American Airlines will soon no longer offer first class on international flights.
The carrier this week said that it was opting to expand its business class section on its aircraft, retrofitting its aircraft to replace first class with an expanded business class on long-haul international service.
According to Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja, who spoke during the company's third-quarter earnings call, American is making the move because of changes in consumer demand.
“Yes, the first class will not exist on the 777 or for that matter, at American Airlines for the simple reason that our customers aren't buying it,” Raja said.
“The quality of the business class has improved so much. And frankly, by removing it, we can go provide more business class seats, which is what our customers most want or most willing to pay for.”
According to Raja, American’s customers have shifted from business travelers to “blended demand” travelers, or those who are traveling for both work and leisure at the same time (United mentioned a similar trend in its earnings call earlier this week). Those blended demand travelers are willing to pay up from main cabins to business class, which is where the heightened demand for business, and the desire to increase its capacity onboard, is coming from.
In fact, American’s contracted corporation business is only 80% recovered from 2019 levels. Still, the airline has reported its highest-ever revenues for the second quarter in a row, and Raja said that is “on the strength of this blended demand that’s there and unmanaged business-related demand,” which produces higher yields for American.
Raja added that the airline does expect business travel to recover fully “as more countries open up” and visa “inefficiencies” get sorted out.
American was essentially the last U.S. airline that was offering a separate first-class cabin from its business-class offerings. Delta Air Line had rolled first class into business class in the 1990s and United Airlines stopped selling first-class flights in June 2019.
It’s worth noting that American’s business class offerings are still high-touch experiences, which include a Flagship Suite unveiled in September. That suite, which will feature on the carrier’s new Boeing 787-9s and Airbus A321XLRs from 2024, is highlighted by a lie-flat bed and privacy door