The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights

The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights

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On this blog I often provide airline rankings based on international flight experiences. However, sometimes it’s fun to look at some of the best offerings that are closer to home, including the best domestic premium products.

While I’ve shared my thoughts on the best first class airlines, best first class lounges, and best business class seats, in this post I wanted to share what I consider to be the best domestic first and business class experiences.

What’s the difference between first & business class on domestic flights?

Often the difference between first and business class could simply be branding. Most domestic flights have just two cabins, and those cabins are typically branded as first class and economy.

However, on international flights the forward cabin is typically branded as business class instead.

The one exception is when there is a plane with three cabins. Within the United States there’s only one airline offering flights with three cabins, and that’s on American’s A321Ts. Those planes feature first class, business class, and economy. As you can see, at times there is a real distinction, while at other times it just comes down to marketing.

What makes a good first or business class airline?

For the purposes of this post — and for ranking the best products — I’ll be focusing on a few aspects of the airline experience:

  • The comfort of the seat
  • The food & beverage offerings
  • The service
  • The quality of Wi-Fi
  • The ground experience (including any lounge access)

A couple more notes, before I get into my rankings. I’ll only be including one “cabin” per airline. In other words, if an airline has multiple business class configurations, I won’t be ranking them separately, but will only be ranking the best one. Furthermore, I’ll only be including products that are consistently offered on some routes.

With that out of the way, here are my favorites…

1. American first class on the A321T

American Airlines is unique in offering three cabin service within the United States. The carrier’s A321Ts feature just 102 seats, including 10 first class seats, 20 business class seats, and 72 economy seats.

There are 10 reverse herringbone first class seats, which are typically seats you’d find in international business class. They’re private and all feature direct aisle access, which is rare on a domestic flight.

American A321T first class

While American’s food is nothing special, I do appreciate that the airline has Viasat high speed Wi-Fi. I actually don’t think American’s inflight product is the best, but the reason I rank American first is because of the exceptional ground experience.

When flying American’s A321T in first class you have access to American’s Flagship First Dining JFK, which offers a sit down dining experience and a great wine selection. This truly is unlike anything else offered by a US airline. Without this factor, I wouldn’t rank the experience number one.

American Flagship First Dining JFK

Eligible routes

American consistently flies its A321Ts from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Santa Ana (SNA).

How to redeem miles & points

If you can find saver level award availability, then you could book an A321T flight for just 50,000 American AAdvantage miles (you could also redeem partner miles). Unfortunately saver level award availability can be tough to come by, in which case American may have awards available at higher costs.

Another option is to just book business class with cash when it’s reasonably priced, and then use a BXP1 through the American Business Extra program to confirm an upgrade to first class.

2. JetBlue Mint business class on the A321

Purely in terms of the onboard experience, JetBlue Mint is my favorite way to fly domestically. The airline has truly revolutionized domestic premium travel, from the seats, to the food & service, to the free Wi-Fi.

Nowadays there are two versions of Mint — there’s the “classic” version, featuring 16 seats. This consists of three rows of seats in a 2-2 configuration, and two rows of seats with “Mint Suites,” in a 1-1 configuration. The Mint Suites even have doors.

JetBlue A321 Mint business class (original)

Then there’s the new version, with seats in a 1-1 configuration, where all business class passengers have a door. This product is used on select domestic frequencies, though primarily for the carrier’s transatlantic flights.

JetBlue A321neo Mint business class (new)

JetBlue’s onboard product is simply spectacular. The airline has fast and free Wi-Fi, and JetBlue is the only US airline to consistently have excellent food and friendly service in business class, in my opinion.

JetBlue Mint business class catering

The only reason I don’t rank JetBlue Mint number one is because the airline doesn’t offer any sort of lounge access, so the ground experience is lacking.

Eligible routes

JetBlue offers Mint primarily on transcontinental premium routes, including many flights out of Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and New York (JFK), and to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), San Diego (SAN), and Seattle (SEA). Exact routes vary by season.

How to redeem miles & points

JetBlue has a revenue based frequent flyer program, so you can redeem JetBlue TrueBlue points toward the cost of a ticket, though the price varies. Alternatively, you can redeem American AAdvantage miles for JetBlue Mint, and you can typically expect to pay 65,000 AAdvantage miles one-way.

