Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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American Airlines operates several service classes on its planes, each offering unique amenities designed for different types of travelers. Sometimes, there isn’t much variation between classes, so it’s important to discern between them to see which suits your next flight.
We’ll dive into the details of each fare class and which may be best for your travels.
By far, the most significant number of seats on American’s planes are in the Main Cabin, or what most people think of as economy class. These seats are traditionally located in the back of the aircraft and include the least legroom. On many planes, you’ll find aisle seats, window seats, and middle seats.
Here’s what you can expect in Main Cabin:
It’s worth noting that all American Airlines aircraft have Main Cabin Extra seats onboard, which is not a separate class of service. These seats usually include bulkhead seats, seats at emergency exits, and also the first few rows of the Main Cabin section. Main Cabin Extra seats have extra legroom and include a complimentary alcoholic beverage, but are still part of the larger economy class cabin.
While Basic Economy ticket holders still sit in normal Main Cabin seats, it’s worth noting that these tickets come with restrictions, including a no refunds/no changes policy and last group boarding (where you may find that overhead bin space is full for your carry-on bags). Basic Economy tickets are great for those on a budget with fixed plans but not for travelers who might need to change their ticket.
Main Cabin is primarily designed for the following travelers:
Main Cabin is a perfectly acceptable cabin for a shorter domestic flight or on shorter wide-body international flights. It makes a huge difference to pay the additional money or use AAdvantage elite status to sit in Main Cabin Extra. These seats have far more legroom than standard Main Cabin seats, though the service is the same no matter which economy seat you sit in. You’ll likely have trouble sleeping for red-eye flights no matter the seat, so if you can upgrade to premium economy, that upgrade will probably be well worth it.
American Airlines has a premium economy cabin on its wide-body aircraft only. This includes all variants of the Boeing 787 and Boeing 777. These seats are directly behind the business class cabin and feature a separate partition from the premium cabins up front and the Main Cabin in the rear.
Premium economy class seats are laid out in a 2-3-2 formation, so most passengers have an aisle or window.
Here is what you can expect in premium economy:
Premium economy is primarily designed for the following travelers:
American’s upgrade program is somewhat unique in that you cannot upgrade using miles or a systemwide upgrade from Main Cabin to premium economy. You can only upgrade to business class. Depending on how you’d like to upgrade or which cabin you’d ultimately like to sit in, this may be worth noting.
Premium economy balances the cost of economy class with the comforts of a premium cabin. It can definitely make sense on a longer flight where rest is more important, but you still need to be mindful of budget. Keep in mind that premium economy seats don’t lie flat, so you may still have trouble sleeping, though it’s a far more rosier experience than Main Cabin.
American markets its short-haul international flights with a normal domestic configured first class seat and similar amenities. While you may see “business class” during the booking process, it’s essentially a domestic first class seat and amenities.
You’ll find this business class terminology on flights to Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and select South American cities.
Similar to the domestic first class product, you get:
Unlike domestic first class, you get Admirals Club access on flights to Canada, the Caribbean, Mexico, and South America. You do not get Flagship Lounge access, however.
Short-haul business class is primarily designed for the following travelers:
Short-haul international business class is the same exact seat as the domestic first class configuration, so you won’t find any additional comfort, but it is nice to have a little more room to stretch out between you and the person next to you. For longer flights, upgrading to business class can certainly be worth it.
American has announced the retirement of its A321T (transcontinental) aircraft but will continue to fly them for the next few years until a suitable replacement is implemented. This aircraft has business class laid out in a 2-2 configuration.
These transcontinental aircraft serve the following markets:
American flies its Boeing 777-300ER on some flights from Miami (MIA) to LAX, also considered a transcontinental route. These aircraft are laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration, so all seats have direct aisle access.Hot Tip:
You can use the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® to earn extra AAdvantage miles on your everyday purchases, such as gas stations and restaurants, and then use those miles to upgrade your seat from Main Cabin to business class on select flights.
Here’s what you can expect in American’s transcontinental business class:
Transcontinental business class is primarily designed for the following travelers:
On the transcontinental aircraft, you may not have direct aisle access if you’re assigned a window seat in business class. If aisle access is important, select an aisle or upgrade to Flagship First, where all seats have direct aisle access. If you’re in business class, the person at the window will still need to hop over you if they wish to get up, which could disturb some passengers.Hot Tip:
The lowest price for a transcontinental flight on American’s A321T is around $800 one-way. You can usually snag a flight for around $400 to 500 for a non-lie-flat seat with a connection.
