News leaked yesterday of two new business class seats under consideration by American Airlines. While either seat looks promising, both must come with a corresponding investment in the soft product.
We know that American Airlines is testing new business class seats out because Dallas-area top-tier flyers were invited to sleep tests. But those are highly protected (I’ve participated in a similar project with Lufthansa and it felt like we were on a top-secret government facility; one engineer warned he would cut my balls off if I ever blogged about it…) so until now we have no insight over what is being tested.
But @xJonNYC (as usual) has the scoop. The first seat under consideration would represent an evolution rather than revolution. That’s the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond seat with a closing door, similar to what you’ll find aboard the British Airways A350-1000. American already has this seat type on some 777-200s and 787-9s (without doors) and its quite comfortable and a crowd pleaser.
AA is also considering a seat by Adient Ascent. The interesting thing about these seats, which Hawaiian Airlines recently chose but have not yet been installed onboard a commercial aircraft, is that they are highly customizable.
In the same cabin you can theoretically have forward-facing, rear-facing, herringbone-style, and reverse herringbone-style seats. While difficult to picture (check out the video below), it could represent an innovate new approach to business class seating.
Furthermore, these seats allow for actual double beds. In alternating center sections, the partition between seats could be fully lowered. This would allow for the placement of a single mattress pad and a double bed that couples or families traveling with a young child could actually share. That sort of innovation is intriguing.
Don’t Overlook The Soft Product
All good news, but American Airlines has a soft product deficit that it must face just as aggressively as its search for a new seat. Grouchy flight attendants who are given little to work with can make even the most comfortable seat uncomfortable. Poor food quality may not turn away most customers, but it will not build brand loyalty.
Ultimately, leadership must inspire and American’s next generation business class must focus on winning hearts and minds through great service and a serious effort on the soft product, not just a new seat.
It is good that American Airlines is looking ahead to update its business class cabin and offer more privacy. It will be interesting to see if American Airlines eliminates first class when it updates its 777-300ERs. If not, will American Airlines finally try to offer a first class cabin and a soft product in business and first class that consumers will actually laud, not just tolerate?