Testing Out American’s Brand New Super Diamond Business Class on the Boeing 787-9

American’s new business class seat is the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond going into their Boeing 787-9, Airbus A350, and later retrofits of Boeing 777-200s.

I had the opportunity to try out the new seat on American’s inaugural domestic run of its first Boeing 787-9, flying Dallas – Los Angeles. For the return flight I opted for premium economy (removing my upgrade request from the reservation just to be safe) so I could compare that other new product, a first in this aircraft, as well.

american airlines boeing 787-9

american airlines 787-9

This wasn’t a true inaugural flight. It had been scheduled to be, but they send the plane to London Heathrow and back earlier in the week. So there were no gate festivities at all — no gift bags, no food, no speeches. And the captain didn’t have any challenge coins to distribute either.

Nonetheless I had the chance to climb on board about 20 minutes early for some good photo taking opportunities.

The B/E Aerospace Super Diamond is one of the world’s best business class seats. Virgin Australia uses the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond as its new business class seat. So does Qatar.

american business class 787-9

Having spent about 3 hours with the seat — though without having slept on it over a long tranatlantic or transpacific journey — I can say that I like it better than American’s Zodiac “Concept D” seat on the Boeing 787-8 and already-retrofitted 777-200s. I’m not sure I like it better than the Zodiac seat on American’s 777-300ERs. There are some pluses to the seat, some minuses, but overall it’s a very good business class product that stacks up with some of the world’s best seats.

I asked and was told by a flight attendant that no carry on bags are permitted in the foot well during takeoff and landing, you have to stow your bags (even personal item) in the overhead. In practice I doubt most flight attendants would notice, the foot well is deep and angled.

The seat is controlled electronically.

On my first run through the seat had the slowest recline to flat I have seen. It was probably the first time that particular seat was moved to the flat position. I tried it again and it worked much faster the second time.

The seat has ample storage, although I miss the palette of the 777-300ER and a mirror.

Another issue was the windows. There’s the great Boeing 787-8 dimming windows, and they do dim enough, but they were very slow to open up. Others in the cabin didn’t have that problem.

I chose seat 1A for the flight, the two bulkhead aisles in business class are my favorites even though they’re closer to the forward lavatory. I like not seeing the entire cabin in front of me, I get a much greater sense of privacy (like a little child closing its eyes, if they don’t see you you can’t see them).

I found it interesting that the front of business class has small lavatories, while just behind the curtain between business and premium economy there’s both a small and a giant lavatory. I expect that many in business class, especially at the back of the cabin, will prefer the right side lavatory behind them.

So it’s a gorgeous seat, it’s fully flat and with direct aisle access from all seats. I found the seat comfortable upright, lounging, and as a bed. It also felt plenty wide enough at the shoulders, and the sense of spaciousness is enhanced by an armrest that moves up and down.

There are some negatives to the seat, however.

  • No dividers between middle seats. This is a show-stopper for solo passengers in the middle seats, in my opinion, the aisle seats are the only ones a solo passenger will want (though the middles are great for traveling with someone). Since the middle seats are even angled slightly towards each other, the lack of privacy is accentuated.

    Put the storage console flaps up and you have your own ‘ghetto privacy divider’:

  • Tray table is flimsy and lacks multiple positions.

  • Space between seat and aircraft wall. There’s a rubber piece covering up the space but it’s flexible, some of the passengers on the inaugural domestic flight referred to this as “the iPhone hole.” There will be passenger items falling between the seat and the wall, and they’ll be tough to get back.

  • Television doesn’t move you can’t bring it closer to you or angle it.

  • Shoulder belt during takeoff and landing you have to belt the shoulder belt as well as the standard seat belt. I don’t think this is much of an issue, but worth pointing out.

  • Power outlets aren’t super tight and I expect them to wear out quickly. My advice is to bring a UK-style power adapter and plug that in to ensure your cords don’t flop around, with power going in and out. I do like that there’s both a standard outlet and USB power, which is great for powering a phone and laptop at the same time.

Bottom-line is that while I think more work and thought could have gone into some of the ergonomics, I’ll be thrilled to fly this plane in business class. I’ll just choose my seats — window versus middle — based on whether I’m traveling solo or with someone.

And if I can do that, I’d take the 787-9 seat over American’s 787-8, 777-200, 767, and 757 seats in a heartbeat. It compares only to the 777-300ER seat in my opinion (which also has a first class cabin).

I also prefer this seat — again, comparing seat only not soft product — over the bulk of Delta’s business class seats and over United’s new Polaris seat — as long as I get my choice of window solo seat or middle paired seats. We’ll see how Delta’s coming business class seat with doors works out, however. And I’d generally take the new United and Delta soft product over American’s, of course.

American currently only offers pajamas and enhanced catering in business class on four routes: Los Angeles – Sydney, Auckland, and Hong Kong and Dallas – Hong Kong. With United’s new Polaris product American will need to speed up enhancing this element of service.

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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Comments

  1. Re: Table positions, their maintenance folks should give AC a call. They had the same problem, but managed to fix it with a drill and few well positioned new holes.

  2. wait. what? since when does AA give you PJ’s in BUSINESS CLASS on DFW-HKG?!? i’ve flown that several times, as recent as 4 months ago, and there were no PJ’s…

  3. Thanks for the scoop! Are they planning to retrofit the others? In particular the backwards facing one that moves whenever the person in the connected seats move.

  4. I was on the flight on Thursday and agree that the business-class seat on the 787-900 is one of American’s best business-class hard products second only to the 777-300. This seat feels roomier than the 787-8 and there is tons more storage as you described.