3. United Polaris business class on the 787

United Airlines pretty consistently flies Boeing 787-10s on its premium transcontinental routes, featuring the carrier’s latest Polaris business class seats. At the moment the airline is even flying Boeing 777-300ERs on some frequencies in premium domestic markets, but that’s the same product, for all practical purposes.

United 787 Polaris business class

The 787s used for these routes feature United’s newest Polaris seats, which have lots of privacy and direct aisle access. However, United’s soft product isn’t that great, and passengers “only” receive access to the United Club, which in no way compares to Flagship First Dining. Furthermore, United’s Wi-Fi leaves a bit to be desired.

United Club LAX

Eligible routes

United generally flies Boeing 787s from Newark (EWR) to both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). You’ll also sometimes see 777s with new Polaris seats in these markets.

How to redeem miles & points

Unfortunately United makes few saver level award seats available on these premium transcontinental routes. Generally your best bet is to find a discounted business class ticket, and then redeem transferrable points toward the cost of a ticket.

4. American business class on the 777

American Airlines flies Boeing 777s on many domestic routes, though it’s not always 100% consistent. So I’ll focus specifically on American’s flights from Dallas to Hawaii, which are consistently operated by 777s or 787s, featuring a great product.

Most American 777s have reverse herringbone seats in business class, in a 1-2-1 configuration. They also have Wi-Fi, which works over the Pacific enroute to Hawaii.

American 777 business class

Those traveling American business class nonstop from Dallas to Hawaii also receive access to the American Flagship Lounge DFW, which is a much better lounge than you’ll get access to with most other airlines in the United States when flying to Hawaii.

American Flagship Lounge DFW

Eligible routes

American most consistently flies Boeing 777s between Dallas (DFW) and Hawaii. However, you can also find them on plenty of other domestic routes, especially out of Miami.

How to redeem miles & points

American makes some — though not much — business class saver level award space available on routes to Hawaii. If there is availability, you can expect to pay 62,500 AAdvantage miles one-way. However, in some cases you may find web special awards, which have lower pricing.

5. Delta One business class on the 767

The only wide body jet that Delta consistently schedules on domestic flights is the Boeing 767-300. While Delta sometimes schedules A330s and A350s on domestic routes, it’s not consistent or year-round on any routes, as far as I know (someone correct me if I’m wrong).

On the plus side, Delta 767s feature direct aisle access from every seat. Unfortunately Delta’s 767 business class is also really tight, and many tend to feel crammed in these seats. Furthermore, the entertainment screens are small, and it’s just generally not a very modern plane.

Delta 767 business class
Delta 767 business class

Delta does generally have friendly service, decent food, and solid Wi-Fi, so the soft product is quite good. Passengers on premium transcontinental routes also get access to Delta Sky Clubs, which are excellent for domestic flights, but not exactly globally competitive otherwise.

Delta Sky Club JFK

Eligible routes

Delta consistently flies the 767 on premium transcontinental routes, including from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). The airline also regularly flies the plane on other routes, including Atlanta (ATL) to Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL) to Honolulu (HNL).

How to redeem miles & points

Delta SkyMiles generally just charges whatever the heck it wants to charge for awards, so don’t expect to get any sort of deal on redemptions.

6. Hawaiian Airlines first class on the A330

Hawaiian Airlines’ A330s feature a first class cabin with fully flat seats. This includes 18 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. I’ll be honest — these seats aren’t the most comfortable out there, as I find them to be really hard. But they’re still good seats.

Hawaiian A330 first class
Hawaiian A330 first class

Unfortunately Hawaiian doesn’t offer much in the way of lounge access on domestic flights, and also doesn’t offer Wi-Fi. The good news is that the airline has friendly service and I’ve enjoyed the food & drinks. After all, there’s always something exciting about going to Hawaii.

Hawaiian Airlines first class catering

Eligible routes

Hawaiian flies its A330s from Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK) to Honolulu (HNL), as well as on select flights from the West Coast of the US to Hawaii. If you book a Hawaiian Airlines flight operated by an A330, then you can expect to see this product onboard.

