The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights (2023)

On this blog I often provide airline rankings based on international flight experiences. However, sometimes it’s fun to look at some of the best offerings that are closer to home, including the best domestic premium products.

While I’ve shared my thoughts on the best first class airlines, best first class lounges, and best business class seats, in this post I wanted to share what I consider to be the best domestic first and business class experiences.

In this post:

What’s the difference between first & business class on domestic flights?

Often the difference between first and business class could simply be branding. Most domestic flights have just two cabins, and those cabins are typically branded as first class and economy.

However, on international flights the forward cabin is typically branded as business class instead.

The one exception is when there is a plane with three cabins. Within the United States there’s only one airline offering flights with three cabins, and that’s on American’s A321Ts. Those planes feature first class, business class, and economy. As you can see, at times there is a real distinction, while at other times it just comes down to marketing.

What makes a good first or business class airline?

For the purposes of this post — and for ranking the best products — I’ll be focusing on a few aspects of the airline experience:

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  • The comfort of the seat
  • The food & beverage offerings
  • The service
  • The quality of Wi-Fi
  • The ground experience (including any lounge access)

A couple more notes, before I get into my rankings. I’ll only be including one “cabin” per airline. In other words, if an airline has multiple business class configurations, I won’t be ranking them separately, but will only be ranking the best one. Furthermore, I’ll only be including products that are consistently offered on some routes.

With that out of the way, here are my favorites…

1. American first class on the A321T

American Airlines is unique in offering three cabin service within the United States. The carrier’s A321Ts feature just 102 seats, including 10 first class seats, 20 business class seats, and 72 economy seats.

There are 10 reverse herringbone first class seats, which are typically seats you’d find in international business class. They’re private and all feature direct aisle access, which is rare on a domestic flight.

The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights (1)

While American’s food is nothing special, I do appreciate that the airline has Viasat high speed Wi-Fi. I actually don’t think American’s inflight product is the best, but the reason I rank American first is because of the exceptional ground experience.

When flying American’s A321T in first class you have access to American’s Flagship First Dining JFK, which offers a sit down dining experience and a great wine selection. This truly is unlike anything else offered by a US airline. Without this factor, I wouldn’t rank the experience number one.

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Eligible routes

American consistently flies its A321Ts from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and Santa Ana (SNA).

How to redeem miles & points

If you can find saver level award availability, then you could book an A321T flight for just 50,000 American AAdvantage miles (you could also redeem partner miles). Unfortunately saver level award availability can be tough to come by, in which case American may have awards available at higher costs.

Another option is to just book business class with cash when it’s reasonably priced, and then use a BXP1 through the American Business Extra program to confirm an upgrade to first class.

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2. JetBlue Mint business class on the A321

Purely in terms of the onboard experience, JetBlue Mint is my favorite way to fly domestically. The airline has truly revolutionized domestic premium travel, from the seats, to the food & service, to the free Wi-Fi.

Nowadays there are two versions of Mint — there’s the “classic” version, featuring 16 seats. This consists of three rows of seats in a 2-2 configuration, and two rows of seats with “Mint Suites,” in a 1-1 configuration. The Mint Suites even have doors.

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Then there’s the new version, with seats in a 1-1 configuration, where all business class passengers have a door. This product is used on select domestic frequencies, though primarily for the carrier’s transatlantic flights.

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JetBlue’s onboard product is simply spectacular. The airline has fast and free Wi-Fi, and JetBlue is the only US airline to consistently have excellent food and friendly service in business class, in my opinion.

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The only reason I don’t rank JetBlue Mint number one is because the airline doesn’t offer any sort of lounge access, so the ground experience is lacking.

Eligible routes

JetBlue offers Mint primarily on transcontinental premium routes, including many flights out of Boston (BOS), Fort Lauderdale (FLL), and New York (JFK), and to Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), San Diego (SAN), and Seattle (SEA). Exact routes vary by season.

How to redeem miles & points

JetBlue has a revenue based frequent flyer program, so you can redeem JetBlue TrueBlue points toward the cost of a ticket, though the price varies. Alternatively, you can redeem American AAdvantage miles for JetBlue Mint, and you can typically expect to pay 65,000 AAdvantage miles one-way.

3. United Polaris business class on the 787

United Airlines pretty consistently flies Boeing 787-10s on its premium transcontinental routes, featuring the carrier’s latest Polaris business class seats. At the moment the airline is even flying Boeing 777-300ERs on some frequencies in premium domestic markets, but that’s the same product, for all practical purposes.

