Advertiser Disclosure

The Guide to American Airlines Business Class

April 14, 2020
Loyalty Programs, Travel
Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This may influence which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own.

American Airlines offers business class on long-haul international flights as well as transcontinental flying between major markets like New York and Los Angeles or San Francisco. It calls this product Flagship Business.

Here, you’ll find what the business class cabin is like on most of these flights and a general idea of what you can expect when flying in American’s business class.

In addition to purchasing a ticket, travelers can also get a business-class seat by redeeming AAdvantage miles. On many fares, people can also redeem miles to upgrade from economy class, though this requires a cash copay so may not be the best value if your ticket was already expensive.

Complimentary upgrades to Flagship Business are not given to AAdvantage elite members, but Executive Platinum members receive four systemwide upgrades they can use to upgrade from economy to business class for free. They can earn additional systemwide upgrades for reaching certain travel thresholds during the calendar year. These are extremely valuable and a great way to experience business class for much less.

Flagship Business class has a lot of great perks to offer. Here’s what to expect the next time you find yourself traveling in American’s business class cabin.

» Learn More: American Airlines AAdvantage program: The complete guide

At the airport

Business class passengers can use priority check-in lines and accelerated security queues at some airports. Travelers can check two bags without charge, and these carry priority bag tags so that they are delivered first upon landing. During boarding, they have priority boarding through a dedicated lane.

All long-haul, international (and transcontinental domestic) business class passengers can access American Airlines Admirals Clubs on their day of travel. In addition, they can visit the Flagship Lounge, which American operates in select gateway airports. The latter are impressive lounges with large buffets that have regionally inspired food dishes and snacks like sushi, soups and salads. Self-serve bars offer a wide range of cocktails, wines, beers and champagne, while refrigerators stock bottled water, juices and sodas.

Travelers flying into London Heathrow are treated to another special perk: the Arrivals Lounge. Unique to London, it features a place to relax with a cup of coffee, refreshments, breakfast and showers. The lounge also offers clothes pressing so travelers can go straight to work.

The seat

For starters, American’s business class seats are 180-degree lie-flat seats. They offer direct aisle access, which means travelers never have to step over anyone to move around the cabin. The only exceptions are:

  • American’s small fleet of Boeing 757s, which operate to Europe and South America and will be phased out in 2021.
  • The Airbus A321 aircraft, which operate transcontinental flights on select routes.

Another unique setup is that on certain Boeing 787 and 777 aircraft, seats alternate between facing forward and backward. American makes this quite clear on its seat maps by placing a reverse arrow on seats that face backward.

These seats offer ample storage space with nooks for smaller items and side pockets to store tablets or phones. Some have flip-up storage spaces for other things like eyeglasses and reading material. Power outlets and USB ports are at every seat and generally within easy reach.

On board, passengers will find a bottle of water waiting at their seat, as well as an amenity kit (Hawaiian flights don’t get amenity kits). There is also a comfy duvet and oversized pillow, which are part of American’s partnership with Casper bedding.

A wide variety of movies, TV shows, audio programming and often live TV is available on large screens at each seat. American also gives passengers access to Apple Music while they are flying. To enjoy the entertainment, noise-reducing headphones are given to each passenger. Unfortunately, these headphones are collected about one hour before landing (interrupting entertainment), and flight attendants offer earbuds as an alternative.

Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft, however, do not have the large screens. Instead, flight attendants pass out tablets and chargers to fit into the seatback cutout so passengers can watch entertainment.

All American aircraft that offer business class seating feature in-flight WiFi for a charge.

» Learn More: In-Flight entertainment: The complete guide

Inflight dining

Before takeoff, American Airlines flight attendants offer trays of orange juice, water and sparkling wine. Printed menus are delivered to each passenger (or are waiting at each seat) to explain in-flight offerings. Multi-course meals begin with an aperitif service with warm nuts and a tablecloth placed on the tray table. American uses aisle serving carts for its service, which speeds up delivery, but is not exactly a premium experience. Drink refills are plentiful and followed by a tray with an appetizer, salad and warm bread.

American is the official airline partner of the James Beard Foundation, and some of the menu choices have been designed by talented chefs. Travelers can choose from one of several main courses, which usually consist of a beef, poultry, seafood and pasta option. Dessert usually includes a cheese plate or ice cream sundae with toppings that are added upon request.

Customers can pre-select their meal 30 days before departure via the airline’s website. In addition to the standard menu choices, there is a choice of special meals like Asian vegetarian, diabetic and Kosher options. All meals must be ordered at least 24 hours before departure; otherwise, passengers can always choose their selection from the standard menu on the flight.

On some Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft, American has an in-flight buffet station where business class passengers can help themselves to water, sodas, sandwiches, snacks and other refreshments. Other aircraft offer in-flight snacking stations on long flights, but it tends to be in the galley area.

American Airlines business class varies

The experience you get might vary slightly depending upon the aircraft you fly, but one thing is for sure: The amenities remain consistent. American might not be the strongest when it comes to in-flight service, but its offering is a reliable mainstay that frequent flyers have come to appreciate.

Photo courtesy of American Airlines.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2020, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Find the best travel credit card for you
How to use travel rewards to afford first class
34 ways to earn American Airlines AAdvantage miles

About the author