How to redeem miles & points

You can redeem miles for travel on Hawaiian Airlines directly through the HawaiianMiles program. Those awards start at 40,000 miles one-way. Alternatively, the airline often has reasonably priced first class fares.

Bottom line

The above are my rankings for the best domestic first and business class experiences in the United States. I’d love to hear how OMAAT readers rank these experiences, so please let me know in the comments, because I’m sure many will disagree.

Let me lastly acknowledge that there’s no “one size fits all” answer. For example, if I’m just leaving home and getting to the airport an hour before departure I’d choose JetBlue Mint over all else. Meanwhile if I have a long layover or want to eat before my flight, the Flagship First Dining access is a huge value-add. I tried to balance those interests in these airline rankings, though realize that there’s no perfect way to do so.

What do you think the best domestic first & business class airlines are? 

Conversations (30)
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  1. Travel4b Guest

    I finally had the opportunity last week to experience the much touted AA Flagship Dining at JFK. The food was very good (not great), but they were out of some dinner items - at 4:30! The service was friendly but quite sloppy and downscale. In contrast, the service onboard in First to London was excellent. Granted there were only three passengers, including one FA.

  2. BCH Guest

    Delta’s premium is far from even good. The B767 cabin is noticeably old, tired, weary, and dingy. I’m not even impressed with their A350 Delta One seat. I mean other airlines adapted the same seat in their cabins. Delta’s version felt cramped and little more claustrophobic than others’. It must be the way Delta customized the seat.

  3. e.coach Guest

    I would like to know when there will be a review for the common folk who can't afford the business/first group and tell us who has the best coach?

  4. iamhere Guest

    Thought JetBlue Mint had access to American lounges?

  5. Drew Guest

    Delta One on the 767-400 is pretty great if you can snag it. Last winter I flew one of those JFK-SFO. Those planes are probably all going to Europe this summer. Most of the Delta One transcons I've eyeballed lately have been 752's or 763's, which are not as nice.

    Agree with some of the other comments that Alaska F can be a nice way to go. Not a lie-flat, and no IFE, but a comfy seat with tons of legroom and good food / service to boot.

  6. D3kingg Guest

    If you missed out flying flagship first suites on the AA 77W during the pandemic that was once in a life time. I flew about 6 flights. Mia lax 2X. DFW LAX 2X. MIA JFK 2X.
    I flew the 777 J Dfw ord. Jfk Mia. And the 787 Dfw lax 4X. All during COVID.

  7. Tennen Gold

    "Unfortunately Hawaiian doesn’t offer much in the way of lounge access on domestic flights..."

    Uh... I'm pretty sure Hawaiian First Class pax can use Premier Clubs on all flights. Not that they're any good, mind you, and you can only use them when leaving Hawaii, but it's still lounge access. Also, it might be a new addition, but it looks like FC on some long-haul NA flights can use the Plumeria Lounge.

  8. Lune Member

    There actually is a difference between the 777, 767, and 787 versions of United's Polaris: seat width. The 777 and 787 are arranged 1-2-1, while the 767 is 1-1-1. As a result, ironically, the 767 has the widest seat at 24inch, the 777 is at 22inch, and the 787 is at 20.6 inch (from seatguru.com).

    I've traveled on all 3 configurations and can definitely vouch that this does make a difference. While the 787 is...

    There actually is a difference between the 777, 767, and 787 versions of United's Polaris: seat width. The 777 and 787 are arranged 1-2-1, while the 767 is 1-1-1. As a result, ironically, the 767 has the widest seat at 24inch, the 777 is at 22inch, and the 787 is at 20.6 inch (from seatguru.com).

    I've traveled on all 3 configurations and can definitely vouch that this does make a difference. While the 787 is okay, the seat is definitely narrow, especially when sleeping, and it can feel kinda coffin-ish especially if you get the seats closest to the window that are the most enclosed. In contrast, the 767 feels much more spacious.

  9. Le Moëme Christophe Guest

    I traveled with my son on United Polaris London-lax and it was a very good flight. My son appreciated too.

