There have been a few stories today about the unveiling of the American Airlines 777-300ER cabin interior configuration. Most of them (including Ben’s) have been rather effusive, raving about the new Business and First class cabins. And, no doubt, the press photos of those look pretty nice.
But there is a third photo included in the press release, the shot of the economy cabin:
The good news is that the photo shows a pretty nice individual IFE screen, universal power plugs and a handset to control the IFE, meaning reduced likelihood of someone tapping on the back of your seat the whole flight. And those are all good things, but there’s one really big bad thing, too. The seating configuration appears to be incredibly tight. Based on this point of view it appears that the cabin will have a 3-4-3 configuration, bringing American in line with Emirates and Air France for offering one of the most cramped coach cabin configurations in modern aviation. The aisle actually looks ridiculously narrow, too, making me wonder if this is even a real shot of the cabin, but if it is that looks like a VERY uncomfortable coach experience.
Some back of the napkin math based on the size of the power ports and the representation of things in the image suggests that the seats are about 17" wide, maybe a tiny bit less. That’s quite a bit tighter than their current economy products, especially compared to their current long-haul configurations. And they’re articulating – or "slidey" – seats, which means the legroom gets worse when reclined. Ouch.
There was some suggestion that there is going to be a "Premium Economy" product rolled out as well, but no details on that in these photos or in the release. That leaves me a smidge skeptical. Adding that to match their oneworld alliance partners would make sense in many ways. It is also the fastest growing segment of seating in the industry. Then again, when starting from zero relatively recently, it is easy to make "fastest growing" show up. It would be a first for a US-based carrier, so it is worth keeping an eye on.
The premium cabins look quite nice. Matching Cathay Pacific for the business class seat is particularly nice. But most passengers are going to be stuck in those economy seats and it looks painful. I hope it is better than that makes it appear.
It also seems that American has decided in the past 8 weeks to shift the planes from the originally announced service to London, putting them on the Dallas-Sao Paulo route instead. That’s a pretty inefficient utilization plan for the newest, nicest, planes, so they must think they’re going to drive some serious premiums on the route. Good luck.