American Airlines announced on October 20 that it would be discontinuing first-class seats on all international flights, replacing them with more business-class seats.
The plan was shared by American’s chief commercial officer, Vasu Raja, in a conference call with investors.
“The first class will not exist . . . at American Airlines for the simple reason that our customers aren’t buying it,” he said. “The quality of the business-class seat has improved so much. And 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 was talking specifically about flights departing the United States—American will keep first class on domestic flights, though those seats aren’t lie-flat.
Last month, American Airlines shared details on its reimagined business class, dubbed the Flagship Suite Seats, which will be available on international flights starting in 2024. The Flagship Suite seats feature privacy doors, the option to make the seat into a chaise lounge or a lie-flat bed, and double the amount of personal storage space.
The airline also announced plans to add more Premium Economy seats on its international flights. The seats feature six additional inches of legroom and a deeper recline than regular Economy, and include complimentary alcoholic drinks and an amenity kit including items like socks, an eye mask, and lotion.
In a press release, American said it plans to increase the number of business and premium seats by “more than 45 percent by 2026.”
American’s new Boeing 787-9 aircraft will have 51 Flagship Suite seats and 32 Premium Economy seats, and the airline’s Airbus A321XLR aircraft will hold 20 Flagship Suite seats and 12 Premium Economy seats. The airline also plans to retrofit its Boeing 777-300ERs with the new Suites in 2024.
American isn’t the first airline to drop first-class offerings on international flights in lieu of more business class. Compared to its “Big Three” competitors, Delta and United, it’s the last to the party. Delta dropped international first class in 1998 and United eliminated it in 2016.
The news is just the latest in American’s new premium offerings. The Fort Worth–based carrier is also launching a series of reimagined Admirals Club Lounges. The first, at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, opens this month. Other redesigned lounges in the works include Newark Liberty International Airport, Austin–Bergstrom International Airport, and Denver International Airport, though the airline hasn’t yet given a timeline on when those will open.