On the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787, American operates its Flagship Business product in a 1-2-1 configuration, with aisle access for all seats. While these aircraft sometimes fly shorter flights, for the purposes of this description, we are referring to long-haul flights such as New York (JFK) to London (LHR) or Los Angeles (LAX) to Sydney (SYD). American also operates these seats on all Dallas (DFW) to Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG), and Kona (KOA) flights.
Here is what you can expect on a long-haul international flight in business class:
If you aren’t in business class, and don’t otherwise have lounge access, having the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® is a good alternative. It comes with an Admirals Club lounge membership, allowing you to access all American Airlines Admirals Club lounges systemwide.Hot Tip:
Not all business class seats are created equal. On some of American’s Boeing 787 planes, there are rear-facing business class seats, which may be less desirable for some travelers.
You may see during your booking process a product called Flagship Business Plus. To be clear, this is the same exact business class seat you’d receive by booking Flagship Business, though there are a few extra perks thrown in, including access to Flagship Check-In (in select airports), a third checked bag free (normally reserved for first class and top-tier elite members) and Flagship First Dining, where available. In the end, the hard product on board is the same, though you may find the extra expense worth it to experience a fancier check-in process and lounge access.
Business class is primarily designed for the following travelers:
Business class is the ideal way to travel if you need to arrive at your destination refreshed and ready to go or need to work along the way. Because the seats go fully flat, you can get a full night of sleep fairly easily. Business class can cost substantially more than premium economy, though on some fares, you can find a reasonable upgrade cost that makes it worth it.Hot Tip:
American is planning to introduce all-new Flagship Suite cabins on all Airbus A321XLR and Boeing 787-9 aircraft that it takes delivery of starting in 2024.
Flagship First is being phased out but will continue to operate for the next few years. This is the highest possible class of service on American Airlines and is set in a 1-1 seat configuration on American’s A321T aircraft or a 1-2-1 configuration on American’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. All seats have direct aisle access.
Here is what you can expect in Flagship First:
You’re probably wondering why someone would upgrade to Flagship First over business class. These are the main differences:
As American slowly phases out Flagship First seats on the A321T or Boeing 777-300ER, it’s worth noting that the difference between Flagship First and business class is often not enough to command a higher price point. While you’ll receive an upgraded lounge experience, the product onboard the plane is quite similar to business class, and both classes offer lie-flat seats.Hot Tip:
On some routes, such as Boston to Los Angeles, Flagship First is often only $200 more than business class. You may find this difference worth it for a more private seat.
Flagship First is primarily designed for the following travelers:
Flagship First is usually unnecessary unless there’s only a small difference in the cash cost or using miles. Flagship First includes most of the amenities as Flagship Business, but if a more exclusive lounge is worth it to you, you may find the cost difference worth it. All Flagship First products include direct aisle access. Keep in mind this product is slowly retiring from American’s fleet and won’t be available on aircraft sometime within the next few years.
American operates a first class cabin on all regional jets, the Boeing 737, and Airbus A319, 320, and 321 aircraft. This is typically branded as “first class” and operates on all domestic routes. On regional jets, first class is laid out in a 1-2 configuration, while all other aircraft have a 2-2 configuration.
Here’s what you can expect with a typical first class seat:
First class is primarily designed for the following travelers:
American’s domestic first class product is underwhelming. The legroom is not substantial, and many passengers report thin padding in the seats. While it’s certainly better than being crammed into Main Cabin, many passengers report it more comfortable to be in an exit row or similar where legroom exceeds that of the seats in first class.
American has several onboard products you can choose from, each with a different price point and varying amenities. The higher the class of service, the more money you’ll pay. However, many passengers will find those better seats or services worth the additional expenditure. No matter which class of service you choose, American’s goal is to get you to your destination safely and on time!
The information regarding the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World Elite™ Mastercard® was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer.
The main levels of seating on American Airlines are Main Cabin, Main Cabin Extra, Premium Economy, Flagship Business Class, Flagship First Class, and First Class. Each fare offers different amenities and services.
Flagship First Class includes access to Flagship First Dining and a more extensive meal service in-flight. Business Class includes Flagship Lounge access, and may feature seats that don’t have direct aisle access, depending on the plane. Both Flagship Business and Flagship First feature lie-flat seats.
Premium Economy has a larger seat, less seats per row, a larger inflight entertainment screen, complimentary checked bags, as well as an upgraded meal service. Economy Class has more seats per row, smaller inflight entertainment screens, no complimentary checked bags depending on the route, and the least extensive meal service onboard.
In general, consumers and businesses aren’t willing to pay the premium difference between business class and first class. First class generally costs more money, but doesn’t offer much difference in amenities, so it’s tough to justify the additional expense. Because of this, American is removing First Class from the Boeing 777-300ER and retiring the Airbus A321T.
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