  10. tipsyinmadras Diamond

    Really outdated photo of JFK SkyClub - it's been a year or two since it was renovated.

  11. RichM Member

    I know the article focuses on the USA, but I'd say the best domestic business class anywhere is the flights that Qantas operates using their international-configuration 787s from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth.

    There's generally only 1 of these each day, and they depart from the international terminal (meaning passing through passport control for a domestic flight) but they are a big step up in service level from a typical QF domestic flight, which is...

    I know the article focuses on the USA, but I'd say the best domestic business class anywhere is the flights that Qantas operates using their international-configuration 787s from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth.

    There's generally only 1 of these each day, and they depart from the international terminal (meaning passing through passport control for a domestic flight) but they are a big step up in service level from a typical QF domestic flight, which is worth it on the 5 hour flights from SYD to PER.

    1. Mike C Gold

      A quick point of clarification, you have to go through the passport control point but you're waved through ('Domestic' sticker on your boarding pass) and don't face any passport formalities, in fact you don't need to have a passport just photo ID. Pointhacks recently posted a review of the economy service on the Sydney to Perth route (on these services you can't buy a domestic W fare but you can apply for a points upgrade from a Y ticket).

  12. Donna Diamond

    Too bad AA doesn’t appear to have any plans to offer A321T service on any other US TransCon routes for the foreseeable future. I was lucky to fly them in J a few times out of LAX during the early pandemic and they were great, even with the Flagship Lounges closed.

  13. Ivan X Guest

    I fly transcon all the time, and I agree with the above, though 1-3 could easily be swapped based upon your priorities. I find that yes the AA Flagship First ground experience is really great, but the 1-1 setup on American’s A321T to feel exposed and not that comfortable, and comparable to or worse than United Polaris seats and certainly worse than Mint throne seats, for usually more money. And the business class seats (comparable...

    I fly transcon all the time, and I agree with the above, though 1-3 could easily be swapped based upon your priorities. I find that yes the AA Flagship First ground experience is really great, but the 1-1 setup on American’s A321T to feel exposed and not that comfortable, and comparable to or worse than United Polaris seats and certainly worse than Mint throne seats, for usually more money. And the business class seats (comparable to old United 757’s or Mint non-throne) I think also include Flagship First lounge, though not Flagship dining or check in. I don’t think the First premium is worth it, so I’d rank AA behind UA or JetBlue, though there are times when the First miles price is less than Polaris or Mint, so I’m those cases I’d happily take it.

    Mint is a story of two cabins: the throne seats are superb, the non-throne only ok. I’d certainly rather fly Polaris or AA first before Mint non-throne, and indeed the lack of lounge is a drag through I just use the JFK AirTrain and do Centurion, nuisance though that is. The food on Mint is head and shoulders above the others.

    UA Polaris seats are pretty fantastic, offering a lot of comfort and perceived privacy when you’re in them, without compromise if you’re traveling with someone and get the inner middles. Sometimes the 767’s fly domestically too, but you need to take care to avoid the 757’s still in regular service with a 2-2 configuration if you want the nice seats. I also just like a two-aisle plane (767, 777, or 787 in UA’s case). The Wi-Fi does indeed suck but that is not a dealbreaker for me, and at least they’ve lowered the price to very reasonable.

    I never fly Delta so I can’t rank them.

    So for me, it goes: Polaris, Mint throne, AA Flagship First, AA business, Mint non-throne, UA non-Polaris business.

  14. Flying guy Guest

    United offers 3 class service on transcon flights in all Polaris equipped aircraft in the form of Premium Plus. This is equivalent seating to domestic first class on nonwidebodies and is distinctive in how it is priced and sold. Just because they don't call it First/Business/Economy, doesn't mean it's only a 2 class offering, and I believe Delta isn't much different in their newest widebody hard product.

    1. Ivan X Guest

      Yes. Premium Plus is arguably better than standard UA domestic first, actually.

    2. NFSF Gold

      They do to EWR, but flights to JFK only have two clases

  15. Paul Guest

    Alas I fly transcon monthly and I agree with your review. While the service on Delta is quite good, the seats are just tired, they desperately need to be refurbished. I fly AS often. While their F product is a recliner, the service is fantastic from website to in flight to post. Not glamorous but first rate every time.

