American started flying the Dreamliner back in 2015, eventually the fleet grew to 20 of the -8 variety. These all are configured the same way, now with 238 seats on board. Business Class has a unique seating configuration with flat bed seats that are comfortable, but are my least favorite in their fleet. Starting in 2020, they also started receiving a new set of 788s, eventually growing this fleet to 42. These newer planes will have the Super Diamond seat in business class, much like the larger 789 mentioned above. I’m not aware of any plans to unify this fleet, so it seems that flyers won’t know which seat will be on board won’t be possible until the plane is assigned to the particular flight that day. Either configuration has the same number of seats, but the orientation is different.
American’s original batch of Boeing 787-8 came with 28 business class seats. Eventually the cabin was reduced to 20 seats, to make room for premium economy. Currently there are 20 business class seats between doors 1 and 2, in a 1-2-1 configuration. These seats alternate forward and reverse facing, with the A and L window seats in even numbered rows facing rearward. The D and H aisle seats in the middle of the cabin have rearward facing seats in the odd numbered rows.
Some people dismiss facing to the rear automatically. I actually prefer it, especially on overnight flights or when sleeping. Due to the nose up angle of the plane, it feels more normal when facing backwards. Take off and landing feels somewhat strange, as the sensation of the plane accelerating feels backwards. The rear facing seats seem a bit narrow, as there are immobile arm rests on both sides. I’m not that wide, so it doesn’t bother me, and arguably a positive is that this can make for a more private feeling as well. Although due to the alternating front/rear setup in the cabin, passengers look face to face with people across the aisle. Can be awkward. Keep in mind there is also no shoulder belt in rear facing seats.
Another issue with these seats is that they rock and/or shake when passengers in connected seats adjust their seating position. American has said this issue is being addressed, but I haven’t seen this confirmed anywhere.
Yes, it’s a flat bed, with decent privacy. That’s very important, but there are several annoyances with this seat. This is my least favorite business class seat in American’s fleet.
Reminder that new delivery 788’s have the Super Diamond seat, identical to and shown above in the American 787-9 fleet. That’s good news, but even after the 22-plane new order of 788’s is complete, the 20 original -8s will still have the Concept D seat. The only way to try to predict which cabin will be on your flight is to track tail number of the plane. N800AN through N819AN have the Concept D seats, and N870AX and higher will have Super Diamond.
Original plans had all 22 new 788s scheduled for delivery by the end of 2021, but this rate has slowed a lot. Now it is unclear how quickly American will grow the 788 fleet.
Hawaiian Airlines sells the front cabin as business class when flying internationally and as first class when flying within the US.
The Skyteam/ oneworld side of the San Francisco International Terminal that Hawaiian Airlines uses (like JetBlue) for its domestic flights was deserted. The sole security lines (there are multiple usually) had just a few passengers in the queue. The TSA Precheck line wasn’t even open.
I used the Virgin Atlantic lounge at San Francisco airport. It impresses with wonderful interior design, especially on this sunny morning. However, the breakfast spread isn’t great or high quality. But, with just four passengers in the lounge, it still felt like a first class experience!
Boarding was right on time and moved quickly. Despite rising concerns over Coronavirus, the plane was almost 100% full in economy class and business (first class).
Hawaiian Airlines has decided in favor of a rather unique model of lie-flat seats. It comes in a slightly staggered 2-2-2 configuration. The annoying part is the footrest or ottoman. It restricts foot space when getting into your seat (especially when sitting near the window). Even worse, the floor is not really even, and the area around it is elevated, making it super easy to lose your balance when getting in and out.
This is simply a safety hazard. Virgin Atlantic’s misguided business class seat on the A340s and B787 has a similar issue.
There also is no storage area when settled into your seat – like none at all. Also, there is just ONE switch to operate the seat (pictured).
What’s great, though, is that there is ample seat width and plenty of pitch.
For a while, I was taking video and pictures, and then it hit me – something was amiss. There were no TVs – simply no screens in the whole cabin. Whoops. Did someone just steal them?
I was quickly informed that there would be iPad Pros instead that would be handed out later after takeoff. While I rarely use the inflight entertainment system, I always enjoy the airshow. That wasn’t available on the iPad that was handed out, and I found the selection of movies/TV shows to be disappointing. There was also no WiFi on this flight. Oh well.
It took a good 45 minutes (despite no turbulence initially) for the after takeoff drinks and nuts to come out. The macadamia nuts were delicious (as usual), and the sparkling wine undoubtedly drinkable.
I was happy to find out that lunch would be served instead of breakfast (usually miserable on a plane). I selected the vegetarian options from the menu. They sounded quite delicious!
However, both the appetizer and main course were bland and tasted ‘off.’ I felt it was fresh, but I also thought they were a long shot away from how I expected them to taste. Both were small portions too.
I liked the dessert, which came with plenty of additional digestif alcoholic options.
