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Best domestic first-class flights and how to book them

August 29 2022
10 min read
First class seat on American
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If you're new to the points and miles game, you might think that the only way to get a snazzy lie-flat seat is by taking a long-haul international flight. While most domestic flights that feature first-class cabins offer standard recliner seats, there are some top-of-the-line, lie-flat seat routes.

Today, we'll look at the best domestic U.S. first-class flights and how you can book them — on points and miles, of course.

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American Airlines

American Airlines 777s at DFW. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Boeing 777-300ER Flagship First

American Airlines Flagship First seats on the Boeing 777-300ER. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American's Boeing 777-300ER first-class seats are arguably the "creme de la creme" of domestic first class. With just eight seats in a two-row 1-2-1 configuration, the seats adjacent to the windows swivel 90 degrees to face the window. Passengers can also access a built-in tray that flips out for a laptop or tablet. "This provides a more traditional 'desk' set-up, and it gives you easy access to the power outlet just to the right," TPG's content operations editor Madison Blancaflor said.

Routes: Within the U.S., you'll find this plane operating routes such as Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Miami International Airport (MIA). On this route, Flagship First is sold as a separate product from Flagship Business. Whether you opt for business or first class, you'll have access to American's Flagship lounge. Only Flagship First passengers can access the Flagship Dining experience in the lounge.

Last year, TPG found this plane operating the John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) to Miami route — though there weren't any Flagship amenities on this route. To read a fun review of the four cabins on this plane, check out this link.

How to book: If you find award space, Etihad Guest, perhaps one of the best lesser-known points currencies, should be your go-to. For just 32,500 miles, you can fly within the U.S. in Flagship First. Best of all, Etihad Guest is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, Capital One miles, Citi ThankYou Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy. You'll need to call Etihad Guest to book American Airlines awards as they cannot be booked online.

You can also book directly with American Airlines, but in our tests, first-class flights on the Boeing 777-300ER from LAX to MIA were selling for at least 55,000 miles one-way.

Related: Four cabins, one flight: Putting American Airlines’ Boeing 777-300 from New York to Miami to the test

Airbus A321T Flagship First

Flagship First on American's A321T. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The only other aircraft in American's fleet with a proper Flagship First cabin is the Airbus A321T, which is configured for premium transcontinental flights.

Believe it or not, this plane only has 104 seats (Spirit has 228 seats on the same plane), and 10 of them are Flagship First reverse Herringbone seats in a 1-1 configuration. Flagship First passengers enjoy access to the Flagship First lounge and dining as well as Casper sleep sets and inflight meals curated from American's partnership with the James Beard Foundation and chef Sarah Grueneberg.

Unfortunately, there's talk that this plane might be reconfigured, ending American current Flagship First transcontinental service. For now, though, you can enjoy it.

Routes: You can fly the A321T on all nonstop flights from JFK to LAX, John Wayne Airport (SNA) and San Francisco International Airport (SFO). The A321T is available on nonstop flights from LAX to Boston Logan International Airport (BOS). Lastly, the A321T often flies between JFK and BOS, but these short-haul flights don't offer any of the Flagship benefits.

How to book: Same as American's Boeing 777-300ER — Etihad Guest is a great bet.

Related: More masks, fewer glasses: American Airlines Flagship First from JFK to LAX

Delta Air Lines

(Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Airbus A350-900 Suites

DELTA

There's a lot to love about the Delta One seats on the Airbus A350-900. Each seat has a door that you can close inflight for added privacy, but the fancy perks end there. Unless you find one of these planes on a premium-transcontinental flight, you won't receive the Delta One amenities, which include added perks such as access to the Delta Sky Club and Someone Somewhere handcrafted amenity kits.

Heads up — some secondhand A350s in Delta's fleet have a dated 2-2-2 business class configuration.

Routes: It's hard to find Delta's A350 on domestic flights, but it occasionally operates from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) to other Delta hubs such as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport (DTW) and LAX.

How to book: Your best bets will likely be either Delta SkyMiles (points are transferrable from American Express Membership Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy) or Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (points are transferrable from American Express Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Rewards, Capital One miles and Marriott Bonvoy). I found the Delta A350 on an ATL to DTW route for 32,500 Delta SkyMiles or 27,500 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points.

