Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: American Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Flight #: AA2286
Route: Los Angeles (LAX) to Miami (MIA)
Date: March 7, 2022
Duration: 4hrs 7mins
Cabin and Layout: American Airlines Flagship First, 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration
Cost: From ~$769 one-way
When I realized I’d need to travel to Miami from LA, there was only 1 way I wanted to fly — American Airlines Flagship First.
I love the idea of flying wide-body aircraft on short mid-haul flights, especially domestically. Having grown up in the U.K., wide-body aircraft always means a far-flung, long-haul destination to me. So stepping onboard a jet such as the Boeing 777-300 brings back those feel-good childhood holiday memories.
With the flight choice made, all I had to do was book my ticket… but did I find the price I was looking for?
A one-way flight in Flagship First on American Airlines’ wide-body aircraft can set you back as much as $2,500 for a one-way flight. Even though I was reviewing this flight, there was still no way I would spend that much on a 1-way, 4-hour-ish flight.
My next move would usually be to use Avios, given that I don’t have AAdvantage miles. But I paid less than $1,000 cash this time to earn status.
Hot Tip: British Airways Avios provide some great value redemption options, even as a resident in the U.S — there are several ways to earn them, too, like by using the British Airways Visa Signature® Card.
Despite the pandemic, I was the closest I’d ever been to attaining British Airways Executive Club Gold status (Oneworld Emerald), and my Tier Point collection year was due to end on March 8, 2022, with just 200 points left to earn.
Having planned my Tier Point-earning strategy to within an inch of its life, I knew this flight would earn me 210 Tier Points if I paid cash, so the hunt was on for an affordable fare.
British Airways and American Airlines have a close relationship through their Oneworld alliance memberships, which means that as a British Airways Executive Club cardholder, I still earn Tier Points when flying other Oneworld member airlines, including American.
Thanks to a stroke of luck while searching, I managed to find the fight for $973 — less than half of what you can usually expect to pay.
My mind was made up. I’d be flying American Airlines Flagship First for the first time on a Boeing 777 from LAX to Miami — a city I’d never visited before — and I’d hit Gold status all in 1 flight.
Then about 2 weeks before my flight, I loaded up Manage My Booking on AA.com to be informed there’d been a change to my booking.
To my dismay, my Flagship First 1A seat on the Boeing 777 I was originally booked onto had been switched out with seat 1A on Boeing 787, but in Flagship Business rather than Flagship First. Not only had I been downgraded, but this change also meant I’d only earn 140 Tier Points. Goodbye hopes of British Airways Executive Club Gold.
I called American Airlines immediately and explained the situation. The super-helpful agent was more than happy to switch me onto the same flight the day before, as it was still scheduled to be operated by the Boeing 777 and not the Boeing 787, which doesn’t have a Flagship First cabin.
I rocked up to LAX with plenty of time to enjoy the Flagship experience. Sadly, the Flagship First section of the Flagship Lounge at LAX remains closed, so I didn’t get the full Flagship First experience.
I always try to get public transport to and from airports, but there was no simple, time-efficient route for me to do so from my hotel in West Hollywood.
The 10-mile trip took just over 30 minutes and cost me $35, which I didn’t think was too bad given how bad LA traffic can be.
If you’re getting dropped off curbside, you’ll need to head to the American Airlines section of Terminal 4 at LAX.
The exclusive Flagship First check-in zone is a few steps further than the main entrance to the American Airlines area.
I was greeted by 3 members of staff and my name was cross-referenced from a checklist: they know you’re coming.
My bag was weighed and tagged without an issue.
American is using a temporary check-in area for its Flagship First passengers. The space has no natural light, low ceilings, and is drably decorated. At least the check-in process is quick.
I did, however, enjoy the retro artwork that lined the walls.
Next, I was escorted through a side door and into the main terminal building.
We headed up to the entrance to departures where the security checks take place.
