First-class seating on American Airlines’ international flights is going away.
“First class will not exist at American Airlines for the simple reason that our customers aren’t buying it,” Vasu Raja, chief commercial officer for American, told investors last week during a conference call, according to CNN.
The move, which is strictly for international flights and not domestic, is a result of business class becoming such an improved status, Raja said.
“The quality of the business class seat has improved so much. Frankly, by removing first class, we can provide more business class seats, which is what our customers most want or are most willing to pay for,” Raja said.
American Airlines is not the first to make such a move. Delta hasn’t offered first-class seating on international flights in more than two decades, while United made the change six years ago.
International flights on American will now have three levels of seating going forward: business class, premium economy, and standard economy.
Those who follow the airline industry said the elimination of first class is basically just a name change.
“Business class at most carriers is what we would have called first class 20 years ago,” airline consultant Mike Boyd told CNN.
The move comes in advance of other major changes to international flights in 2024 when the delivery of new planes will be complete with what the airline is labeling flagship suites.
These new areas of the plane will offer passengers what the airline is calling luxury in a private retreat.
The flagship suites will feature a privacy door, a chaise lounge seating option, and additional personal storage space.
“We are enhancing the customer experience across their entire journey with American,” Julie Rath, American Airlines’ vice president of customer experience said in a release. “The arrival of new long-haul aircraft and the customized seat design of the flagship suite seats will offer customers a truly private premium experience on our long-haul fleet.”
The suites will be part of several Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 planes that the airline has on order, which will be put into use by 2024.
In addition, American will be retrofitting about 20 current Boeing 777 planes in the fleet to add the flagship suites. Debuting in late 2024, American’s aircraft will feature more premium seats than its current design, with 70 flagship suite seats and 44 premium economy seats.
American will also retrofit some other planes with lie-flat seats on transcontinental flights leaving and arriving from New York and Boston.