What airline has the best domestic first-class seats?

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Domestic first-class seats come in all shapes and sizes — some of them barely a step above a regular old coach seat. They’re generally far less fancy than international first-class seats (though not always), but you can guarantee they’ll still be the best seat on the plane.

So what are the best domestic first-class seats money can buy? I’ll go over the best ones with you, and show you how to get them for free with rewards you can earn with the best airline credit cards.

American Airlines – A321

Eligible routes:

  • New York (JFK) – Los Angeles (LAX)
  • New York (JFK) – San Francisco (SFO)
  • Boston (BOS) – Los Angeles (LAX)

American Airlines is one of the only airlines offering actual fancy first class on domestic flights — seats up to the standard of an international lie-flat business class seat. From legacy carriers, you should expect a high-quality seat for a transcontinental premium seat. But American Airlines is the only one that flies three-cabin planes domestically.

These seats are in a 1:1 configuration onboard, meaning you’re guaranteed to have both a window seat and an aisle seat! To better understand the space you’ll have, coach seats are in a 3:3 configuration. Your one first-class seat will occupy the space of three coach seats.

It’s also worth noting that you’ll also receive a complimentary sit-down dining experience at American Airlines flagship lounges when flying these seats.

To book a free business class flight, you can use American Airlines miles you earn from cards like the Citi® / AAdvantage® Executive World Elite Mastercard®, which comes with 50,000 bonus American miles after spending $5,000 on purchases within the first three months of account opening. While this flight routinely sells for $950+ one-way, you’ll also find that spending 62,500 American miles for the flight is normal.

Hawaiian Airlines – A330

Eligible routes:

  • New York (JFK) – Honolulu (HNL)
  • Boston (BOS) – Honolulu (HNL)
  • Various West Coast flights to Honolulu (HNL), Maui (OGG), Kauai (LIH), Kona (KOA)

Not quite as spacious as American Airlines’ first-class flights, Hawaiian Airlines offers a 2-2-2 business class seat configuration. What that means is you’ll have to choose between window access and aisle access. The seats are far from private, but they’re still worlds better than coach seats.

Hawaiian Airlines first-class seats are fully lie-flat, which is pretty critical for the routes they fly. After all, a flight from New York to Honolulu is longer than a flight from New York to Switzerland!

These flights regularly price at $1,400 one-way, but you can reserve it for just 40,000 Hawaiian Airlines miles! You can quickly earn Hawaiian miles by opening a Hawaiian Airlines credit card, or by transferring Amex Membership Rewards points to Hawaiian at a 1:1 ratio. You can quickly earn Amex points by opening cards like the American Express® Gold Card, which comes with 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first six months of account opening.

JetBlue – A321

Eligible routes:

  • Boston (BOS) – Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA)
  • Fort Lauderdale (FLL) – Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), New York (JFK), Newark (EWR), West Palm Beach (PBI)
  • New York (JFK) – Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO), Seattle (SEA)
  • Newark (EWR) – Las Vegas (LAS), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), San Francisco (SFO)

Okay, so technically this isn’t first class. But JetBlue offers the Cadillac of domestic business class, which is significantly nicer than business or first class offerings from other domestic airlines. As far as experience is concerned, this is first class.

For one, a large percentage of JetBlue Mint seats have doors on them. That’s a rare thing, especially on domestic flights. The seats are fully lie-flat, with a mix of 2:2 and a similar 1:1 configuration to American Airlines’ top-tier first class offering.

To book these flights, you can use JetBlue points. You can earn JetBlue points by opening cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card and Ink Business Preferred Credit Card, and transferring them to JetBlue at a 1:1 ratio.

JetBlue award prices are directly tied to the cash value of the ticket, and we find that you can get a value of 1.4 cents on average from JetBlue points. For example, 40,000 JetBlue points are worth $560 in JetBlue flights.

Delta – A220

Eligible routes:

  • Atlanta (ATL) – Seattle (SEA)
  • New York (LGA) – Boston (BOS), Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH)
  • New York (JFK) – Dallas (DFW)
  • Detroit (DTW) – Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH)
  • Salt Lake City (SLC) – Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH), Seattle (SEA), Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK)
  • Seattle (SEA) – San Jose (SJC), San Francisco (SFO), Orange County (SNA), Fairbanks (FAI)
  • Minneapolis (MSP) – Dallas (DFW), Houston (IAH)
  • Los Angeles (LAX) – Austin (AUS), Seattle (SEA)

First-class seats aboard the Delta’s Airbus A220 are the quintessential domestic first-class recliners. They are NOT lie-flat. They aren’t suites. They are similar to bog-standard recliners that you’ll receive on any short or medium-haul domestic routes.

That said, these are the best non-lie-flat first-class seats you can reserve. They’ve got 37 inches of seat pitch, and 20.5 inches of seat width. These seats are also relatively new, so the inflight entertainment and general seat tech are cutting-edge.

It’s worth a mention that other domestic business class seats from legacy carriers (including Delta) are lie-flat seats that are much better than these recliners. They’re on far fewer routes than recliner seats, however.

The price for these flights depends on your route, as these aren’t available on just long-haul transcontinental flights. For example, flights from New York to Dallas are pricing at 26,000 Delta miles each way. And flights from Atlanta to Seattle are pricing at 46,000 miles each way.

You can earn Delta miles by opening cards like the Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card. You can also transfer Amex points to Delta at a 1:1 ratio.

FAQ about first class

What is the difference between business class and first class on domestic flights?

For most domestic flights, the difference between business class and first class is nothing more than marketing tactics. As mentioned earlier, many business class seats are far superior to first-class flights.

For example, United Airlines sells its flagship Polaris business class seats on select domestic routes. They’re lie-flat, and they’re the best product United has to offer. They blow United’s domestic first-class seats out of the water.

Is it worth flying first class?

If you’re flying regional jets, first class probably isn’t worth your hard-earned miles. They’re mostly worth considering when first-class flights are only marginally more expensive than coach flights. But unless you’re flying with lie-flat seats, the experience isn’t worth the award price.

What makes a good first or business class airline?

First class usually comes with free alcohol, more premium food/snacks, priority boarding, and, most importantly, more legroom. If you’re in the market for long-haul flights, a good business class is anything more than a standard recliner seat.

However, if you fly first and business class perpetually, you’re probably more sensitive to things like:

  • Food quality
  • Turndown service (yes, some airlines will make up your lie-flat bed – including adding a mattress topper)
  • Internet speeds
  • Aisle access

All of these things make a solid first or business class seat.

How much does it cost to sit in first class?

It depends on your route, dates, and airline. You rarely find airlines that adhere to any strict award chart, meaning award prices can vary greatly. American Airlines, United Airlines, and Delta have all adopted “dynamic award pricing,” which is shorthand for “we charge whatever we want,” so check every route and date for your unique price.

Other airlines, like Southwest and JetBlue, design their award prices to be directly proportional to the cash price of each seat.

Many airlines also allow you to upgrade with miles so you don’t have to blow all your rewards at once!

Bottom line

Not all first class is created equal. Some offer lie-flat seats with fancy lounge access. Others are basically coach seats that are slightly wider.

No matter what premium variant is available on your flight, it’ll always be better than coach. You can subscribe to our newsletter to learn how you can quickly and easily collect the miles and points you need to fly first class for practically free.

Sarah Hostetler is a contributor to Million Mile Secrets. She covers topics on points and miles, credit cards, airlines, hotels, and general travel.

Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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