After the meal service, the window shades went down, and I was curious to try the lie-flat seat properly. I had low expectations at this point as the whole seat design seemed rather clunky.
That turned out to be completely wrong – once the seat folded to a 180-degree flat bed, it was very spacious, and I had no trouble stretching out. I’m quite tall and like to turn a lot when sleeping, but this seat was perfect.
Finally, the ‘weird’ ottoman began to shine. In fact, I felt it was as spacious as any business class seat – more equal to Cathay Pacific business class (still my favorite).
I slept well for almost three hours until several loud announcements woke me up. We were still 46 minutes out – these could have been left for later when our actual descent would start, no?
Our landing was fast and furious into the very windy Honolulu airport but was perfectly executed by our experienced pilots.
In summary: I was positively surprised by the Hawaiian business class seat. It’s pretty good for sleeping – I was amazed by how I liked it for just that. Otherwise, Hawaiian Airlines is a long way off from an International business class as catering, inflight entertainment, and staff need a lot of work. Some WiFi would be great too. Still, I’d happily continue to Asia for a red-eye on these seats.
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The best domestic first class experience out there is on the American Airlines A321.
American Airlines has a number of A321 aircraft, 219 to be exact. These aircraft are typically called A321T, which is reserved for transcontinental routes. In fact, if you don’t note this important distinction, you could be stuck with a recliner seat instead of lie-flat seats.
This aircraft has a narrow-body, which features only 1 aisle. This means there are only 2 seats in each row in a 1-1 configuration. With a total of 5 rows, the 10 lie-flat seats with direct aisle access are dubbed “Flagship First Class.”
With American Airlines’ Flagship First Class, you’ll enjoy a product that’s akin to international business class experiences, and is even better in some aspects.
Let’s first talk about which routes offer this product. Currently, American Airlines operates the A321T on premium transcontinental routes. These are:
These are highly competitive premium routes that attract a lot of business and leisure travelers, which is why American Airlines excels here.
Let’s start with the ground experience. The ground experience features Flagship First Check-In, which is an exclusive check-in area that allows for expedited security access. Additionally, you’ll enjoy priority privileges like receiving your checked bags first after you land.
What’s more is the access to some of the best first class lounges in the world, on a domestic flight, no less.
With a ticket in Flagship First Class, you will have access to the Flagship First Dining, which has astonishingly good a-la-carte dining, unprecedented privacy, luxe shower suites, premium alcohol, and an overall exceptional lounge experience.
There are more lounges opening at:
*Flagship First Dining is available at these locations. It is a separate area of the Flagship Lounges, and you’ll need to be flying Flagship First Class on a qualifying ticket in order to access it. This means that even top-tier ConciergeKey members can’t access it.
The first class seats are herringbone-style, each measuring 21 inches wide, 62 inches in pitch, and 82.5 inches in bed length. That’s a lot of real estate all to yourself.
You’ll also be provided with Bose QuietComfort 25 Acoustic Noise Canceling headphones. These headphones are better than most business class variations, which is fantastic.
You’ll receive Casper amenities, which are ultra-plush and comfortable. You’ll also receive an amenity kit from Athletic Propulsion Labs and ZENOLOGY.
The in-flight connectivity is excellent, with American Airlines installing the blazing-fast ViaSat system. This is a strong business decision, as these transcontinental routes have a mind-boggling number of business travelers. Lastly, the dining is decent, and the customer service is acceptable.
All in all, this is the most well-rounded domestic flight experience you can have when you factor in the amazing lounges, the private seats, amenity kits, and food.
The main complaint that people have is the service, which at times is lacking or inconsistent. This isn’t terribly surprising, as U.S.-based airlines aren’t known for offering the best service out there.
Hot Tip: Have your heart set on flying American Airlines Flagship First Class? Check out our complete guide on the best ways to book American Airlines first class.
Our second-place winner goes to Hawaiian Airlines, which operates the A330 on most of their premium routes from Hawaii. The first class seats are arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, and it honestly looks more like you’re flying in a spaceship than a plane.
Hawaiian Airlines began adding these seats in 2016, and they’re a neat and comfortable way to get to and from Hawaii. The first class seats are fully lie-flat, which makes it one of the most competitive hard products out there.
What’s unique about this first class product is that it doesn’t have an in-flight monitor. Instead, Hawaiian Airlines provides iPad Pros in its place.
The food and beverage service aboard Hawaiian Airlines is known to be excellent. Additionally, Hawaiian Airlines doesn’t offer in-flight Wi-Fi. Since Hawaii is primarily a leisure destination, this isn’t terribly surprising. After all, there’s not many people who need to do work when flying to Hawaii.
Importantly, the first class product is new and interesting. The service is known to be excellent, and the friendliness of the crew is somewhat of a rarity, especially on domestic carriers these days.
