American Air’s Flagship First product is supposed to be the most premium product flying between LAX & JFK. AA was the first airline to fly the route, and now they compete with a slew of other airlines. In order to keep their competitive edge, AA introduced the new A321T this year. I was fortunate enough to fly the A321T from LAX-JFK in Flagship First, but on my return I was ticketed on the old work horse, the 767-200. The plane is old and tired, near retirement, and the cabin which was state of the art at one time is now extremely dated. Nevertheless, I was excited to fly Americans Flagship Fist on the 767 before they were all retired, and it was a neat experience to fly it after being spoiled on the A321T, as I really can now appreciate the difference in the two airplanes.
American Airlines First Class Boarding
After a visit to the flagship first lounge, where I helped myself to a light lunch and a shower after a short but early morning flight from San Juan, I boarded my flight towards LAX. The plane departed from gate 43, meaning I had to walk from the Flagship First Lounge and across the under-taxiway walkway to the far terminal. Why all LAX flights depart from the far terminals baffles me, as with 10 passengers on each flight with Flagship lounge access, one would think they would depart from a gate closer to the flagship lounge. The far terminal does offer an AAdmirals club, but no flagship lounge. Boarding was nothing special, but I boarded with the other 10 first class passengers who were the first to board. All business class and other passengers boarded after. Since boarding is done through door L1, this means ALL passengers pass through the first and business class cabins. This takes away from the first class experience, and I would honestly recommend premium class passengers to board last, as this would provide a more exclusive experience. The A321T has the same issue.
My seat was 2D, meaning I was actually in the first row center. The first class cabin on the 762 is configured in a 2x1x2 seat set up. The center seat is great because it means you have no neighbors and more space for yourself; however the first row is also extremely inconvenient as the FAs close the curtain to the forward galley during boarding and passengers on the right side of the plane actually pass in front of the seat instead through the galley. This means during the entire process I could not stretch out or enjoy the extra room as passengers continually walked past me. If I was someone of importance or of celebrity status, this seat would be less than ideal, but for me it was comfortable and I was happy. After all, this was my only my second time in true first class, and the time before was just a few days earlier!
Lots of legroom also becomes a pathway for passengers
Once seated and boarding was nearly completed the FA working the first class cabin passed through offering orange juice or water. I was shocked not to be offered champagne, but during the entire boarding process I could heard the FAs complaining about how bad catering had become. One FA even said to the other “it’s not like anything has changed, this plane has flown this route 5x or more a day for the last 10+ years, how can they forget simple things like nuts and champagne!?!” This explained why there was no champagne on board—catering issues. I enjoyed my water and shortly after we were departing towards JFK.
welcome drink of water – no champagne catered
American Airlines First Class On Board Service & Meal Service
Service in Flagship First was honestly some of the most personalized service I’ve ever encountered on an aircraft. Despite flying multiple world class airlines in business class, including Singapore Air, Asiana, Korean, Thai, Swiss, British and more, I’ve never received better service on any aircraft. From the minute cabin service to minutes before landing, FAs were quick to respond to every passengers need, and actually preemptively refilled glasses of wine and water before one could even request such services. I felt like everything was perfectly timed. The time between meal courses to when the baked cookies were served, the service provided a refined elegance at 30,000 feet.
Once we were in the air, service began within the first 20 minutes and customers in first were provided with Samsung Galaxy 10.1 tabs and Boise noise canceling headphones. Within minutes customers were brought their drink of their choice along with warm nuts—my favorite part of AA. Shortly afterwards the first course was served followed by my preselected shrimp masala. The meal was delicious and I was very satisfied with my airplane meal at 30,000 feet. Throughout the entire meal service, my wine glass was never more than half empty and my water glass was full. The FA was all smile, friendly, and actually seemed as though he was enjoying providing this high level of customer service. Dinner was rounded off by a fresh ice cream sundae, I choose vanilla ice cream with chocolate, nuts, and whip cream—YUMM!
my favorite nuts + full size wine glass, a nice touch!
Thai-season breast of Chicken,
Seasonal greens with goat cheese and walnuts
the famous ice cream sundae!
After dinner, I reclined my seat into the “bed” position, and took a couple hours nap before landing in Los Angeles. I was woken up to fresh baked cookies served with milk or coffe prior to landing!
The 767-200 Flagship First Class is a tired product, but still offers world renowned service thanks to amazing FAs. There were no added amenities to the 767-200—no amenities kits (which I’m giving away) and no built in IFE, only pillows and blankets. The Galaxy Tabs provide a decent IFE option with hours of entertainment, but are not as fancy as the 15 inch personal HD TVs on the A321T. The seat reclines into a cradle bed and is angled flat at approximately 140 degrees with a foot rest. The seat is electric and has a built in massage function.
If you find yourself flying coast to coast on one of these planes before they are retired, enjoy this product, as soon the 767 will be sent to the airplane graveyard and only memories of this product will exist. The A321T which replaces the 767 is a narrow body jet and I’ll miss the spaciousness of the wide body and dual aisles. But not having to carry a DC charger with me to charge my electronics on a flight is a huge perk!
How to Book this Trip
American Airline domestic first class trips can be booked on a three cabin flight through American Airlines AAdvantage program for 32,500 miles each way or 65,000 miles return or if you would prefer a business class seat which is still lay flat on the new A321T the price is 25,000 miles each way. The easiest way to book this trip is via the American Airlines website.
American Airline is also part of the OneWorld Alliance, which means any OneWorld partner can book tickets on American Airlines. Currently the American Express Platinum card is offering 40,000 bonus Membership Rewards points (usually the offer is just 25,000 points) to new card members. American Express Membership reward points can be transferred to British Airways, Iberia, or Cathay Pacific for a 1:1 ratio, but sometimes American Express offers transfer bonuses up to 100% to their travel partners. Once the transfer is completed you can use these miles for award redemptions on American. Both British and Cathay charge slightly more for this route then American Airline does, but is still a great option if you have Membership Reward points that need to be transferred or used.
As you can see from the table above, American Airline AAdvantage miles are the best use of miles on this route when travelin in First, followed by a close second by British Airways, which matches the award price in economy and business. Business & First Class tickets cost approximately $3000-$5000 round trip, meaning one could easily get a 1.4 cents value per point on this route when transfering points from American Express.