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Next Step in Luxury Flying Is the In-Air Suite

TheStreet 9/21/2022 Veronika Bondarenko

American Airlines just announced its new suite travel standard.

Just like a hotel suite is roomier and more private than a regular room, an air suite strives to offer an additional level of luxury aboard a plane — a door for privacy.

The word "suite," in the context of a plane, brings forth images of passengers moving around and sitting together around a roundtable like images from aboard Air Force One.

But that kind of travel is for now almost entirely exclusive to private flying.

Commercial airlines, meanwhile, have been using the word "suite" to refer to its top level of business class. Qatar Airways launched its QSuites in 2017. The ultra-luxury seats are divided by individual doors and can transform from individual armchairs to a quad for a group of four to lie-back sleeper seats depending on the travelers' preference.

Select British Airways planes are equipped with Club Suites while Singapore Airlines  (SINGY)  also has suites for flights to Paris, London and Sydney.

American Airlines and the Suite

The latest airline to go the suite way is American Airlines  (AAL) - Get American Airlines Group Inc. Report. This week, the Fort Worth, Texas-based airline unveiled a new standard of air suites that it plans to debut on some of its longest-haul flights by 2024.

"We believe our Flagship Suite product provides customers with what they desire most on a long-haul flight: privacy doors, lie-flat seating, direct aisle access and more personal space," the airline said in a release announcing the new standard.

They do, indeed, come with seats that transform into beds when the flyer is ready to nod off as well as a door that turns each seat into a tiny room. These suites will eventually replace Flagship First, which is currently American Airlines' highest business class standard.

American Airlines © Provided by TheStreet American Airlines

The suites will first launch on American's Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 and will eventually be added to more long-haul planes. While these suites are clearly designed with its wealthiest travelers in mind, the airline also said that it plans to add more premium economy seats to its long-haul aircraft. 

The number of premium economy seats on long-haul flights will increase by 45% by 2026. A plane like the Boeing 787-9, which American Airlines currently uses to fly to cities like Singapore and Sydney from the U.S., would have 51 Flagship Suite seats and 32 seats in premium economy.

Fancy Seats or Cheap Flights?

"The arrival of new long-haul aircraft and the customized seat design of the Flagship Suite seats will offer customers a truly private premium experience on our long-haul fleet," Julie Rath, who is the airline's VP of customer experience, said in a statement.

An airline's top travel standard is, often, a way to show off what it could do — business class in airlines like Cathay Pacific  (CPCAF)  and Etihad Airways are famous for both steep prices and the futuristic level of service.

In August, American Airlines also announced that it had inked a deal to purchase 20 supersonic jets. For a price of between $4,000 to $5,000, it hopes to start taking passengers from New York to London in three-and-a-half hours and Los Angeles to Sydney, Australia in eight (the current flying time is 15).

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While such innovations make for great images and press releases, the question is always whether the airline has enough travelers willing to drop multiple thousands on a trip. As such, the highest level of flying is usually reserved for a few flights between major metropolises like New York, Tokyo and London.

"Manufacturing such a complex plane on budget and on time to keep down the price per passenger requires more than entrepreneurial brashness," Bloomberg's Thomas Beck wrote of supersonic travel. "Passengers probably aren't going to pay too much more than a business-class ticket to reduce the trip from Los Angeles to Hawaii to about three hours from five."

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