How to fly American’s best seats for social distancing domestically
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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.
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.
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).
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).
|MIA||JFK||1140||8:50||11:40||19-Dec||27-Dec||Sat. and Sun.|
|MIA||JFK||1357||21:30||12:17||19-Dec||27-Dec||Sat. and Sun.|
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:
|DFW||OGG||119||12:30||16:52||Now||End of schedule||Daily|
|OGG||DFW||116||19:50||7:00||Now||End of schedule||Daily|
|DFW||KOA||229||10:45||15:30||17-Dec||End of schedule||Daily|
|KOA||DFW||230||19:50||6:54||17-Dec||End of schedule||Daily|
787-9: B/E Aerospace Super Diamond
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).
787-8: Zodiac Concept D or B/E Aerospace Super Diamond
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).
|DFW||ORD||1258||19:40||22:00||Now||16-Dec||Tues. and Wed.|
|ORD||DFW||1114||15:05||17:45||Now||16-Dec||Tues. and Wed.|
|ORD||PHL||324||10:35||14:50||13-Feb||End of schedule||Daily|
|PHL||ORD||324||15:18||16:55||13-Feb||End of schedule||Daily|
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:
- New York Kennedy (JFK) — San Francisco (SFO)
- New York Kennedy (JFK) — Los Angeles (LAX) (temporarily replaced by 777-200s)
- New York Kennedy (JFK) — Boston (BOS) (route suspended until Feb. 2021)
JT Genter contributed to this post.
Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.
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