American Airlines offers something a little more special on its premium domestic transcontinental routes. From Flagship First Check In to the Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining, the overall experience is something that you would normally expect from an international first class flight.
What are American Airlines Premium Transcontinental Routes?
Unfortunately as the airline industry has evolved, domestic first class flights within the US have left much to be desired. These flights lack the perks that you’d expect to see on premium international flights, such as private suites, lie-flat seats, extravagant food and champagne or in-flight showers. Instead expect a slightly wider than normal seat with a few extra inches of space and snacks slightly better than pretzels and peanuts (but not by much).
However on transcontinental routes, things are different. These are considered premium routes by airlines, high volume, high revenue, and the flight times can reach over 6 hours which is about the time it takes to fly from JFK to the western side of Europe.
American Airlines has two of these premium transcon routes: JFK to LAX and JFK to SFO.
Perks of American Airlines Trascon Flights
On these routes American Airlines flies an Airbus 321T (the T is for transcontinental). It can also be called a 32B. There are three classes of service, and lie-flat seats in business and first. Additionally business or first class travelers on these routes have additional perks such as access to the new AA Flagship Lounges and in-flight amenity kits. First class travelers on these routes also get access to Flagship First transcontinental perks such as Flagship First Check-In and Flagship First Dining.
The point is that these routes offer additional services and perks, but be prepared to pay up! Depending on flight times and availability, one way flights in business class range from $800 to $2200 and first class range from $1000 to $3000!
How We Booked AA Transcon Flight
Jess and I used 50K AA miles each to fly from LAX to JFK on an AA transcon first class flight on our way to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.
The actual routing consisted of three flights:
- LAX-JFK on American Airlines A321T first class
- JFK-MIA on American Airlines 757 domestic first class (aka faux first class)
- MIA-CUR on American Airlines 738 business class (also faux)
You may be asking why we flew through JFK to get to Miami and why fly to Curacao when our main destination was Bonaire, but don’t worry I’ll get to that!
Bonaire has been on our bucket list since we started scuba diving several years ago. While there is only one small international airport on Bonaire (BON), both Aruba and Curacao islands are nearby and each have their own (also small) international airports (AUA) (CUR). Together the three islands make up the ABC islands of the caribbean.
When searching for award flights it’s always good to be flexible (both in dates and flight routes) and creative. Since we had a limited number of dates to choose from, we had to be flexible with flight routes and airports.
American Airlines did not have saver award availability to Bonaire, but did have open saver availability to Curacao. We took this as a chance to fly into Curacao and explore all three ABC islands!
I had also been wanting to try out AA’s transcon first class flight from Los Angeles to New York ever since we experienced business class on that route earlier this month. I was especially looking forward to the Flagship First Dining. There are only four airports in the US that have AA Flagship Lounges, and our routing took us to three of them!
One thing to note on these AA transcontinental routes is that while first saver awards are rare, business saver awards are virtually non existent! That means you can book a first saver award for less than a business class award (50K vs 52.5K points) because the business class seat will be an anytime award.
While on these routes I would argue there isn’t a whole lot more to be gained by flying first vs business, but if it requires less points I’ll take more space and first class dining anytime 😉
There was no saver availability from either of those three islands back to LAX, so we ended up using United Airlines miles for the return flight.
Flagship First Check In at LAX
The Flagship Check In is at the end of terminal 4 (close to terminal 5). It’s just past the “American priority” sign, and you will see a large red door labeled Flagship First Check-In.
The entire flagship check-in experience was very nice. There were several representatives ready to assist us and we were the only ones there.
I think my favorite part was the “expedited security access”. AA doesn’t explain this online and the experience likely varies depending on the airport. At LAX this meant having an AA employee escort us through a secret back elevator to the security checkpoint, going to the TSA pre-check line, skipping everyone in the TSA pre-check line, and then being escorted to the actual front of the x-ray machine.
We made it through LAX security in less than 3 minutes.
I’ve been escorted to the “expedited” security line before, but have never actually skipped that entire line all together. I must say it was quite an experience.
Flagship First Lounge
The Los Angeles International Airport Flagship Lounge was fantastic as always. In my opinion it is easily the best business class lounge in the entire US and when combined with the Flagship First Dining may top even the first class lounges.
Flagship First Dining
The Flagship First Dining was something I was particularly looking forward to experiencing. This is available to passengers flying first class on “qualifying international flights” (US to Asia, Australia, Europe, South America) and “qualifying transcontinental flights” (transcon routes above (JFK to LAX/SFO).
I reviewed the Flagship First Dining experience in a previous post, but in short the food and service was very good. We actually loved the appetizers and drinks more than the main course.
