Choosing Domestic Flights With International Configurations

Many people do not realize that many airlines will use certain routes to reposition their international configuration aircraft. This means that you have the opportunity to fly many of the premium/premier cabins on domestic routes – usually for the same cost of similar flights on that route. This becomes even more enticing if you’re flying in a premium cabin or have status with the airline which allows you to obtain first class upgrades. While American, Delta, United and Jet Blue all have premium aircraft on their NYC-LAX/SFO routes (or ATL-LAX/SFO in the case of Delta), I will not focus on those in this post.

American Airlines
777 Routes:

American is my preferred airline, and so I always try to go out of my way to fly routes with their premium aircraft. One of the best (as far as domestic flights are concerned anyways) is American’s 777 with Flagship First from Miami to Dallas/Fort Worth.

American also offers Flagship First service on the 777 from Miami to Los Angeles.

The Miami to Dallas/Fort Worth route is especially interesting because if you purchase a business class ticket, you will automatically be seated in their Flagship First cabin. While the product is old and somewhat worn, it’s hard to beat the below for a few hour domestic flight!

I recently took this route on my way out to Denver for a friend’s bachelor party and I would highly recommend it if the routing works for you. The seat is pretty comfortable and swivels around so you use the space to the left of the seat as a desk of sorts. I found it to be great for a 3 hour flight!

What’s even cooler is if you have a coach ticket, you can select a business class cabin seat free of charge!

Notice how seats in rows 8-13 are selectable in the “coach” cabin at no additional charge? These are actually business class cabin seats! The service will still be coach service (i.e., booze is not free, you will not get a free meal, etc.), but you will have an angle lie-flat seat for the price of your coach ticket! What is fantastic about this route is that if you have AAdvantage status and your upgrade clears, you’ll be upgraded to Flagship First!

The Miami to Los Angeles is a little bit different in that it operates as a true three-cabin aircraft for purposes of ticketing. In other words, if you have a business class ticket, you will be seated in the business class cabin – and will receive true business class service (i.e., free booze, a free meal, etc.). Again, this offers a great opportunity for AAdvantage members to be upgraded to a much better cabin than traditional domestic first cabins.

767 Routes:

Another exceptional group of routes are on American’s 767 with their newly refreshed business class cabin. American flies the refreshed 767’s on Orlando to Miami:

Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles (though make sure you double check to make sure it is not a domestically configured 767):

And Miami to San Francisco:

There are a few other routes that I have seen this aircraft on (Miami to Philadelphia for example), but it is consistently on the three routes I mentioned above. Unfortunately, this is a short haul at 192 miles. Since I am based out of Orlando, I have flown this aircraft half a dozen times. While the business class cabin on this aircraft has been refreshed with fully lie-flat seats in a staggered 1-2-1 setup, the coach cabin has not seen any improvements.

As such, this aircraft is really only worthwhile if you’re flying in the business cabin. American opted to refresh their 767’s as a stopgap, but they will be phasing these aircraft out over the next 5-7 years, so they did not invest in things like AVOD. Instead, on international routes, you will be given a Samsung tablet to watch preloaded entertainment on. On domestic routes, I have never seen them hand out the Samsung tablets, so you’re really just getting a much more comfortable seat on these routes. As a lawyer who usually travels with a lot of documents, I very much like flying this aircraft as it allows me spread out my documents while having my laptop out and get a lot of quality work done in the air. AAdvantage elites who have their upgrades clear are cleared into a great hard product.

A330 Routes:

With the merger between U.S. Airways and American now complete, you can usually find an A330 on the Orlando to Philadelphia route.

The A330 features the fully lie-flat reverse-herringbone seats and a premium in-flight entertainment system. This is probably my favorite international configuration aircraft to fly on a domestic route (though I have not had an opportunity to fly the Dreamliner yet). My girlfriend is a huge Philadelphia Eagles fan, so we go up to Philly a few times a year and always try to grab this flight if we can.

