Airlines & Airports

The Complete Guide to American Airlines Business Class

By
JT Genter
|
Freelance Writer
American Airlines Boeing 777 during takeoff
November 15, 2021
|
8 min read

American Airlines isn't known for its onboard service—even in premium cabins. However, between excellent lounges, a comfortable seat, good onboard food, and nice amenities, American Airlines Flagship Business class still delivers a solid experience.

On its fleet of internationally configured aircraft, all American Airlines business class seats have aisle access and recline into a lie-flat bed. That sets AA apart from business class on other airlines, where you may not have aisle access, or the seat might not lie entirely flat.

However, not all American Airlines business class seats are equal. So, it can pay to know which aircraft you choose. Keep reading for everything you need to know about American Airlines business class.

What to know about American Airlines business class

American Airlines offers its "Flagship Business" class product on overseas flights and select premium domestic routes. Look for Flagship Business. Essentially, if you see "Flagship" on your ticket, you can be sure you're getting a lie-flat seat, premium lounge access, full meal service, and an expanded drink menu.

After a massive fleet simplification during the pandemic, you'll find Flagship Business class on just three American Airlines aircraft: Boeing 777s, Boeing 787s, and its specialized A321 Transcon (or "A321T") aircraft.

You may find American Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft scheduled on some domestic routes. However, to get the actual Flagship Business class experience, you need to be flying on an eligible route:

  • Intercontinental flights: You're sure to find Flagship Business class on AA's long-haul flights between the US and Asia, Australia, Europe, New Zealand, and South America (excluding Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Suriname, and Venezuela).
  • Qualifying transcontinental flights: Domestic flights worthy of the Flagship Business label include routes between New York's JFK airport and Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Orange County (SNA), and between Los Angeles (LAX) and Miami (MIA) and Boston (BOS).
  • Qualifying Hawaii flights: AA recently expanded Flagship Business to include its longest Hawaii flights. You'll find Flagship Business class on routes between Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW) and Honolulu (HNL), Kona (KOA), or Maui (OGG), and on flights between Chicago (ORD) or Charlotte (CLT) and Honolulu (HNL).

Keep in mind that Flagship Business class isn't quite the top product available on American Airlines. While Delta and United have both retired international first class, American offers Flagship First class on its Boeing 777-300ER and A321T aircraft. On American's Boeing 787 and 777-200 aircraft, Flagship Business class is the front cabin.

The American Airlines business class experience at the airport 

You don't have to wait until boarding to start enjoying your Flagship Business class experience. American Airlines business class includes priority check-in and lounge access—including some of the best business class lounges in the US.

American Airlines Business Class Lounge

American Airlines operates two different kinds of departure lounges: Admirals Clubs and their more luxurious counterpoint, Flagship Lounges. When flying on a Flagship Business class ticket, you'll get access to the best available American Airlines lounges on the day you're flying.

American Airlines operates Admirals Clubs in nearly 50 airports. These lounges generally provide complimentary snacks, coffee, tea, complimentary house beers and wine, and a refuge from the airport terminal. In some locations, American adds nice touches, such as made-to-order guacamole and avocado toast.

AA Admirals lounge amenities

American's Flagship Lounges take the lounge experience to a different level. You'll find these premium lounges in five American Airlines international flight hubs: Chicago (ORD), Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), Miami (MIA), and New York (JFK).

True to its "flagship" name, AA's Flagship Lounges provide perks such as hot buffet meals, quality wines and champagnes, self-service cocktail bars, and even shower suites. If you're flying American Airlines business class through one of these airports, I won't blame you for intentionally booking an extended layover. In fact, that's just what I do whenever I can.

AA Flagship lounge amenities

American Airlines Business Class Check-in

No one enjoys waiting in line at check-in—especially when you have lounge access awaiting you on the other side of security. Thankfully, American Airlines business class passengers get access to priority check-in lanes at the airport.

