American’s Improved A321 First Class Award Availability

Last November I wrote about how American seemed to no longer be making last minute first class award seats available on their A321 flights between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco. This was true even when cabins were almost completely empty just hours before the flight. That’s quite unfortunate, given that American offers a fantastic hard product in the market, with reverse herringbone seats.


The trend seemed a bit backwards to me, given that American still had some award availability in advance. You’d think airlines would be most likely to make first class award seats available close to departure, since those seats would otherwise go unsold, and may even go out empty.

Of course airlines don’t want to make that space available too predictably, or else it could be cutting into their yields, given that customers may end up not paying for seats if they know they can redeem miles for them last minute (though I’m guessing that represents a very small percentage of customers).

I’ve noted lately how American seems to be making a genuine effort to increasing premium cabin upgrade & award space, which is much appreciated. We’ve seen some instances where there were huge amounts of first & business class award space, but beyond that they seem to be making an all around fair amount of space available.

The good news is that American’s positive award availability trend finally seems to be extending to their flights between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco.

American seems to be making A321 first class award space available within 2-3 days of departure again. And I don’t mean on just one flight, but rather across a wide range of flights.

For example, earlier today I pulled availability for the coming days, and you’ll see that there’s some space in the next few days on both routes in both directions:

American-Awards-1 American-Awards-2 American-Awards-3

Personally I value last minute award availability on this route a lot, given that last minute transcon economy tickets can be extremely expensive. Being able to snag a first class seat last minute is awesome.

Too bad the cost of this award is increasing from 32,500 miles to 50,000 miles one-way for bookings as of March 22, 2016.


Bottom line

This is a nice development, and one I personally value immensely. Being able to redeem miles for last minute first class between New York and LA/SF is valuable, especially while the cost is still “only” 32,500 miles one-way. Here’s to hoping this general trend of releasing more space close to departure continues.


  1. Are they still only releasing super early/late departures either way? The only flights I’d been able to find (prior to reading this) were 6:15am or 9:30/10:30pm departures…

  2. Thoughts on J vs F transcon? Looking to book JFK-LAX for next year (will book before deval) for 2 pax just wondering if it’s worth the extra points? Can’t find many reviews on transcon J.

  3. Come on AA, please release some first class transcon award seats further out and not just 2-3 days before departure.

  4. Tom: they are in fact sporadically opening first class up, at least on SFO-JFK (which presumably has less paid first class passengers than LAX). I managed to find 2 seats on a Saturday in June (not a surprise, I’d expect they probably don’t sell a single FC seat on a summer Saturday from/to the Bay Area).

    Paired with the 10% back on the Platinum card, it’s a really good deal right now. Ironically I wish I could find two business class seats instead, so my wife and I could sit next to each other, but AA tends to open those much less frequently, as they do fill up with paid passengers.

  5. Adam: their transcon J is an excellent product, very similar to J on UA’s p.s. service and on DL’s transcon-configured 752. The main downside is it’s 2-2, so you might have to climb over or be climbed over, but the J cabin feels more spacious since you’re not in your own cubby. FlyerTalk has threads on this, many people prefer that instead of the reverse herringbone, because the A321 variant is just a bit tighter than what they have on the 77Ws.

    The bigger issue is that J is extraordinarily hard to get award space for, since J has become cheaper to buy outright thanks to competition from JetBlue Mint.

  6. @ Adam — I actually prefer the business class seat all around, and especially for two people traveling together. The ground services are better in first though, and some people appreciate the additional privacy.

  7. Thanks guys, looks like J will do the job completely well then. Now just need to wait for the availability to open up.


  8. Score!

    Flying SFO -> JFK tomorrow. Was able to swap a rev ticket to points for 35k in first class. Thanks [again] Lucky!

  9. AA exp here. I have booked LAX-JFK in J next month on AA.
    I am many 500- mile vouchers to use (I was Plat for 2 years).
    Can I use the vouchers to upgrade to F?

  10. @ R B — Unfortunately not. Those are only valid for upgrades from economy to business or two cabin first class.

  11. If I booked with miles economy direct to JFK because no other award was available, could I upgrade by phone or how would I go about upgrading with miles once award availability opens up?

  12. I flew this using certs from JFK-SFO and it was easily the best FC experience I had ever had domestically…… is definitely a cut above the tired old FC that is present on many flights…………

  13. This is a bit off-topic, but needs to be said. I had been picking on Lucky for what I considered to be false reporting as far as first class award availability on AA. I realized that Lucky did not deserve this treatment after I did more searches and it turns out that the highest class of service for either award or purchase on most AA flights (from where I reside to markets that I am interested in-PEK, LHR, ATH, LAX) is Business (330). Just as a note to others, it appears that AA either books up fast or is phasing out planes with first class service to some markets. So in essence, you might want to do a search for a paid vs. award ticket to see the availability of classes.

  14. Anyone see a single Business or First (Saver) seat available in 2017? Currently bookable thru Jan 12, but there is not one day of Saver availability. Meanwhile, Business Saver seats are available December 24 thru December 31, 2016. It does not appear they are interested in releasing any premium Saver seats for 2017 at this time.

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