This aircraft is preferable for me because it is one of the newest in the fleet, the seats are incredibly comfortable, there is plenty of space to work, and the in-flight entertainment is built into the seats for ease of use. While I’ve only ever flown this aircraft in business, since it is a newer aircraft, the coach cabin is also much nicer than most domestic aircraft. Again, if you are an AAdvantage elite, your upgrades will clear into one of the best cabins that a US legacy carrier offers.

 

787 “Dreamliner” Routes:

Lastly, American has been shaking down their new 787 Dreamliners on the Dallas/Fort Worth to Chicago-O’Hare and Dallas/Fort Worth to Los Angeles routes.

They are flying the Dreamliners on this route to acclimate crews to the aircraft and to ensure that everything is good before putting them on their long haul international routes like Dallas/Fort Worth to Tokyo-Narita. That means if you are flying this route, you can experience one of the most technologically advanced aircraft in the sky that is usually reserved for long-haul international routes! American’s Dreamliners use a fully lie-flat reverse-herringbone style seat in a 1-2-1 configuration. What’s unique about the configuration is that the seats are staggered between front-facing and rear-facing seats.

The forward-facing seats have a more open feel to them, while the rear-facing seats have more area to work from what I’ve been told. The seats seem a bit narrower than on the wide-body A330, but that’s to be expected on a non-wide body aircraft like the Dreamliner. The upside to this aircraft is that it’s the newest in American’s fleet, so even if you’re in coach, you’re going to have a premium hard product.

Delta Airlines
767 Routes:

Delta is another US airline that offers internationally configured aircraft on domestic routes – though it is usually limited to their 767-300 aircraft with their older “Business Elite” cabin. One such route you can find this aircraft on is Seattle to Atlanta.

Make sure you are not confusing a domestically configured 767-300 when you’re picking your flights. Delta’s domestically configured 767-300 features your standard domestic recliner seats in a 2-2-2 configuration, while the internationally configured 767-300 will feature a fully lie-flat seat in a staggered 1-2-1 setup like below:

I have taken this aircraft on a medium-haul international route and I’m not the biggest fan of the seats. The footwells are rather tight and I’ve never found the in-flight entertainment systems on Delta to be very good. With that said, it’s hard to beat a fully lie-flat seat with this view on a cross-country flight!

United Airlines

United also offers internationally configured aircraft on some of their domestic routes. United is going through a refurbishment of their aircraft, so I think they are more hit or miss with some of their older internationally configured aircraft on domestic routes. As with American and Delta, the routes these aircraft operate on are going to be hub-centric.

United flies Newark to Orlando on their 757-200 with fully lie-flat seats in Business-First. Even though this flight is relatively short at 2 hours, 43 minutes, I do not think anyone would be complaining about a fully lie-flat seat for that time!

Some other routes where you are likely to find the fully lie-flat equipped 757-200 are Newark to Denver, Newark to Chicago-O’Hare, Houston to Denver, Houston to Los Angeles, Chicago to Washington, D.C.-Dulles and Los Angeles to Chicago-O’Hare. Just like with Delta, be aware that United flies 757-200’s equipped with standard domestic first recliner seats on some of these routes, so make sure you double check that the aircraft seat map shows the configuration above.

Just like American, United operates some of their 787 Dreamliners on domestic routes while they shake them down before putting them into long-haul international service. Two common routes to see these aircraft on are Houston to Denver and Houston to San Francisco.

The Dreamliner features United’s fully lie-flat seat with built-in in-flight entertainment at every seat. While I generally prefer the reverse-herringbone setup that American offers (or at least the 1-2-1 staggered cabin that Delta offers) so that each seat has direct aisle access, it’s hard to argue with the look of United’s 787 cabin. Again, United elites are eligible for upgrades from coach, which is not a bad way to spend 4 ½ hours in the air!

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you do not have to be traveling on an international itinerary to be able to travel in an internationally configured premium cabin! You just have to make sure that you check all of your flight options to see if any flights on the day you want to fly are being operated by an internationally configured aircraft. Of course, our Consulting Services can help you with these arrangements as well, so make sure to check it out!

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