Boarding the A321T
I was really looking forward to this flight and taking some pictures so I made Jess wait in line with me so we could be first to board 🙂 There was one concierge key member who boarded before us. If you have given AA that much business over the years, ok you can board ahead of me.
We were offered the customary warm mixed nuts, towel and choice of drink (champagne). While this is usually not seen on domestic flights, it is common on international business and first class flights.
Cabin and Seat
The AA Airbus 321T is a true 3 cabin aircraft with a total of 102 seats. The first class cabin has 5 rows arranged in a 1-1 configuration for 10 total seats.
The economy cabin has 72 seats of which 36 are main cabin extra
I really enjoyed the first class cabin. It was beautiful and spacious. With only 10 seats, each had direct aisle access, two windows and plenty of privacy. Except 1F which Jess had and I’ll get to later.
The first class seats are very similar to what AA flies on their international business class 777-300ERs and 787 Dreamliners. The reverse herringbone layout has the seats facing away from the aisles and toward the windows, but makes it nearly impossible for travel partners to sit together.
The seat itself was very comfortable and there was there was plenty of legroom.
Beneath the seat by your feet was another storage compartment.. I literally didn’t have enough items for all the storage space.
The TV was very nice and features a 15.4 inch touch screen with a matte finish to decrease glare. The screen could swing out to allow you to watch straight on.
Bose headphones were provided for first class. This is actually very impressive given that many of the world’s top airlines don’t offer Bose in international first class.
Which seat to choose?
The 1F horrible seat b/c open to the gally. The flight attendants don’t mean to, but can stare right at you. Hard to sleep with the light and the lack of privacy
Food and Beverage
With a short 5.5 hour flight, the food service started shortly after takeoff. The entire meal was served on one tray, which is understandable given the flight time. However I have seen previous reviews on an AA transcon flight where full multicourse meal service was offered. Maybe this was changed due to budget cuts? And yes that clip is from the movie Blockers. Worth a watch next time you’re traveling.
I had no idea what to expect from the fig filo tart appetizer. It came out with the main course and was actually delicious. It was almost a cheese and charcuterie platter of sorts with veggies and small dried figs.
For the main course I choose the Thai beef curry over the famous (or maybe infamous) lobster roll. And I’m sure glad I did. The beef was cooked perfectly (slightly medium in the center) and the curry was mildly spicy with great Thai flavors.
The flight attendant kindly allowed me to take a picture of the “lobster roll”. While it appeared slightly more appetizing than what Lucky from OMAAT was served, I still don’t think it qualifies as real food. The lobster roll resembled more of a mayonnaise potato salad with tiny pieces of what must be lobster, but who actually knows.
Take my advice and go with the Thai beef curry.
I have never really been impressed with (and am usually appalled) with the service provided on US airlines. However the service we had on this flight was the best I have experienced from a US airline. The two flight attendants were extremely attentive and very helpful. They spent a little extra time to go over the menu and help with small requests. You can tell when someone actually cares and the two attendants on this flight did.
As a site note Jess and I have gotten into the habit of giving a small gift to our flight attendants on some our flights. They (some of them) work very hard and are often under appreciated.
On this flight we gave our flight attendants a small bag of Lindor truffles. They graciously accepted the gift (who doesn’t like Lindor truffles?) and thanked us. I can say that their service was just as good before the gift as after. Although they did come by a few extra times to top off our champagne glasses 😉
The amenity kit featured by CO Bigelow and Cole Haan was the most extensive I have received on a domestic flight. It featured the standard eye mask, ear plugs and socks. But also had tissues, a dental kit and several lotions. Even more creative was supplying a “gadget cloth” which I guess would be used to clean off dust or fingerprints from a screen and a stain remover. There was also a $100 voucher for a Casper mattress, $100 off $300 Cole Haan and 20% off CO Bigelow products.
The seat reclined fully into a lie-flat bed with 82 inches of bed length. Long enough even for TPG.
The comforter and pillow were comfortable enough, however the seat itself was a little hard for a bed. While I know it’s only a 5.5 hour intra-country flight, it would have been nice to have bedding placed over the seat. I got pretty warm so actually ended up laying the comforter down over the seat to make it softer.
Clearly Jess was able to get more comfortable than me.
This may sound silly, but the breakfast scones were the most delicious scones I have ever had. They were perfectly warm with a delicious crunchy sugar shell and soft tender inside. I ate mine and Jess’. She was still sleeping even as we landed at the John F Kennedy airport 🙂
There isn’t a better way to fly transcontinental across the United States than on an American Airlines A321T. In all honesty the business class product is so good, I’m not sure first class is necessary. The main differences I see over business class is the larger seat space, access to Flagship First Check-In and Flagship First Dining, and slightly better food/drink in the air. However there are times on these routes when first is then same or cheaper than business and then it’s a no brainer.