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

Dec 4, 2020

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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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In This Post

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).

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).

From To Flight # Depart Arrive Starting Ending Frequency
LAX MIA 1473 10:00 17:50 17-Dec 17-Dec One-off
LAX MIA 1782 12:10 7:50 Now 16-Dec Daily
MIA LAX 1235 16:30 19:09 Now 16-Dec Daily
MIA LAX 2289 19:22 22:05 Now 10-Feb Daily
JFK MIA 1610 7:45 11:01 19-Dec 26-Dec Saturday only
JFK MIA 1101 6:00 9:04 20-Dec 27-Dec Sunday only
JFK MIA 313 14:30 17:47 19-Dec 27-Dec Daily
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.
MIA DFW 2447 13:35 15:45 15-Dec 16-Dec Daily
DFW MCO 2718 8:45 12:16 16-Dec 4-Jan Daily
DFW MCO 2716 12:45 16:15 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
DFW MCO 2791 16:50 20:19 16-Dec 4-Jan Daily
MCO DFW 2075 9:30 11:25 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
MCO DFW 2718 13:33 15:30 16-Dec 4-Jan Daily
MCO DFW 2716 17:30 19:27 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
DFW HNL 5 11:15 16:03 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
HNL DFW 102 21:55 9:20 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
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:

From To Flight # Depart Arrive Starting Ending Frequency
CLT LAS 1484 9:21 10:58 Now 4-Jan Daily
LAS CLT 1484 12:05 19:14 Now 4-Jan Daily
LAX JFK 4 21:35 5:45 Now 10-Feb Daily
LAX JFK 2 8:30 16:41 17-Dec 10-Feb Daily
JFK LAX 3 18:00 21:19 Now 10-Feb Daily
JFK LAX 1 9:00 12:24 17-Dec 10-Feb Daily
LAX ORD 335 11:45 17:45 Now 4-Jan Daily
LAX ORD 2343 12:05 18:06 5-Jan 10-Feb Daily
ORD LAX 1172 8:10 10:38 Now 16-Dec Daily
ORD LAX 1384 8:10 10:37 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
ORD LAX 1163 8:30 10:57 5-Jan 10-Feb Daily
LAX MIA 1314 22:55 6:37 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
LAX MIA 1782 12:40 8:23 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
LAX MIA 1473 10:00 17:50 17-Dec 10-Feb Daily
MIA LAX 2471 12:25 15:06 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
MIA LAX 1061 22:05 12:47 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
MIA LAX 742 20:10 22:58 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
LAX CLT 707 12:10 7:34 Now 4-Jan Daily
CLT LAX 2910 11:10 13:34 Now 4-Jan Daily
ORD HNL 75 9:00 14:14 Now 4-Jan Daily
HNL ORD 74 18:25 6:21 Now 4-Jan Daily
PHX HNL 692 10:41 14:32 Now 4-Jan Daily
HNL PHX 693 23:30 8:23 Now 4-Jan Daily
DFW OGG 119 12:30 16:52 Now End of schedule Daily
OGG DFW 116 19:50 7:00 Now End of schedule Daily
MIA ORD 2796 10:25 12:41 Now 10-Feb Daily
ORD MIA 275 18:50 22:57 Now 16-Dec Daily
ORD MIA 374 18:50 22:52 17-Dec 10-Feb Daily
CLT MIA 1344 16:25 18:38 Now 10-Feb Daily
MIA CLT 2358 10:25 12:28 Now 16-Dec Daily
MIA CLT 1344 13:22 15:23 17-Dec 10-Feb Daily
MIA DFW 2808 9:32 11:43 Now 10-Feb Daily
DFW MIA 2008 12:45 16:27 Now 16-Dec Daily
MIA SJU 1570 18:45 22:13 Now 27-Mar Daily
SJU MIA 1091 9:23 11:07 Now 27-Mar Daily
PHX DFW 361 10:15 13:30 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
DFW PHX 520 9:03 10:41 16-Dec 4-Jan Daily
DFW MCO 2718 8:45 12:09 Now 15-Dec Daily
DFW MCO 2716 12:50 16:22 Now 16-Dec Daily
DFW MCO 2791 16:40 20:09 Now 16-Dec Daily
DFW MCO 1585 10:40 14:14 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
MCO DFW 2716 17:30 19:30 Now 16-Dec Daily
MCO DFW 2718 13:33 15:30 Now 4-Jan Daily
MCO DFW 2075 9:27 11:24 Now 15-Dec 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

(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

From To Flight # Depart Arrive Starting Ending Frequency
DFW LAX 2424 9:00 10:22 Now 4-Jan Daily
DFW LAX 1807 10:30 11:51 Now 10-Feb Daily
DFW LAX 2459 16:55 18:15 Now 4-Jan Daily
LAX DFW 2338 9:20 14:14 Now 4-Jan Daily
LAX DFW 637 103:30 15:24 Now 4-Jan Daily
LAX DFW 776 17:00 21:56 Now 4-Jan Daily
DFW HNL 5 11:10 15:32 Now 16-Dec One-off
HNL DFW 8 20:00 7:23 Now 16-Dec Daily

Source: AA.com

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

(Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)
(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

From To Flight # Depart Arrive Starting Ending Frequency
PHX DFW 361 10:15 13:43 Now 16-Dec Daily
DFW PHX 520 9:03 10:41 Now 15-Dec Daily
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 10:45 13:39 19-Dec 4-Jan Daily
ORD PHL 324 10:45 13:39 7-Jan 12-Feb Thurs/Fri/Sun/Mon
ORD PHL 324 10:35 14:50 13-Feb End of schedule Daily
PHL ORD 324 15:00 16:42 19-Dec 4-Jan Daily
PHL ORD 324 15:20 17:00 7-Jan 12-Feb Thurs/Fri/Sun/Mon
PHL ORD 324 15:18 16:55 13-Feb End of schedule Daily
MIA ORD 1308 19:35 21:56 18-Dec 10-Feb Daily
ORD MIA 1635 8:10 12:09 17-Dec 4-Jan Daily
ORD MIA 1452 7:00 11:03 5-Jan 10-Feb Daily

Source: AA.com

A321T

(Photo by Katie Genter / The Points Guy)
(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:

Related: Choosing the best credit card for American Airlines flyers

JT Genter contributed to this post.

Featured photo by JT Genter/The Points Guy.

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