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Counterpoint: Another Traveler’s AA Flagship First Experience

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American Airlines Flagship First

American Airlines Flagship First

One of my 2023 New Year’s resolutions was to enjoy air travel again.  In 2023, I’m leveraging elite status and trying more premium cabins, both items which I hadn’t bothered with for years.  I found the American Airlines Flagship First option intriguing, and I felt a similar urge as Ian to experience it before it fades away next year.  Make sure to check out his review for the full gearhead experience.   Here are the major observations from my American Airlines Flagship First experience from JFK to LAX in early June.

No Preflight Beverage

A flight attendant promptly greeted me when I arrived at my 3F seat.  But unlike Ian’s experience, I wasn’t offered a drink before takeoff.  That may seem like a small thing, but on American’s flagship product, so much so that they boldly, officially claim that in the branding, I was surprised I wasn’t offered anything.

I quickly moved on from this as the Flagship First experience continued.  That said, a buddy joining me in Los Angeles mentioned that a Delta first class attendant offered him a drink before takeoff on his short flight from the Pacific Northwest.  This underscores something else I feel American should brand – AAusterity.

American Airlines Flagship First

American Airlines Flagship First Seat Issues

I found the Flagship First seat fairly uncomfortable, AKA hard.  Luckily, pillows, blankets, and pads were everywhere, but wrapped in a depressing amount of plastic.  I used the quadrupled-over blanket (I think that’s what it was) to soften the ride.

Unlike Ian, I didn’t experience any airport cleanliness issues.  But I found the seat adjustments occur very slowly, almost to the point where I was questioning if I was pushing the right buttons.

Probably my favorite part of the comfort experience was the Casper lumbar pillow.  Perhaps I’m overrating that, as it was a huge part in making the seat bearable.  But I can’t ignore the greatness of that pillow.  Weird, I know.

The Amenity Kit!

I’m a Shinola fan, and I was pleasantly surprised by their amenity kit mashup with American.  Sure, it’s some of the usual stuff, but a snappy little Shinola logo made them a bit more distinctive.  My favorite item in the kit is the mini-pen.  And the bag will always come in handy for random small stuff.

It’s Not About the Food

Ian participated more in the inflight dining options.  But I must give the inflight fare an “incomplete” rating.  That’s because I was absolutely full from my preflight experiences (more on that below).  The only items I really dug into were the sundae and the subsequent warm cookie prior to arrival.

American Airlines Flagship First

Taken aback by the sundae topping selection, I gave up and just had everything dumped on there.  That was probably a bad move, as a) it was a big mess of flavors, similar to the terrible sodas that come from those big robot fountains, and b) I wanted to brush my teeth right afterward.

It’s Actually Not About The Flight, Either

At least, it wasn’t primarily about that for me.  The flight alone was reason enough for Ian to book.  I needed more.  I only booked after AA added Chelsea Lounge access for transcon Flagship First travelers departing JFK.  Ironically, the experience having nothing to do with the flight was a major reason I booked the flight.  Long story short, I have no regrets.  I had a remarkable experience at the Chelsea Lounge which I’ll share in a future review.

American Airlines Flagship First

American Airlines Flagship First – Conclusion

Right now, I have a speculative booking on the same flight in Flagship Business later in the year.  Whether I take that flight depends if some other west coast plans come together.  But after my American Airlines Flagship First experience, I have less of an urge to try the Business product.  I “only” get Greenwich lounge access on that itinerary, and I can’t ignore the “step down” from First.  In the end, my American Airlines Flagship First experience was a success, but I know others have been less fortunate.  How was your Flagship First experience?  Do you plan to squeeze in another one before it disappears?

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Benjy Harmon
Benjy Harmon
Benjy focuses on the intersection of points, travel, and financial independence (FI). An experienced world traveler, husband, and father, he currently roams throughout the USA close to expense-free. Benjy enjoys helping others achieve their FI and travel goals.

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Benjy, I fly this exact route a few times a year and it’s probably worth re-emphasizing that the entire experience will change in about a year.

    – Phasing out of the A321T in favor of the XLR will begin in less than a year.
    – The T’s first class suite is a dated international business class suite. The T’s business class seat is not worth talking about. The XLR will not have first class but its business class suite will be AA’s new international business suite and will be superior to the T’s first class suite.
    – Once the T to XLR transition is complete, at JFK, the default lounge for Flagship (Business) will be the Greenwich Lounge. EP, PP, and One World Emeralds will have access to the Soho Lounge. Only CKs and BA GGLs will have the Chelsea Lounge. At other departure points, the default lounge will be the “regular” Flagship Lounge. Of these other departure points that have Flagship First Dining, only CKs and BA GGLs will have access. That being said, on revenue tickets, access to the Chelsea Lounge and FFD will be available for an up-charge of approximately $250 (cash, no points). The price is probably more for the experience than the food.

    As a regular on this route, the service level has always been top-notch. The food (for what it is) has been nice if not imaginative. Desserts are okay. The one exception is the BEEF entree. Ugh. T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E. Never order the brisket. The short rib only if there’s nothing else.

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