Interview: Alice Liu Reveals American Airlines’ New Planes and Products
Earlier today, American Airlines announced further details about its new fleet of Boeing 737-800 and Airbus A319 and A321 aircraft.
Frequent Business Traveler sat down with Alice Liu, American Airlines’ managing director for onboard products, to discuss the announcement, which included plans for an Airbus A321 Transcon sub-fleet with a unique first-class cabin, and more.
Jonathan Spira: Alice, thanks for sitting down with us. Let’s look at numbers to start. How many A321 Transcon aircraft will be in the fleet, and will this be a seat-for-seat replacement for the current Boeing 767-200s that serve the New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco markets? Also, will there be a period of overlap?
Alice Liu: We’re still working on finalizing our numbers, so I can’t yet tell you how many A321Ts there will be. They will go into service starting in November 2013, so there will be overlap of 12 months or so [with the 767-200s until they are taken out of service].
JS: You also announced a lot of details about the non-transcon aircraft you are acquiring, including the Boeing 737-800, the Airbus A319, and additional A321s. We know that Main Cabin Extra seats will comprise half of the main cabin on the A321Ts, but what is that figure for the other aircraft?
AL: Unfortunately, we don’t yet have that figure finalized.
JS: Let’s talk about the new first-class cabin.
AL: First, as we announced, we have a 1-1 configuration for first class. The aisle will be wider than usual, and the overall cabin will feel more like the interior of a private jet than anything else. The seat in first class will function like an international premium seat.
JS: We know that the Boeing 737-800s will arrive with the Sky Interior, which has great interior lighting. Are you planning something similar for the Airbus fleet?
AL: Interior lighting is currently being designed, along with the lavatories and the bulkhead. We have a lot of things such as flame retardation and other safety issues that all have to be considered.
JS: What details can you share about business class on the A321T?
AL: The business-class seats on the A321T will be similar to what United [Airlines] will be offering in its p.s. fleet [after United removes the first-class cabins]. While these seats will be fully flat, international business class will still be a step up, with all seats having direct aisle access, for example, while only 50% of the A321 business-class seats will have direct aisle access.
JS: I noticed that you are providing fixed in-seat displays on the new aircraft instead of tablets and streaming. Why is that?
AL: We were the first airline to offer streaming video, but you have to realize that it takes a long time to install an in-flight entertainment system on an aircraft. We went the streaming route because of the timeframe. On the other hand, just because you bring your own tablet, it doesn’t mean you always want to be responsible for entertaining yourself.
JS: Clarify something for me about the new displays, which are “HD compatible.” Does this mean you’ll be showing high-definition content?
AL: We typically finalize content a few months in advance, but it is our plan to offer high-definition content.
Click here to continue to Page 2 – The Business Case, American’s Goals, Apple Computer, and In-Flight Service
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