"It's better than I expected," says one frequent traveller in business class on the 31 January flight. Airline Business was impressed too.
The cabin palette emphasises blues and greys with a touch of red in economy in a way that looks contemporary and does away with the well-worn image that some of its older aircraft cabins envisage. While economy remains, well, economy, the first and business classes take after American's Oneworld alliance partner Cathay Pacific Airways' widely applauded premium classes.
Some of the biggest changes American made include the installation of fully lie-flat seats in business class (a standard on even the majority of its domestic peers' widebody fleets), the addition of the premium economy cabin Main Cabin Select, and offering of inflight perks including audio video on demand (AVOD) throughout the aircraft and satellite-based wi-fi by Panasonic (though that proved temperamental on the inaugural flight).
Two points jumped out to me. First, the privacy of the business class seats where one cannot see another passenger unless you or another person leans out into the aisle and, second, the "desk" configuration made possible by a pivoting chair in first class. Both are nice touches that premium travellers are likely to appreciate.
Business class privacy
In the words of Steven Moo-Young, director of onboard product planning and design, they bring a "sense of occasion" back to flying.
American's cabin upgrades are a much needed - if only from a competitive standpoint - change for the evolving airline. They are well executed and are likely to attract discerning high yield premium travellers to the flights where they are deployed.
The upgrades will be installed on American's 20 777-300ERs as they are delivered, with new cabins coming to its 47 777-200s and around half of its 58 Boeing 767-300ERs from the first half of 2014.
Note: American Airlines provided Airline Business with complimentary business class seats to and from Sao Paulo.