Yes, the title is misspelled on purpose. As most of you know, I’m normally a cheap person. I’m one of the few people in the hobby who flaunts Holiday Inn stays. But I do like occasional fanciness here and there, especially when I don’t have to spend cash to obtain it. So, when opportunity to fly in first class to Seattle presented itself, I went for it.
In reality, it was more of a practical decision. Southwest fares were quite expensive, and by going with American Airlines, I got the exact schedule I wanted. I also just received my ill-fated American Express Platinum credit card, which gave me access to Centurion lounges. Side note: I’m still working on my dispute with Amex, but it’s moving at a snail’s pace. I promise to update once there is a significant progress.
So, let me do a short overview of both to hopefully give you an idea on whether the juice is worth the squeeze.
American first class is AAwful
I just can’t help myself! So, aside from few routes that have new decent seats, this is what you can expect when you shell out extra 12,500 AA miles one-way within lower 48 states:
And here is a photo of cafeteria-style food:
One of the passengers had a broken food tray, so the meal got dumped on the ground and the glass shattered everywhere. Poor flight attendants had to comb the premises in order to pick up all the junk. They did not look happy. During our flight back I went to the bathroom and the toilet paper roll was attached to this handmade wire contraption. You had to see it. Yes, they just improvised rather than replace it with the original part…in first-class cabin. SAAd.
Basically, you’ll be getting a wider seat, more leg room and a mediocre meal. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to have a better seat, especially since we had to spend a whole day flying. But for me it definitely wasn’t necessary, and extra room was wasted on my two kids. Food? I could buy it at the airport before boarding for probably $30 max for all of us. So, yeah, if you are able to handle economy seat, don’t waste your miles.
But here is why it was totally worth it and why I don’t have any regrets. My husband is a large guy (6 feet 4 inches, weighs 250 pounds). Yes, he is OK with me sharing these details. Anyway, he is extremely uncomfortable in economy class. That’s why he was thrilled with a decent size seat. He thanked me profusely and mentioned many times that it made the journey bearable.
Yes, I could have flown in economy with two kids and just pay cash for three seats (I believe it was around $200 one-way), but my husband didn’t want to be separated from the rest of the family. That’s why I decided to pay 25K miles for each of us and make the flights relatively pleasant.
We didn’t know it at the time, but my husband ended up getting pneumonia during our Alaska cruise. He felt awful during return flight and said that having a nicer seat was the only thing that made it bearable. So no regrets. Miles well spent in my book.
The Amex Centurion studio lounge in Seattle
We had several hours to kill before our flight from Seattle to Dallas. My in-laws were flying with us, and my husband’s sister and my daughter stayed in Seattle overnight. I really wanted to check out Centurion Lounge in Seattle (see full review), but my husband refused to go in. No surprise there, he felt horrible and not in a mood for any type of snacks.
I asked my mother-in-law if she would watch my son and let me take my father-in-law to the Centurion lounge. We would only be gone for 20 minutes or so. I knew he would love it because he enjoys freebies more than I do. She agreed, so off we went. I was able to get both of us in at no charge (the perk of Amex Platinum). According to terms, “Platinum cardmembers may bring immediate family (spouse or domestic partner and their children under 18) OR up to two companions into The Centurion Lounge, and immediate family OR one (1) companion into The Centurion Studio.”
I never understood the fascination with airport lounges, but I have to say, I loved this one! It doesn’t get rave reviews like other Centurion lounges, but I found it cozy and very peaceful. I’ve read in some write-ups that it gets super crowded at times, so maybe we just got lucky.
The buffet wasn’t fancy, but it had a few nice snacks. They also had clam chowder soup, which was delicious. Drinks were also complimentary, including alcohol.
It really was like an oasis amidst the chaos of Seattle airport. I didn’t want to leave! Alas, I had to go back and take care of my kid, so my 72-year old MIL would get a break. After we left the lounge I asked my father-in-law what he thought about it. He looked at me and enthusiastically answered : “I loved it! I didn’t know such a place existed.”
It was totally worth it to see him giddy with excitement over getting his free clam chowder and coffee. No, I would never pay cash for access to airport lounges, but I can certainly understand the appeal of paying an annual fee for those who are constantly on the road. It definitely makes airport layover much more pleasant.
I really wanted to check out the Centurion lounge in Dallas airport, but we would have to take a shuttle to another terminal. It didn’t seem convenient, plus, we were still full from our “free” meals courtesy of first-class award redemption. So, we decided to just let kids play in poor man’s lounge:
I wish all airports had kids’ play area
When you travel with family, sometimes it makes sense to choose the path of least resistance even if you end up missing out on amazing freebies.
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.