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How to fly American's best seats for social distancing domestically

Dec. 04, 2020
18 min read
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Editor’s note: This is a recurring post, regularly updated with new information. TPG suggests you talk to your doctor, follow health officials’ guidance and research local travel restrictions before booking that next trip. We’ll be here to help you prepare, whether you’re traveling next month or next year.


American Airlines' fleet is quite inconsistent, especially on U.S. domestic routes. Some long domestic routes will lack power outlets and inflight entertainment screens — even in first class. Meanwhile, you can sometimes find lie-flat business-class seats sold as economy on one-hour flights. Plus, with most long-haul flying still suspended due to COVID, we've seen AA use more of its internationally-configured planes on domestic flights. Needless to say, if you've got some flexibility in your travels, knowing the airline's fleet schedule can mean getting a superior (and more private) experience.

The problem is: AA's fleet schedule varies widely from month to month. So, we at The Points Guy regularly dig into it to unveil where you can find these excellent seats.

Whether you splurge on a first-class award or paid ticket, get a free upgrade using 500-mile upgrades or get a complimentary upgrade as an elite member, here are the ways to fly on American Airlines' best business-class seats for onboard social distancing without having to bring your passport.

Related: How I plan to socially distance when flying

Unlike Delta, AA doesn't offer any closed-door suites, but as you'll see, some seats still offer a lot more personal space than others. As we've previously covered, paying for first class outright on some of these routes can start at under $200.

If your upgrade doesn't clear or you don't want to pay for first class, keep in mind that AA's entire widebody fleet offers premium economy seats. While sold as premium economy on international flights and on flights to/from Hawaii, these seats are labeled as Main Cabin Extra on mainland domestic routes. That means that these seats are free for Platinum, Platinum Pros and Executive Platinum elites. While you won't get any extra service while sitting in premium economy seats on mainland domestic routes, these seats are a definite upgrade over the rest of the economy cabin.

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777-300ER: Zodiac

Business class on AA's 777-300ER. (Photo by Nicky Kelvin/The Points Guy).

American Airlines’ Boeing 777-300ER (abbreviated on schedules as 77W) is a great way of traveling anywhere. It features some of the best business-class seats in the sky and is among the few planes to still offer a true first-class cabin (often sold as business class on domestic routes).

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Related: Upgrade your airport experience with Five Star Service

It’s typically expensive to buy an international round-trip on this aircraft; award availability on these flights is hard to get and upgrades on these premium routes are highly sought after. The good news is that the aircraft is currently operating a number of domestic routes. This winter, you'll find this aircraft operating on cross-country flights between Miami (MIA) and Los Angeles (LAX), as well as shorter hops between Miami (MIA) and New York-JFK, Miami and Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Dallas and Orlando (MCO).

FromToFlight #DepartArriveStartingEndingFrequency
LAXMIA147310:0017:5017-Dec17-DecOne-off
LAXMIA178212:107:50Now16-DecDaily
MIALAX123516:3019:09Now16-DecDaily
MIALAX228919:2222:05Now10-FebDaily
JFKMIA16107:4511:0119-Dec26-DecSaturday only
JFKMIA11016:009:0420-Dec27-DecSunday only
JFKMIA31314:3017:4719-Dec27-DecDaily
MIAJFK11408:5011:4019-Dec27-DecSat. and Sun.
MIAJFK135721:3012:1719-Dec27-DecSat. and Sun.
MIADFW244713:3515:4515-Dec16-DecDaily
DFWMCO27188:4512:1616-Dec4-JanDaily
DFWMCO271612:4516:1517-Dec4-JanDaily
DFWMCO279116:5020:1916-Dec4-JanDaily
MCODFW20759:3011:2517-Dec4-JanDaily
MCODFW271813:3315:3016-Dec4-JanDaily
MCODFW271617:3019:2717-Dec4-JanDaily
DFWHNL511:1516:0317-Dec4-JanDaily
HNLDFW10221:559:2017-Dec4-JanDaily

Source: AA.com

Premium economy seats on the 777-300 are sold as Main Cabin Extra on domestic flights. (Photo courtesy of AA.com)

777-200: B/E Aerospace Super Diamond or Zodiac Concept D

American Airlines has two different business-class seats in its 777-200 fleet — the "rocking" Zodiac Concept D seats and the much-better B/E Aerospace Super Diamond seats. You can't tell these apart from looking at the seat map. And, even if you do book a particular version, equipment changes mean there's no telling which type will show up at your gate. However, both versions are lie-flat business-class seats.

Regardless which seat type you end up with, flying 777-200s on domestic routes is sure to provide a better-than-average first-class experience and a better-than-average Main Cabin Extra experience. Here are the routes on which AA is using these aircraft within the U.S. according to the carrier's website:

