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The American Airlines AAdvantage program has a couple of fantastic soft spots on the award chart. Though many readers may disagree, the AAdvantage program — in terms of mileage redemption for award flights — is one of the best programs globally. While AAdvantage is a popular way to redeem miles for inexpensive flights in business class to the Middle East, there are other soft spots.
The AAdvantage program, thanks to its partnership with Alaska Airlines, allows travelers to fly nonstop from Los Angeles (LAX) to New York-Kennedy (JFK) in business class for just 25,000 miles one-way. Here’s how.
American Airlines offers one of the more competitive business class products on flights between Los Angeles (LAX)/San Francisco (SFO) and New York City. Additionally, it’s the only airline to offer a third class of service, First Class, on its premium transcontinental flights. This means that roughly 42% of the seats on the airline’s Airbus A321T, which were designed for premium transcontinental flights, are lie-flat seats. And while there are growing concerns with American Airlines’ soft-product, meal service and onboard amenities, the airline’s hard product is one of the better ones out there.
It’s understandable that, for many loyal AAdvantage members, forgoing the comfort of a fully lie-flat seat may not be very desirable. However, the catch to the 25k miles for nonstop coast-to-coast business class is just that: forgoing American’s hard-product.
25k AAdvantage Miles Gets You a Seat in the Ex-Virgin America First Class Product
Alaska Airlines is one of the more reasonably priced redemption partners in the AAdvantage program. At the same time, many flyers looking for a posh or luxe experience probably aren’t searching for Alaska Airlines award space. Alaska Airlines, however, merged with Virgin America this past April, which means that AAdvantage members looking to redeem miles have access to Virgin America’s (now Alaska’s) Airbus products.
While Alaska Airlines’ Boeing 737s are quite bland and boring, the ex-Virgin America product is a relatively premium experience. Though this will eventually change, all ex-Virgin America Airbus A319s, A320s and A321NEOs feature seatback in-flight entertainment, power outlets, generous legroom, funky mood-lighting and what is more or less a solid business class product. It just so happens that many of Alaska Airlines’ transcontinental flights are still operated with Virgin America aircraft. This means that AAdvantage members can book a seat in Virgin America’s premium business class product on nonstop flights between major coastal US cities.
All Alaska Airlines flights are MileSAAver awards, which will cost 25,000 per leg. This 25k-mile price tag also applies to nonstop flights between cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York. In comparison, American Airlines’ business class product will run AAdvantage members a minimum of 52.5k miles for nonstop flights. Though Virgin America’s first class product isn’t fully lie-flat, it’s still quite premium. There are eight first class seats per aircraft (12 on A321NEO aircraft) each equipped with power outlets, personal in-flight entertainment and leg rests coupled with a significant amount of recline.
Do note, however, that not every nonstop Alaska Airlines transcontinental flight is the same. Alaska Airlines operates its own pre-merger aircraft on multiple daily flights. These Boeing 737s are quite old and far less premium than what any other airline offers on the same routes.
When searching for aircraft with the Virgin American business class product, be sure that the aircraft type is “32S”, “319” or “320”. These are Airbus aircraft indicating that they used to be operated by Virgin America. Any aircraft denoted with a “73H” or “73C” is a Boeing 737 operated by Alaska Airlines and will not feature the Virgin America hard product.
While Virgin America’s business class product, now one of Alaska Airlines’ business class products, is quite comfortable and premium, it might not cut it for many AA flyers. The Virgin America business class product is neither lie-flat nor angled lie-flat. Instead, the product features a comfortable cradle-recliner type seat with a retractable leg rest. The posh and chic white leather is aesthetically pleasing as well. The product still features what was once a cutting-edge in-flight entertainment system, Virgin America RED. However, now it is simply just an in-seat monitor with the innovative features of the RED system having since been cut from the platform.
Any trace of Virgin America’s fresh, healthy and hip cuisine is, for the most part, obsolete as well. However, Alaska Airlines has attempted to carry on this west coast cuisine. This is potentially one aspect of the premium service that flyers might actually enjoy more than what’s served on American Airlines.
American Airlines continues to cut back on in-flight dining, leading to some downright pitiful menu options. Alaska Airlines’ in-flight dining, though by no means amazing, is tasty and usually quite healthy.
Here’s How Much You Could Save Flying Alaska Airlines
The latest TPG valuations put AAdvantage miles at 1.4 cents per mile. This means that a nonstop flight from Los Angeles or San Francisco to New York on Alaska Airlines in Virgin America first class costs just $450. Compared to the average paid fare of around $700, that is an amazing deal.
In comparison, American Airlines is selling business class for around $1,000 and first class for $1,600. Redeeming miles for a nonstop flight between the same cities (LAX/SFO-JFK/EWR) in business class on American Airlines metal will cost around 62.5k miles, or $875 based on the most recent TPG valuations.
While Alaska Airlines’ ex-Virgin America business/first class hard product is nowhere near what American Airlines offers in its two flagship transcontinental premium cabins, the soft product and service is comparable. On average, if you pick a nonstop transcontinental flight on Alaska Airlines versus American Airlines, you will save more than $500, or 37,000 miles per flight.
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