American vs. United vs. Delta: Best Flat Bed Transcon Award Space

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American Airlines, United, and Delta fly flat beds on their daily flights between New York-JFK and San Francisco and Los Angeles. Delta also flies its flat beds between New York-JFK and Seattle.

All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
All three airlines compete in San Francisco and Los Angeles. Only Delta flies between Seattle and JFK with flat beds.
  • Which has the best flat bed award space on the routes?
  • What are the prices? 
  • What are the products?

The Products & Prices

Delta

Delta throws 757s and 767s configured with flat bed seats at its transcontinental routes. Like all Delta planes, there are only two cabins–in this case sold as economy and BusinessElite. The 767s (on the right) are more comfortable in Business because their 1-2-1 layout gives full aisle access to every seat. The 757’s (on the left) 2-2 layout means climbing over your neighbor.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.10.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.11.07 PM

For Business Elite at the Saver level, Delta charges 32,500 miles one way. Here’s Delta’s page on what to expect on its transcontinental service.

United

United has a dedicated fleet of 757-200s for all of its transcontinental service that it sells as p.s. Premium Service. The fleet has two cabins, and Business Class is laid out 2-2 as on Delta’s 757s, meaning no direct aisle access from every seat.

United charges 25,000 miles each way in Business Class at the Saver level.

American

American’s transcontinental fleet is the newest and best. Its A321s have five rows of 1-1 First Class and five rows of 2-2 Business Class. All 30 seats convert to flat beds.

Screen Shot 2015-02-27 at 1.20.50 PM
AA Transcon First Class

American charges 25,000 miles one way in Business Class and 32,500 in First Class. Here’s AA’s page on what to expect from the service.

Award Space

All of that, especially the Saver award prices, is just theoretical if the airlines don’t consistently release award space on their flights at the Saver level.

From my searches, I found that Delta doesn’t release much–if any–Business Class award space on its transcontinental flat beds. Between Seattle and New York, the space is mainly 45,000 mile Level 2 space. Between California to New York, it is 67,500 mile Level 4 space. United releases some award space in Business Class at the last minute but has none released over the summer. American releases little Business Class space, but a lot more First Class space.

American Airlines

For one passenger, there is award space in Business Class from New York to Los Angeles three times next week. That’s it for the next month.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.20 PM

But in First Class, there is space six days in the next week and 13 days in the next month.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.42.24 PM

This pattern repeats. In June and July, there is only one day with Business Class space from San Francisco to New York.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.22 PM

The same time period has 17 days with First Class award space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.26 PM

From Los Angeles to New York, I searched for two passengers. There’s one day in the Fall with award space in Business Class.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.43.59 PMBy contrast, First Class space for two is available most Saturdays.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.44.03 PM

The bottom line on American Airline space: way more First Class than Business Class award space, way more award space for 1 passenger than for 2, and award space is released at the last minute.

Delta

Here’s the next month from Los Angeles to New York. No award space even close to the Saver price of 32,500 miles one way. The best I find is Level 4 space for more than double that price.
Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.00 PM

Here’s the month after that. Still none.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.46.27 PM

In fact, I didn’t find 32,500 mile space between California and New York in either direction.

Nor did I find any between New York and Seattle, though it is widely available for the Level 2 price of 45,000 miles one way. Here’s a calendar of July dates. Every single day has 2+ award seats on multiple flights from Seattle to JFK for 45,000 miles per person.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.48.29 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.48.34 PM

We get the same view from New York to Seattle in the Fall.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.49.14 PM

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.49.19 PM

The bottom line on Delta Saver space on transcontinental flights is that there basically is none.

United

United is coasting on its reputation from a few years ago of having the best award space. Right now its space on its transcontinental service is bad.

