American’s 3-Cabin International Flights Sold as 2-Cabin, and Who Can Book International First Class Seats Free!

Back in April we learned the details of American’s plans for their Boeing 777-200s.

American is dropping first class from these planes (international first class will remain only on their 777-300ERs). Business class goes fully flat. And there are some changes from the 777-300ER new business class seat.

It’s fully flat, all aisle access with international wireless internet. And there are rear-facing seats and slightly bigger personal TV screens than the 777-300ER. Economy of course goes from 9 to 10 seats across.

In June we learned that the initially-reconfigured 777-200s would get reconfigured again, as new management from US Airways decided to add seats to the planes – going from 260 total up to 289.

The initial planes get 45 business class seats and 45 Main Cabin Extra. The higher-density planes will have 37 business class seats and 48 Main Cabin Extra.

There are initial reconfigured planes in service but these reconfigurations proceed slowly. American is adjusting the way they assign seats in expectation of the possibility of a given route getting the new plane.

JonNYC at TravelingBetter.com explains that American is starting to sell old configuration 3-cabin 777-200s as 2-class planes. That means there are first class seats on these old planes that will be assigned to business class customers.

Here’s the American’s Flagship Suite that will be assigned to some business passengers.

So How Can You Get These Seats?

The idea is for them to go to elites on paid tickets and to full fare business class customers, with seats generally being unblocked for assignment within 24 hours of travel.

On these 3-sold-as-2 777s, the former flagship suites will be Z and/or Q blocked and they are, specifically, to allow for 77D vs. 777 interchangeability during refit timeframe.

Specifications are given, the thrust is:

– revenue pax vs reward pax
– elite members and full J purchasers.
– Z-blocked seats to be released within 24 hours of the flight
– some of the Z-blocked seats can be booked for premium bookings in some cases at any time.

– it’s a little foggy, but it seems pretty clear that intent is that upgrading pax so not go into this front section, they go into business class seats

– 2017 is now the target date for conversion of all 772s

And Which Routes Will See This?

Apparently this happens with several Miami flights starting January 17.

  • Miami – Barcelona
  • Miami – Madrid
  • Miami – Buenos Aires
  • Miami – Rio de Janeiro

What’s interesting (and as Jon separately observes) is that when I pull up the seat map on these old configuration 777s which have four rows of first class, it’s the first two rows that are blocked in this way with rows 3 and 4 appearing to be assignable.

So if booking any of these 777-200s that haven’t been reconfigured yet, you want the fully flat rows 3 and 4, and not any of the rows farther back with the old business class seats.

And if you do wind up with a new configuration plane, you still get fully flat business class seats.

Update: I got some additional clarification:

  • 2 of the rows are bookable by elites, regardless of fare class (should include on award tickets)
  • The first 2 rows are ‘Z blocked’ and the second 2 rows are ‘Q blocked.’
  • The Q blocked seats can be reserved by elites and full fare business class passengers without status.
  • The Z blocked seats are blocked until 24 hours out when they become assignable.


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. Gary,
    Am unclear about what date all the 777s will be refurbished. Have booked a first class award flight to/from Tokyo early next year and looks like will still have first class. Would rather fly the old first class than new business class.

  2. @Paul they’ve only just gotten the 2nd reconfigured 777, these are progressing slowly. They seem to be throwing these on some dates out of Miami at this points, and not on Tokyo routes. So early in the year you should be fine.

  3. @Mike S – you mean what routes are served by the old 777-200s? I couldn’t tell you all of them, but Chicago – Lpndon still has a 772 and hasn’t been converted to 777-300. I recently flew New York JFK – Buenos Aires with it. There’s Dallas/Chicago/Los Angeles – Tokyo, Chjicago/LAX-Beijing, Chicago-Shanghai, Dallas-Seoul, Dallas-Buenos Aires…

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