Official: American Airlines Eliminating “Premium” First Class

Official: American Airlines Eliminating “Premium” First Class

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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 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 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 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. 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 Flagship First Dining JFK

Bottom line

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?

Conversations (22)
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  1. 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.

  2. 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 .

  3. Steven E Guest

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. RF Guest

    Let's see United's replacement for Polaris.

    1. Gravelly Point Guy Guest

      Spot on!

  7. 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”

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Ryan Member

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

  13. 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.

  14. 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.

  15. 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 Gold

      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.

  16. eponymous coward Guest

    Bye, Felicia.

  17. 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.

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Steven E Guest

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

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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.

2
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.

2
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