    1. Jimmy’s Travel Report Gold

      I really like AS domestic F when flying with a companion. As you mentioned service is great and most front cabins have 40” of pitch. The new “new” F, especially on the a321neo, is very sharp, roomy and comfortable.

  16. Sam Guest

    Its probably a tie for 5th place btw Hawaiian and AA 321T biz. Solid Wifi and Entertainment paired with a special meal might beat out good food and friendly service on an A330 with ipads.

  17. DLPTATL Diamond

    We just flew on Delta's 767-300ER mentioned in your post over the weekend from JFK-ATL in DeltaOne. I'm a big Delta fan but the seat is tired; but the biggest problem is the IFE. The video screen is smaller than the IFE on the A320 I flew ATL-LGA up to NYC, it's significantly further away, lower resolution, slower, and the touchscreen functionality is shot. I had to show several other pax the "hidden" remote so...

    We just flew on Delta's 767-300ER mentioned in your post over the weekend from JFK-ATL in DeltaOne. I'm a big Delta fan but the seat is tired; but the biggest problem is the IFE. The video screen is smaller than the IFE on the A320 I flew ATL-LGA up to NYC, it's significantly further away, lower resolution, slower, and the touchscreen functionality is shot. I had to show several other pax the "hidden" remote so they could actually navigate. I really wish that Delta would spend the money to upgrade the IFE if they plan to keep these around another 3-5 years.

    1. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      Pre-travel-recovery Delta was using 767-400s (with updated D1) on Transcons. Even snagged one to/from Denver. Honestly D1 on 752-200 is a better experience than the 767-300 - at least if you're traveling with someone - it's less personal space but also less outdated.

  18. Pete Diamond

    Just like what you wrote with AA 321T first class, I would say a good way to get UA polaris domestically would be to buy economy and use 20 plus points to waitlist for upgrade. Doesn’t always work but a good shot with the cabins with greater J density.

  19. Khatl Diamond

    Gotta love the subtle burn directed at Delta SkyPesos

    1. tipsyinmadras Diamond

      Honestly that's insulting to Pesos, they're more like Sky Zimbabwean Dollars at rate they get devalued

    2. MC Guest

      Would you expect anything different from this blog? Everything they write is either biased or myopic based on where the authors are located. Ironically, their reviews are vastly different than hundreds of others across the industry

  20. Lone Gunman Guest

    Great article. It's funny. Even the seats in short-haul domestic "first" class on US carriers are better than those in business class of most European carriers. Yet so many people complain. I don't get it.

    1. Tom Guest

      Transcontinental US flights are much longer than the vast majority of intra-European flights, so seat comfort is much more important on the former.

    2. Mantis Guest

      What I don't get is how European carriers have decided that blocking an economy seat is the best use of space on their planes up front, and how barely any carriers have decided to differentiate themselves by offering an actual premium product for intro-Europe flights.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Lune Member

There actually is a difference between the 777, 767, and 787 versions of United's Polaris: seat width. The 777 and 787 are arranged 1-2-1, while the 767 is 1-1-1. As a result, ironically, the 767 has the widest seat at 24inch, the 777 is at 22inch, and the 787 is at 20.6 inch (from seatguru.com). I've traveled on all 3 configurations and can definitely vouch that this does make a difference. While the 787 is okay, the seat is definitely narrow, especially when sleeping, and it can feel kinda coffin-ish especially if you get the seats closest to the window that are the most enclosed. In contrast, the 767 feels much more spacious.

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tipsyinmadras Diamond

Honestly that's insulting to Pesos, they're more like Sky Zimbabwean Dollars at rate they get devalued

1
RichM Member

I know the article focuses on the USA, but I'd say the best domestic business class anywhere is the flights that Qantas operates using their international-configuration 787s from Sydney or Melbourne to Perth. There's generally only 1 of these each day, and they depart from the international terminal (meaning passing through passport control for a domestic flight) but they are a big step up in service level from a typical QF domestic flight, which is worth it on the 5 hour flights from SYD to PER.

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