My Flagship First chaperone then opened the barriers, allowing me to cut some of the line to security.
All told, it took 15 minutes from arriving curbside to being airside in the departures area of the terminal.
A few steps past security, there was a huge sign that explained why my Flagship First ground experience wasn’t as good as it could have been.
Terminals 4 and 5 are undergoing a $1.6 billion modernization project slated to be complete in 2027, just in time for the 2028 Olympic Games.
As part of the construction work, American’s Flagship First lounge is closed.
With the lounge closed, I didn’t get to sample the delights of American Flagship Dining. Maybe I’ll flash my old boarding pass once it’s opened and see if they’ll let me in given I missed out this time.
The entrance to American’s Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge is only a few more steps into the terminal — you can’t miss it.
I arrived at the first of 2 check-in areas where my boarding pass was scanned to make sure I had access to the lounges.
I was handed this laminated invitation granting access to the Flagship Lounge.
After heading up a level, I was welcomed by a fun bunch of staffers.
They directed me left into the Flagship Lounge.
They even asked me if I wanted my picture taken after seeing me so snap-happy. Complete with a glass of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne in hand, I obviously obliged.
Once inside the lounge, I noticed this reminder of what could have been.
Hot Tip: Check out my colleague Stephen’s review of American’s Flagship Lounge at LAX for what you can expect from the Flagship First lounge and Flagship First Dining areas.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disheartened that I wasn’t getting the full Flagship First Dining experience. However, I have only good things to say about the breakfast menu that was on offer.
The asparagus and eggs breakfast fold was something I’d never seen before.
I liked that turkey sausages replaced the classic, yet less healthy and fattier, pork sausage.
Knowing I’d be feasting in the air, I didn’t want to stuff myself on the ground, so I asked Lemar to rustle me up a mushroom omelet. It was delicious.
Then I sat back for a while and admired the views across the apron and onwards to the runway in the distance.
Before I knew it, it was time to board the N721AN-registered Boeing 777 that would take me to Miami (MIA).
I headed to the gate a little ahead of time to make sure I was onboard promptly to settle in.
American boarding is by group: priority boarding is groups 1 through 4, with main boarding in groups 5 through 9.
Given the size of the bird, the seating area around the gate was crowded.
And, of course, a bunch of eager beavers were already lined up at the gate well ahead of boarding time (myself included).
We started boarding a few minutes after I arrived at the gate and a flight attendant announced at 12:50 p.m. that boarding was complete — 10 minutes before our scheduled departure.
I had just enough time for a couple of sips of my welcome drink of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne.
With that, we pushed back right on time at 1 p.m. and the view over LA’s coastline from the 3 windows of seat 1A was a sight to behold.
I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very excited about my flight ahead.
American Airlines’ Boeing 777-300s are the only of its aircraft to be fitted with the unique swivel seat in Flagship First.
I love anything out of the ordinary, so I was curious to see whether I’d be a fan of the quirk.
My first impressions of the 9-year-old cabin and seat were that they felt a little dated for their age.
Waiting for me on my seat were 2 types of pillows and 2 blankets of different thicknesses.
My seat also had the same Shinola amenity kit that is meant for Flagship Business passengers, a set of Bang & Olufson noise-canceling headphones, and the all-important Flagship First menu.
The view from my seat was of the adjacent seat 1D and I could just about peer into the galley if I craned enough.
As you can see, these first class seats are far from private. In fact, the Flagship Business seats behind offer a touch more privacy if that’s a priority for you when flying.
A little release button on the right side of the seat rotated it to face the windows.
Once facing the window, I just needed to fold out 1 of the 2 tray tables, and voilà, my very own office in the sky complete with undisrupted views out across the world.
I was quite literally in my element.
The only downside for me (and I’d guess many an AvGeek), is that due to the wide wood-effect paneling to the left-hand side of the seat, it was hard to get close enough to the windows to see down below.