In addition to (hopefully) being a faster line, I've typically found these check-in counters are staffed with more experienced and knowledgeable agents that can solve issues and get you on your way quicker. Then, depending on the airport, you may be able to speed through security using priority security.

The American Airlines business class experience in the air

While American Airlines has a strong ground game, the highlight of the American Airlines business class experience is in the air. Lie-flat seats will give you the best chance at a good night's rest. Multi-course "chef-inspired" meals may make you redefine airplane food. And a solid drink menu gives you plenty of options to help you unwind.

American Airlines Business Class Seats

  • Boeing 777-300ER: The Boeing 777-300ER is American Airlines' true "flagship" aircraft—one of just two aircraft types in American Airlines' fleet with a first-class product. The 52 Safran Cirrus business class seats on this aircraft are generally considered the best business class seats in American Airlines' fleet. The cabin is set up in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone arrangement. That means all seats have direct access to the aisles, and couples will want to sit in the middle seats to be next to each other for the flight.
AA business class reverse herringbone seating.
  • Boeing 777-200: American Airlines has two different seating types on its Boeing 777-200 aircraft. And unfortunately, it's hard to tell the two apart when looking at a seat map. Both types of seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 all-aisle-access seating arrangement with lie-flat seats. However, some AA's 777-200 aircraft have "Concept D" seats that alternate between forward- and rear-facing rows. These seats are panned for being unstable. That means you might get rocked awake in the middle of the night by your neighbor getting out of their seat. When AA was installing these seats, things got so bad that AA canceled its contract with the seat manufacturer. So, AA installed the rest of the 777-200 fleet with all forward-facing Super Diamond seats—which generally provide a much better onboard experience.
  • Boeing 787-8: Almost all American Airlines' 787-8 aircraft have the same forward- and reverse-facing "Concept D" business class seats. Again, it's not the best business class product available. But, all seats have aisle access and recline into lie-flat beds. Couples who want to sit close to one another should select seats D and H in odd-numbered rows. Just beware that these are rear-facing seats. The 787-8 also has the smallest business class cabin in AA's international fleet, with just 20 seats. That makes the 787-8 a long shot for those hoping for an upgrade.
AA concept D seating.
  • Boeing 787-9: American installed Super Diamond seats on its fleet of 22 Boeing 787-9 aircraft. So, you can book business class on the 787-9 to be sure to get a forward-facing and quite-private seat. Like the rest of AA's international fleet, seats are arranged 1-2-1—meaning everyone gets aisle access—and recline into a lie-flat bed.
  • Airbus A321T: American Airlines has a special sub-fleet of Airbus A321 aircraft with an ultra-premium seating arrangement for premium transcontinental flights. Rather than the 181 to 187 seats found on its other A321 planes, American Airlines installed ten lie-flat first-class seats, 20 lie-flat business class seats, and just 72 economy seats. The business class cabin is arranged in five rows with two seats on each side of the aisle.

American Airlines Business Class Beds

All Flagship Business class seats recline to create a lie-flat bed. However, you may want to consider the nuances between the seat types if you have the choice between a couple of options.

The Boeing 777-300ER business class seats are generally accepted as the most comfortable beds in American Airlines' fleet. Perhaps the only negative is how close your head is to the aisle. So, light sleepers may be startled awake by fellow passengers. 

AA lie flat seats.

The Super Diamond seats installed on AA's 787-9 and some 777-200 aircraft are excellent seats. However, side sleepers may find that the space between the bed and the tray table is a bit narrow for their legs when reclined.

The Concept D seats found on AA's 787-8 and the other 777-200 aircraft are not-so-affectionately referred to as "rocking chairs" by passengers in the know. Seats are installed in connected pairs. So, you may feel it anytime your tethered seatmate moves. If you're a light sleeper, you might want to pick one of the four seats that aren't connected to another seat: 1D, 1H, 5A, and 5L.

