The Boeing 787 Dreamliner was introduced by Boeing in 2007. Designed to be a more fuel-efficient long-haul replacement for the 767, 787 variants have become a staple for several major air carriers. The 787-8, considered the base model, is configured for a typical capacity of 242 passengers, though some airlines are now removing business seats to add more room in economy.
American Airlines sent its flagship Boeing 787-8 to Boeing’s headquarters in Everett, Washington, on September 4 in order to have eight of its business class seats removed.
The change may sound insignificant, but Gary Leff at View from the Wing points out that it drops the business class section on the 787 to a mere twenty seats, effectively reducing the section by a whopping 28%. Critics warn that the reconfigured seating will make any awards or last-minute upgrades unlikely, even for members of American’s AAdvantage mileage program. In contrast, United Airlines and British Airways feature 36 and 35 business class seats respectively in their 787-8s.
The removal of business class seats makes room for American’s newly introduced “premium economy” front cabin seats, which will be located directly behind business class in the retrofitted 787s. American executives have stated that this move aligns with their sense that premium economy seats are viewed as an upgrade from standard economy rather than a downgrade from business.
American is accordingly doubling down on their premium economy seats, with Robert Isom, the carrier’s president, reporting that these seats are earning twice as much revenue as coach fares. The airline hopes to finish their overall fleet retrofit by 2019.