Travel

12 Things American Airlines Does Well

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American Airlines is the US airline that I fly most, given that I live in Miami. I’ll be the first to admit that I sometimes give American Airlines a hard time, though that doesn’t mean I think the airline is terrible.

For example, on balance I don’t think United is any better than American, both in terms of passenger experience and the loyalty program. Meanwhile I’d argue that Delta actually is better than American in terms of passenger experience, though the loyalty program is a deal-breaker for me.

Anyway, in the spirit of positive reinforcement, in this post I wanted to share 12 things that I think American Airlines does well. In no particular order, below is what I like about American Airlines…

High speed Wi-Fi

As it stands, American Airlines has the best overall Wi-Fi offering of any of the “big three” US carriers, in my opinion. A vast majority of American’s narrow body fleet is equipped with Viasat Wi-Fi, which is the best you’ll find in the industry.

American has more planes with Viasat than Delta, though admittedly Delta is catching up, and is preparing to introduce free Wi-Fi for all passengers. Meanwhile United is a distant third when it comes to Wi-Fi.

American Airlines has great high speed Wi-Fi

International lounge access

American Airlines offers excellent Flagship Lounges in Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, and New York, which are the best easily accessible international airline lounges offered by any US airline.

In line with oneworld lounge access policies, 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 Sky Clubs are superior for domestic lounges, but Delta doesn’t have any special international lounges (that should change in 2023), and for that matter Sky Clubs have serious crowding issues
  • 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 Airlines Flagship Lounge Dallas (DFW)

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. From the Qantas Lounge First Lounge Los Angeles, to the Japan Airlines First Lounge Tokyo, I pinch myself every time I get to use one of these lounges when not flying first class.

Other alliances don’t have an elite tier that can compete. While Star Alliance Gold status is useful as well, it’s not nearly as valuable.

Qantas First Lounge Los Angeles (LAX)

Flagship First Dining

While it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds for these, American offers amazing Flagship First Dining facilities in Dallas, 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. These are among the best lounge spaces you’ll find in the United States.

Flagship First Dining is open to “premium” first class customers, traveling either on Boeing 777-300ERs or Airbus A321Ts. With American expected to eliminate international first class as of late 2024, it’s anyone’s guess what the future holds for these facilities. In the meantime, I’ll continue to enjoy them when I have access.

American Airlines Flagship First Dining New York (JFK)

International business class seats

While not particularly flashy, I’d say that on balance American has the best and most consistent international business class seats of the “big three” US airlines. American’s wide body fleet consists exclusively of Boeing 777s and Boeing 787s, and all of those planes have fully flat beds with direct aisle access.

To compare this to Delta and United:

  • Delta’s most common wide body aircraft is the Boeing 767, and those have a not-great business class product, with extremely narrow seats and many with outdated interiors; Delta now also has ex-LATAM Airbus A350s, which don’t even have direct aisle access in business class
  • United has made good progress with installing Polaris business class seats, but the airline still has Boeing 767-400s that haven’t been reconfigured, and United also has a substantial fleet of Boeing 757s, which are used for transatlantic flights but don’t have direct aisle access
American’s 777-300ER business class

Citi AAdvantage Executive Card

The Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard® (review) 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 to the card at no extra cost, and each authorized user is able to bring up to two guests or their immediate family into Admirals Clubs when flying American or an eligible partner airline the same day.

So for a single $450 annual fee you not only get lounge access for yourself, but also for your friends and family. This is one of the all-around best credit card perks out there.

American Airlines Admirals Club Miami (MIA)

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 appreciate the extra value offered by this program.

Business Extra helps me lock in upgrades on domestic flights

Valuable partner award tickets

Among the “big three” US airlines, American AAdvantage is the only program that offers some industry-leading partner award redemption values. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that all AAdvantage awards are an amazing value, but American has some real sweet spots.

In particular, being able to fly from the United States to the Middle East, India, Africa, etc., on Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, is an amazing value. These awards cost 70,000-75,000 miles one-way in business class, and you won’t find a better value for these kinds of awards through other programs.

Meanwhile to compare that to other programs:

  • Delta SkyMiles really offers very little value for partner redemptions, not to mention partner award availability is limited
  • While United MileagePlus has some okay partner award redemption values, you’ll almost always get a better deal through Air Canada Aeroplan or Avianca LifeMiles
I love redeeming AAdvantage miles for Qatar Airways Qsuites

Transparency & honesty

While I have my fair share of criticism for American’s management, I do have to give them credit for generally being transparent, at least compared to other airlines. This applies in several ways:

  • When American makes changes, the airline 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 the company’s favor), rather than trying to sugar-coat or avoid answering
  • In the employee intranet, American generally overshares with employees

Wide body planes on domestic flights

More so than at Delta and United, American operates a good number of internationally configured planes on domestic flights. This means that 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 this winter, there’s at least one daily flight operated by a wide body to Charlotte, Chicago, New York, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. Being able to get flat beds on routes like this is pretty awesome.

I frequently get wide bodies on domestic American Airlines flights

Transcon product & upgrades

In terms of the overall value to frequent flyers, American has the best transcon product of the “big three” US airlines. American flies specially configured Airbus A321Ts 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 (meanwhile at United, premium transcon passengers don’t get Polaris Lounge access, and Delta doesn’t yet have premium international lounges)
  • 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)

Admittedly American is expected to reconfigure these planes in late 2024, and also eliminate first class on transcontinental routes (and instead offer business class as the highest cabin). However, these planes should be replaced by jets with an even better product (possibly Airbus A321XLRs).

American Airlines Airbus A321T first class

AAdvantage Loyalty Points system

New as of 2022, American Airlines completely overhauled its AAdvantage program, with the introduction of Loyalty Points. As I’ve explained, this program is absolutely brilliant, even if it doesn’t work great for me. You can earn elite status entirely through credit card spending, if you’d like.

Given the state of Delta SkyMiles and United MileagePlus, I’d argue the program is the all-around most rewarding — status is easiest to earn, and perks are competitive.

Bottom line

While American Airlines has its fair share of weaknesses, the airline also does many things well. Frankly as long as American operates on-time, I’m a pretty happy passenger. Between the Wi-Fi, Flagship Lounges, international business class seats, etc., there are a lot of positive elements to the airline.

I’m curious to hear what OMAAT readers think — what do you think American Airlines does well?

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