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These secret American Airlines seats are a major upgrade — and free if you know how to request them

Feb. 14, 2020
4 min read
These secret American Airlines seats are a major upgrade — and free if you know how to request them
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Your coach seat just got upgraded — but not to business-class or an extra-legroom Main Cabin Extra seat.

Instead, if you're flying economy on an American Airlines Boeing 767, you can actually request to sit in one of the four super-reclining crew rest seats — for free.

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These special seats are located in two pairs on each side of Row 17, right between the first and second economy cabins.

Seat map courtesy of SeatGuru

There's limited privacy since they're just behind the lavatories and in the same row as a galley. (When they're used a traditional crew rest, a thick, sliding curtain adds more privacy.)

But, relative to the standard coach seats, these are a massive upgrade.

In fact, the seats are quite similar to AA's old biz product. They have generous recline, lumbar support and a legrest with foot support. Though they look ancient compared to today's award-winning premium seats, I found them quite comfortable.

Like the rest of the plane, they have no entertainment screens, but there are DC power plugs. Manual and self-explanatory seat controls are located on each armrest.

Now, you must be wondering how you can score this upgrade. Well, you need to be flying on a Boeing 767 when the crew rest isn't actually used by the flight attendants. Typically, that means the flight needs to be less than eight hours long.

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Fortunately, that covers most of AA's 767 flights. Thanks to the airline's unique wide-body strategy, you'll often see the largest planes flying domestic routes. That's especially true with the 767 fleet, which mostly operates short-haul flights, including but not limited to:

  • Miami (MIA) - Chicago (ORD)
  • Miami (MIA) - Dallas (DFW)
  • Miami (MIA) - New York (JFK)
  • Miami (MIA) - Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Miami (MIA) - Philadelphia (PHL)
  • Miami (MIA) - San Francisco (SFO)
  • Philadelphia (PHL) - Las Vegas (LAS)
  • Philadelphia (PHL) - Orlando (MCO)
  • Philadelphia (PHL) - San Francisco (SFO)

You won't be able to select a crew rest seat when booking a flight operated by the 767. A quick glance at ExpertFlyer shows that these seats are blocked for gate control. That means that they can only be assigned by a gate agent right before departure.

Screenshot of ExpertFlyer showing Row 17 as blocked

But if you ask nicely, you may just get lucky. It doesn't hurt to have elite status with the airline, but that's not an explicit requirement to sitting in Row 17. When I recently flew an AA Boeing 767 from Miami to JFK, there were three passengers sitting in the crew rest, who had all asked the gate agent if they could sit there.

American isn't the only airline that allows passengers to sit in the crew rest. If you're flying select United 767-300s, you can purchase a confirmed crew rest seat anytime before departure.

This deal won't last because American plans to retire its fleet of aging 767s by the end of 2021. You have just under two years left to sit in a crew rest for the cost of a coach ticket, so get it before it's gone!

ExpertFlyer is owned by Red Ventures, the parent company of The Points Guy.

Featured image by Economy seats on American Airlines Boeing 787-8. (Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
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  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
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Best premium travel card for value
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

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more