Pope Francis Flies American Airlines. And the Pope is Infallible.

Just like Prince William (whose allegiance even extends to the US Airways Shuttle, the Pope chooses American Airlines.

While Papal infallibility only applies ex cathedra, promulgating official teachings of the Church, his choices would certainly have persuasive power for many I imagine.

Popes have a long history of flying American and its corporate predecessors including Pope John Paul:

  • Flying TWA St. Louis – Rome on a Boeing 767-300 in 1999
  • Flying TWA Newark – Baltimore – Rome on a Boeing 767-300 in 1995
  • Flying American Denver – Rome on a Boeing 767-300ER in 1993 (The aircraft — N352AA — is still in service, and flies Miami – Montevideo tonight as flight AA989)
  • Flying a TWA 727 and 747 on an 9 city tour in 1987
  • Flying TWA on a 6 city tour on a Boeing 727 in 1979

Pope Paul VI flew TWA Rome – New York – Rome on a Boeing 707 in 1965.

Pope Francis will take an American Airlines charter from Joint Base Andrews to John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. He also will fly American from Kennedy Airport to Philadelphia, and then from Philadelphia to back to Rome.

The plane is a 777-200 and its FAA-approved call sign will be Shepherd One.

The Pope’s aircraft is known as Shepherd One, the same way the President flies Air Force One. That’s not unique to this charter.

The real question I had, though: does the Pope prefer American’s new 777-200 business class… or older Flagship Suite?

American Airlines 777-200 New Business Class

An American spokesperson tells me the chartered aircraft has not yet been reconfigured with American’s new business class seats.

Instead, it features American’s older Flagship First suite:

American Airlines 777-200 Flagship First Class Suite

American Airlines 777-200 Flagship First Class Suite

Business class on that plane is angled.

American Airlines Angled Business Class Seat That’s Being Phased Out

The good news, though, is that economy seating is still 9-across rather than the 10 seats abreast in the new configuration planes.

The Pope flew Alitalia from Cuba to DC. And Alitalia is:

  • In an anti-trust immunized revenue sharing joint venture with Delta
  • Controlled by Middle East carrier Etihad

So in the spirit of hermeneutical analysis of all the Pope’s statements and deeds, it seems like the Pope is urging US airlines to end their plea that the US government restrict competition from Gulf carriers.

(HT: Joe Henchman)

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 InsideFlyer.com, 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 »

More articles by Gary Leff »


  1. […] Desmond Howard spent 11 seasons in the NFL, after winning the Heisman Trophy as a senior at Michigan. He holds the NFL record for most punt return yards in a single season. He was Super Bowl MVP in 1997. And he’s had a tv commentator gig. That makes him more or less cultural royalty in America. He may have higher ‘status’ than anyone ever to set foot on an American Airlines plane besides the Pope. […]


  1. interesting. the Muslim khalifa originally declared Singapore Air the official airline. this was changed after learning that the “Singapore girl” flight attendants were, disappointingly, actually women, not girls- and thus, not in line with the teachings of Muhammad.

  2. Perhaps the Pope will talk to American about reconsidering their decision to abandon flights to Israel! Poor form by American.

  3. This is an interesting post. I thought he normally flies on a charter with Alitalia? I guess they made an exception for his inter US and return trip. What happened to the AC that brought him to Andrews?

  4. Why aren’t you at the synagogue for the 1 day per year?
    I’ll bet you’d even share my morning pancakes.
    Full disclosure: I’m Jewish

    Then you have the gall to jokingly critique the POPE?
    As a federal judge emailed to me this morning (he’ll remain nameless as it was a private email)
    “The Pope’s decision to “step on” Yom Kippur is so Catholic!”

  5. I did find it strange that the Pope “abandoned” his Alitalia plane in DC. I wonder what they did with it. I assume they ferried it back empty to Italy.

    Ditto on how AA is getting its aircraft back from Rome.

    Economics would suggest that you’d keep the same plane for your whole trip. And isn’t this Pope big into climate issues? Think of the excess CO2 emissions that ferrying would entail.

  6. All the people who preach about climate change and global warming and (insert latest buzz word) are all hypocrites. All Gore pioneered this as he jetted around the country in his private jet to lecture about saving the world. I’m just sick of hearing it all the time.

Comments are closed.