Why I prefer flying wide-body planes when traveling cross-country

May 7, 2020

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Though now’s not the time to travel, it hopefully won’t be too long until we (safely) get back in the air again.

And once travel restarts, odds are that we’ll be taking many more domestic trips than usual , before venturing abroad. That’s one of the reasons we are running more flight reviews focused on domestic products.

Right before the coronavirus halted travel, I made a trip to the West Coast to attend the grand opening of the Amex Centurion Lounge at LAX. I reviewed United’s Polaris product on the Boeing 787-10 on the way there, and American’s Flagship First on the Airbus A321T on the return (both publishing next week).

Though I’ll have a full comparison of these two products (along with JetBlue Mint) publishing shortly, there’s one thing that I preferred about flying United, and it was the plane type.

Specifically, I much prefer flying on wide-body aircraft than single-aisle jets. And here’s why.

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In This Post

Cutting-edge hard product

In general, airlines reserve their best products for wide-body planes. That’s because the jets are capable of flying a carrier’s top-traffic, long-haul routes. Plus, there’s much more space available to install industry-leading products.

Delta and United are the two carriers that regularly fly the Boeing 767, 777 and 787 on the premium routes between New York and Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Related: Ultimate guide to United Polaris

In business class, each seat features direct aisle access, as well as a more private and spacious version of biz compared to flying on a narrow-body like the Boeing 757.

United Polaris on the Boeing 787-10 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

American and JetBlue fly only one plane type across the coasts — the Airbus A321. I definitely prefer this narrow-body plane to its chief competitor, the Boeing 737, but the comforts available on a wide-body far outweigh those of the A321.

(Note that AA is the only carrier to fly a true first-class product cross-country, so if you’re looking for the best way to fly commercially in America, you’ll be flying Flagship First on the A321T.)

Better coach experience

Though it’d be great if we could all enjoy the lie-flat seats up front, most passengers will find themselves in coach. And the economy experience on a Boeing 787 is generally much better than that on an A321.

Coach on a United 787-9 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

For one, there are many more aisle seats compared to a single-aisle jet. On an A321, there’s an equal distribution of aisles, middles and windows. On a 787, there are many more aisles, then middles and finally windows.

Related: The best and worst transcon economy seats

More overhead space and volume

As the names imply, a wide-body is much larger than a narrow-body jet.

That’s great for those who frequently need to gate check their bags since wide-bodies have much more overhead storage space.

Overhead bin on the Boeing 777 (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Additionally, I personally feel much less claustrophobic on a twin-aisle plane. The added volume in the cabin makes me feel more comfortable and enhances my perception of personal space.

Two aisles compared to one

When you’re flying for five-plus hours across the country, you’re definitely going to want to stretch your legs and move about the cabin.

On a narrow-body, you’ve got just one aisle and a small galley at the back of the plane in which to stretch. There’s always so much foot traffic in these single-aisle planes that moving around can feel like you’re playing a game of human Tetris.

American Airlines Flagship First on the Airbus A321T (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Wide-bodies have two aisles. Yes, they have more passengers as well, but at least there’s another aisle in which to walk around. Plus, the galleys and lavatories on these twin-aisle jets are typically a bit larger than their single-aisle counterparts, making them much more comfortable overall.

Novelty

As an aviation enthusiast (follow my Instagram for all my pics!), I find that there’s something special about getting on a twin-aisle plane.

Delta Boeing 767 in Atlanta (Photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy)

Most run-of-the-mill domestic flights are operated by narrow-bodies, and I like to change it up from time-to-time. Getting a chance to fly a wide-body domestically is a privilege to me.

Related: American to retire 100 more planes early amid pandemic

Also, as the industry recovers from the coronavirus, odds are that we’re going to see many fewer domestic flights operated by wide-bodies. During the pandemic, we’ve seen American Airlines retire a lot of its international fleet. The carrier previously used these wide-bodies for many domestic flights, but now that they’ve been retired, AA will probably be flying many more Oasis 737s with dense seating layouts on routes that used to feature the Boeing 767.

Bottom line

If faced with the choice, I’m on team wide-body.

You’ll typically enjoy a better hard product in biz, an improved coach experience and more overhead space. Plus, when it’s time to head to the lavatory, the two aisles on a wide-body help ease the congestion.

And finally, if you’re an AvGeek like me, you’ll enjoy the novelty of flying some of the biggest planes on domestic routes.

Featured photo by Zach Griff/The Points Guy

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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.

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