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.
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.
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).
In fact, Cirium schedules show that American is planning to operate 168 flights in this market using the Airbus A321T in December.
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.)
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.
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 photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy
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