancient Delta 767s or the hectic boarding experience for the united 777s that operate transcons, the a321T feels incredibly civilized. Flagship first dining is also differentiated compared to other premium transcon offerings - no Polaris dining is offered, and the JFK Delta...

    As someone based in NYC, I will write a defense of the a321T F cabin. A small, private cabin allows for personalized service, quick boarding and leaving, and relative calm. Compared to the ancient Delta 767s or the hectic boarding experience for the united 777s that operate transcons, the a321T feels incredibly civilized. Flagship first dining is also differentiated compared to other premium transcon offerings - no Polaris dining is offered, and the JFK Delta skyclub doesn't have proper meals. The late flight from JFK-SFO is well timed to make it from the city in time for dinner at the lounge, board last with plenty of room for your bags, push back, and go.

    1. William Guest

      Yep, the privacy is what will be missing, hopefully the higher walls of the new pods will help offset the loss of intimacy in the cabin.

  26. Eskimo Guest

    Rather than using "real" or "premium" First Class, maybe OMAAT should start spearheading the use of "fake" First Class.
    So you can say you flew on LH First Class to ORD connecting to UA "fake" First Class to MIA.

    1. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      How about domestic “first” - quotes being operative. It’s laughable that domestic carriers use “first” trying to conjure up images of champagne and beluga when all it amounts to is some extra room, a seat with a bit more padding, and free pretzels with well drinks.

  27. Ryan Gold

    I imagine BA is the winner here on JV routes, now they won't have to rev share their F seats.

  28. George Romey Guest

    It makes sense. With private air travel becoming more popular and cheaper it makes sense for top executives just to buy private air time. For the LAX routes the entire Hollywood machine is disappearing. Do you think independent studios that make movies that end up on Free Youtube or right to video are going shell out $10K a pop to fly their "talent" and producers/directors?

    Possibly if AA had made it a really superior product but space on an a/c is limited.

  29. HkCaGu Guest

    So the Sussexes of Montecito will now fly Speedbird again?

    1. Eskimo Guest

      Probably not.
      The Duke didn't want God to save the king.

  30. jfhscott Guest

    So, what, exactly does a "business plus fare" include other than Flagship First dining?

    From what I can tell, very little. And as pleasant as Flagship First dining may be, I do not care to spend the time necessary to enjoy it at the airport. And I do not envision spending $250 more for business plus and walk out of Flagship First dining declaring "that was $250 well spent".

    1. Super Diamond

      I'd imagine business travelers who are able to purchase any business fare as long as it says/codes as business will be the target market.

      One reason I think I'm right is that on the LAX-JFK three-class flight, you'd sometimes see First being sold for less than Business - because all those Business travelers could not book those tickets even though it's less expensive because it codes as First and corporate wouldn't approve.

    2. Lune Guest

      Very true, but wouldn't those travelers be able to get reimbursed for their meals? There are usually at least a couple decent restaurants at most of the big airports, and I imagine they can submit those receipts as well.

    3. Eliteflyer Guest

      @Lune - there may be caps on per diem meal reimbursement and alcohol may be excluded from reimbursement, so lumping it into the price of the ticket may be preferable (and also net positive for elite qualification progress).

  31. eponymous coward Guest

    Bye, Felicia.

  32. uldguy Diamond

    Good riddance. It was not a competitive product and AA made it painfully clear that they had no intention to invest the time, money, training, etc. to make it so. They have finally come to the same conclusion as the other mainline U.S. carriers, and quite a few international carriers as well, that first class is the Dodo bird of the airline industry. It's final extinction will eventually happen.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

BenjaminGuttery Diamond

Ben, can you do SEVERAL articles on the ridiculous pricing right now? $14,000 for old Business Class seat from DFW-PHL-ZUR. $12,000 for the same old seat DFW-MAD-GVA, $1,600 for domestic "First Class" DFW-TYS. $1,400 for the same domestic FC DFW-DEN. The pricing for seats is insanity right now. Even Main Cabin tickets are just ludicrous, but for Premium Economy/Business on most International flights are just unattainable with cash right now.

5
Chris Guest

Ask ridiculous prices. + Seats left unsold. + Accomodate staff. —————————————- We really hate our customers An easy way to sum this issue up.

4
Super Diamond

I'd imagine business travelers who are able to purchase any business fare as long as it says/codes as business will be the target market. One reason I think I'm right is that on the LAX-JFK three-class flight, you'd sometimes see First being sold for less than Business - because all those Business travelers could not book those tickets even though it's less expensive because it codes as First and corporate wouldn't approve.

4
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