FromToFlight #DepartArriveStartingEndingFrequency
CLTLAS14849:2110:58Now4-JanDaily
LASCLT148412:0519:14Now4-JanDaily
LAXJFK421:355:45Now10-FebDaily
LAXJFK28:3016:4117-Dec10-FebDaily
JFKLAX318:0021:19Now10-FebDaily
JFKLAX19:0012:2417-Dec10-FebDaily
LAXORD33511:4517:45Now4-JanDaily
LAXORD234312:0518:065-Jan10-FebDaily
ORDLAX11728:1010:38Now16-DecDaily
ORDLAX13848:1010:3717-Dec4-JanDaily
ORDLAX11638:3010:575-Jan10-FebDaily
LAXMIA131422:556:3717-Dec4-JanDaily
LAXMIA178212:408:2317-Dec4-JanDaily
LAXMIA147310:0017:5017-Dec10-FebDaily
MIALAX247112:2515:0617-Dec4-JanDaily
MIALAX106122:0512:4717-Dec4-JanDaily
MIALAX74220:1022:5817-Dec4-JanDaily
LAXCLT70712:107:34Now4-JanDaily
CLTLAX291011:1013:34Now4-JanDaily
ORDHNL759:0014:14Now4-JanDaily
HNLORD7418:256:21Now4-JanDaily
PHXHNL69210:4114:32Now4-JanDaily
HNLPHX69323:308:23Now4-JanDaily
DFWOGG11912:3016:52NowEnd of scheduleDaily
OGGDFW11619:507:00NowEnd of scheduleDaily
MIAORD279610:2512:41Now10-FebDaily
ORDMIA27518:5022:57Now16-DecDaily
ORDMIA37418:5022:5217-Dec10-FebDaily
CLTMIA134416:2518:38Now10-FebDaily
MIACLT235810:2512:28Now16-DecDaily
MIACLT134413:2215:2317-Dec10-FebDaily
MIADFW28089:3211:43Now10-FebDaily
DFWMIA200812:4516:27Now16-DecDaily
MIASJU157018:4522:13Now27-MarDaily
SJUMIA10919:2311:07Now27-MarDaily
PHXDFW36110:1513:3017-Dec4-JanDaily
DFWPHX5209:0310:4116-Dec4-JanDaily
DFWMCO27188:4512:09Now15-DecDaily
DFWMCO271612:5016:22Now16-DecDaily
DFWMCO279116:4020:09Now16-DecDaily
DFWMCO158510:4014:1417-Dec4-JanDaily
MCODFW271617:3019:30Now16-DecDaily
MCODFW271813:3315:30Now4-JanDaily
MCODFW20759:2711:24Now15-DecDaily
DFWKOA22910:4515:3017-DecEnd of scheduleDaily
KOADFW23019:506:5417-DecEnd of scheduleDaily

787-9: B/E Aerospace Super Diamond

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy)

While American Airlines mostly keeps its fuel-efficient 787-9 Dreamliners on international routes, periodically it will have to position these aircraft between hubs due to scheduling needs. This opens up a golden opportunity to try out AA's newest business-class seat for yourself. You'll mostly find these three-cabin (economy, premium economy, business) aircraft flying between Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX) and Honolulu (HNL).

Related: The best credit cards to jumpstart elite status

FromToFlight #DepartArriveStartingEndingFrequency
DFWLAX24249:0010:22Now4-JanDaily
DFWLAX180710:3011:51Now10-FebDaily
DFWLAX245916:5518:15Now4-JanDaily
LAXDFW23389:2014:14Now4-JanDaily
LAXDFW637103:3015:24Now4-JanDaily
LAXDFW77617:0021:56Now4-JanDaily
DFWHNL511:1015:32Now16-DecOne-off
HNLDFW820:007:23Now16-DecDaily

Source: AA.com

787-8: Zodiac Concept D or B/E Aerospace Super Diamond

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Unless you're flying on a newly delivered jet, chances are your 787-8 will feature Zodiac Concept D seats up front. While it's certainly not the top American Airlines business-class product, the lie-flat seats are definitely worth booking over a standard domestic first-class seat. You'll find this aircraft frequently flying between Dallas (DFW) and Phoenix (PHX), Dallas and Chicago (ORD), Chicago and Philadelphia (PHL), and Chicago and Miami (MIA).

Related: Shortcut elite status, lounge access and more with AA's AirPass

FromToFlight #DepartArriveStartingEndingFrequency
PHXDFW36110:1513:43Now16-DecDaily
DFWPHX5209:0310:41Now15-DecDaily
DFWORD125819:4022:00Now16-DecTues. and Wed.
ORDDFW111415:0517:45Now16-DecTues. and Wed.
ORDPHL32410:4513:3919-Dec4-JanDaily
ORDPHL32410:4513:397-Jan12-FebThurs/Fri/Sun/Mon
ORDPHL32410:3514:5013-FebEnd of scheduleDaily
PHLORD32415:0016:4219-Dec4-JanDaily
PHLORD32415:2017:007-Jan12-FebThurs/Fri/Sun/Mon
PHLORD32415:1816:5513-FebEnd of scheduleDaily
MIAORD130819:3521:5618-Dec10-FebDaily
ORDMIA16358:1012:0917-Dec4-JanDaily
ORDMIA14527:0011:035-Jan10-FebDaily

Source: AA.com

A321T

(Photo by Katie Genter/The Points Guy.)

Although we've focused this post on widebody aircraft so far, it's important to note that AA operates lie-flat seats on its specially-configured A321T aircraft. The trouble with both of these aircraft is that they can't be distinguished from the standard recliner-seat versions of the A321-200 without looking at individual seat maps.

There have been rumors that AA might soon reconfigure these jets, but – so far – TPG has not found those to be credible. Instead, we do know that American grounded most of its premium-heavy A321Ts during the pandemic amid a collapse in business travel.

Brian Znotins, AA’s vice president of network planning, told TPG that he expects this plane to return as business travel picks up. He even suggested there are “other routes with a demand profile that fit this airplane,” though he wouldn’t divulge possibilities.

The A321T can reliably be found on these domestic routes:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BLi6307A89q/

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

JT Genter contributed to this post.

Featured image by Business class on American Airlines 787-9. (Photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.)

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  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
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Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
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Apply for The Business Platinum Card® from American Express
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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

5XGet 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com
1.5XEarn 1.5X points on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year
1X1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Intro Offer
    The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.

    Earn 150,000 points
    120,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $695
  • 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
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

Pros

  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
  • Up to $400 annual credit for eligible U.S. Dell purchases (enrollment required)
  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
  • Access to the Fine Hotels & Resorts program and Hotel Collection
  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

Cons

  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.