Related: The ultimate guide to Delta One Suites

Hawaiian Airlines

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Airbus A330-200 first class

Hawaiian Airlines first class on the Airbus A330. HAWAIIAN AIRLINES

Despite being a somewhat dated 2-2-2 configuration, first class on Hawaiian's A330 makes you feel like you've arrived in Hawaii the moment you step foot on the plane. With just three rows of lie-flat seats, TPG was impressed by the stellar service and superb attention to detail on Hawaiian's A330.

Routes: Most A330 flights operate from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) to airports including SFO, SEA, LAX, JFK, BOS, Oakland International Airport (OAK), San Diego International Airport (SAN), Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX) and Orlando International Airport (MCO) (soon ending). You can also find it on select Kahului Airport (OGG) flights to airports including LAX and SEA.

How to book: Unfortunately, there aren't any bargain options to book Hawaiian's first class on points and miles. Transpacific flights on the A330 start at 40,000 miles per person, one-way. One option is to open a Hawaiian Airlines® World Elite Mastercard®, which has a 70,000 points sign-up offer. Alternatively, you can transfer American Express Rewards points and Bilt Rewards points to HawaiianMiles at a 1:1 ratio. Finally, West Coast to Hawaii Hawaiian Airlines first-class flights cost 80,000 points round-trip (yes, it has to be a round-trip) when using Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points.

Related: Best ways to redeem points and miles on Hawaiian Airlines

JetBlue

(Photo by Sean Cudahy/The Points Guy)

Airbus A321 Mint

JetBlue Mint on the domestic A321. (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Let's be honest — JetBlue's Mint rocks. You'll enjoy the all-new Mint suite if you get on one of the new A321neos. However, even the older Mint suite — which is roughly ten years old — is still an aspirational booking given its magnificent soft product.

Beyond the Master and Dynamic noise-isolating and Wanderfuel-branded amenity kits, Mint passengers get to customize their meals by selecting several small entrees. Flight attendants prepare fresh cocktails by shaking and pouring right at your seat.

It's clear that Mint flight attendants take pride in their work, and it's evident in their service — that isn't something you can say about all the airlines.

Routes: Within the U.S., you can find Mint on numerous JetBlue coast-to-coast flights.

How to book: You can book Mint using JetBlue's own loyalty program, TrueBlue. The number of points you use will depend on the cash price of your flight — think at least 60,000 points one-way. You can transfer Amex Membership Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, and Marriott Bonvoy points to TrueBlue. Alternatively, you can use AAdvantage miles to book Mint. That goes for 65,000 miles one-way on transcontinental flights.

Related: 6 things JetBlue should change about Mint business class

United Airlines

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Boeing 787-10 Dreamliner & Boeing 777-200ER/-300ER Premium Service

United Airlines Polaris business class on the Boeing 777-300ER. (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)

Last, but certainly not least, I think that United's premium transcontinental service (also known as P.S.) is one of the best in the business. United uses the same pod-like, lie-flat seats on its international Polaris business class flights. Passengers can also access the United Club before their flights, and enjoy Saks Fifth Avenue linens and amenity kits inflight.

Before the pandemic, United used to serve multi-course meals ordered from paper menus. Meals ended with an ice cream sundae cart where passengers could customize their sundaes with hot fudge, warm caramel, nuts, whipped cream and, of course, a cherry on top. Some of these luxuries haven't returned yet, but from what I understand, the full P.S. service will return in the coming months.

Routes: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to SFO and LAX. United once operated its P.S. service to Boston, but that ended during the pandemic.

How to book: It's unlikely that you'll find space, but if you do, you can book these flights using Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles for just 12,500 miles. Yes, you read that right — 12,500 miles. You can transfer Bilt Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One Miles and Marriott Bonvoy points to Miles&Smiles.

Another option would be to transfer points from Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, Citi ThankYou Points, Capital One Miles or Marriott Bonvoy to Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. That would allow you to book United's P.S. for 25,000 miles.

Lastly, you can use United MileagePlus (transfer partners of Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards and Marriott Bonvoy). While MileagePlus will give you availability to the greatest number of flights, you might run into flights for upwards of 100,000 miles one-way with its dynamic pricing model.

Related: Everything you need to know about United Polaris business class

Bottom line

There are plenty of magnificent domestic first-class flights out there, but the good ones require a little more points and miles savviness. Still, by knowing the ins and outs of each of these programs, you'll be on your way to traveling with the maximum luxury that domestic flights have to offer.

If you can find availability with points, you'll be in for a treat.

Featured photo by (Photo by Kyle Olsen/The Points Guy)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
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