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The Last U.S. Airline to Offer First Class Is Getting Rid of It

It's held out until now, but the popular carrier announced that it's phasing out first class.

Flying first class is a major luxury: Flowing champagne, private cubicles, and seats that recline all the way are just a few of the amenities you can expect when you spring for a top-tier ticket. To say it beats the cramped atmosphere in coach is an understatement, but if you've always dreamed of experiencing the full first-class experience, you'll want to book your ticket soon. Only one U.S. airline still offers this amenity, and it'll no longer be an option on long-haul flights come 2024. Read on to find out which carrier is getting rid of first class.

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First class has a long history.

woman flying business class
GaudiLab / Shutterstock

We've all heard of first-class seating, which was introduced in 1955 when the now-defunct airline TWA started flying a plane that had two cabins, according to The Points Guy. Business class was later added when companies were flying employees often and needed an option between first and coach, the latter of which is now commonly referred to as economy.

Delta was one of the first airlines to merge business and first-class seats in the '90s, per The Points Guy, and premium economy was created as a step up from regular economy, but still below business. It wasn't until the 2000s that business class became the top choice for travelers with deep pockets, as opposed to first class, kicked off by British Airways' introduction of seats that could become full beds. U.S. airlines quickly followed suit for business class passengers.

First class has been on the decline for international travel, mainly because business class became so popular that there was no longer a need for a separate, forward cabin, according to The Points Guy. Planes are also getting smaller and more eco-conscious and fuel efficient, meaning there's less space overall.

As of now, there's only one U.S. airline that has held out with its true first class offering—but that will soon be gone, too.

Currently, first class is available on two types of long-haul flights.

american airlines flagship first
First Class Photography / Shutterstock

If you've flown with American Airlines, you may have boarded one of its larger planes with three cabins, which includes first-class seating. Formally known as Flagship First, the cabin is only found on two types of planes—the 777-300ERs, used for international flights, and the Airbus A321Ts, used for transcontinental flights to and from "major hub cities," according to The Points Guy.

When flying Flagship First, amenities abound. You have access to an airport lounge, chef-inspired dining, amenity kits and sleep sets, as well as those coveted lie-flat seats.

American is the only U.S. airline to still offer this first-class experience, but a new type of seating will soon replace it.

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It's not all bad news.

american airlines boeing 777
Bradley Caslin / Shutterstock

While it's sad to see Flagship First go, the change doesn't mean that you won't be able to fly in style anymore. In fact, in a Sept. 20 press release, American Airlines confirmed that they are "giving customers a suite new ride" via their new Flagship Suite premium seating on its long-haul fleet. This seats have a privacy door, as well as chaise lounge seating and personal storage space, the press release states.

In late 2024, the 777-300ER fleet will be retrofitted to include the new Flagship Suite seats, effectively eliminating the the Flagship First cabin, per The Points Guy. Currently, these planes have eight Flagship First pods, 51 Flagship Business seats, 28 Premium Economy seats, and 216 economy seats. After the reconfiguration, there will now be 70 Flagship business-class suites and 44 Premium Economy seats. The press release did not specify how many economy seats will be included.

The airline is also receiving deliveries of new Airbus A321XLR Boeing 787-9 aircraft in 2024. The 16 existing Airbus A321T fleet will undergo changes to "align" with the new fleet, which will have 2o Flagship Suite seats and 12 Premium Economy seats. The A321Ts currently have 10 Flagship First pods, 20 Flagship Business lie-flat seats, and 72 Premium Economy and economy seats in total (36 each). While it didn't specify the number of lie-flat seats, the airline did confirm that it will still offer them on "transcontinental routes departing New York and Boston along with its Northeast Alliance partner, JetBlue Airways."

The airline does offer "First" service for shorter domestic flights.

Chicago, IL, USA - July 17, 2017: American Airlines fleet of airplanes with passengers at O'Hare Airport passing through corridor.

Similar to other airlines, there are only two cabins on domestic American Airlines flights: first and economy.

Per the American Airlines' website, a domestic First ticket includes privileges before and after takeoff, including a quicker check-in, security, and boarding process, as well as premium dining, WiFi, and what American calls "comfy seats." These are described as being wider and providing more legroom.

There was no mention in the airline's press release about future plans for domestic First service.

Abby Reinhard
Abby Reinhard is a Senior Editor at Best Life, covering daily news and keeping readers up to date on the latest style advice, travel destinations, and Hollywood happenings. Read more
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