American Airlines is in the process of making some major changes to its long haul passenger experience. The airline is introducing an all-new business class product, and in the process, is eliminating “premium” first class.
This new international passenger experience will debut on newly delivered Boeing 787-9s, and the airline has just put its first route with this aircraft on sale, between Dallas and Brisbane as of October 2024. We now finally know what the seat map will look like for this plane, so I wanted to go over all the details.
In this post:
American will have 30 premium Boeing 787-9s
American currently has 59 Boeing 787s in its fleet, comprised of 37 787-8s (the smaller variant), and 22 787-9s (the larger variant). At this point, American’s wide body aircraft order book still consists of 30 jets, all of which are 787-9s.
American is taking a new direction with these upcoming 787-9s, as they’re all expected to feature a different passenger experience, and they’ll be in a significantly less dense configuration, so they’ll be designed for premium and ultra long haul markets. While it’ll take some time for American to take delivery of all of these jets, this should represent a very nice improvement to the passenger experience.
American premium Boeing 787-9 layout & seat map
American’s premium Boeing 787-9s will feature just 244 seats, compared to the 285 seats that American’s existing Boeing 787-9s have. Just to break that down further:
- Future 787-9s will have 51 business class seats, 32 premium economy seats, 18 extra legroom economy seats, and 143 economy seats
- Current 787-9s have 30 business class seats, 21 premium economy seats, 36 extra legroom economy seats, and 198 economy seats
So this will be one of the most sparsely configured Boeing 787-9s out there, and that translates to lots of premium seats.
Now let’s take a look at what we can expect from each cabin on this aircraft. Note that there will be Viasat Wi-Fi on these jets, which compares very favorably to the Panasonic Wi-Fi you’ll currently find on American’s wide body fleet.
American’s premium 787-9 business class cabin & seats
American’s premium Boeing 787-9s will feature a staggering 51 business class seats. These will be reverse herringbone seats with doors that are in a 1-2-1 configuration, and they’ll be spread across two cabins. The forward cabin will have 32 business class seats, while the rear business class cabin will have 19 business class seats. There will be a walk-up bar in the center galley between the two cabins.
In business class, American Airlines has selected the Adient Ascent seat, which are comfortable reverse herringbone seats with doors. This should be a very nice improvement over American’s existing product. This is a highly customizable seat, and it’s one that you’ll also find on Qatar Airways’ 787-9s.
American’s premium 787-9 premium economy cabin & seats
American’s premium Boeing 787-9s will feature 32 premium economy seats. These seats will be in a 2-3-2 configuration, and will be in a single cabin, between the second and third set of doors.
American’s new premium economy product looks great, in terms seat finishes, privacy, technology, and even storage.
American’s premium 787-9 economy cabin & seats
American’s premium Boeing 787-9s will feature just 161 economy seats. This cabin will be configured in a 3-3-3 layout, and it’s quite an interesting setup.
The first thing to note is how little Main Cabin Extra this aircraft has — there’s no real Main Cabin Extra cabin, but rather the carrier’s extra legroom economy seating will only be in the two exit rows. So if you’re traveling as a family with young ones, you won’t be getting extra legroom economy seating on this aircraft.
There’s a small mini-cabin behind premium economy, consisting of rows 20, 21, and 22 (you can actually see that two pictures up). Then the rear cabin of the aircraft starts in row 23, and that’s also where most of the economy cabin is.
Don’t expect anything revolutionary here, but there will be new cabin finishes, and higher quality entertainment screens.
American premium Boeing 787-9 routes & flights
In addition to Boeing 787-9s having a new passenger experience, the biggest difference is just how premium these jets are. American’s existing 787-8s have 20 business class seats, existing 787-9s have 30 business class seats, and the new 787-9s have 51 business class seats. So that represents a 70-155% increase in business class seats, which is huge.
American has struggled for years with how to configure its wide body jets, and we’ve seen configurations changed several times:
- On the one hand, there are synergies to having a consistent configuration, so that planes can easily be cycled throughout the system efficiently
- On the other hand, not all markets have the same amount of premium demand; American has generally taken the approach of cramming as many seats as possible into jets, and that has largely applied to 787s up until now
I imagine these 787-9s will primarily be used in two ways:
- In markets with a lot of premium demand, where American wants to offer its best product; for example, this would include flights to London, Tokyo, etc.
- In ultra long range markets where American needs a lighter aircraft in order to not take a payload penalty; since the plane has fewer seats, it also weighs less
So long term, I think we’ll primarily see the premium 787-9s flying to premium joint venture hubs. However, the first confirmed route for this aircraft is Dallas to Brisbane, and clearly the aircraft will serve that route because of how long it is, and American needing a lighter aircraft.
American doesn’t operate many ultra long haul flights, but if the airline were to add more ultra long haul flights in the future (like to Hong Kong or Singapore), you can expect the premium 787-9 would serve those markets.
American Airlines will soon start taking delivery of 30 new Boeing 787-9s, featuring a new premium layout. These planes will have new seats in all cabins, including business class suites with doors, and an improved premium economy.
The biggest change with this aircraft is the layout, though. They’ll feature just 244 seats, with a huge 51-seat business class cabin. I’m excited to see these planes in service soon.
What do you make of American’s upcoming premium Boeing 787-9s?