American unveils narrowbody fleet interiors upgrade, three-class A321 cabin

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American Airlines is furthering its post-bankruptcy business strategy by announcing new interiors for its narrowbody Airbus A321, A319 and Boeing 737-800 aircraft with design features like full lie-flat seats, upgraded inflight entertainment and an extra-legroom section.

The carrier plans to outfit its Airbus A321 transcontinental aircraft with a three-class cabin that features full lie-flat seats in first and business class, as well as touchscreen inflight entertainment at each seat. Its other types of new narrowbody aircraft-A319s and Boeing 787-800s-will feature a two class cabin with the full lie-flat seats in business class.

The move follows American's announcement in May that it would spend hundreds of millions on widebody upgrades to deliver enhancements to the passenger experience, retrofitting its Boeing 777-200ERs and a portion of Boeing 767-300ERs in a two-class configuration with new fully lie-flat seats in business class and inflight entertainment.

American expects the first newly-designed transcontinental A321 to arrive in November 2013, taking deliveries of the aircraft through 2014. The aircraft will fly routes from New York to San Francisco and Los Angeles and replace American's Boeing 767-200 aircraft. American says that it opted for the three-class configuration on the A321 because it could "significantly reduce cost" while providing premium features for customers. The carrier says that the cabin's full lie-flat seats in first and business classes and will give it an edge over competitors flying transcontinental routes with narrowbody aircraft.

"Servicing transcontinental routes with a narrowbody aircraft is consistent with our major competitors who also currently fly narrowbody aircraft in these markets," the carrier says. "However, American plans to be the only airline to offer a three-class configuration on transcontinental flights, and also expects to be the only carrier to offer fully lie-flat seats in First and Business Class on transcontinental flights."

The transcontinental Airbus A321 interior features a first class cabin with 10 Sicma Aero Seat full lie-flat seats in a 1-1 configuration. The business class cabin will be filled with 20 full lie-flat seats designed by B/E Aerospace in a 2-2 configuration.

The transcontinental Airbus A321 main cabin will be laid out in a 3-3 configuration with Recaro seats, 36 of which will be set up to offer more leg room. The remaining 36 seats will be positioned in a standard main cabin configuration.

Each seat in the A321 transcontinental cabin features high-definition, touchscreen monitors. First and business class passengers will have access to 15.4in (39.1cm) screens and the main cabin seatback screens measure 8.9in.

In addition, each seat will include individual universal serial bus (USB) ports and 110V AC power outlets.

American has 130 A321 and A319 aircraft on order and says it is still evaluating how many of each variant it will take. It has also ordered 100 Boeing 737-800 aircraft.

The carrier says it plans to use the portion of the A321 fleet not assigned to transcontinental routes to retire aging aircraft, along with the A319s and its Boeing 737-800s. These new aircraft replace the carrier's MD-80s and domestic Boeing 757-200s.

American's new A319s, Boeing 737-800s and A321s not assigned to transcontinental routes will be configured with two-class cabins with leather seats. The first class cabins on these aircraft will feature 12.1in high definition touchscreen monitors in each seat and the main cabin seats have 8.9in monitors.

The first new Airbus A319 with the new interior is set to arrive in July 2013, followed by the Boeing 737-800 in October 2013. American will start receiving the two-class Airbus A321s in the second quarter of 2014.

Like the Airbus A321, American's 10 new Boeing 777-300ER flying will also feature a three-class cabin. The carrier chose to retrofit its Boeing 777-200s and Boeing 767-300s to a two-class configuration with the full lie-flat seats in business class, citing demand and capacity requirements. American expects to receive its first of 10 new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft in early December.