I’ll be the first to admit that I give American Airlines a hard time. That’s because I do believe that they have a lot of room for improvement, though I continue to largely fly them when convenient given that I’m based in Miami, so options are fairly limited.
For example, on balance I don’t think United is any better, but I don’t complain about them as much because I don’t fly them as much (they have a small presence in Miami). Meanwhile Delta actually is better, so I usually have nice things to say when I fly them.
Anyway, I wanted to mix things up a bit and be positive, and in this post I wanted to share 11 things that I think American Airlines does well. You know, maybe there’s something to be said for positive reinforcement.
In no particular order, here’s what I like about American Airlines:
High speed wifi
A vast majority of American’s mainline fleet now features high speed wifi, including almost all of their 737s and A320 family aircraft. I’m impressed by the pace at which they’ve retrofitted this throughout their massive fleet. This is an area where American is more or less on par with Delta, and where they’re way ahead of United.
All American A319s have high speed wifi
International lounge access
These lounges can be accessed by oneworld Sapphire and Emerald members traveling internationally, as well as all oneworld first and business class passengers. As a point of comparison:
- Delta SkyClubs are superior for domestic lounges, but Delta doesn’t have any special international lounges
- United Polaris Lounges are superior to Flagship Lounges, but are only accessible by international business class passengers, and no elite status will get you into those lounges
So there’s something to be said for American having very nice lounges that are also easily accessible.
American’s Flagship Lounge Los Angeles
Oneworld Emerald status
It’s not that American deserves full credit for this, since it’s more about the alliance than American. However, oneworld Emerald status is my favorite alliance status that exists, and I love the lounges it gets me access to.
Cathay Pacific’s First Class Lounge Hong Kong
Flagship First Dining
I’m conflicted about whether or not to include this. On one hand, it’s just about the most impressive thing offered by a US airline. On the other hand, it seems like a horrible way of allocating resources.
American offers Flagship First Dining in Los Angeles, Miami, and New York. These are private, gorgeous spaces with a la carte dining. The food and service are generally quite good, but more than anything I just appreciate how tranquil these facilities are.
This is exclusively open to three cabin first class passengers (either traveling on 777-300ERs internationally, or A321Ts on transcons), and Concierge Key members are also given a couple of passes to use this every year.
American’s Flagship First Dining New York
International business class seats
While this won’t be the case forever, as of now I think American offers the best international business class seats of the “big three” US airlines. They have direct aisle access on all widebody planes, and their 787s and 777s all feature good seats.
To compare this to Delta and United:
- Delta only lags American a little bit here, though the major differences are that Delta hasn’t yet reconfigured most of their 777s (most of which feature outdated herringbone seats) and Delta also has more 767s than American, which feature a product I strongly dislike (Delta has 78 767-300/400s, while American only has 22 767-300s)
- United’s new Polaris seats are great, though they still have a long way to go in reconfiguring planes, as there are still 777s with eight seats per row in business class
American’s 777-300ER business class
American has the best transcon product of the “big three” US airlines. They fly specially configured A321s with just 102 seats, including three classes of service. Generally speaking:
- Upgrades are reasonably easy, since you have 30 premium seats and only 72 economy seats
- Business class passengers get access to American’s excellent Flagship Lounges, while first class passengers get access to American’s incredible Flagship First Dining
- Elite members are eligible for complimentary upgrades on these routes at their normal upgrade window, unlike at Delta and United (at United they’re not eligible at all, while at Delta they’re only eligible day of departure)
American’s A321 first class
Citi AAdvantage Executive Card
The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite™ Mastercard® is my favorite airline co-brand credit card. It has a $450 annual fee, and comes with an Admirals Club membership.
That’s potentially a good deal in and of itself, though what makes this card so special is that you can add 10 authorized users, and each of them can use Admirals Clubs when flying American, and bring two guests.
So paying a single $450 annual fee for a card that gets not only me lounge access, but also my family and friends, is tough to beat.
American’s Admirals Club Tokyo Narita
Business Extra program
American’s small business rewards program, Business Extra, is the best such program offered by any of the “big three” US airlines. This allows you to earn extra rewards for the flights you book anyway, and I use the points earned to confirm upgrades on flights where I don’t think my complimentary upgrade would otherwise clear. I really like this program.
Business Extra helps me lock in upgrades on domestic flights
While I have my fair share of criticism for American’s management, I do have to give them credit for being incredibly transparent, at least compared to Delta and United. This applies in many ways:
- When American makes changes they typically provide advance notice of them, which is something I appreciate
- As of now AAdvantage is the only one of the “big three” US programs to still have award charts
- I find that when I make a media request with the airline, American is the most likely to give me an honest answer (even if it’s not in their favor), rather than trying to sugar-coat or avoid answering
- In their employee intranet, American generally overshares with employees
Aspects of partner award tickets
While I no longer think AAdvantage on the whole is a competitive advantage, there are two aspects of partner airline award redemptions that I love about American:
- Unlike Delta and United, American continues to publish award costs on partner airlines
- The ability to redeem American miles on Etihad and Qatar in business class represents a spectacular value, and also really sets American apart
Aside from that I think award redemption values through American are just “meh.”
I love redeeming AAdvantage miles for Qatar Airways Qsuites
International planes on domestic flights
More so than at Delta and United, American operates a good number of internationally configured planes on domestic flights, meaning you can score a flat bed even in markets that aren’t typically considered “premium” markets.
For example, I live in Miami, and looking at the schedule for tomorrow:
- All six flights between Miami and New York JFK are operated with internationally configured planes
- One out of eight flights between Miami and Los Angeles is operated with an internationally configured plane
- Five out of ten flights between Miami and Dallas are operated with internationally configured planes
- Five out of six flights between Miami and Philadelphia are operated with internationally configured planes
I frequently fly American’s 767 business class between Miami and New York
I think it’s only fair that I point out some of the things that I think American is doing well. Frankly I’m pretty happy when I’m on an American flight that’s on time and has high speed wifi. Unfortunately the former is something that has been a real challenge for me.
I’m curious to hear what you guys think — what do you think American Airlines does well?