The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights (6)

The 787s used for these routes feature United’s newest Polaris seats, which have lots of privacy and direct aisle access. However, United’s soft product isn’t that great, and passengers “only” receive access to the United Club, which in no way compares to Flagship First Dining. Furthermore, United’s Wi-Fi leaves a bit to be desired.

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Eligible routes

United generally flies Boeing 787s from Newark (EWR) to both Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). You’ll also sometimes see 777s with new Polaris seats in these markets.

How to redeem miles & points

Unfortunately United makes few saver level award seats available on these premium transcontinental routes. Generally your best bet is to find a discounted business class ticket, and then redeem transferrable points toward the cost of a ticket.

4. American business class on the 777

American Airlines flies Boeing 777s on many domestic routes, though it’s not always 100% consistent. So I’ll focus specifically on American’s flights from Dallas to Hawaii, which are consistently operated by 777s or 787s, featuring a great product.

Most American 777s have reverse herringbone seats in business class, in a 1-2-1 configuration. They also have Wi-Fi, which works over the Pacific enroute to Hawaii.

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Those traveling American business class nonstop from Dallas to Hawaii also receive access to the American Flagship Lounge DFW, which is a much better lounge than you’ll get access to with most other airlines in the United States when flying to Hawaii.

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Eligible routes

American most consistently flies Boeing 777s between Dallas (DFW) and Hawaii. However, you can also find them on plenty of other domestic routes, especially out of Miami.

How to redeem miles & points

American makes some — though not much — business class saver level award space available on routes to Hawaii. If there is availability, you can expect to pay 62,500 AAdvantage miles one-way. However, in some cases you may find web special awards, which have lower pricing.

5. Delta One business class on the 767

The only wide body jet that Delta consistently schedules on domestic flights is the Boeing 767-300. While Delta sometimes schedules A330s and A350s on domestic routes, it’s not consistent or year-round on any routes, as far as I know (someone correct me if I’m wrong).

On the plus side, Delta 767s feature direct aisle access from every seat. Unfortunately Delta’s 767 business class is also really tight, and many tend to feel crammed in these seats. Furthermore, the entertainment screens are small, and it’s just generally not a very modern plane.

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The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights (11)

Delta does generally have friendly service, decent food, and solid Wi-Fi, so the soft product is quite good. Passengers on premium transcontinental routes also get access to Delta Sky Clubs, which are excellent for domestic flights, but not exactly globally competitive otherwise.

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Eligible routes

Delta consistently flies the 767 on premium transcontinental routes, including from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO). The airline also regularly flies the plane on other routes, including Atlanta (ATL) to Los Angeles (LAX) and Atlanta (ATL) to Honolulu (HNL).

How to redeem miles & points

Delta SkyMiles generally just charges whatever the heck it wants to charge for awards, so don’t expect to get any sort of deal on redemptions.

6. Hawaiian Airlines first class on the A330

Hawaiian Airlines’ A330s feature a first class cabin with fully flat seats. This includes 18 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. I’ll be honest — these seats aren’t the most comfortable out there, as I find them to be really hard. But they’re still good seats.

The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights (13)
The 6 Best Domestic First & Business Class Flights (14)

Unfortunately Hawaiian doesn’t offer much in the way of lounge access on domestic flights, and also doesn’t offer Wi-Fi. The good news is that the airline has friendly service and I’ve enjoyed the food & drinks. After all, there’s always something exciting about going to Hawaii.

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Eligible routes

Hawaiian flies its A330s from Boston (BOS) and New York (JFK) to Honolulu (HNL), as well as on select flights from the West Coast of the US to Hawaii. If you book a Hawaiian Airlines flight operated by an A330, then you can expect to see this product onboard.

How to redeem miles & points

You can redeem miles for travel on Hawaiian Airlines directly through the HawaiianMiles program. Those awards start at 40,000 miles one-way. Alternatively, the airline often has reasonably priced first class fares.

Bottom line

The above are my rankings for the best domestic first and business class experiences in the United States. I’d love to hear how OMAAT readers rank these experiences, so please let me know in the comments, because I’m sure many will disagree.

Let me lastly acknowledge that there’s no “one size fits all” answer. For example, if I’m just leaving home and getting to the airport an hour before departure I’d choose JetBlue Mint over all else. Meanwhile if I have a long layover or want to eat before my flight, the Flagship First Dining access is a huge value-add. I tried to balance those interests in these airline rankings, though realize that there’s no perfect way to do so.

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