American Airlines is beefing up its business class with a seat so good that the Oneworld member will remove first class from its international fleet.
The all-new Boeing 787 Flagship Suites feature more personal space than American’s current business class, along with the very on-trend sliding door.
As a halfway point to transforming into a lie-flat bed, American claims its Flagship Suites convert into a relaxed “chaise lounge position” – which to us sounds like marketing-speak for what other airlines and seat-makers invariably refer to as Lazy Z, sun-lounge or deckchair mode.
Other creature comforts include several storage nooks, power from AC and dual USB-A and USB-C sockets and, Executive Traveller understands, wireless charging for smartphones.
Each Flagship Suite is angled away from the aisle for greater privacy, with a sliding partition between the paired middle seats if you’re travelling with a partner.
There are suggestions the seat is a customised Ascent model from Adient Aerospace, which is also seen on Qatar Airways’ latest Boeing 787s and has been selected by Hawaiian Airlines for its first Dreamliners due from 2023; approached by Executive Traveller, a spokesperson for Adient Aerospace declined to comment, but notably did not deny the suggestion.
We’ll first see the Flagship Suites on new Boeing 787-9 deliveries expected from 2024.
They’ll also be retrofitted to the older Boeing 777-300ER fleet starting in late 2024, with those jets – which usually feature on the Sydney-Los Angeles route – seeing their eight first class seats replaced by an extend Flagship Suites business class cabin of 70 seats.
The A321XLR Flagship Suites boast the same core features as their Boeing 787 and 777 siblings – such as large HD screens, handy storage areas and sliding doors – although they’ll be angled towards the aisle.
Each A321XLR will have 20 Flagship Suites arranged in a 1-1 configuration, which is establishing itself as the premium layout for long-range single-aisle jets.
American says the versatile A321XLRs with Flagship Suites will appear on trans-Atlantic flights from its US northeast hubs as well as ‘premium’ transcontinental routes (such as New York and Boston to Los Angeles and San Francisco) – a wide-reaching network along the same lines as the Qantas A321XLRs due in lane 2024.
Those domestic transcon routes which currently have first class alongside business class will also see first phased out, with American’s premium A321T jets being retrofitted to match the rest of the domestic A321 fleet as the A321XLRs take over.
It’s not yet known what the extension of the Flagship brand to business class and the elimination of first class means for airports where American Airlines currently offers an upmarket Flagship First Dining room inside some Flagship business class lounges (including New York JFK, Dallas/Fort Worth and Los Angeles).
American recently began selling Flagship Business Plus fares which include dining room access on east-west and some international flights.
As previously reported, American is embarking on a sweeping upgrade of its Admirals Club lounges – the first of which opens at Washington DC’s National Airport later this year – and some elements of the new Admirals Club design will also make their way onto the Flagships Suites.
American Airlines’ new premium economy
The next wave of Boeing 787-9s and the A321XLRs will also see a new premium economy seat.
Each of the recliners comes with headrest ‘wings’ for privacy, extra storage areas, larger video screens and a swing-down footrest.
As with the Flagship Suites, there’ll be a different premium economy seat on the Boeing 787-9 and A321XLR, but sharing similar features.
One notable result of this is that American will also end up boosting the premium seating options on these jets, in a sign of confidence for what lies ahead.
The 30 factory-fresh Boeing 787-9s will have 51 Flagship Suites in business class, 32 premium economy seats, 18 Main Cabin Extra seats, and 143 Main Cabin economy seats – out of a total of 244 seats, just over a third will be in the business and premium economy cabins.
The 50 new A321XLRs will arrive with 20 Flagship Suites and 12 premium economy seats.
Additional reporting by Matt Lennon