American Cuts Dreamliner Luxury Seats to Offer Premium Economy

(Bloomberg) -- American Airlines Group Inc. is removing eight business-class seats from its Boeing Co. 787-8 Dreamliners as it completes a drive to add a new premium-economy offering on its biggest planes.

The first plane is undergoing a retrofit and American expects all 20 of the aircraft to be finished by the middle of next year, spokesman Joshua Freed said in an interview. That caps a shift to premium economy on the airline’s wide-body fleet, except aging Boeing 767 and Airbus SE A330-300 planes that American plans to retire soon.

Removing some business berths will enable the world’s biggest airline to fill the space with a larger number of premium-economy seats, which are catching on with passengers as a mid-priced option. On average, the new offering commands ticket prices that are about double the level of traditional coach class, the company said in July.

“People want it and they’re paying for it,” Freed said.

Business class will shrink to 20 seats on the 787-8 jets. Premium economy will have 28.

The new offering has wider seats than in coach, with more legroom and foot rests. Other amenities include free entertainment on larger video screens, broader meal choices, amenity kits and a pillow and blanket.

American took eight business-class seats off 13 of its 777-200 jetliners to make room for premium economy. On the other 34 planes of that model type, the company made room by carving out space from coach and “main cabin extra” seats that offer more legroom.

Premium economy is now on about 87 American aircraft flying 67 routes, and should be on 124 jets by the middle of next year, the company has said. It’s not offered on planes that fly domestic or near-international routes to destinations such as Mexico.

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