American Airlines Finally Plans to Fix Their ‘Concept D’ Business Class Seats

When American Airlines rolled out their ‘Concept D’ business class seat with the Boeing 787-8 and on some Boeing 777-200s there were several problems.

  • They weren’t mounted to the floor well and passengers in one center seat could cause movement in another.
  • The dividers between the center seats would get stuck in the up or the down position.


Concept D Business Class

American seemingly gave up fixing the dividers and locked them dividers in place. If they’re up and they don’t go down then they aren’t broken. The inability to move them up or down isn’t is just an unsupported feature.


Divider Up Between Middle Seats

The seat manufacturer, Zodiac, had production problems not only with American but with United’s Polaris seats as well. American even sued Zodiac, and moved their seat business to B/E Aerospace.


B/E Aerospace Super Diamond

In an employee question and answer session this week American Airlines CEO Doug Parker put it this way about the Concept D seats: “It’s this company Zodiac, if you want go Google them, they’re not a very good quality manufacturer of seats.” (They had production problems, but they have offered fantastic seats to some of the world’s best airlines for many years.)

American started putting the Super Diamond business class seats into planes. But they didn’t buy moveable partitions between center seats, which is a big loss — if you’re stuck in a center seat and not traveling with someone there’s a real lack of privacy which can be awkward for sleeping. Women tell me this is doubly true for them.

American never went back and replaced the Concept D seats, and never went back and fixed the divider issue either. They just kept dividers locked in the up position.

At this past week’s employee Q&A ‘Crew News’ session one flight attendant questioned that decision. She says most of her passengers in middle seats are couples traveling together and they hate the divider being locked ‘up’.

The solution though isn’t that American should lock them all in the up position or all in the down position. The solution is that American should have dividers for their business class center seats that work. And after three years of doing nothing to fix the dividers that may actually be on the radar.

According to David Seymour American’s Senior Vice President of Integrated Operations,

The priority for us is actually to fix them so if you want it up it can go up and if you want it down you can leave it down. And that’s what we’re working on. ..We’ve got to get downtime. …We’re working now internally on our own design to get it. ..There’s a very confined space that we’re working in there to get it designed so that it will be robust and we don’t go through another stage of it’s working it’s not it’s working it’s not. So we’re working on that process right now…

Once we come up with the design it requires the downtime that Vasu’s group gives us in order to take the seats apart to get into that space to do it. We’ve determined we’ve got to do something to fix it once and for all. That’s really where the engineering team is really focused in on trying to get that so we don’t have these problems.

Of course once American finally fixes the Concept D seats the Super Diamond seats in most Boeing 777-200s and in Boeing 787-9s still won’t even have dividers.

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. AA is just being silly – just make the biz product consistent across the fleet. We are talking about 33 planes in the fleet I believe. Rip them out and install the Super Diamond and call it a day.

  2. “It’s this company Zodiac, if you want go Google them, they’re not a very good quality manufacturer of seats.” That’s pretty hilarious. Raises the question: why didn’t AA Google them before placing an order for millions of dollars of seats?

  3. “It’s this company Zodiac, if you want go Google them, they’re not a very good quality manufacturer of seats.”
    Ironically, Zodiac also manufactured the business seats on AA’s 777-300ER and A330 planes which are solid and get great reviews.

  4. What I didn’t get into is where Parker sounds like he’s about to blame legacy American management for choosing Zodiac when of course US Airways chose them first, pioneering the seat that AA put on their 777-300ERs…

  5. So they’re working on the dividers, but the seats wobbling when your neighbor moves is going to remain unresolved?

    Still???

  6. My girlfriend and I encountered this problem on a flight from Rome to Chicago. The divider was stuck the up position. The flight attendant said that the divider was broken and that all the flights attendant and the big strong pilots had tried to fix it to no avail. We were bummed, but what could we do? (Play “Kilroy was here” a lot). At the end of the flight the flight attendant said she would apply for a 10,000 mile award to my account for the inconvenience of the malfunctioning divider, which I thought was nice as I didn’t ask or lobby for it. I did receive the miles a few days later.
    -TKD

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