The average American frequent flyer paying for domestic First Class? That is a total myth according to the rest of the world. The United States is the land of the upgrade list, that special beast which allows people to be upgraded from Coach for free. American Airlines Executive Platinum flyers gain unlimited upgrades while other high tier members below this receive 500 mile upgrade certificates which are redeemed for upgrades.
For those of us from other countries, how does American’s domestic First Class stack up?
You’re Not Really Paying For First Class
Domestic First Class in the USA is the equivalent of Business Class in many other countries so you are really paying for Business Class. The hard product is most similar to the Qantas Domestic Business Class product in Australia and it is better than European airlines who use Economy Class seats with a middle seat free.
Cabins On Board
American Airlines features a variety of different cabin configurations. The best are found on the new Airbus 320 and Airbus 321 aircraft as the First Class cabin features seat back in flight entertainment. The Boeing 737 interiors are nice but have been the same for well over a decade at this stage. The former US Airways fleet has the worst cabin which looks tired, unloved and basic.
Some other airlines also have a variety of different cabins across the fleet, but American Airlines does seem to have more than most. This will gradually change over time but at the moment it is a little schizophrenic for the passenger.
First Class passengers flying domestically within the United States on American Airlines do not receive complimentary lounge access unless flying on selected transcontinental routes. You need to be a member of the Admirals Club or purchase a day pass in order to gain access. Virtually everywhere else, a domestic Business Class ticket will come with lounge access included.
Tables and Towels
The tray tables available are similar to other airlines, coming out from the arm rest and featuring a split design. It is designed to allow you to get out of your seat while still in the middle of a meal. You can also use it as a side table.
Most flights do feature a hot towel service to refresh yourself pre-flight. This is also similar to other airlines which offer hot towels or cold towels for the same purpose.
The quality of the towels is very good which adds to the premium experience expected when paying to fly in this cabin.
Food and Drink
Pre-departure beverages are generally offered on American Airlines. This is a selling point as many airlines do not offer this domestically. Drinks come in plastic tumblers and while glass would be nicer most airlines save the glass for international services.
Nuts are served with the first proper drinks service and these are served warm in a ramekin which is just great. Other airlines offer nuts in a bag or no nuts so this is a great feature of the service.
First Class meals feature four elements – salad, starter, main dish and bread. The meals are well presented with a great mix of colours and are quite tasty to boot.
Following the meal, a dessert is offered. Overall, the meals come across better than European airlines Business Class catering.
Connectivity and Entertainment
Wireless Internet is offered on almost all of American Airlines domestic flights. The United States leads the world in this respect and I have never come across this service anywhere else domestically. It is still rare internationally with airlines such as Aer Lingus leading the pack here.
Seatback entertainment is offered on some American Airlines domestic aircraft, others have flip down screens and other still have no entertainment at all. Once again the various aircraft make for a varying experience which is confusing for the passenger.
Ice Cream Time
Longer domestic sectors feature an Ice Cream Sundae for dessert after the meal. Showmanship is not dead in aviation as the crew wheel out a trolley topped with all the makings of a sundae and you are invited to choose what you want.
Jaw dropping is the only way to describe this. A true highlight! I wouldn’t mind paying for any flight featuring this!
Considering all the elements I would have to conclude that American Airlines domestic First Class is worth paying for. Despite the lack of lounge access, the various elements of the service such as the food, drinks and dessert really contribute to the premium experience. These respects, coupled with the dedicated seating, arguably make the product better than that offered throughout Europe. Qantas in Australia has a better domestic Business Class service as they offer Champagne, lounge access and a more consistent product, but that is the exception rather than the rule.
Wi-fi connectivity is brilliant and if you are lucky to get an aircraft with seat back entertainment you will find something interesting to watch. I always pay for American Airlines domestic First Class and find it to be a world class product. You won’t regret paying for this! Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.