In late October, Greg and I flew round-trip to Italy using American AAdvantage miles. And – gasp – we totally flew in coach. If you want to hear more about our trip, check out these trip reports:

Because late October is off-peak at American, flying to Europe in coach meant spending only 80,000 AAdvantage miles and $109 in taxes and fees. No matter how you cut it, that was a steal. Plus, I don’t really get the allure of flying First or Business Class. Sure, it’s convenient if you’re flying 8-9 hours like we were, but it’s not really worth the extra dollars (or airline miles) in my eyes. And quite frankly, I like sitting in the back of the plane near the bathrooms.

Of course, people go nuts when they hear we flew eight or nine hours in coach. “Wasn’t it uncomfortable?” they’ll ask. Most of the time, they assume the experience was an absolute nightmare.

The thing is, flying in coach isn’t as hellish as it’s made out to be. Here’s how our nine-hour flight from Philadelphia to Rome panned out. Remember, this was paid for almost exclusively with airline miles!

Getting on the Plane

When you’re flying internationally, the planes are generally a whole lot bigger. Since I hate small planes and the extra turbulence that almost always comes with flying on one, this makes me super happy. I also like how roomy the bigger jets are. We flew on an Airbus A330, which meant that we had our own little two-seat section on the side. The middle aisle in this particular jet has four consecutive seats, and the other side has a two-seat section of its own. In total, coach is eight seats across with two aisles. Here’s what it looks like on the inside:


What Do You Do for 8 Hours?

Of course, eight hours is a long time. Fortunately, the American Airbus A330s come with little television screens that play movies and television shows. They even let you play games. Since our flight left Philadelphia at 6:00 p.m., we had a few hours to kill until it was time to sleep. Sadly, I spent part of that time watching the movie, San Andreas. For a myriad of reasons (bad acting, mostly), that was probably the worst idea ever. In addition to San Andreas, we also endured Maze Runner. While it wasn’t the best movie I’ve ever seen, it definitely helped pass the time.

The good news is, American offered a dinner service during our flight. This ate up some time while also filling my belly. Further, the dinner service actually included free beer and wine! I don’t normally drink on planes, but I still think that’s a nice perk. Here’s what my “complimentary” dinner (vegetarian pasta) looked like when it was delivered:


As you can see, the meal they offered was pretty substantive. Not only did it include pasta, but it also came with a salad, a dinner roll, a delicious brownie, and crackers and cheese. Also remember, this was included in our fare – as in, we didn’t have to pay extra for it. And just like any other flight, we got unlimited water and soft drinks to boot.

Can You Sleep 9 Hours On a Plane?

The biggest downside to flying overseas in coach is the fact that the seats don’t recline. To make up for that, we have both perfected the art of sleeping while sitting up. Is it ideal? Absolutely not. But it works, and it has saved us hundreds of thousands of airline miles over the years. (Hint: It helps if you have one of the best travel pillows like these!)

The really smart people on the plane scout out the empty rows and move once the plane takes off. I would have done the same, and actually tried, but the husband was slightly sad about me sitting away from him for the nine-hour flight.

I also slept pretty well on the plan considering the circumstances. From midnight to 6:00 a.m., I probably slept 3 or 4 hours total. By the time I woke up, it was also time for the breakfast service. After serving coffee and orange juice, they came around with muffins, granola, and yogurt. This wasn’t expected (we didn’t get breakfast on our last overnight flight), so it was a welcome treat!


Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, we paid 80,000 American AAdvantage miles and $109 for two round-trip flights to Italy, with a stop in Philadelphia each way. And that included much more than airfare; our rewards seats included free checked baggage, two free dinners, two free breakfasts, and drinks the entire flight.

Further, flying in coach isn’t nearly as bad as people make it out to be. And personally, I would rather hoard my miles for other trips versus blowing them on one fancy flight. That’s probably because I travel so often, but also because I’m inherently cheap.

The bottom line is this: If you want to travel overseas, you don’t have to earn a ton of airline miles to secure a comfortable flight in coach. And contrary to popular belief, flying to Europe in coach isn’t all that bad. There’s plenty to eat, drink, and do. Thanks to the fact that we only burned 80,000 airline miles on this particular flight, I still have 160,000 miles to burn before I sign up for American AAdvantage credit card again. Where will we go? I’ll let you know when we decide.

Find the best travel rewards credit cards here.

Have you ever flown eight or nine hours in coach? Do you prefer flying in coach or business/first class?