    I find that having a fixed video screen is a plus not a minus. Movable video screens must be stowed for takeoff and landing. On some flights I have had attendants demand that movable video screens be stowed as much as 30 minutes before landing. On the 787-900 we had video programming available from the time we sat down until the flight arrived at the gate.

    On my return flight I was upgraded from premium economy to one of the middle seats in business on the 787-900. I lacked sufficient willpower to decline the upgrade and I wanted to try the middle seat in business. Plus I knew you would report on your experience with the premium economy seat. As a solo traveler I agree that the window seats in business on the 787-900 are definitely preferred.

    Qatar does a much better job with this seat on its A350-900s in terms of the shape of the seat, additional storage, and color scheme.

  5. @Beachfan only the angled seats are expected to be retrofitted, the 787-8 and 777-200 seats that bounce when another passenger moves in a seat connected to yours and where the center privacy divider is locked either up or down are here to stay.

  6. Did you have room to move or bend your knees in bed mode? The tray table makes it seem claustrophobic.

  7. @ Gary, thanks for the update.

    As if there on-time performance wasn’t enough of an indication of absymal operations, their approach to Business Class seats is a clown act – luckily there will be a few decent planes. Maybe not as bad as BA seats, but geez.

  8. Why are U.S. airlines value destroyers? These clowns have had the opportunity to see what these seats can be made to look like (e.g. Qatar) and decide to make them worse.

    I guess after what they did to the Zodiacs it could only be expected assuming an organization that does not learn from its mistakes.

    Sad, and thank goodness for the ME3s: may they add more flights soon!

  9. Really, the middle seats with no divider are a deal breaker? You have to lean forward and then look back to see your neighbor’s face. Seems fine to me. I’ll gladly take a middle seat if nothing else is available.

  10. @Tom – I’ve been asking professional women in particular about this. I find men are split on the issue, but female solo business travelers seem most uncomfortable with the idea of going to sleep next to a male stranger without any sort of privacy divider.

    If I’m getting the seat as an upgrade or with miles, I take what I can get. If I’m buying the seat, I want privacy. And women seem to feel more strongly about that.

    And remember the context is that United will offer greater privacy in Polaris, and Delta WILL OFFER SUITES WITH DOORS for privacy.

  11. @Josh G – I did not receive a free upgrade. Your comments so often miss the mark, reading your own assumptions into my posts.

    In any case the point of this post isn’t to complain at all, I think the seat is very good, it’s to share the details both good and bad with readers so they know what to expect!

  12. You come across as ungrateful and over-entitled. Show some gratitude for all that the company has given you both in terms of seeing parts of the world and flying intl F you otherwise couldn’t dream of. Be grateful for the overly generous FFPs and social media platforms that have given you a virtual megaphone and enabled your financial windfall.

    Now go run along and use your “access” and “influence” to tell the sevent floor you know how to run the company better than the industry professionals.

  13. Thanks for the review @Gary. I look forward to your review of the premium economy seat. My wife and I are flying DCA-DFW-MAD in Jan to try out the new seats. Naturally we’re on the SWU waitlist for DFW-MAD, but I was wondering if there’s a way for the AA EXP phone agent to apply the upgrade on DCA-DFW to lock-in two F seats and be on the waitlist for DFW-MAD. Then if we don’t clear DFW-MAD 24 hrs before check-in, could I then ask the agent to remove the upgrade prior to the flight and save that SWU? My thinking is that since there are a lot of paid DCA-DFW F passengers that if I waited until the SWU cleared it might be too late to secure a F seat on that leg.

  14. @Josh G gosh you can’t even acknowledge you made a mistake in your comment. Instead you have to criticize how I “come across” to you.

    There’s no question I consider myself incredibly fortunate, across many areas of my life, my travel and my readers are one of those things — I never thought that when I started writing this blog in May 2002 that it would be much read at all, I was just playing around with Blogspot since several friends were writing political blogs and I was curious about it one weekend afternoon. And growing up, I used to travel pretty regularly cross country (my parents were divorced and lived on opposite coasts) but I never thought I’d get to fly in a premium cabin and certainly never thought I’d see so much of the world — as a kid my only international destination was Australia, that was to see family.

    I have an incredibly rich life, and I feel that every single day. I also have a lot of experience flying and can judge and compare premium products. This is a good seat. It’s better than all the existing American Airlines business class seats except for the one of the 77W. It’s not as good as it could have been, and both product and revenue folks at American I’ve talked to find the lack of inclusion of dividers between the middle seats to be inexcusable.

    You seem to have this view that anything an airline does must be right because they’re “industry professionals” but the history of US commercial aviation over the last 35 years is littered with decisions that have been more wrong than right. So while I have praised and will continue to praise the selection of the B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seat, I will continue to criticize the decision to forgo dividers.

  15. Thanks for the review, Gary. Again – American $hits the bed – but who’s shocked!

    Fixed TVs? Why? Just curious, are the TVs in QR’s version of this TV fixed? I know you never fly in Y, but that’s a major annoyance of mine on AA’s 77Ws in Y – why fix the TV screens! So incredibly obnoxious. I am officially over this LCC management team.

  16. These look great! Surprised about the “no carry on sin the footwell” thing. I’ve never been told that before on any similar configuration.

  17. Gary, as always great review. I was on the flight with you in 2D…my tray table did have multiple positions. I seem to recall about 3 different spots where it would let you lock it in along the track so that it was different distances from you.

  18. So…Josh is mad that Gary isn’t grateful enough to a company for whom he thinks Gary should be a sell-out shill? That since Gary flies AA he should be nicer to them?

    I’m so confused….

  19. Please tell me if in fact American’s business seat on the 787-900 DFW to Mad is 26″ wide?
    On seatguru it says 21-26″ I’m booking now so I would really appreciate knowing.
    Thanks so much!

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