American to refresh widebody fleet

Dallas
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American Airlines has announced extensive refurbishments to its Boeing 777-200 and 767-300 fleets, as part of a larger upgrade to its inflight product that includes new seats and entertainment options.

The newly upgraded aircraft will include lie-flat business class seats, Main Cabin Select premium economy seats as well as audio video on demand (AVOD) for all passengers. Inflight wireless internet will be installed on the 777-200s.

"Our hope is that by enhancing the products and services, and by renewing and refreshing our fleet we can attract even more high value customers," says Robert Friedman, vice president of marketing at American, during a press conference.

The airline will install up to 45 new lie-flat business class seats, up to 45 main cabin select premium economy seats and up to 170 economy seats for a total of 260, which is up from the current 243, on all of its 47 777-200s. It will remove first class cabins from the aircraft.

It will install up to 28 lie-flat business seats, up to 14 premium economy and 167 economy seats for a total of 209, which is down from the current 225, on around half of its 58 767-300s. The remainder of the 767-300 fleet will be retired by the middle of the current decade.

The 767-300s will not receive wifi because the airline plans to retire them before other widebody aircraft, says Friedman. The 767-300 is likely to be replaced by the Boeing 787-9 as the aircraft are delivered, which is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2014.

The cost of the upgrades will be included in the "hundreds of millions of dollars" that American is investing annually in its onboard product and fleet, says Friedman. He would not provide the specific cost.

The first upgraded aircraft are slated to enter service during the first quarter of 2014. Friedman did not say when the refurbishments would be complete.

The 777-200s and 767-300s will complement American's new Boeing 777-300s on international routes. The 777-300s, on which the cabin upgrades are based, will initially fly to London-Heathrow and Sao Paulo.