Overall, this first class product is a fantastic all-around way, and arguably the most fun and comfortable way, to get to Hawaii. The food is excellent, the service is a joy, and the seat is comfortable and lie-flat — it doesn’t get much better than that.
Hot Tip: Dreaming about the beach in Hawaii? Check out our guide on the best ways to fly to Hawaii with points and miles!
Our third best domestic first class seat option is on United’s 757-200. United Airlines has been actively removing and is almost finished with its removal of first class seats.
The 757-200 actually contains business class seats, though they’re marketed as first class seats. For all intents and purposes, we’ll say that this is a first class seat.
As you can see in the image above, United uses the B/E Aerospace Diamond seats in the 757-200. With only one aisle across, the cabin is arranged in a 2-2 configuration.
United operates the 757-200 with 3 distinct layouts. You have to be careful which seat type you’re booking because one of these seat layouts contains inferior recliner seats.
In our case, United’s 757-200 first class seats are fully lie-flat. The seats themselves are a generous 21 inches wide and 76 inches in pitch and bed length. The main highlights of this flight are the facts that the seats are fully lie-flat and the food is decent.
Ironically, these first class seats are inferior to one of United’s business class seats: their true Polaris business class. We’ll talk about that shortly.
The odd thing is that United operates the 757-200 on a slew of routes and the routes change quite frequently.
Delta operates a business class seat known as Delta One. These seats are actually better than the first class seats, which are typically flown on shorter routes. Delta’s brand-new A220 is the best model representation of a first class recliner seat.
Honestly, there’s not much you can expect out of these seats, because they’re simply larger seats that recline a bit more than economy seats. However, what you can expect in first class is 20.5 inches of width and 37 inches of seat pitch. You can’t complain about more personal space.
The A220 is the newest aircraft used for regional Delta flights, so the in-flight entertainment system, seat technology, and in-flight monitor is top-notch. The food is thought to be solid, especially compared to other meals on regional first class flights.
All in all, if your only option is recliner seats, these seats are the best you can get in first class.
Alaska Airlines is somewhat of an enigma. They’re not a legacy carrier, but yet they’re the fifth-largest airline by fleet size, passengers carried, and number of destinations served.
They operate a first class cabin, but it consists of recliner seats in a 2-2 configuration.
The seats are spacious, boasting 21 inches in seat width and 36-41 inches in seat pitch. The in-flight entertainment system is well-endowed, and the service tends to be very warm. Furthermore, the food is good.
Overall, the seats are big and good enough for a short domestic hop.
When couples are traveling together, one of the biggest points of emphasis is the privacy of the seat, the existence of double beds, and a product that enables easy conversation and interaction.
The products ranked in this guide are noticeably ordered differently than the best first class products in the world. This isn’t too surprising, considering a certain first class product might be optimized for solo travelers whereas another first class product may be focused on couples travel or leisure markets.
The key characteristic of an amazing first class seat for couples is the presence of a double bed. This takes precedence over nearly everything else, and you’ll notice that the products at the top of this list offer double beds. After that, you should consider aspects such as service, privacy, ease of communication with your companion, food, and amenities.
A vlogger has given viewers a rare peek inside the Emirates first class cabin, complete with its onboard shower.
Casey Neistat found himself unexpectedly upgraded to first class on a recent flight from Dubai to New York, in a seat that would have cost him $21,635.30 (NZ$29,557).
He did what any good vlogger would do and proceeded to document the entire 14-hour flight, describing the experience as one of the greatest days of his life.
"I don't know what I did to deserve this, I really don't," he says in the video posted to YouTube on Monday, which has been viewed almost 4.5 million times.
Neistat shows off all of the features of his seat, which include electronic sliding doors, a personal mini-bar, and other luxurious freebies like a writing kit, pyjamas and toiletries.
He provides a glimpse at the first class menu, which offers a round-the-clock selection of gourmet goodies.
"I just order whatever I want, whenever I want it. There's no meal time, you just tell them to cook you something and they cook it," he says, selecting the caviar.
When Neistat attempts to demonstrate how he can turn his seat into a lie-flat bed, he is soon interrupted by a flight attendant.
"The lovely flight attendant got super upset that I was making my own bed and insisted on finishing," he explains.
After a snooze in the bed, which he declares to be more comfortable than his bed at home, it's time for the grand finale - a turn in the famous Emirates first class shower spa.
Neistat reveals you have to reserve the shower in advance, which includes 30 minutes in the spacious bathroom and five minutes' worth of hot water.
"This is it. The real deal. The dream - showering on an airplane," he says.
Refreshed, relaxed and sated, Neistat leaves the plane saying the experience had changed his whole relationship with travel.
Emirates faced a backlash last year for an advertisement for its first class cabin starring Jennifer Aniston.
The ad depicts Aniston having a "nightmare" when she finds herself on a plane with no shower or bar.
It was described as "elitist" and the "snobbiest ad ever".