3 Reasons I’ll Miss AA’s Old Flagship First

May 4, 2015

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For my return flight to the States from São Paulo, I flew GRU-LAX on American Airlines’ 777-200, and it was bittersweet—as it was probably the last time I’ll ever fly AA’s old Flagship First Class.

The product is being phased out on the 777 in lieu of more, better business class seats. It's a huge seat, but that cabin has seen better days
The product is being phased out on the 777 in lieu of more, better business class seats. It’s a huge seat, but that cabin has seen better days.


American has good upgrade and award availability at the SAAver level. I purchased this ticket for 62,500 miles and $54.74, but the cost would have been $6,752 if I’d bought outright. This redemption had a value of 10.7 cents per mile, which was a great deal—not to mention the score of saving more than $6,600! It’s an amazing redemption.

With nice and roomy 30-inch wide seats, a generous 64-inch pitch and a 78-inch lie-flat bed, America’s old Flagship First seats have the same measurements as those on the new 777-300ER—but the old seats swivel! This allows you to move right or left, look at your partner, and more easily get in and out of the seat, too.

But with all the new products coming out from so many airlines, it’s hard not to see the interior of this old 777-200 as simply tired and dated. Looking around the cabin, I was sure Don Draper was going to board the flight at any moment. Though he didn’t, supermodel Naomi Campbell did board—and she looked as fabulous as ever. (An ardent supporter of amfAR, she and I were both traveling to São Paulo for the charity’s annual Inspiration Gala—though she was its co-host, while I was just happy to be an attendee!)

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 10.01.40 AM
Swiveling seats on the old Flagship First: oh, how I’ll miss them.

After flying AA’s new first class product from JFK-GRU, I find that the old 777-200 is:

  • Much bigger inside. The old 777-200 Flagship has 16 first class seats in 1 x 2 x 1 configuration, while the new 777-300ERs have 8 first class seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 herringbone configuration, making for a much more private cabin.
  • Much better redemption. Even though old Flagship First is a more worn-down product, it’s far easier to find SAAver-level awards at 62,500 miles on the 777-200.
  • Way less expensive.  You pay a huge premium for new first class (since you need to book at higher rates) and it really isn’t all that much better; it’s the same food and bed, just with newer cloth upholstery in a smaller cabin. I’d rather have the old cabin at easier redemption rates.
AA 777 First Class
Farewell, old friend—we’ve had some good times together.

So here are the 3 reasons I’ll miss the old Flagship First:

1. Cheaper to redeem miles, with more SAAver space. The new first class and even new business class often requires more miles than old first class. For instance, the lowest mileage rate for new first class is a SAAver-level 62,500 miles each way, but know that these awards can be very scarce. More often, they price out at much higher AAnytime levels that range from 160,000-240,000 each way.

Here’s the one 62,500 SAAaver level award I found from JFK-GRU—the only date available for the entire award calendar:


And here’s one of only a handful of dates showing a 62,500-mile, one-way, SAAaver level award for DFW-GRU:


Here’s the JFK-GRU route again, showing the more common First AAnytime level one-way award of 160,000 miles:

AA JFK GRU Varying AAnytime rates

And again JFK-GRU, this time showing a more typical AAnytime-level, one-way award of 190,000 miles:

AA JFK-GRU First AAnytime 190k

2. A dedicated first class cabin is a nice option to have. However, once American is done retrofitting its 777-200ERs into a two-cabin configuration, the first class cabin will be replaced with up to 45 fully lie-flat business class seats; these will have aisle access for every seat but are smaller, with a pitch between 60 and 61 inches and width between 21 and 26 inches.

3. Once it’s gone, you simply won’t be able to get the Flagship experience. Since First is being taken off of this plane (and thus many routes), you won’t be able to pay or redeem for three-cabin First or get access to exclusive Flagship First check-in, which I recently used out of JFK. It’s likely that the new first class won’t be as easy to redeem at SAAver levels, since American makes more money on the new products.

American 777 First Class
American’s new First Class aboard the 777-300ER

The new first class is found aboard the 777-300ER, and presently only flies from:

  • Los Angeles (LAX) and New York (JFK) to London Heathrow (LHR)
  • Miami (MIA) and Dallas (DFW) to Sao Paulo (GRU)
  • Dallas (DFW) to Hong Kong (HKG)

I’ll miss the old Flagship on flights to and from Miami, especially—it is was a great way to fly.

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