It was easily solvable by sitting on the opposite side on the smaller seat designed for dining with a travel companion.
The seat didn’t just swivel, it also reclined into a fully flat position as you’d expect. I found controls over my right shoulder.
I liked the hard shell, as this gave the feeling of more privacy when laying down.
The second narrower pillow, I’m guessing, was to be used for lower back support while seated.
A touch screen could also be used to move the seat into a number of preset positions.
Buttons to turn on the reading light, release the TV screen from its docking station, and release the second tray table could be found underneath the side panel.
I only noticed this narrow storage area to my left a couple of hours into the flight.
There wasn’t much further storage other than this compartment over my left shoulder that housed power outlets and the headphone port. The door doubled as a handy mirror for touch-ups before landing.
And for stowage of larger carry-on items, overhead bins were reserved exclusively for Flagship First guests, meaning there was more than enough space for everyone.
The cozy Flagship First cabin comprised just 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The seats were also slightly staggered, meaning passengers who were seated across the aisle from each other weren’t looking directly at one another.
If it wasn’t for this feature, these seats would really lack privacy.
The middle 2 seats (D and H) are best suited to those traveling as a pair, as the partition can be lowered.
I was handed my first ever Flagship First menu just before take-off.
To start with, I could pick between poached shrimp or a beet poke. Starters would also come accompanied by a butternut squash soup and a summer salad mix.
For the main course, I had the option of a beef filet, cumin-rubbed, pan-roasted chicken, a grain and greens bowl, or a spinach and ricotta rotolo pasta dish.
And finally, for dessert, options were the classic American Airlines ice cream sundae, a gourmet cheese board, or a caramel apple butter cake.
I completely forgot that Flagship Business and First guests can preorder, but this wasn’t a problem. Even with the 8 seats of the cabin occupied, I was able to have my first choice of chicken.
A little snack of 5 olives was served along with the first drink.
Then my tray table was set, complete with a mini table cloth.
My shrimp starter, salad, and butternut squash soup were then served all at the same time. I did not appreciate that both the salad and the shrimp starter were wrapped in cellophane.
I was surprised by the strong flavors of the soup. As for the starter — I thoroughly enjoyed each bite of the 3 super juicy shrimp.
At this point, I was thoroughly enjoying my Flagship First dining experience.
My favorite meal of all is a quintessential British Sunday roast dinner. When my main course was set in front of me, it reminded me a little of that — albeit lacking in Yorkshire pudding and roast potatoes.
Sadly, I should not have judged this book by its cover. My first bite of the chicken was salty and dry. I ate the broccoli and a couple of bites of the mashed potatoes and left almost all of the chicken.
As the flight was short, this would be the only full meal service.
Shortly before landing, however, we were offered the infamous American Airlines cookie.
A snack basket with a variety of sweet and savory treats was on display for Flagship First guests in the front galley throughout the flight.
As a coffee addict/lover/aficionado, I was ecstatic to find out that my aircraft had an espresso machine. I usually avoid the airplane coffee you get served out of a hot jug, but this, even though it was early evening and past my caffeine intake cut-off time, I just had to try.
I can confirm that the small sip of American Airlines’ espresso coffee passed my test with flying colors.
As for the alcoholic beverages on offer; I had the option of Tito’s Handmade Vodka, BACARDÍ Rum, Aviation American Gin, no less than 4 types of whiskey, 4 beer options, Truly Hard Seltzer, Baileys Irish Cream, and Disaronno Originale Amaretto.
To summarize, the bar was well-stocked.
I settled for a couple of glasses of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne — the same that I was served on arrival at the Flagship Lounge.
Amenities were plentiful for this short 4-hour flight across the continent.
The IFE screen was sizeable, if not quite a distance from the seat, meaning that using the remote was necessary without straining to reach.
The tactility of the remote wasn’t up to speed either, which meant navigating the system was a bit clunky.
