American Airlines $73 First Class Fares (Upgrade for $7!) and How to Earn Full Miles on Discount American Fares

One Mile at a Time highlights the cheapest first class upsell fare I’ve ever seen.

American Airlines will sell you coach one-way for the 834 mile flight between Portland and Los Angeles for $58.10. That’s a pretty good price.

Those $58 flights aren’t the only ones with cheap first class available. Take this flight with $66 coach:

You can pay $66 and sit in back, maybe pay for an extra legroom seat and pay for checked bags. Or spend $73.10 for first class — priority security and boarding, free checked bags, a bigger seat and cocktails.

This $74 fare is widely available Portland – Los Angeles.

And it’s available in the other direction, Los Angeles – Portland, as well.

This is a 10 day advance purchase non-refundable fares with blackout dates and a $200 change fee.


These are American Eagle flights operated by Compass with an Embraer ERJ-175 with 1-2 seating. That’s at least as good if not better than American’s narrowbody first class (some like their new mainline first class with video on demand, but your mileage may vary, I find the tray table to be too close and it doesn’t adjust forwards and backward for comfortable working).

First class at this price is a $55 base fare. That means a non-elite would only earn 275 miles under American’s new revenue-based program.

Both Cathay Pacific AsiaMiles and Etihad Guest award 100% of flown miles even on the cheapest American Airlines fares. When you’re dealing with paid first class though you’ll generally earn 100% of flown miles plus a class of service bonus on most of the airline partners you could credit to. For instance Alaska Airlines will award you 150% of the miles flown, in this case ~ 1250 miles.

If you want to credit cheap fares to American AAdvantage and earn more than the revenue-based program offers, your best bet is crediting to AAVacations (just book an air and car package) since you’ll earn a minimum of 50% of the flown miles, and discount first class earns 150%. (The only downside is that as an agency ticket you can’t process confirmed upgrades on AAVacations packages until tickets are issued.)

And if there’s one takeaway it’s that it always pays to search for premium cabin fares, they aren’t always just $7 – $15 more but sometimes the increment is worthwhile and pays for itself in the form of ancillary fee savings without even valuing the additional comfort.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. […] If you’re flying on any major US carrier and really need to have more than one piece of checked luggage then it might be a good idea to look into First Class fares. In some cases, they might be a lot more reasonable and cost-efficient than paying a lot of money for checking in your luggage and still sitting in coach. Check out this example with American Airlines. […]


  1. @Frank

    E-Jets have an excellent safety record, and are in many ways more comfortable than some mainline aircraft. What exactly makes them a “rubber-band plane”?

  2. It tells you something when Cathay, Qantas, Etihad, and Alaska’s FF programs earn more miles on an American Airlines flight than American Airlines DisAAdvantage FF program. lol

  3. at this price, I don’t think the mileage accumulation is relevant-which is an odd thing for me to think.

  4. Read carefully and the Cathay info is false! Hubby lost 20,000 miles – yes 20k because the first seven or eight web fares don’t qualify for air miles thru One World which is American. If you were Marco Polo which is Cathay , it would but doesn’t to American. It cost him his Executive Platinum as he has to use their travel agency and they book whatever fares they negotiate and none of that info is available . He is not a Cathay fan!!

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