BusinessClass.com - Review of American Airlines First Class
American Airlines First Class
BusinessClass.com expert review by Ramsey Qubein
8
/10
A good flight you will enjoy and do again
Airport Experience - 9/10
Cabin & Seat - 9/10
Cuisine - 7/10
Beverages - 8/10
Service - 7/10
Entertainment - 8/10
Amenities & Facilities - 8/10
Short & Medium Haul - 9/10

Review of American Airlines Business Class

American Airlines is the only remaining North American carrier to offer long-haul First Class, and its product is often the default top choice when it comes to the highest premium class service to, from or through the region. As with many of the US carriers, the premium cabins for long-haul and selected transcontinental flights has been rebranded, and in AA’s case they are called Flagship First and Flagship Business. While Flagship First is not the leading First Class in the world, it is certainly not disappointing, with its intimate cabins and impressive airport perks. If you want top-of-the-line treatment with American Airlines, this is it, and its Flagship Lounge system around the United States is incredibly generous in its offering.

On most of its domestic services (short and medium haul) American Airlines First Class is not the same as Flagship First and does not offer the same standards – see below.  

AA corners the market on Hollywood types and top corporate fliers since the airline still offers long-haul and transcontinental First Class in addition to Business Class. If you are looking for international First Class in North America, the only choice is to travel with this oneworld alliance founding member. Other oneworld carriers, including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qantas and Qatar Airways (most of which offer First Class products of their own), share the opportunity to earn and redeem miles within their frequent flier programs.

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9/ 10

Airport experience

American Airlines offers excellent on-the-ground service for Flagship First passengers - when departing from hub airports including Los Angeles, Miami and New York JFK. Staff at these airports take customers from the exclusive Flagship First check-in area through security with expedited processing. At other airports, Flagship First passengers can use the normal premium check-in areas and security lines. If originating in one of the primary airports, Flagship First passengers are in for the best experience AA has to offer; otherwise, it is rather average.

If making a connection at American Airlines hubs and timing is tight, Flagship First passengers are sometimes given private luxury vehicle shuttles from the door of one aircraft to the next without ever having to enter the airport terminal. This is the same courtesy provided to the airline’s top spenders - Concierge Key members.

In American hub cities, Flagship Lounges are an exceptional experience for premium-cabin passengers, and in some cities, Flagship First dining sections within the Flagship Lounge offer à la carte dining with exceptionally high-end beverage options. Servers deliver complimentary, restaurant-quality cuisine off the menu including fine cuts of steak or grilled seafood. Lighter options like salads and old-fashioned burgers are also on the menu with plenty of sides and desserts on offer. It is a great way to dine pre-flight, if you want to maximise rest on the aircraft, especially for shorter transatlantic flights or those to South America.

When flying from or through other cities, Flagship First passengers can use partner First Class lounges in cities including London, Melbourne, Sydney and Tokyo. Otherwise, they are ushered to Business Class facilities. In other cities, passengers also have access to Admirals Clubs on the same day of travel.

9/ 10

Cabin & Seat

American only offers Flagship First on two aircraft types - primarily on the wide-body Boeing 777-300ER, but also on a small sub-fleet of narrow-body Airbus A321 specially configured for selected US coast-to-coast routes. Each of the two feature their own type of Flagship First seat.

Flagship First on American’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft is set up in a 1-2-1 configuration. Those travelling together should opt for the centre section if they wish to sit together. The Flagship First cabin on the B777-300ER offers eight seats, but AA seats offer something rather unusual: the seats swivel 90 degrees to the side like an office chair. This is their best feature. The seats swivel to face the window so you can work privately or toward the adjacent passenger in the centre section if you want to dine with a companion. There is no other airline that offers such a flexible First Class seat for work, dining or rest.

Whether travelling alone or with a companion, fully-flat beds are standard - with super-soft seats that feature ottomans and ample storage space. As another option when flying with someone else, the ottoman can also double as a dining seat for a companion. There is a variety of seating positions to lounge, nap, work or sleep, all of which are controlled by an electronic panel. There is also an area for storing a mobile device or glasses without them falling easily between the seat and cabin wall. A small storage compartment opens to include the headphone jack, small mirror and additional power outlets.

There is not much of a divider to the side of the seat – so some may feel a bit exposed to the aisle. Those seated in the centre section of two seats do have a privacy shield that can be raised or lowered as needed.