The A321T business class seats are the only Flagship Business class seats that don't have all aisle access. Because the seats are installed in two-seat pairs, the passenger in the window seat has to climb over the aisle-seat passenger to get in and out of their seat. Unfortunately, this can lead to a "straddle or be straddled" situation when the aisle seat is in lie-flat mode. However, this proximity makes these seats especially good for couples traveling together.

AA lie flat seats in bed mode.

American Airlines Business Class Benefits

Depending on the route, American Airlines makes Flagship Business class even more comfortable with amenity kits and Casper-branded sleep kits.

American's newest amenity kits feature products made in partnership with Shinola and D.S. & Durga. The new Flagship Business class kit includes socks, an eye mask, a dental kit, earplugs, lotion, and a pen.

AA Flagship business amenitiy kit.

On AA's flights to Australia, New Zealand, and Hong Kong, you'll get the full suite of Casper items: a mattress pad, pillow, duvet, pajamas, and slippers: 

AA business amenity kits on flights to AUS, NZ, and Hong Kong.

On all other routes, you'll get a pillow and duvet—with slippers for flights across the Pacific:

AA amenity kits for long haul business class flights.

American Airlines Business Class Baggage

American Airlines baggage policy allows business class passengers to get at least two free checked bags. Even better, you can stuff up to 70 pounds (that's 32 kg) of stuff into each bag at no extra charge. 

You can score a third free checked bag in the following cases:

  • American Airlines Platinum Pro or Executive Platinum elite status
  • Oneworld Emerald status with a partner airline
  • Active U.S. military member—with up to 5 free checked bags if you're traveling on orders.

American Airlines Business Class Meals

American partners with the James Beard Foundation to create "chef-inspired" meals for Flagship Business class passengers. Meals are generally customized for each route, meaning you can enjoy Japanese chef-designed meals on flights to Japan and dishes designed by a native Hawaiian chef for flights to Hawaii.

Log into your reservation within 30 days—but more than 24 hours—before your flight to pre-select the meal you want. That way, you'll be sure the option you prefer is loaded on your flight. Tastes change? No worries, you'll still have the opportunity to change your selection onboard.

reserving your meal on AA business class.

American Airlines Business Class Alcohol

Whether you're celebrating a special trip or just need a nightcap, you'll get your choice of champagne, wines, beers, cocktails, and other spirits when flying in Flagship Business class. The selection can vary based on the route you're flying, but don't expect anything too fancy from the list of spirits.

spirit menu for American AIrlines business class.

How to book American Airlines business class

How much does it cost for a business class ticket on American? 

The price of American Airlines business class depends on the route, the demand for the flight, seasonality, and how close to departure you're booking. To get the best deals on American Airlines business class, become a Scott's Cheap Flights Elite member. That way, you'll get deal alerts when the price of American Airlines business class drops to enticing rates.

How to upgrade to business class on American for free

Unfortunately, dressing up or uttering magic words won't get you a free upgrade on American Airlines. Instead, the best way to get a free upgrade on American is by having AAdvantage elite status. Depending on your elite status level, you'll get complimentary upgrades on flights within North and Central America through the 500-mile upgrade system.

In addition, Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elites can choose so-called "systemwide upgrades" as Elite Choice Rewards. These upgrades will score you an upgrade from economy or premium economy to business class or from business class to first class. As the name might imply, elites can apply systemwide upgrades on any route American flies. Just make sure you're booked on a revenue flight (i.e., not booked with miles) to use a systemwide upgrade.

Elites can apply systemwide upgrades to upgrade friends and family — even if you aren't flying with them. So, if you have an American Airlines elite flier in your life, it can't hurt to ask if they have an extra systemwide upgrade before you take an overseas flight.

How much does it cost to upgrade to business class on American?

American Airlines can offer very reasonable paid upgrades to business and first class. The trick is to look out for offers in the weeks and days before your departure. Rather than giving away a free upgrade to an elite member, American Airlines would rather offer an inexpensive upgrade to a paying customer.

How many miles to upgrade to American business class? 

