Why I’ll Be Avoiding Flying on American’s New Airbus A319s

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.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. As far as F, that’s what UA offers too…. But more E+….. Hope this is not indicative of AA’s future intentions. I’d think (1) they would want to increase MCE at the very least…

  2. Every thing going to H3!! Proclaimed ocean side in Dewey Beach, DE. Drove over n rental Avalon. Upgraded but I agree. 8 is cheap

  3. MD 80 – 16F 40MCE, 79Y = 125 total
    A319 – 8F, 18MCE, 102Y = 128 total

    MD80 147 ft 8 in (45.01 m)

    A319 31.44 m (103 ft 2 in)
    A320 37.57 m (123 ft 3 in
    A321 44.51 m (146 ft 0 in)

    They are replacing with a “smaller” length plane with 6 across instead 5 across. They are adding 3 extra seats
    Given that the profit is only 1 seat on a flight, they are aiming for doubling the profit on these when possible at peak times.
    I think the free upgrades policy of DL, UA and US will not survive on the new AA. Upgrades will be less, paid for and income will be higher.

    For WAS, the choices will be hopefully unchanged on the US shuttle with 12 seats, but the newer planes and routes will be tough.

  4. Well time to lose weight or pay up for those seats. The EXP free upgrade bonanza is coming to an end. next stop, upgradable fares only!

  5. Well, if you want to fly First, then pay for First. I am sure 8 F seats is plenty generous for the few customers that actually purchase First.

  6. As AA gets little or no revenue for upgrades from those paying for coach, they are looking to put mostly revenue folks in the front section and then able to squeeze more into the back (which is what many sitting in front paid for). Sure it will upset many Elite mambers – but with many of the upper elites locked into AA with other benefits, not too many will switch airlines. We will see…..

  7. I tend to think this is going to be the way of the future in the US. Having more F than you can possibly sell is not a good move. Having more F just so there is space to upgrade people for free is also a dumb move. Especially as more corporate travel goes Y for domestic, I’d expect that the days of large F cabins are well and truly gone. What may start to happen is that airlines will go down the route of Qantas who don’t upgrade elite passengers but who do ensure that only they can access the front of the cabin and who will automatically block the seat next to a top tier member unless the plane is too full to allow it.

  8. @SAPMAN – American actually generates more incremental revenue off of their first class cabin than any other domestic carrier

    @Minos – that’s fine, but when I have a choice between aircraft I will choose the larger first class cabin

  9. The issue for me is not upgrades (99% of my travel is international paid J), but rather the availability of F seats for the domestic connection from the international flight. AA does sell F seats and it is not uncommon to find the F cabin full if booking at the last minute or making a last minute schedule change. I hope that AA won’t release any upgrade seats on these aircraft other than last minute at the gate.

  10. 1) Doesn’t AA always block the first Y row (my favorite) until T-24, primarily for elderly/disabled passengers? Unlike UA, I might add.

    2) This reduction in premium seating is another customer-unfriendly move from AA, just like their move to virtually eliminate saver award space. Again unlike UA. Doesn’t this configuration closely resemble VX, which never provides FC upgrades for free?

  11. Only 8 F seats in VX A319s too. Nicest domestic F hard product IMO. All their F seats are either full-fare paid or paid upgrades.

    As an less frequent flyer who doesn’t mind paying a reasonable amount (i.e. NOT the F rack rate)for a better product, I am ok with pay-to-play to some extent. Of course, 100k mile a year flyers should get something to speak for their loyalty. But I am not personally averse to a system that opens more of F up to the everyman. Blasphemy, I know.

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