There is some space for one person from Los Angeles to New York in the next two weeks–six out of 14 days.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.10 PM

New York to Los Angeles shows a similar pattern for one person: 12 days in the next month with space.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.51.31 PM

But other than the next month, there is basically no space. New York to Los Angeles in June and July has zero Business Class award space.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.38 PM

Los Angeles to New York in the Fall has one day with award space in Business Class: Thanksgiving day.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.52.54 PM

San Francisco to New York has one day too: the day after Thanksgiving.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.53.50 PM

For two people, award space is even worse. One day in the next month from San Francisco to New York.

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.39 PM

Three days between New York and San Francisco.Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 2.55.55 PMThe bottom line on United transcontinental Business Class award space: almost all of it is in the next month on flights with only one award seat.

Bottom Line

United, Delta, and American put fully flat beds on 5-6 hour flights because there is a demand for such premium products that rich people are willing to pay. Either because most of the flat beds are being sold or because the airlines just want to protect the products, award space on these routes is very hard to find.

The best space is for one person within a month of departure in United Business Class and American Airlines First Class.

Getting the Miles

Singapore miles are a partner of every transferable points program. Cards I like that earns points that transfer:

  • Citi ThankYou® Premier Card: 40,000 bonus points total after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also earns 3x on gas and travel and 2x points on dining and entertainment
  • Citi Prestige® Card: 40,000 bonus ThankYou Points after $4,000 in purchases made with your card in the first 3 months the account is open. The card also comes earns 3x points on airfare and hotels and has a host of benefits like lounge access and $250 in free airfare per year.
  • Sapphire Preferred: 40,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. 2x on dining and travel.
  • Ink Plus (business card): 50,000 bonus points after spending $5,000 in the first three months. 5x on office supplies and telecom bills.
  • Whichever Membership Rewards card (Platinum or Gold, personal or business) is offering a big 50,000, 75,000, or 100,000 point sign up bonus

Getting the Miles

American Airlines miles are super easy to get.

Some credit card offers in this post have expired, but they might come back. If they do they will appear –> Click here for the top current credit card sign up bonuses.

Right now the Citi® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® MasterCard® comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. The card also comes with other awesome benefits like a 10% rebate on miles used for award bookings.

The business version, the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® World MasterCard®, also comes with 50,000 bonus miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. This card comes with 2x miles on select business purchases and a 5% miles bonus on renewal. One person can have both cards.


Editorial Disclaimer: The editorial content is not provided or commissioned by the credit card issuers. Opinions expressed here are author’s alone, not those of the credit card issuers, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the credit card issuers.

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5 COMMENTS

  1. Thanks for this. I’ve been going crazy trying to find reasonable transcontinental award space and thought I just didnt know how to search correctly. Apparently I was searching right, but the space just isn’t there.

    In an earlier post’s comments you told me AA releases A321t space closer to the flight date, so if I book AA space on DCA-SFO via ORD in business saver now and saver space opens on the A321t via JFK later, would there be a change fee due to the routing change?

  2. I booked AA biz class space last year for a June 2015 flight from JFK to LAX. Can I upgrade it to F online or do I have to call? Is there really a big difference between Biz and First on AA that I should do this?

  3. Hi Scott! Just had a quick question about booking United flights using Singapore miles. Is it that if there is saver availability on United (for LAX-JFK) then can I for sure book it over the phone with Singapore for 25,000 miles? Thanks!

  4. Scott- I just booked LAX-JFK-VIE on a Business/First saver award. The JFK-VIE leg is on Austrian Airways Business Class. The LAX-JFK is on the 2 cabin reconfigured 757-200 (Business/Economy), however the ticket/pricing showed “Mixed Cabin- The First/Business cabin is sold out” and I am currently in economy. All seats in the front are available when checking United.com. When I talked to United they told me award space “may open up”, however at the time of my call there was none available and there is no guarantee of an upgrade if award space is released last minute. The agent said I just need to keep calling. Do you have any strategy on securing a seat up front?

    Also thank you for the excellent heads up on the “secret” award savings on UA which expired Feb 28 (57.5K verses 70K). And of course the outstanding advice you provide on award travel in general.

    JP

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