American Airlines offers members the opportunity to upgrade from economy or premium economy to business class with miles. For flights within North and Central America, you'll generally need to pay 15,000 miles plus a cash co-pay of $75 (or $175 for Hawaii flights) each way. For intercontinental flights, you'll need to pay 25,000 miles plus a cash co-pay of $350 (or just $150 for northern South America) each way.

The only time it makes sense to upgrade with miles on domestic flights is from the east coast to Hawaii via Dallas or when you can fly on one of AA's premium coast-to-coast flights. For international flights, paying just 25,000 miles plus $350 can be a steal to move from a cramped economy cabin to a lie-flat business class product.

What are the best credit cards to get free upgrades to American business class?

The best way to get free upgrades on American is by having AAdvantage elite status. And, starting in 2022, you can get AA elite status just by spending on a credit card. 

By spending $60,000 on an AAdvantage® Aviator® Silver Mastercard®, you can get AAdvantage Platinum status. You'll earn one Loyalty Point per dollar spent plus 15,000 bonus Loyalty Points for spending at least $50,000. Platinum elite members can get free upgrades on flights within North and Central America through AA's 500-mile upgrade system — including lie-flat business class to Hawaii.

Frequently asked questions about American Airlines business class

What does American business class include?

On qualifying routes, American Airlines business class includes priority check-in, lounge access (including Flagship Lounge), lie-flat seats, hot meals, complimentary alcohol, an amenity kit, a Casper-branded sleep set, and complimentary in-flight entertainment.

Do you get lounge access with American business class? 

American Airlines business class passengers get lounge access when flying on Flagship Business class tickets. That includes flights to Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, southern South America; flights from Dallas, Chicago, or Charlotte to Hawaii; and qualifying coast-to-coast flights (e.g., New York to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Orange County).

Is food served in business class on American?

American serves "chef-inspired dining" on its Flagship Business Class flights. To get full meal service, you'll generally need to be flying on an intercontinental route (i.e., outside North and Central America), AA's premium coast-to-coast flights, or premium flights to Hawaii.

How many checked bags do you get in American business?

American Airlines business class passengers generally get two free checked bags of up to 70 pounds each. If you're a Oneworld Emerald elite—including AAdvantage Platinum Pro and Executive Platinum elites—or US active military members, you can check a third bag for free.

How can you cancel or reschedule your American business flight? 

American Airlines business class passengers can generally change their flight with no fees. The only exception to this is if you're originating outside of North or South America.

What are the best seats in American business class? 

American Airlines' business class seats vary between aircraft. Generally, the best business class seats are on its Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. And the best seats on that aircraft are in the mini-cabin in rows 3 and 4. Generally, the second-best seats are found on AA's 787-9 aircraft and some of AA's 777-200 aircraft.

If you have a choice, avoid the business class seats on American's Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Half of the seats are rear-facing, and passengers complain about the seats being tight and unstable. To get all the details about a seat on your specific route, check out SeatGuru.

Summary

American Airlines Flagship Business class is reliably a solid option. You're sure to get a lie-flat seat, with direct aisle access on all international flights. American's Flagship Lounges provide an excellent experience in most international hubs. The onboard meals are tasty with a decent wine list and spirits to make the flight a bit more relaxing.

However, service can be hit-or-miss depending on the crew. And, if you have a choice between aircraft types, you'll want to consider the pros and cons of each business class seat.

Some of the best American Airlines business class fares we've seen

Read more about business class travel

Join Scott's Cheap Flights and get incredible fares in business, first, and premium economy delivered right to your inbox. Elite members save an average of $2,000 on international business class trips.

Last Updated 
November 15, 2021
The Complete Guide to American Airlines Business Class
JT Genter
Freelance Writer

JT has written about credit cards and points & miles since 2015. He published over 2,000 articles on The Points Guy and can now be found regularly writing for NerdWallet, Forbes Advisor, AwardWallet, and CNBC Select. Since June 2017, JT and his wife have traveled full-time as digital nomads—using points, miles, and credit card benefits to reduce the cost of living on the road.

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