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I bought a coach ticket, but flew in a lie-flat bed for just $23 more

Nov. 23, 2021
4 min read
I bought a coach ticket, but flew in a lie-flat bed for just $23 more
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Scoring a lie-flat business-class pod on a short domestic flight is a nice treat.

It’s even better when it costs just an additional $23 — the exact price that American Airlines was charging for its extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra offering.

Last Wednesday, I flew from New York to Boston to research how American and JetBlue are delivering on the promised benefits of the Northeast Alliance.

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While the outcome is a story unto itself, perhaps the most exciting element was how I flew there: in the business-class cabin on American’s swankiest jet for a modest $23 upgrade on top of my $89 coach ticket.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American Airlines operates a sub-fleet of Airbus A321 aircraft, dubbed the A321T, which it primarily deploys on transcontinental hops between New York and Los Angeles, San Francisco, Orange County, as well as from Boston to Los Angeles.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

To lure travelers to fly American on these hotly contested routes, American’s A321T is outfitted in one of the most spacious configurations in the domestic skies – with 10 first-class pods, 20 business-class lie-flat beds, and 72 coach seats, half of which are designated as extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra. Especially compared to Spirit’s A321 with 228 seats, this plane is downright luxurious.

When American isn’t flying the plane on 2,500-mile routes, the carrier deploys it between New York-JFK and Boston (mostly to reposition it between transcon hops).

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

In fact, Cirium schedules show that American is planning to operate 168 flights in this market using the Airbus A321T in December.

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When the A321T flies the 187-mile hop to Boston, American only sells two cabins: the 10-seat first-class cabin and a 92-seat coach cabin. (Coach fares were $89, while first-class was going for $269.)

So, you might ask, what happens to the 20 business-class pods?

Turns out, American designates the entire cabin as extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seats. In fact, the airline doesn’t differentiate the 20 business-class pods from the 35-inch pitch extra-legroom seats just a few rows behind.

That means, you can score a biz pod for the cost of a regular extra legroom seat, which was going for just $23 on the JFK-Boston route. (On the return route, American was charging $39 for the same seats, likely due to the longer blocked travel time.)

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

American’s Platinum, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elites can even select one of these pods for no additional cost. (Golds can select a seat in this cabin for free beginning during the check-in process.)

If you’re looking to replicate this experience on your own, be sure to search for flights operated by the Airbus A321T, and select a seat in Rows 6 through 10.

Though there was no inflight service on this 45-minute hop, I thoroughly enjoyed reclining my seat, fiddling around with the 15-inch entertainment screen and working on the oversized tray table (that measured 19.5 inches wide and 11 inches long).

While the flight wasn’t long enough to fully enjoy the seat, the lie-flat experience is leaps and bounds better than what you’d find in coach, especially if you’re subject to delays and long taxi times, which are frequent in the congested Northeast airspace.

Better yet, the $23 upgrade was perhaps the best-kept secret on my flight.

(Photo by Scott Mayerowitz/The Points Guy)

While all 10 first-class pods and 36 standard coach seats were taken, there were only four of us in the business-class section that seats 20.

It might’ve been just a 45-minute flight, but it’s one I’ll always remember.

Featured image by Zach Griff/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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Apply for American Express® Gold Card
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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees