American Airlines eliminates its First Class… for something much more exclusive

American is focusing on its new business-class offering, Flagship Suites – Photo: American Airlines / Courtesy.

In recent years, airlines have learned that they must be flexible and adapt to consumer demands and the economic environment. And in the face of this reality, American Airlines is abandoning its first-class seating offer on long-haul flights because customers have stopped buying premium cabin tickets.

In a call with investors, Vasu Raja, American Airlines’ chief commercial officer, made some comments on the matter that Insider released: “First class will not exist on the 777, nor on American Airlines, for the simple reason that our customers don’t buy it.”

By eliminating first class, American Airlines will provide more business class seats, “which is what our customers most want or are most willing to pay for,” Raja said.

In September, the airline introduced its new Flagship Suite business class, aiming to increase the number of premium seats available on its long-haul flights by 45% by 2026.

The Flagship Suite, which includes a reclining bed and a door that offers passengers greater privacy, will be installed on the new U.S. Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A321XLRs starting with 2024, and will upgrade its 20 Boeing 777-300ERs with the new suite by the end of the same year.

The change is intended to reflect a shift in the type of travel undertaken by passengers who choose to fly long-haul routes, Raja said, because, before the pandemic, half of the demand for premium cabins came from large corporations, but now, between 40% and 50% of that demand is “blended,” meaning travel with work and leisure elements.

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“The rest is leisure demand willing to pay more for the quality of the business class seat,” explained Raja.

Flagship Suite Cabin (American Airlines)

The comments come amid the company’s quarterly results, where Robert Isom, American’s chief executive officer, noted: “Demand remains strong, and it is clear that customers in the U.S. and other parts of the world continue to value air travel and the ability to reconnect after the pandemic. American has the youngest and most fuel-efficient fleet among U.S. network operators, and we are well-positioned for the future thanks to the incredible efforts of our team…

According to the third quarter report, domestic and short-haul international travel demand remains very strong. The airline expects further improvement in demand for long-haul international travel as travel restrictions and testing requirements are lifted worldwide.

American produced revenue of $13.5 billion, an increase of 13% compared to 2019 and a record for any quarter in the company’s history.