Last Updated:
December 18, 2023

Flying Long-Haul AA Flagship First for Just 45k Miles

American Airlines Flagship First is the only true domestic first class product. Read on for how I did this for just 45k miles.

Half a dozen times a year, I make the roughly 3,000-mile trek across the North American continent. Based in NYC, I maintain strong ties to the West Coast, a region I deeply admire and enjoy. I often tell family and friends that if I weren't living in NY, California would be my home. Though I sometimes fly this route in economy, for transcontinental (or 'transcon') flights, I always check for opportunities to use my points for premium cabin travel. Flying six hours in economy several times a year is manageable, but spending over 72 hours annually in economy on long, overnight red-eye flights is far from ideal, especially as an avid player of the points and miles game.

Fortunately, most airlines operating from JFK to LAX or SFO feature aircraft with lie-flat business class, but one stands out: American Airlines. While Delta, United, and JetBlue offer lie-flat business class, American is the only airline providing true lie-flat first class. Notably, American has configured the only domestic three-cabin aircraft, the Airbus A321-T ("T" for Transcon), specifically for these routes. Although this aircraft is slated for retirement soon, I seized the opportunity to experience a domestic first-class product in the US.

Ground Experience

The experience begins immediately upon entering JFK's terminal. As a Flagship First or Business customer, or a Concierge Key member, you have access to a dedicated check-in space. This unique concept allows you to sit with an agent on comfortable couches during check-in. Furthermore, an American Airlines employee personally escorts you to the front of the security line, including TSA Pre Check.

Last year, American overhauled their JFK lounges, launching three new concepts in partnership with British Airways. As a Flagship First customer, I had access to the exclusive Chelsea lounge, alongside the Soho and Greenwich lounges. The Chelsea lounge, reserved for first-class passengers and top-tier AA elites, impressed me as potentially the finest lounge in the United States. Its only drawback is the lack of windows; for apron views, the SoHo lounge is the alternative.

Upon entry to the Chelsea Lounge, you're welcomed by a stunning circular Champagne bar, adorned with beautiful pendants. Comfortable seating is plentiful around the bar, and there's an a-la-carte dining room offering made-to-order food. The airport lounge food here, particularly the All-American Breakfast and French Toast I tried, ranks among the best.

Before leaving, I visited the shower suites, equipped with DS&D URGA products and featuring a rainfall shower. The spacious suites offer ample room for personal belongings. While boarding began at 6:00 AM, I sampled a small taste of champagne from their rotating selection, imagining a later-day flight might have made the champagne bar an even more enjoyable experience.

Seat and Cabin

The American Airlines A321T from JFK to SFO is arranged in a 1:1 reverse-herringbone pattern with just ten seats in the Flagship First cabin. In Flagship Business, there are five rows of 2:2 lie-flat seats. The Main Cabin Extra and regular economy seats are in a 3:3 configuration. In First, the spaciousness of the seats is remarkable.

Awaiting me on board were a pillow, blanket, and a luxurious leather amenity kit from Shinola Detroit. The seat's generous size comfortably accommodated my 6'4" frame, even in lie-flat mode. The TV, positioned parallel to the passenger when stowed, flips out from the seat in front.

Food and Service

The service in AA Flagship First truly distinguishes it. With only ten passengers in the cabin, the flight attendant provides highly personalized attention. For instance, I was graciously offered fresh cookies after missing the service during a nap. Each passenger in Flagship First received a handwritten note of appreciation from the flight attendant – a thoughtful gesture.

Although there was no printed menu, the breakfast options were appealing. The smell of fresh cinnamon rolls filled the cabin after takeoff. I opted for Avocado Toast and a bottle of green juice from Pressed Juicery. While tasty, the toast was slightly soggy.

Before I knew it, were were on final decent into San Fransisco, and my Flagship First experience was almost over.

How I Booked

Domestic flights in the US, particularly on competitive routes like JFK-LAX or SFO, are usually affordable, even when using points and miles. Most US airlines offer flexibility for cancellations or changes for airline credit. Initially, I was booked on a Delta Comfort+ flight, but a check on the American Airlines app revealed availability in Flagship First for 45,500 AA Miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. The value of this booking was exceptional, far exceeding The Points Guy's valuation.

Earning American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be challenging, but they're attainable through flights, partnerships like Bilt Rewards, or co-branded credit cards with Citi and Barclays. Etihad, a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, also offers booking options for this itinerary.

In conclusion, AA Flagship First is arguably the best way to fly cross-country, especially for a mere $5.60. You don't need to be a millionaire to travel luxuriously; savvy use of points and miles can make it a reality.

