The other day American announced that the Boeing 767-200s they use on their JFK to LAX and JFK to San Francisco routes will be replaced with smaller, 3 cabin Airbus A321s configured with fully lie-flat seats in First and Business class. They also revealed their plans to offer Main Cabin Extra seating, in-flight wifi, and in-seat entertainment systems throughout the A321 fleet.
After the announcement, I was able to ask some followup question of Alice Liu, Managing Director- Onboard Products at American.
Question: On the transcontinental routes you’re going from the 767-200 with 168 seats to a plane with a little more than 100 seats. That’s a big reduction in capacity. Are you planning to serve those routes with more flights?
Our current 767-200 aircraft has 160 seats and the A321T will have 102 seats. Servicing transcontinental routes with a narrowbody aircraft is consistent with our major competitors who also currently fly narrowbody aircraft in these markets. We will have more details on the frequency of flights and the number of A321T aircraft we plan to have in our fleet at a later date.
Question: American is reducing the number of 3 cabin planes on international routes, choosing instead to upgrade and expand business class, and your competitors have eliminated 3 class service on their JFK to LAX and JFK to SFO routes. You’re choosing to think differently on these transcontinental routes. What made you decide to keep the 3 cabin configuration?
American plans to be the only airline to offer a three-class configuration on transcontinental flights, and expects to be the only carrier to offer fully lie-flat seats in First and Business Class on transcontinental flights.
Using narrowbody aircraft in a three-class cabin configuration outfitted with fully lie-flat premium class seats, Wi-Fi and in-seat entertainment throughout on transcontinental routes allows American to significantly reduce cost while continuing to provide a truly premium experience for our high value customers.
Question: With fully lie-flat seats in the premium cabins and upgraded inflight entertainment options, the emphasis seems to be on an enhanced customer experience. How are the JFK to SFO and JFK to LAX markets different than (let’s say) DFW to LAX?
We know New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are important business hubs, and many of our high-value customers fly coast-to-coast quite often.
While this announcement does impact our customers that fly transcontinental routes, we strive to deliver an enhanced customer experience to all of our customers.
Our narrowbody enhancements are just the latest in a series of investments we are making to renew our fleet, and the continued progress will benefit all of the markets we fly.
Question: Are you going to continue offering your entertainment on demand in-flight streaming video product?
Yes, entertainment on demand will continue to be offered on our 767-200s transcontinental aircraft.
In-seat inflight entertainment will be available throughout the new A321Ts, and we are currently evaluating the specifics of the entertainment options that will be available to customers.
Question: When will the first of the new A321 Transcons go into service and who gets it first? LAX or SFO?
American intends to take delivery of these aircraft beginning in Nov. 2013 through 2014. We will have more details at a later date.
Question: Any chance that these new planes will have a new livery?
As you know the Airbus aircraft are composite planes meaning the exteriors cannot be polished like we currently do with our aircraft today.
We are evaluating how to address this in terms of the look and feel of the exterior of the aircraft and will have more details to share at a later date.
When I first learned that they would be replacing their 767-200s with the smaller planes, I was a little sorry to see them go. The big planes always excite my inner eight year old.
But after seeing the images and this video, my inner eight year old started daydreaming about flying through a night sky, across the country in a fully lie-flat seat!
A hat tip to Alice taking the time to answer my questions and to Laura A. at American for helping to make it possible!