American’s 777-300ER Business Class & A321T First Class — Is It The Same Seat?

Filed Under: American

Reverse herringbone seats are among my favorite business class hard product out there. While I do prefer a window seat in an Apex Suite configuration, I appreciate the fact that all reverse herringbone seats on a given plane are virtually identical, meaning everyone gets a great experience. Meanwhile with Apex Suites, those getting non-window seats are really getting the short end of the stick (and that’s most passengers).

American’s 777-300ERs were the first new planes in American’s fleet to get reverse herringbone seats back in 2013. They selected the Cirrus style seat, which is the same business class seat you’ll find on Cathay Pacific. I’ve always liked this product.

American’s 777-300ER business class

One innovative way in which American has used this seat is on their A321Ts, which they fly between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco. These planes are in a three cabin configuration, and while both first and business class have flat beds, first class has reverse herringbone seats with direct aisle access from every seat.

American’s A321T first class

I knew American was using a modified reverse herringbone seat for their A321, given space constraints. However, during a recent flight from New York to Los Angeles I couldn’t help but feel like the seat was really tight. It’s still a privilege to fly in these seats, but as I tried to go to sleep, I found myself feeling constrained and barely being able to move.

American’s A321T first class seat

I wondered whether I was just misremembering American’s 777-300ER business class seat, or if it was just as tight. It has actually been a couple of years since I’ve flown American’s 777-300ER business class, though I’m finally back in the seat (and writing this post live from inflight wifi).

American’s 777-300ER business class seat 

The difference between the two seats is significant. Really significant. When I fully reclined the 777-300ER business class seat I found myself easily being able to move around, not at all feeling constrained, and generally feeling like I was back in one of my favorite business class seats in the world.

I’m not sure if pictures really do justice to the difference, but below is the area for your feet in the A321 reverse herringbone seat. As you’ll see, when you recline the seat it’s a generally narrow area, and there’s not much room to bend your knees, not to mention your feet are really wedged in there.

American A321 first class seat

The 777-300ER seat, on the other hand, has a much bigger ottoman, and more importantly, isn’t as restrictive in terms of the height of the panel above it. But what I really love about the seat is how easy it is to bend my knees. Notice the exposed storage compartment to the right of the seat? When reclined, it’s a great place for me to bend my knees and get really comfortable.

American’s 777-300ER business class seat 

I think everyone will notice things like this differently, depending on how they sleep. If you sleep on your back or stomach, chances are you won’t notice must of a difference. If you’re like me and are a side sleeper, and on top of that sleep with your knees bent and in a near fetal position, the subtle differences between these two seats are significant.

So I was happy to find that American’s 777-300ER business class seat is every bit as comfortable as I remember, and that it’s just the A321 first class seat that’s less comfortable (to me).

If you’ve flown the two products, did you notice much of a difference?

  1. Lucky on a slightly different topic I was wondering whether you prefer Air France A380 business class (angled 2-2-2) or British Airways business class A380 business class (fully flat 2-4-2/2-3-2) Though don’t know if you have flown AF A380 In Business class, I am personally slightly leaning towards BA as I find them more comfortable when sleeping though AF for sitting up right.

  2. It is much less comfortable than JetBlue’s Mint I hear, despite them both being configured on the A321. And Mint is technically sold as J, not 3-class F!

  3. “Reverse herringbone seats are among my favorite business class hard product out there. While I do prefer a window seat in an Apex Suite configuration, I appreciate the fact that all reverse herringbone seats on a given plane are virtually identical, meaning everyone gets a great experience. Meanwhile with Apex Suites, those getting non-window seats are really getting the short end of the stick (and that’s most passengers).”

    Am I missing something, or does paragraph feature statements in complete contradiction to each other? You like the Apex Suite because everyone’s getting a virtually identical experience, and you don’t like the Apex Suite because non-windows seats are really getting an inferior experience. Hmm?

  4. I’ve flow the 321T in First several times and finally flew the 777-300 in Business this past weekend. My first impression was “wow this is a much wider area.”

  5. You are absolutely correct! The A321 has less space. Especially in the entry area of the seat where your feet enter the seat module. Have been on both several times. Really like the business class on A321.

  6. Really like the business class on A321, as an alternative to the somewhat cramped First Class. American’s 777-300ER business class seat is one of my favorites.

