American introduces a new business-class fare that includes first-class perks

Jun 8, 2022

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

Editor’s note (6/9/2022): This post has been updated with additional information, including fares and upgrade changes.

Earlier this year, American Airlines appeared ready to retire first class.

The airline started marketing its premium transcon first-class fares as a “Premier” product dubbed “Flagship Business Plus” for a few hours on a mid-January afternoon. It didn’t take long for a FlyerTalk forum to start trending, and aviation blogs to pick up the news.

For its part, American denied that any changes were coming. The airline hastily removed all references to the “Flagship Business Plus” product and restored its “Flagship First” fares on premium transcon flights operated by the carrier’s snazzy Airbus A321T.

But now, nearly six months later, references to “Flagship Business Plus” have once again reappeared on American’s website.

And instead of rebranding first class, as initially assumed back in January, Flagship Business Plus is a new premium business-class product that includes many aspects of the first-class experience, a carrier spokesperson confirmed to TPG.

Want more airline-specific news? Sign up for TPG’s free new biweekly Aviation newsletter.

Those purchasing this new fare product will have access to Flagship First check-in counters, which offer a private check-in experience with more personalized service and expedited access to security.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

These travelers will also be able to bring a third checked bag, which is typically a benefit reserved for those seated in long-haul first class (and top-tier elite members).

Once you’re airside, those ticketed in Flagship Business Plus will be able to enjoy the Flagship First dining facility, which offers a restaurant-style pre-flight dining experience in special bistro areas within the Flagship Lounge.

(There are Flagship First dining outposts in New York-JFK, Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX), though the Southern California location is temporarily closed due to the pandemic.)

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

The extra privileges of purchasing a Flagship Business Plus fare end once you step onboard. You’ll be seated in the biz cabin, and you’ll experience American’s business-class soft product.

The airline is now selling Flagship Business Plus fares on select international routes as of Wednesday afternoon. The fare option now appears during the search process in a new column next to the “business” column.

Taking a look at a few routes shows that American is currently pricing the upsell at $400 over the standard business fare.

The carrier appears to only be selling the enhanced product on one-way tickets from its four hubs that have Flagship First dining outposts, though it’s possible that American will expand the availability to connecting and round-trip itineraries in the coming weeks.

(Screenshot courtesy of American Airlines)

Of course, the only relevant perk of Flagship Business Plus for flights to the U.S. (that don’t have any domestic connections) is the third checked bag, so perhaps American will keep the pricing of the return fare in line with the standard business fare.

American confirmed to TPG on Thursday that you won’t be able to upgrade to Flagship Business Plus after purchase. That seems like a missed opportunity to collect some additional revenue, so perhaps the airline will change this policy in the future.

Note that frequent flyers will earn additional AAdvantage miles and Loyalty Points corresponding to the more expensive fare. (However, the underlying fare class, or booking code, remains the same when purchasing Flagship Business Plus.)

Separately, American isn’t changing the upgrade process as part of the introduction of Flagship Business Plus.

In a statement to TPG confirming the move, American shared that:

We are pleased to offer customers a new way to access American’s Flagship premium travel experience. With Flagship Business Plus, customers can enjoy Flagship First Check-In, receive a taste of our Flagship First Dining and relax in our Flagship Lounge prior to their departure. Flagship Business Plus also provides a third complimentary checked bag and access to the Arrivals Lounge at LHR. Today, Flagship Business Plus is broadly available on and in third-party channels. We plan to enhance the offering in the future to provide additional value to customers, which would require NDC technology to access and book Flagship Business Plus.

It makes sense for American to add an upsell for access to the exclusive Flagship First check-in and dining areas.

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

With a relatively small first-class footprint — only the Boeing 777-300ER and Airbus A321T have a first-class cabin — these pre-flight experiences are often underutilized throughout the day. (In fact, American recently gifted its invite-only Concierge Key members with two Flagship First dining passes.)

Even if just a handful of travelers each day buy up to the more expensive business-class fare, that’ll translate to extra revenue for American without adding much to the sunk costs of keeping the exclusive check-in and restaurant areas open during the day.

Interestingly, American won’t offer this new product on routes operated by either the Boeing 777-300ER or the Airbus A321T, because both of these jets feature a first-class cabin. The airline clearly doesn’t want to cannibalize sales of its fanciest seats with the introduction of the upgraded business-class fare product.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.