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

Feb 14, 2020

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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.

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!

All photos by the author. Featured image by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.

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

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