What to Know Before Flying American Airlines, According to Passenger Reviews
With nearly 6,700 daily flights serving destinations in 50 countries around the world, American Airlines (and its regional partner, American Eagle) is one of the nation's largest passenger airlines. Whether you're a dedicated American Airlines credit card holder or simply fly with whichever carrier has the best flights for you, you're likely to find yourself aboard an American Airlines flight at some point in your travels. And with a range of fare classes, new flight change policies, a variety of seat styles and configurations, and more, there's a lot to consider before booking your next flight.
Here's what you need to know before you fly, according to American Airlines reviews.
American Airlines Fare Classes
American Airlines offers eight fare classes with select amenities at a wide range of price points. Note that the amenities and services offered can change depending on plane type and the destination.
Flagship First is the the airline's most premium experience (available on long-distance flights), with a private check-in process, priority privileges (for quickly getting through check-in, security, and boarding), lounges, and five-star service. During the flight, passengers can sleep in lie-flat seats, indulge in chef-inspired dining, and stay pampered with Shinola and D.S. & Durga amenity kits and Casper sleep sets.
Flagship Business offers many of the same perks as Flagship First, including priority privileges and lounge access at the airport, as well as spacious lie-flat seats, elevated dining, and the aforementioned amenity kits.
First class is the highest level of service on flights across the United States, and passengers can expect priority privileges at the airport. During the flight, they'll enjoy premium dining and comfortable seats with more space than the typical economy seats. First-class and Flagship customers will board the plane in Group 1. Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews about first class show a wide range of experiences: While some customers appreciate the more spacious seats, others criticize the service and lack of decent snacks or meals, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Business is the highest level of service on shorter international flights to destinations like Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean, and more. Before the flight, passengers can enjoy priority privileges, lounge access (for some flights), and more, plus wider seats with more legroom and premium dining (including alcoholic beverages). Business-class travelers board the plane with Group 1 or 2.
Premium Economy is a step up from a Main Cabin fare, with priority privileges at the airport and more spacious seats, free entertainment, chef-inspired dining, and amenity kits (for select flights) on board. These passengers board the plane in Group 4, ahead of Main Cabin passengers.
Main Cabin Extra offers the same advantages as a Main Cabin fare plus perks like early boarding, extra legroom, and complimentary snacks and drinks (including alcoholic beverages). These travelers can board the aircraft in Group 5 ahead of other Main Cabin passengers.
The Main Cabin is a standard economy class that includes seat selection and free snacks.
Basic Economy, the lowest fare, has the most restrictions. While passengers can still enjoy free snacks, soft drinks, and entertainment, they can't choose their seat without paying a fee. (If you choose to skip the fee to select your seat, members of your party may be separated.) This group typically boards the aircraft last.
American Airlines Flight Change and Cancellation Policies
There are no more change fees for domestic, short-haul international, and select long-haul international flights for passengers with Main Cabin fares or higher. Basic Economy fares purchased on or after April 1, 2021 are non-refundable and non-changeable (with some exceptions depending on the destination), but passengers with these fares can now purchase extras like upgrades, seat selection, and more. If you change your flight to a more expensive option, you will have to pay the difference, but if your new flight is less expensive, you will receive a travel credit for the difference. If you cancel a non-refundable ticket, you will receive a flight credit for future travel.
Baggage Policies and Fees
All fares include one free carry-on bag (that does not exceed 22 x 14 x 9 inches) and one free personal item that can fit under the seat in front of you. Customers in first class can bring two to three complimentary checked bags that weigh up to 70 pounds (depending on the aircraft), business-class passengers can check two complimentary bags that weigh up to 70 pounds, Premium Economy passengers can carry two complimentary bags that weigh up to 50 pounds, and Main Cabin passengers can bring up to two 50-pound bags (but they will likely have to pay a fee, typically around $30 for the first checked bag).
While some online reviewers criticize the baggage fees or say they were unaware that they had to pay, the headache of a surprise cost can be avoided if you do your research before your flight. Exact policies and fees can vary depending on your fare class, destination, military status, credit card or airline status, and number and weight of the bags. You can find details on the American Airlines website.
Seats and Legroom
Thanks to a range of fare classes and different airplane configurations, exact legroom and seat design can vary from flight to flight. Flagship fares include lie-flat seats for the most spacious and comfortable experience, while first and business class still provide wider seats and more legroom than typical Main Cabin seats. To find the exact seat pitch and width for your flight, look up your plane type on the American Airlines website. You can also use sites like SeatGuru to research your exact plane layout ahead of time to find the most desirable seats. American Airlines received 3.5 stars for legroom on TripAdvisor, which has over 70,000 reviews of the airline.
Amenities and Entertainment
Passengers in all classes can enjoy free entertainment on most flights, plus they can purchase Wi-Fi on select aircrafts. They can stream movies, music, TV shows, and more (including Apple Music and Apple TV+) from their personal phones, tablets, or laptops or from their seat back entertainment system on select flights. Passengers can also learn new skills or even a new language, thanks to Skillshare and Rosetta Stone, available on the Lifestyle channel. Yelp reviewer Greg T. commended the airline's planes, but pointed out the need to use personal devices to stream, saying, "The planes I have flown on with American usually seem to be in good repair, clean, and as comfortable as an airplane can be. My only complaint would be the trend to make you use your own electronics to access the entertainment — I prefer the seat back screens!"
Food and beverage service has been limited amid the coronavirus pandemic. Depending on the destination and flight length, Main Cabin tickets could include soft drinks and a snack, a meal, and even an alcoholic beverage (on some long-haul international flights). First-class fares include snacks and alcoholic beverages, with larger meals on longer flights. TripAdvisor reviewer Anthony H. described the food, saying, "AA has improved their in-flight food and beverage for the main meals, although, frankly, it's still airplane food."
American Airlines Credit Cards
Frequent American Airlines fliers might want to take advantage of the perks offered by the airline's credit cards. There are four Citi/American Airlines credit cards. The AAdvantage MileUp card offers 10,000 American Airlines AAdvantage bonus miles and a $50 statement credit after $500 in purchases within the first three months. Plus, there is no annual fee. The Citi/AAdvantage Platinum Select card offers 50,000 bonus miles after spending $2,500 in the first three months, and the $99 annual fee is waived for the first year. This card also gets holders their first checked bag free on domestic American Airlines flights and preferred boarding. Meanwhile, the Citi/AAdvantage Executive card offers 50,000 bonus miles plus 10,000 elite qualifying miles after spending $5,000 in the first three months, plus it includes an Admirals Club membership. That card's annual fee is $450. The CitiBusiness/AAdvantage Platinum Select Mastercard offers 65,000 bonus miles after $4,000 in purchases in the first four months, and its annual fee of $99 is waived for the first year. You can find full details about these cards' perks and mileage benefits on the American Airlines website.