Large tray tables fold out toward the seat with plentiful space to dine or work. They can be pushed forward and backward to allow for easier access to the aisle. Each seat comes with a plush duvet from Casper bedding, mattress pad that folds over the seat, Casper-branded pajamas and slippers and various pillows. These are wrapped, and when passengers are ready to sleep, flight attendants can make the bed upon request. We recommend selecting seats in the second row as first-row seats can sometimes suffer from galley light and noise can disturb sleep.

An issue to note with American’s First Class seats on the B777-300ER is that they do not go fully flat, just almost. While the logic may be that the slight angle will compensate for the nose-up angle of the plane when flying, it may not be to everyone's liking.

Unlike many other airlines, American provides individual air nozzles on all of its long-haul, widebody aircraft so you can control the temperature.

On certain premium-heavy transcontinental routes (usually between New York JFK and either Los Angeles or San Francisco), American offers a unique Flagship First product. A small fleet of Airbus A321 aircraft have been designated to these routes, each featuring ten Flagship First seats in a 1-1 configuration. The seats do not swivel the same way that they do on widebody 777 aircraft, but offer excellent privacy and comfort. 

The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes images, videos and seat maps for most airlines and aircraft. Search results also include details such as seat pitch, width and recline. This way you can see the seat and cabin configuration of the flight in which you are interested, before making your choice.

7/ 10

Cuisine

You will not go hungry when flying Flagship First - although the quality and presentation does not live up to the standards one may expect when flying international long-haul First Class.

American distinguishes Flagship First with only a few additional dining touches than Flagship Business, primarily in the way it is presented. Typically, the main course dish options, which can be ordered pre-flight, are the same. After takeoff, guests are treated to a beverage of their choice accompanied with nuts, olives and crisps. This is followed by an amuse bouche.

Next up is an appetiser of choice and salad courses, which are delivered separately. A selection of warm bread is available. Unlike Flagship Business, Flagship First passengers can add a soup course to their meal, and this leads into one of four main courses. Passengers typically can choose between a beef, poultry, seafood or pasta dish, and on longer flights, there are some side courses that can be added.

Dessert consists of a sweet pastry or cake, cheese platter or ice cream sundae made to order followed by coffee, tea or cordials.

American does a good job on certain Asian routes to offer regional dishes like bibimbap to Seoul or Dainomono setups on Japanese flights. A partnership with Japan Airlines has led American to serve some delightful local meals on its Tokyo flights. On other flights, James Beard Foundation chef-created recipes are often available including tasty pasta creations or grilled meats.

Enormous table linens cover the café-sized tables, and American does not use trays for the first meal service, which is a nice touch and differentiation from its Flagship Business product. Personalisation varies by flight, and while there is no dine on demand service, some crew may oblige delivering service later although may comment that it could disturb other passengers.

On longer transpacific flights, there is an option for a mid-flight meal. This can include a hot sandwich or noodle dish, and there is usually a cold salad or continental option. Baskets with snacks, fresh fruit and finger food are available in the galley, and the bar menu is always open. A larger selection of snacks is set up as a buffet near the Business Class galley since there are more passengers there.

Pre-arrival meals are served in one course and on a tray. Depending on the hour, they can range from two breakfast options (hot egg dish or continental) or pre-arrival lunch with a hot sandwich or cold salad served with a side of warm bread. These are identical to what is served as a pre-landing meal in Business Class.

8/ 10

Beverages

As passengers board, they are welcomed by the flight attendant and offered their beverage of choice between orange juice, water or Champagne. The selection can vary, but in First Class, it is usually Lanson Noble Cuvée Brut. Warm towels precede the first beverage service after takeoff, and all passengers receive a bottle of water.

Printed menus outline what is available throughout the flight including Champagne, two white wines, two red wines and a dessert wine. There is a comprehensive list of cocktails offering decent spirits and liqueurs plus an international selection of beers plus soft drinks and Minute Maid juices. Sometimes, the beers include some local options, and on certain flights, local soft drinks are served, too. For example, on flights to South America, regional colas add a personalised touch.

The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on which Champagne is served in Business Class and First Class on many airlines. We do our best to keep track of any changes, but feel free to let us know if there is something we missed. 

