One Mile at a Time reveals that American’s new Airbus A319s will have only 8 first class seats and limited “Main Cabin Extra” seating.
There are 3 rows of Main Cabin Extra (so 18 seats) but the seat maps appear to be blocking the first (bulkhead) row.
US Airways — known for offering very few first class seats, though they’ve modestly added some recently — offers 12 first class seats on their A319s.
This is shockingly ungenerous — a packed-in configuration that’s weighted heavily towards standard coach — considering that these planes will generally be replacing American’s MD80 aircraft that have 16 first class seats and 40 Main Cabin Extra seats.
For now the new A319s are based out of Dallas and flying to Charlotte, Cleveland, Memphis, Wichita, Dayton, Lubbock, El Paso, Huntsville, McAllen, and Toronto. They aren’t operating on premium routes, and that could be the strategy going forward — they might fly down to secondary cities in Mexico or on Caribbean routes.
But I’ll be avoiding these aircraft. Because upgrade chances are very very low.
- American’s 737-800s have about 10% of their seats in first class.
- American’s domestic 757s have about 12% of their seats in first class.
- American’s MD80s — which these A319s will predominantly be replacing — have about 12% of their seats in first class.
In contrast, these A319s have only 6.25% first class seating.
What’s more, MD80s with Main Cabin Extra have 41% of their seats as ‘premium’ (first + main cabin extra). With the A319s it’s only 20%.
Now, United’s A319s have only 8 seats. But good luck getting an upgrade on those.
American has historically made tons of confirmed upgrade space available domestically on almost all of their flights (although less so on premium transcon flights between New York JFK and San Francisco/Los Angeles). We’ll see if that holds for these planes, since there only half the first class seats compared to the aircraft they’re replacing.
I’ll be avoiding these planes whenever I possibly can. If I must fly on one for something the distance of Toronto – Dallas (within 7 miles the length of Washington National – Dallas, for comparison) and especially Westbound, and if can’t get an extra legroom aisle seat, I’ll try to confirm the upgrade in advance.