What is American’s Domestic First Class Like?

It’s no secret I fly American as my preferred air carrier. I’m an Executive Platinum with them, and in the current state of things, feel that they are the best airline for my needs.

Being an elite status member, I tend to get upgraded a fair amount to sit up front, which I appreciate. There’s a lot of trip reports out there highlighting example First Class trips – say from Dallas to Los Angeles, or Tampa to Miami, but I wanted to highlight the basics of what you’ll receive and experience – not necessarily from a trip reports perspective, but from an overall consideration of the many flights I’ve taken.

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Here’s the challenge with writing this post: American and US Airways have merged, now creating the “problem” of there being a ton of different aircraft in the system. From A321s, 737s, MD-80s and more, you’ll find your experience different on each. For the purposes of this overview, I’ll try to go as generic as possible, with the exception of the review of the seat, where I’ll focus more on the 737 which is the most common aircraft you’ll see. There’s also variations between American Eagle and mainline American flights, plus flights to Hawaii, so I’m going to try to stay as “down the middle” as I can.

Priority Check-In

Most travelers tend to use their mobile apps to check-in, but if you must check a bag, you’ll do so via a dedicated Priority AAcess check-in queue. You’re allowed 3 free checked bags. Generally the lines are shorter in this premier lines, though I’ve had a fair amount of instances where these can be longer than the Main Cabin lines – switch over if you see it shorter elsewhere.

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Priority Security Line

At most airports, there’s a dedicated security line for First Class, Business Class and elite airline members. Sometimes these merger into the regular line at the last minute, while in other cases they are true dedicated lines. In all cases, however, you’ll find that the security check you receive is the same – that’s to say, this isn’t TSA Pre-Check.

Priority Boarding

At the gate, you’ll stand in the line labeled “Priority.” First Class will always board the aircraft first, behind folks with disabilities and small children. The biggest reason you want to board first is access to overhead bin space – it can dry up pretty quickly, even in the forward part of the cabin.

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The Seat

I know some will criticize me for this, but I think American’s seat is the most comfortable between the big carriers – Delta, Alaska and United. On a domestic narrow body aircraft, the cabin is laid out in a 2×2 configuration (assuming it isn’t an American Eagle flight via regional jet). Here’s what you’ll find with your seat, assuming you’re on a 737, the most common aircraft flown in their system:

  • The seat will recline, though you’ll notice that the bottom cushion slides forward while the back moves back. This is done to reduce the impediment on the passenger seated behind you.
  • You’ll have a drink tray that is slid up out of the center console.
  • In the center console, you’ll have a charging port, one for each seat.
  • Under the armrest is an area where you can stow magazines, reading material and a laptop or tablet. It’s convenient because it’s a handy place for it to be stored without it getting buried in the seat back in front of you.
  • A tray table slides up and out from the center console.
  • On newer aircraft, you’ll have a personal entertainment system built into the seat in front of you, with a remote attached in the center console.
  • Looking at the pair of seats in front of you, you’ll see a pull down drink table attached to the back of their console (not available in the bulkhead row).
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Service will of course carry depending on the route and flight attendants you have, but there’s several things you’ll experience (again, not guaranteed):

  • Depending on the flight, you may be offered a pre-departure beverage.
  • If you have a jacket or coat, you may be offered a hangar and have it placed there.
  • Prior to landing, or as the aircraft is taxing, you may be offered a mint.

Meal service depends on the time of day and route: For more information, visit American’s website.

  • For breakfast, there’s a choice between two entree dishes, side of fruit and a choice of bread.
  • For lunch, warmed nuts are served and there’s a choice between two entree dishes (one being a salad), a side of salad, sometimes an appetizer, and a choice of bread. Dessert also follows.
  • For dinner, warmed nuts are served and there’s a choice between two entree dishes, a side salad, sometimes an appetizer, and a choice of bread. Dessert also follows and may include an ice cream sundae.
  • Shorter flights or flights occurring outside of meal periods may only received warmed mixed nuts and a cookie.

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How do you find American Airlines domestic First Class service?

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