A little while ago I had the chance to experience what it feels like to be the crème de la crème of airline passengers. American Airlines offers for their special customers a Flagship check-in at certain locations around the globe. These locations are important travel hubs for American Airlines. At the moment Flagship First Check-In is available at
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
- London Heathrow (LHR)
- Los Angeles (LAX)
- Miami (MIA)
- New York (JFK).
The entry requirements are very stringent. You need to either fly international Flagship First or have to be their top tier elite but still, need to fly qualifying international routes. A full list of who can access Flagship First is published on American AIrlines’ website.
Flagship First Check-In is also possible if you fly specific transcontinental routes in First Class. These routes are (at the moment)
- New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX)
- JFK and San Francisco (SFO)
- JFK and Orange County (SNA)
- LAX and Miami (MIA)
- LAX and Boston (BOS)
Hold on, don’t buy the next first-class ticket on one of these routes. Besides flying First Class on any of these routes, the route has also to be served by a 3-class airplane and must be nonstop. The non-stop part is easy. Flying a 3-class plane means that the plane has to have an actual First Class, Business Class, and Economy Class. In other words, you have to fly one of American’s widebody jets.
In other words, you have to fly on one of American Airlines Boeing 777-300ER (77W). This is the only plane currently offering 3-classes of service. I have reviewed a bunch of flights on planes of American Airlines in numerous classes in the past. I have also been lucky to fly wide-body planes inside the US but mostly only from DFW to MIA or vice versa.
On my latest trip, I was able to get a First Class ticket on the route between LAX and MIA. There were a few flights each day leaving LAX for MIA but I made sure that I get flight AA1268 which was served by a Boeing 777-300ER.
Flagship First Check-In Experience at LAX
I arrived via Uber at LAX. Unfortunately, my driver dropped me off just past the International Terminal at LAX instead of in front of the Flagship First Check-In Area. The problem was communication, as he didn’t speak a lot of English. Anyway, this wasn’t a deal-breaker for me. I knew about the separate entrance to the terminal from past flights out of Terminal 4 and noticed the signage at the curb.
If you are unfamiliar with where this private entrance is. It is located towards the end of Terminal 4 on your way to Terminal 5. Right now LAX is an even bigger mess with all the construction going on at the airport. There are some signs right at the curb. Be aware, you will access straight from the curb not from inside the Terminal building.
An airline agent was working the gate and she asked me for my name. Oddly enough, according to her list, my name was marked that I wouldn’t make it to the flight even with over 1.5 hours remaining before departure. That’s what it looked like to her on her list. After she verified my eligibility, which was just done by searching my name on a list of eligible passengers, she escorted me through the red doors inside to the intimate check-in experience. She offered to take my bags but I was already set up and had my three heavy bags in tow that it was just easier and quicker for me to take the bags inside.
Inside are two counters and one agent was working each counter. There are a few chairs inside the check-in area as well.
Anohter family, with a ton of bags, arrived at the same time and agents were busy tagging all of their bags. After checking me in and tagging my bags, the agent which first greeted me outside, escorted me to the nearby elevator which dropped me off right at the front of the security checkpoint line for TSA pre-check. I got asked if I have Pre-check or if I had to go through regular security.
They would escort you then to the front of the line of your respective security checkpoint lane, but as there was barely anybody at the Pre-check lane, she thanked me for flying American and our ways parted.
I really enjoyed the experience itself and was always curious what it would be to use one of these exclusive services. LAX just started to get busy again, but even before the pandemic, I flew out a bunch of LAX, and thanks to my elite level I never had any issues checking in. However, being able to skip any of the lines is a great benefit, especially at LAX.
In my case, it would have been a better experience if my driver would have dropped me off right in front of the check-in area. That way my bags could have been loaded directly onto their luggage cart. But as I travel frequently with my entourage of suitcases, I was already used to take them all over the place. What could have been better? Well, it seemed my agent who checked me in inside, was newer and had to ask her colleague a few times. I didn’t mind at all. I had plenty of time and we all have to learn the in and outs of our jobs. Overall it was a great time while getting checked in thanks to the casual conversation.
During a second visit to the Flagship Check-In, I had some troubles getting in. The agents were in the believe that Flagship Check-In is only available if you fly international. It’s not, as earlier mentioned, it is also available for certain transcontinental routes. For whatever reason, they asked me for my status, which doesn’t matter at all for Flagship Check-In on a transcontinental flight. Status only helps you on international flights. I really had to explain the process to three staff members outside the main entrance to the Flagship Check-In. In the end, they checked with another airline employee inside and finally let me in.
This service is definitely amazing but it can’t beat my experience of being picked up at my arrival gate at LHR by two agents from British Airways and then being driven in a private shuttle straight to my departing gate, just because of my inbound flight was late. This was amazing. Especially at LHR, I would have never made the connection in the time I had without this service.
If you ever have the chance to experience the Flagship First Check-In, go for it. I am curious to see how the service is at other locations. Maybe I get lucky enough to snag another eligible flight in the near future.
Peter has a passion for Traveling, Photography, and Geocaching. These are the best ingredients for amazing adventures all over the globe. “Traveling is fun, no matter if you stay in a luxury hotel or travel like a backpacker.” Peter shares his experiences on his Blog www.gatetoadventures.com
Some of Peter’s photos are published on corporate websites, in-flight magazines, travel guides, and much more.