7/ 10

Service

Flight attendant service changes by the crew - the service can be incredibly friendly and personalised on one flight and on another, there may be little interaction beyond the basics. No carts are used in the aisle (as in Flagship Business), which makes the experience less noisy. Inflight service is sadly not a hallmark of Flagship First although benefits like pre-flight Flagship Dining lounges and Casper bedding help to make up for occasional service shortcomings.

8/ 10

Entertainment

Bang & Olufsen noise-cancelling headphones are standard, and they work well. Unfortunately, American insists on collecting them one hour before landing, and if passengers are sleeping or watching the entertainment system, they will be interrupted. Replacement ear buds are available on request for the remainder of the flight, but the process is slightly awkward and not the best way to end the flight.

Luckily, large, touch-screen entertainment screens offer a great choice of movies, comedies and short subject features like comedies and documentaries. Remote-control capability is also an option as are numerous music and podcast choices. The 3-D moving map display is of excellent quality and very entertaining. Entertainment systems in Flagship First are no different than those in Business Class.

Wi-Fi is available aboard the majority of the airline’s aircraft with pricing based on the number of hours you want to use it. The option for a whole flight pass is typically the best, and there are no data caps imposed.

The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on inflight entertainment and Wi-Fi.

8/ 10

Amenities & Facilities

American provides plenty of amenities for travellers to enjoy in Flagship First. Casper pajamas and slippers are the first of many welcome gifts, which also include amenity kits that are typically stocked with more products than Business Class kits.

For the current amenity kit in Flagship First, American Airlines has teamed up with two American boutique luxury goods companies - Shinola and D.S. & Durga. Detroit-based Shinola crafts world-class watches and premium leather goods and have produced the amenity bags, while D.S. & Durga – from Brooklyn – are perfumers who have created lotions and balms – which are all wrapped in sustainable packaging.

While the washrooms do not have any upgraded toiletries, passengers can ask flight crew for help turning down their bed before they sleep. This includes placing the Casper mattress pad over the seat and unwrapping the many blankets - including a day blanket and duvet. In addition to a large pillow, there is also a lumbar support pillow. 

9/ 10

Short & Medium Haul

Flagship First (and its flat-bed seating and premium menus) is reserved to American’s Boeing 777-300ER and select Airbus A321 aircraft. The latter are used on domestic transcontinental flights between New York or Miami and Los Angeles (and New York and San Francisco). On domestic American flights that offer Flagship First, a modified menu with fewer courses is available based on the time of flight. The same excellent Casper bedding and amenity kits are on offer as well as access to Flagship First check-in, Flagship Lounges and Flagship First Dining in certain airports.

The airline offers the same open bar on domestic Flagship First as on international flights. Even though inflight service can vary by crew, this still makes Flagship First the most premium First Class product in North America as no other carrier offers both First and Business Class on domestic flights.

On the majority of domestic flights within the United States, the premium cabin is sold as First Class – which is not as luxurious as Flagship First. This can be somewhat confusing for non-US passengers, as the onboard product in First Class is what you would expect from Business Class in many other countries. Comfortable recliner seats and an open bar are trademarks of domestic First Class within the US, with limited food served even on relatively long domestic flights. 

Sustainability

American Airlines was the first US carrier to commit to net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Since 2013, it has retired 667 aircraft and invested in 595 newer planes which are more reliable and fuel-efficient. These include the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and Airbus A321neo models. American is investing heavily in the development of new sustainable fuels. It has just announced that it is working with UK-based Vertical Aerospace on an eVTOL – electric vertical, take-off, and landing – vehicle. It is hoped that the Vertical will fly AA passengers domestically at a fraction of the time and cost using electricity rather than jet-fuel. The project is set to take to the air by 2025.

The airline recycles around 150,000 kilograms of aluminium cans from its cabins every year. AA in a keen supporter of the National Parks Foundation - and actively encourages passengers to donate unspent American AAdvantage miles to the cause - that of protecting America's natural wildlife.

The flight search on BusinessClass.com includes information on CO2 emissions for each flight. Our quality algorithms also give a higher score to flights operated by the most modern and environmentally friendly aircraft.

What We Love

  • The Flagship First lounges and Flagship First Dining areas in certain gateway airports are head and shoulders above most competitors departing the United States.
  • The inflight Casper bedding and pajamas make sound rest easier to achieve
  • The wide, well-cushioned seats that swivel 90 degrees to the side and recline to a variety of relaxing positions

 

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