Flight Review: American Airlines First Class Miami-LAX
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As I wrote last week, I used 37,500 British Airways Avios + $2.50 to fly American Airlines first class at the last minute (no last-minute booking fees with BA!) from Miami to Los Angeles when even coach tickets were going for over $500 one-way. I thought that was well worth the points price since I’d be flying on one of the airline’s 777-200’s, which services its international routes as well and contains the airline’s Flagship First Class Suite.
After a breezy Flagship Check-In experience at Miami, I hung out in the Admirals Club before making my way down to the plane. I’d flown in American’s Flagship Suite before from Buenos Aires to New York in January 2011, which was a mediocre experience at best, and on the Oneworld Megado, but I was actually looking forward to trying out the service again since this would be a shorter flight and I was just hoping to get a nap in on the lie-flat seat because we left early-morning.
The cabin has just 16 seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration. Each seat has 92 inches in pitch and is 21 inches wide. The bed only stretches out to 6’6″, so not quite long enough for me, but the padding is pretty good even if the duvet is kind of thin, so I was still able to get comfortable and sneak in a quick nap. As an aside, I sat behind NBA coaching legend Pat Riley, who is apparently an American Executive Platinum (per his tags on his carryon) and was super friendly- agreeing to take pictures with anyone who asked.
The middle two seats are good for traveling companions since you can swivel the seats and put down the partition to have a meal together, though personally I prefer the window seats when traveling alone so I’m not right next to anyone.
Speaking of meals, the quality of the food they served was surprisingly good – especially for domestic! Some standouts included a starter of curried shrimp with a little salad.
For a main, I had a light salad with chicken.
There were a couple drawbacks, though. First, there was no amenities kit. I didn’t mind that so much because it was a short flight and I’m not a huge fan of American’s kits anyway, but United does give out eye masks and ear plugs on transcontinental flights in first and business class, so American can step up their game on this front.
Another annoyance was that, though the in-flight entertainment options were pretty good and the flight attendants handed out Bose QC15 for passengers to use, they took them away and turned off the entertainment system nearly an hour before landing, coming through the cabin practically screaming that they would be collecting headsets and shutting down our televisions for the duration of the flights, and even unplugging one passenger’s headset while it was still on his head. An hour in advance on a ~5ish hour flight is nearly 20% of the flight without headphones!
The real downside of taking this flight, however, was that since this is an aircraft AA uses on its overseas routes, it’s not equipped for WiFi. The airline does plan to put WiFi on its new 777’s, but I’m not sure why the airline doesn’t just equip its fleet now since it uses these planes on domestic routes as well. It would have been nice to use the transcontinental flight to stay up-to-date on work rather than expecting a torrent of emails to come flooding in the moment I turned on my phone when we landed. Oh well, I just had to use the flight to relax instead and catch up on episodes of trashy TV on my iPad.
All in all, this experience was better than my international flights on American in their Flagship First Class Suite, and certainly one of my best experiences flying transcontinental thanks to the lie-flat bed and the good food, but for flying internationally, I’d rather use my American miles toward first class redemptions on Oneworld partners like Cathay Pacific or British Airways. With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.
With some great bonus categories, the American Express Gold Card has a lot going for it. The card offers 4x points at US restaurants, at US supermarkets (up to $25,000; then 1x), and 3x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through amextravel.com. It is currently offering a welcome bonus of 35,000 bonus points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months.