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Half a dozen times a year, I make the roughly 3,000-mile trek across the North American continent. Based in NYC, I maintain strong ties to the West Coast, a region I deeply admire and enjoy. I often tell family and friends that if I weren't living in NY, California would be my home. Though I sometimes fly this route in economy, for transcontinental (or 'transcon') flights, I always check for opportunities to use my points for premium cabin travel. Flying six hours in economy several times a year is manageable, but spending over 72 hours annually in economy on long, overnight red-eye flights is far from ideal, especially as an avid player of the points and miles game.

Fortunately, most airlines operating from JFK to LAX or SFO feature aircraft with lie-flat business class, but one stands out: American Airlines. While Delta, United, and JetBlue offer lie-flat business class, American is the only airline providing true lie-flat first class. Notably, American has configured the only domestic three-cabin aircraft, the Airbus A321-T ("T" for Transcon), specifically for these routes. Although this aircraft is slated for retirement soon, I seized the opportunity to experience a domestic first-class product in the US.

Ground Experience

The experience begins immediately upon entering JFK's terminal. As a Flagship First or Business customer, or a Concierge Key member, you have access to a dedicated check-in space. This unique concept allows you to sit with an agent on comfortable couches during check-in. Furthermore, an American Airlines employee personally escorts you to the front of the security line, including TSA Pre Check.

Last year, American overhauled their JFK lounges, launching three new concepts in partnership with British Airways. As a Flagship First customer, I had access to the exclusive Chelsea lounge, alongside the Soho and Greenwich lounges. The Chelsea lounge, reserved for first-class passengers and top-tier AA elites, impressed me as potentially the finest lounge in the United States. Its only drawback is the lack of windows; for apron views, the SoHo lounge is the alternative.

Upon entry to the Chelsea Lounge, you're welcomed by a stunning circular Champagne bar, adorned with beautiful pendants. Comfortable seating is plentiful around the bar, and there's an a-la-carte dining room offering made-to-order food. The airport lounge food here, particularly the All-American Breakfast and French Toast I tried, ranks among the best.

Before leaving, I visited the shower suites, equipped with DS&D URGA products and featuring a rainfall shower. The spacious suites offer ample room for personal belongings. While boarding began at 6:00 AM, I sampled a small taste of champagne from their rotating selection, imagining a later-day flight might have made the champagne bar an even more enjoyable experience.

Seat and Cabin

The American Airlines A321T from JFK to SFO is arranged in a 1:1 reverse-herringbone pattern with just ten seats in the Flagship First cabin. In Flagship Business, there are five rows of 2:2 lie-flat seats. The Main Cabin Extra and regular economy seats are in a 3:3 configuration. In First, the spaciousness of the seats is remarkable.

Awaiting me on board were a pillow, blanket, and a luxurious leather amenity kit from Shinola Detroit. The seat's generous size comfortably accommodated my 6'4" frame, even in lie-flat mode. The TV, positioned parallel to the passenger when stowed, flips out from the seat in front.

Food and Service

The service in AA Flagship First truly distinguishes it. With only ten passengers in the cabin, the flight attendant provides highly personalized attention. For instance, I was graciously offered fresh cookies after missing the service during a nap. Each passenger in Flagship First received a handwritten note of appreciation from the flight attendant – a thoughtful gesture.

Although there was no printed menu, the breakfast options were appealing. The smell of fresh cinnamon rolls filled the cabin after takeoff. I opted for Avocado Toast and a bottle of green juice from Pressed Juicery. While tasty, the toast was slightly soggy.

Before I knew it, were were on final decent into San Fransisco, and my Flagship First experience was almost over.

How I Booked

Domestic flights in the US, particularly on competitive routes like JFK-LAX or SFO, are usually affordable, even when using points and miles. Most US airlines offer flexibility for cancellations or changes for airline credit. Initially, I was booked on a Delta Comfort+ flight, but a check on the American Airlines app revealed availability in Flagship First for 45,500 AA Miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees. The value of this booking was exceptional, far exceeding The Points Guy's valuation.

Earning American Airlines AAdvantage miles can be challenging, but they're attainable through flights, partnerships like Bilt Rewards, or co-branded credit cards with Citi and Barclays. Etihad, a transfer partner with American Express Membership Rewards, also offers booking options for this itinerary.

In conclusion, AA Flagship First is arguably the best way to fly cross-country, especially for a mere $5.60. You don't need to be a millionaire to travel luxuriously; savvy use of points and miles can make it a reality.

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