  7. So, here’s a question: Did American really mess up with the A321T layout? There was news recently that they make the least money out of this route compared to everyone else who runs it (including those running First Class recliners), and I fail to see the value in having a seat plan with such low numbers of economy and *two* different classes of lay-flat seats (usually having even one on this size of plane is remarkable).

    I really can’t imagine that the market for this exists, and I think it’s a gamble that American took and that it hasn’t paid off.

  8. I have sat in both seats, though I have not tried to sleep in the A321T F seat, and don’t remember it feeling crowded, but I do remember the smaller footwell.

    Just based on plan configuration, I would imagine they would have to be slightly different. The 77W J seat is in a 1-2-1 configuration where 4 J seats replace 10 Y seats. The A321T F seat is in a configuration where 2 F seats replace 6 Y seats. Even accounting for the wider aisle in F on the A321T, the horizontal “footprint” of the A321T F seat should be wider than the horizontal footprint of the 77W J seat. Given the wider horizontal footprint on the A321T, the seats are likely angled slightly more horizontally to use that space, which may impact the layout of the “suite.”

    In the pics, I notice that the frame of the 77W J seat in front is at sharp angles, while the frame of the A321T seat in front is “smoother.” And the shape of the side table on the 77W J seat suggests it is more “vertically” oriented (to account for the shorter horizontal space).

  9. Lucky — totally agree. I have flown each product maybe eight times in the past year.

    EC — where is the news that AA wasn’t making as much on the premium transcons as competitors? Just curious, since I thought I’d heard it was doing well. But I could be wrong.

  10. @EC – you’re missing something. The Reverse Herringbone and the Apex Suite are two totally different products. Hmmmm….

  11. Absolutely second what and @JZ50 said. The entry area is SUPER cramped. I’m a wee man at just a hair under 5’8” and a buck-and-a-half, and I had to kind of shimmy into the A321T seat from the aisle. Sleeping was fine because I’m small and a side sleeper – as was just sitting and eating and/or watching the IFE – but getting into and out of the seat was kind of a disaster, not to mention trying to put on or take off shoes. I mean, it’s still a great seat for a 5- or 6-hour flight and I’d never turn my nose up at it (soft product needs some work), but it’s clearly a tighter fit than the 773.

  12. From a Tech Ops point of view, they are 2 different seats. They have 2 sets of certifications & part numbers. Heck- even the same seat installed in different aircraft types are treated as different seats.

    From a product POV though, The A321T have the stock Cirrus seat with a bit of trimmings while the 77W seat is CX’s heavily customised version. The usable space was redesigned & carefully carved out. That’s why comparing seat products are much more than comparing the base product Ben- CX or AF’s cirrus seats will feel different from AA or AY’s, or QR’s super diamond is definitely not the same thing as AA 772’s!

  13. Small typo: “this post life from inflight wifi).” Believe you meant live?

    Also, wasn’t the ex-US Airways A330 the first to get reverse herrongbone. I can see why you would exclude it though, as the 777-300er was delivered around the same time as the merger.

  14. @EC you’re reading it a bit wrong, he’s stating that reverse herringbone has equal seats but Apex suites have superior window seats and inferior aisle seats. Reverse herringbone and Apex are different products.

  15. Lucky, how is the Reverse Herringbone so different from a non-window Apex Suite? In my mind the two are quite similar in terms of quality. Yes, the window Apex Suite is perhaps the best business class seat out there, so there is some inequality in the cabin. But the floor (that is, worst seat) is no lower than the Reverse Herringbone.

  16. Does anyone actually sleep face/stomach down on a plane? It sounds weird and I’m not sure how comfortable I am with rubbing airline pillows all over my face.

  17. What do you expect out of a narrow body aircraft? The product is just fine. I just flew both, round trip. SFO-JFK-SFO and JFK-LHR, BCN-JFK. I am 6’0 and had no problems. I would rethink the dissecting of this product given that each aircraft has it’s own spatial constraints as required by the FAA. Just be thankful it’s better than any other product in the U.S. domestic market.

  18. It stands to reason that you will have less space in a narrow body viz a viz a wide body, with a few exceptions of course.

  19. Frankly, as a side sleeper, I was never a huge fan of these reverse herringbone seats as I also toss and turn alot when I doze off, so I will always hit my knees when I do that. My best sleep has still been on TK’s now-widely-considered-dated and non-industry leading J seats that had nothing restricting my knees no matter how often I turn – as long as i’m not stuck in the middle seat on the 777 lol…

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