With American Airlines having unveiled its new business class seats, there’s another major update when it comes to the Fort Worth-based carrier’s premium passenger experience.
American will eliminate first class in late 2024
American is the only US airline to offer a “true” first class product:
- American’s Boeing 777-300ERs have eight first class seats
- American’s Airbus A321Ts have 10 first class seats
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 typically full with employees, so of course most people aren’t willing to pay a fortune to fly in it.
It has now been confirmed that American Airlines intends to eliminate first class as of late 2024, coinciding with the carrier rolling out its new business class product:
- American plans to reconfigure its premium A321Ts in a standard domestic configuration, and instead use other aircraft with flat beds (most likely Airbus A321XLRs) for premium transcon flights, which won’t feature first class (instead they’ll feature a business class that’s arguably better than the current first class)
- American has a new business class product that will be installed on newly delivered Boeing 787-9s, and will also be retrofitted on Boeing 777-300ERs
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.
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
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. I suspect American could just change the way these are monetized, just as we’ve seen the recent introduction of American Flagship Business Plus fares, which include Flagship First Dining.
American Airlines has confirmed 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.
What do you make of American Airlines eliminating first class?