Before pushing back from the gate, American used the IFE screen to advertise 1 of its co-branded credit cards.
Hot Tip: American Airlines offers several credit cards that boast a wealth of benefits geared towards American Airlines frequent flyers. Check out our guide to see which American Airlines credit card might be the best for you.
As usual, I was more interested in the moving map than the many films and shows that were available.
I was glued to it for most of the flight, even though it wasn’t the most modern moving map software out there.
After releasing the screen from its dock, the casing came detached from the screen when I went to alter the angle.
A huge bonus of this seat was the sheer number of power outlets. I could simultaneously charge my laptop, phone, and AirPod case.
The Shinola amenity kit was comprised of a dental kit, eye mask, earplugs, flight socks, and a tiny pen.
To the left of the footrest was a net pouch where a pair of slippers could be found. I appreciated the amenity, but this pair was far inferior in quality to those I was given in JetBlue’s Mint (business class) on a previous flight from London (LHR) to New York (JFK).
The Casper bedding was of great quality and I liked that I had the option of a thick or thin blanket and extra lumbar support while seated.
I was happy to see that Wi-Fi was available. Given that I planned on working the whole flight, I paid the $29. However, I was very unhappy to find that the Wi-Fi barely worked. The man seated across from me had similar issues with emails barely being able to load.
In general, the area around my seat and the cabin seemed perfectly clean. That was until I flipped open my table to reveal a strange crusty white film.
There were 2 lavatories up front. I visited the larger of the 2 to the left of the cockpit door.
Nothing was untoward here other than the shelving unit reminiscent of where extra amenities may have been on offer in the pre-COVID travel era.
A softly-padded shelf could be released and rested on the toilet for baby changing purposes.
Masks were still mandatory onboard my flight when not eating or drinking.
As soon as I boarded the aircraft, Pamela, the lovely purser, came straight over to me and introduced herself.
Within seconds of accepting her offer of a welcome drink, she was back with a glass of Champagne.
When she saw me snapping lots of photos, she asked if I’d like her to take one for me. She didn’t do a bad job either.
In my experience of flying on airlines in America, I’ve often found the service to be rather transactional and stale. Not on this flight. Every interaction with Pamela (and other crew members for that matter) was personable and professional. I honestly couldn’t fault the service.
I must note 1 more thing as I’d never seen this before. To allow for flight crew to take bathroom breaks, the crew would place a service cart in the thoroughfare to the galley to stop potential trespassers from accessing the flight deck.
We landed ahead of schedule at 8:21 p.m. into a very hot and humid Miami International (MIA) that had just seen a deluge of rain. The walk from the aircraft to the baggage carousel seemed long and we waited well over half an hour for our bags to be delivered in what was a sweaty and jam-packed baggage claim area.
Getting an Uber was also a nightmare, but this has absolutely nothing to do with American, of course.
From start to finish, I was genuinely thrilled to be experiencing Flagship First for the first time.
However, the lack of Flagship First Dining at LAX, the terrible main course, and the lack of reliable Wi-Fi did take the shine off for me a little.
I loved the space and the seat itself — if I flew this route again, I’d definitely go for this rather than another aircraft. The crew were also fantastic.
Would I consider paying the regular cash price of upwards of $2,000 for this flight? Absolutely not.
I would, however, consider the amount that I paid as value for the money only if I was certain to have the Flagship First Dining experience included, too.
Thank you, American, for this memorable flight and for the 210 Tier Points that I needed to reach British Airways Executive Club Gold.
Flagship First Dining is temporarily suspended at LAX with no scheduled restart date.
Flagship First is an exclusive travel class found only on Boeing 777-300 and Airbus A321T on the following routes: JFK to Orange County, LA to Boston, LA to JFK, LA to Miami, and San Francisco to JFK.
Yes, a full drink service is available in American Airlines first class.
Flagship Lounges are American Airlines’ most premium lounge offerings.
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