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Is American Airlines first class worth it?

Million Mile Secrets logo Million Mile Secrets 4/19/2021 Alexandra Maloney
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We all dream about the day when we can stop in the first class cabin instead of walking farther into the plane. While economy and business seats can be a great value, there’s just something special about sitting in first class.

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Upgrading to a first class seat with points and miles isn’t too hard to do, and a good deal on a first class seat isn’t too hard to come by, but the question then becomes, is first class worth it? Specifically, let’s dive into if American Airlines’ first class is worth it. 

a desktop computer sitting on top of a car © Provided by Million Mile Secrets (Photo courtesy of American Airlines)

Perks of flying first class with American Airlines

With American Airlines first class, the perks start before boarding. First class passengers, along with business and premium economy passengers, get priority privileges on the ground. This means a faster check-in, security and boarding process on the ground. Plus, you get your checked bags first when you land. Additionally, first class passengers can purchase what American calls “Five Star Service” at select airports. This service includes access to exclusive lounges, car service accommodations, gate service and more.

Once you’re on board, you can expect the first class cabin to have wider seats with more legroom and lie back access, free in-flight entertainment with a wide selection of movies, TV, books, and fast in-flight Wi-Fi. Typically, the first class cabin also has significantly better food and beverage service, but the pandemic has changed that quite a bit for American Airlines (more on this later).

Overall, first class will still have a better quality of service. Flight attendants are more attentive to first class passengers, and your journey will be more calm and comfortable. And don’t forget, flying first class can earn you elite status in the points and miles world.

Average cost of flying first class with American Airlines

American Airlines actually has some of the cheapest first class seats on the market, with domestic flights averaging between $500 and $900, depending on dates of travel and destination. First class seats on international flights aren’t so much of a deal, with the regular ticket costing no less than $4,000 and going up to tens of thousands! 

Points and miles are a great way to score a first class seat or upgrade for no cash value. Citi ThankYou points are your best bet to get the best value per mile on American flights, with a first class upgrade costing either 15,000 or 25,000 miles depending on your original class booking. If you want to upgrade to first class with cash, it’ll run you anywhere from $75-$550, depending on your original ticket. 

American Airlines first class vs other airlines

In terms of pricing, American Airlines’ first class seats are hard to beat. AA also comes in above other airlines with their checked baggage policies for first class passengers — on American, first class travelers get three checked bags included. On Alaska Airlines, JetBlue, Delta and United, first class passengers only get two checked bags included.

In most other categories, American Airlines is on par with other airlines. Most first class seats are pretty similar. All first class cabins will have an attentive flight staff, and they will all be equipped with fast Wi-Fi and onboard entertainment. Plus, travelers from first class cabins on any airline will get to deboard the plane first (they used to board first, but that policy has changed on many airlines to favor social distancing guidelines).

But, American Airlines’ new food and beverage policy due to the pandemic does make them come up short in that category compared to airlines like JetBlue, which is still offering full gourmet meals and cocktails on flights.

Flying first class during a pandemic

Due to covid, there are some changes to American Airlines’ first class cabin. While these changes will make your flight safer, they definitely limit the first class experience.

If your flight is between 900 and 2,199 miles and/or under 4.5 hours, your first class meal experience isn’t much different than those in economy or business class. All passengers will receive a complimentary snack and water bottle during boarding and can get other non-alcoholic beverages by request only. In the first class cabin on these flights, you’ll get one additional snack if you’re on a late night or early morning flight and alcoholic beverages by request.

For flights over 2,200 miles and/or over 4.5 hours, the first class service is a bit more extensive. While all passengers still get a complimentary snack and water, those in other cabins won’t get a meal unless they’re onboard a long-haul international flight. First class passengers will be given meals on all flights. But, they’ll be served on a tray instead of in courses. Plus, first class travelers will receive alcohol. Additionally, American Airlines has canceled some of their Five Star services, and will not offer Five Star Select, Five Star Private Arrival or Five Star Private Departure.

Bottom line

So, is American Airlines first class worth it? Honestly, it depends on what you want to get out of the first class experience. If you value food and drink services and luxury travel perks, American Airlines has put many that on hold due to the pandemic, so first class isn’t worth it for you. But, if you’re looking for an overall more comfortable and calmer plane ride with excellent service, you can’t go wrong with American Airlines first class.

Featured image by NextNewMedia/Shutterstock.

The Platinum Card® from American Express

Read our review text: The Platinum Card® from American Express © Provided by Million Mile Secrets The Platinum Card® from American Express Apply NowSee Rates & FeesTerms Apply

Annual fee

$550

Welcome offer

Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

SummaryCard DetailsPros & ConsHighlights

Why we like it

The Amex Platinum is a staple in the travel cards landscape with its unmatched travel benefits, for frequent flyers these benefits alone can far exceed the cost of the annual fee. Beyond that, this card has great on-going rewards and the card also comes with a generous welcome bonus of 75,000 Amex Membership Rewards points after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first six months of opening your account. You’ll also earn 10x points on eligible purchases made at U.S. gas stations and U.S. supermarkets on up to $15,000 in combined spending during the first six months of card membership. This welcome offer could potentially earn you up to 225,000 points.

Who is it best for?

The Platinum Card is best for frequent travelers that value luxury travel perks: think incredible airport lounge access and Gold elite status with Marriott and Hilton. Cardholders can also cash in on hundreds of dollars of credit for travel expenses all the while earning 5X Membership Rewards Points on flights (booked directly with the airline or through American Express Travel, on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

Credit Score Recommended

Credit ranges are a variation of FICO® Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

Good to Excellent

660

850

Details

  • Earn 75,000 Membership Rewards® Points after you spend $5,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member and Additional Centurion Cards only.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Enjoy complimentary access to the Global Lounge Collection, the only credit card airport lounge access program that includes proprietary lounge locations around the world.
  • Receive complimentary benefits through American Express Travel with an average total value of $550 with Fine Hotels & Resorts® program at over 1,100 properties. Learn More.
  • Get up to $100 in statement credits annually for purchases at Saks Fifth Avenue on your Platinum Card®. That’s up to $50 in statement credits semi-annually. Enrollment required.
  • $550 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees

Pros

  • Access to Centurion Lounges, Priority Pass lounges, Delta Sky Clubs and more
  • Up to $500 in annual credits, plus another up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA PreCheck
  • Complimentary Hilton Gold elite status and Marriott Gold elite status
  • Long list of travel protections
  • Excellent customer experience

Cons

  • $550 annual fee
  • Earning on travel categories exclusive to airfare and prepaid hotel stays

Reward Rate

  • Earn 10x points on eligible purchases on your new Card at U.S. Gas Stations and U.S. Supermarkets, on up to $15,000 in combined purchases, during your first 6 months of Card Membership. That’s an additional 9 points on top of the 1 point you earn for these purchases.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel. Starting January 1, 2021, earn 5X points on up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year.
  • 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.

APR

See Pay Over Time APR

Credit Needed

Goodto Excellent

Foreign Transaction Fee

None

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