Starting later this year, American will begin gradually reconfiguring its fleet of 47 Boeing 777-200ER jets. The planes will be fitted with a host of enhancements. What they won't have, however, is any first-class seating.
The current configuration, with 16 first-class seats, 37 business-class seats, and 194 coach seats, will be replaced with 45 business-class seats, 45 Main Cabin Extra seats (coach seats with up to six extra inches of pitch), and 170 regular coach seats.
As has been the case with the great majority of recent flight-product upgrades, the big story is up front: those new business-class seats. Rather than the 2-3-2 layout of the current business class, the new seats will be angled, some facing forward, some backward, with aisle access at every seat. The seats are fully lie-flat, stretching 6 feet, 4 inches. Each seat has its own 17-inch touchscreen monitor. There's a walk-up bar. And so on.
If they didn't know American was calling it business class, most travelers would probably think they were in first class.
Still, for American customers hoping for an upgrade, the new configuration may amount to a downgrade. Combining first and business class, the current layout includes a total of 53 premium seats, versus just 45 business-class seats following the change. That means fewer seats available for upgrades (although the addition of Main Cabin Extra seats will help).
On the other hand, there will be more business-class seats available to book with miles.
Details of the new coach seating—seat pitch and legroom, for instance, which are key determinants of flyer comfort on long-haul flights—haven't been disclosed.
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This article originally appeared on FrequentFlier.com.