American Airlines Begins Devaluing “Main Cabin Extra”

a window with a plane in the background

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American Airlines is like all the other US airlines in that it doesn’t have a Premium Economy cabin on its long-haul aircraft. Instead it has an area at the front of the economy cabin where legroom is slightly greater and, on the 777-300ER aircraft, where seat width is a little bit more acceptable.

The introduction of the 777-300ER aircraft saw American Airlines opt for a high-density seating arrangement in its economy class cabin putting passengers in a 10-across configuration with a seat width of just 17″. By comparison, the legacy 777-200 aircraft had 9-across seating and enjoyed a seat width of 18.2″.

That 1.2″ in width may not sound like much but, on a journey of any distance, it’s the difference between a modicum of comfort and a truly uncomfortable flight.

american-777-200-economy-cabinAmerican Airlines 777-200 layout – click to enlarge

The one saving grace in the 777-300ERs was that the front three rows of the economy class cabin were designated as “Main Cabin Extra” seats and maintained a 9-across configuration…which gave a respite from the 17″ torture just a little further back. This is where I normally sit when my systemwide upgrade fails to clear.

american-777-300re-main-cabin-extraMain Cabin Extra Seating On American Airlines 777-300ER – Note the 10-across seating further back

American is in the process of retrofitting the older 777-200 aircraft with new seats and, because I wasn’t paying attention, I expected the economy cabin to look very similar to what’s on offer in the 777-300ER.

But that’s absolutely not the case.

Wandreing Aramean has noted that, as of October 5th, American is filing a new seating arrangement for it’s 777-200 re-fitted aircraft with a 3-4-3 configuration in Main Cabin Extra. Not good!

According to Wandering Aramean:

As of today [5 October] the carrier is filing a new seating layout which includes the 3-4-3 configuration in MCE with the first flight expected to be on 20 December 2015 from Miami to Paris on AA 62. The schedule is filed for 2 weeks and excludes eastbound flights on Saturday.

The American website is not showing the seat map (at least not that I could wrangle) but I was able to pull a copy from a GDS display. It clearly shows five rows of MCE at 3-4-3 […] in the layout. That’s more MCE rows than the 77W [777-300ER] has. Expect to see this configuration spread to other routes as aircraft are further configured.

At fist I thought this was news but, after I reached out to Gary at View From The Wing to see if he had more info, it turned out I just hadn’t been paying attention. Oooops!

Screen Shot 2015-10-08 at 14.29.20

Still, now that I’m caught up (albeit over a year late!) I’m still not happy. Moving to a 10-across seating in Main Cabin Extra is a terrible change. One of the big advantages of having elite status has been that, if your upgrade doesn’t clear, at least you have main cabin extra to fall back on…but who wants to sit in a 10-across configuration for 9+ hours?

Luckily it’s not all bad news.

Some of the 777-200s that have already been reconfigured still only have the lower-density 260 seats with 9-across Main Cabin Extra and they will stay like that for a while (but will eventually get 10-across seating throughout Economy Class). So we have a stay of execution on some planes.

 

That will mean that, for a while, American Airlines will be flying with 3 types of 777:

  • 777-300ER with 9-across seating for Main Cabin Extra.
  • 777-200 (Type 1) with 9-across seating for Main Cabin Extra
  • 777-200 (Type 2) with 10-across seating for Main Cabin Extra

We already know that one of the routes with the hideous 10-across seating throughout the Economy Class cabin will be the Miami-Paris route and it will be interesting to see which other routes suffer a similar fate.

It will also be interesting to see what American plans for the 777-300ERs – I’m guessing they’ll eventually go with 10-across seating throughout the Economy Class cabin too and then it will be time to for me to reconsider my options when flying across the Atlantic.

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