This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

For my return flight to the States from São Paulo, I flew GRU-LAX on American Airlines’ 777-200, and it was bittersweet—as it was probably the last time I’ll ever fly AA’s old Flagship First Class.

The product is being phased out on the 777 in lieu of more, better business class seats. It
The product is being phased out on the 777 in lieu of more, better business class seats. It’s a huge seat, but that cabin has seen better days.

Booking

American has good upgrade and award availability at the SAAver level. I purchased this ticket for 62,500 miles and $54.74, but the cost would have been $6,752 if I’d bought outright. This redemption had a value of 10.7 cents per mile, which was a great deal—not to mention the score of saving more than $6,600! It’s an amazing redemption.

With nice and roomy 30-inch wide seats, a generous 64-inch pitch and a 78-inch lie-flat bed, America’s old Flagship First seats have the same measurements as those on the new 777-300ER—but the old seats swivel! This allows you to move right or left, look at your partner, and more easily get in and out of the seat, too.

But with all the new products coming out from so many airlines, it’s hard not to see the interior of this old 777-200 as simply tired and dated. Looking around the cabin, I was sure Don Draper was going to board the flight at any moment. Though he didn’t, supermodel Naomi Campbell did board—and she looked as fabulous as ever. (An ardent supporter of amfAR, she and I were both traveling to São Paulo for the charity’s annual Inspiration Gala—though she was its co-host, while I was just happy to be an attendee!)

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.01.40 AM
Swiveling seats on the old Flagship First: oh, how I’ll miss them.

After flying AA’s new first class product from JFK-GRU, I find that the old 777-200 is:

  • Much bigger inside. The old 777-200 Flagship has 16 first class seats in 1 x 2 x 1 configuration, while the new 777-300ERs have 8 first class seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 herringbone configuration, making for a much more private cabin.
  • Much better redemption. Even though old Flagship First is a more worn-down product, it’s far easier to find SAAver-level awards at 62,500 miles on the 777-200.
  • Way less expensive.  You pay a huge premium for new first class (since you need to book at higher rates) and it really isn’t all that much better; it’s the same food and bed, just with newer cloth upholstery in a smaller cabin. I’d rather have the old cabin at easier redemption rates.
AA 777 First Class
Farewell, old friend—we’ve had some good times together.

So here are the 3 reasons I’ll miss the old Flagship First:

1. Cheaper to redeem miles, with more SAAver space. The new first class and even new business class often requires more miles than old first class. For instance, the lowest mileage rate for new first class is a SAAver-level 62,500 miles each way, but know that these awards can be very scarce. More often, they price out at much higher AAnytime levels that range from 160,000-240,000 each way.

Here’s the one 62,500 SAAaver level award I found from JFK-GRU—the only date available for the entire award calendar:

AA JFK GRU First SAAver

And here’s one of only a handful of dates showing a 62,500-mile, one-way, SAAaver level award for DFW-GRU:

AA DFW GRU First SAAVER

Here’s the JFK-GRU route again, showing the more common First AAnytime level one-way award of 160,000 miles:

AA JFK GRU Varying AAnytime rates

And again JFK-GRU, this time showing a more typical AAnytime-level, one-way award of 190,000 miles:

AA JFK-GRU First AAnytime 190k

2. A dedicated first class cabin is a nice option to have. However, once American is done retrofitting its 777-200ERs into a two-cabin configuration, the first class cabin will be replaced with up to 45 fully lie-flat business class seats; these will have aisle access for every seat but are smaller, with a pitch between 60 and 61 inches and width between 21 and 26 inches.

3. Once it’s gone, you simply won’t be able to get the Flagship experience. Since First is being taken off of this plane (and thus many routes), you won’t be able to pay or redeem for three-cabin First or get access to exclusive Flagship First check-in, which I recently used out of JFK. It’s likely that the new first class won’t be as easy to redeem at SAAver levels, since American makes more money on the new products.

American 777 First Class
American’s new First Class aboard the 777-300ER

The new first class is found aboard the 777-300ER, and presently only flies from:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK) to London Heathrow (LHR)
  • Miami (MIA) and Dallas (DFW) to Sao Paulo (GRU)
  • Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG)

I’ll miss the old Flagship on flights to and from Miami, especially—it is was a great way to fly.

2018 TPG Award Winner: Mid-Tier Card of the Year
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

NEW INCREASED OFFER: 60,000 Points

TPG'S BONUS VALUATION: $1,200

CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 2X points on all travel and dining, points transferrable to over a dozen travel partners

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Chase Sapphire Preferred named "Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption" - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, June 2018
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 60,000 points are worth $750 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR on Purchases
N/A
Regular APR
18.24% - 25.24% Variable
Annual Fee
$95
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good

Know before you go.

News and deals straight to your inbox every day.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.