American Is Finally Refreshing Legacy US Airways A321s… But Not Really

Filed Under: American

My biggest complaint with the current state of American’s fleet is their horrible legacy US Airways A320 and A321 aircraft. While the legacy American planes at a minimum have power ports at their seats (and many even have personal televisions), that’s not the case with legacy US Airways A320 and A321 aircraft.

Those planes don’t have power ports, entertainment, or Main Cabin Extra. So while a routing on a legacy US Airways plane sometimes works better for my schedule, I generally try to avoid it.

The worst part is that American hasn’t announced any plans to update the interiors on these planes. It’s one thing if they said now that they’ll be updating the interiors with power ports and Main Cabin Extra next year, but they haven’t. Instead they’re just willing to use these horribly sub-par planes for many of their domestic routes.

Anyway, yesterday Ford flew from Los Angeles to Philadelphia (I was surprised his upgrade cleared), and before the flight I warned him about how bad the interiors are, with worn leather, no power ports, etc.

When he got on the plane he messaged me to say that the plane had new interiors. Hmmm, I figured maybe he was actually on one of American’s new A321s, which didn’t come from US Airways? I asked him to send a pic, and then noticed it wasn’t, because there were no TVs.


Maybe this has been going on for a while, but it’s the first I’ve seen such an interior on a legacy US Airways A321. I reached out to American, and was informed that legacy US Airways A321 aircraft are getting a trim and finish update, which includes new seat covers and carpeting.

In regards to adding power, etc, they said “we are looking toward long-term retrofit opportunities for this fleet and expect to see power ports as part of the long-term strategy.”

I’m not sure whether to be happy that American is going through the effort of replacing the seat covers and carpeting, or disappointed that they’re making cosmetic updates without even addressing the biggest issues with the planes.

I also don’t really get what they’re “looking at” with retrofit “opportunities.” It seems simple to me — you rip out the current seats, put in new seats with power ports (at a minimum), and add a few more inches of legroom in the first several rows of economy. Why is this so complicated, again? 😉

I should mention that they’ve at least made some updates to the legacy US Airways A319 aircraft, which now feature power ports and Main Cabin Extra. However, they removed a row of first class when they updated the interiors, which might be why they were so motivated to reconfigure the whole A319 fleet across just a few months.

Have you flown on one of these refreshed legacy US Airways A321 aircraft?

  1. Flew on this yesterday from SEA to DFW. Cannot believe that they’re able to sell a “first class” product that doesn’t even have power ports.

  2. 1. Adding main cabin extra to A319s made sense to LUS management becausr they could remove F seats to match the LAA fleet. Other planes would either mean an inconsistent fleet with fewer F seats or reduction in Y seats. They aren’t big on walking away from denaification projects.

    2. Remember we have the so far unannounced details of domestic premium economy. And they need to decide whether that is more legroom with same seats or some other improvements.

    Given uncertainty in product and hesitation to reduce Y seats, plus desire to add power to full aircraft not just F, they have preferred to provide an inferior product for the past 3 years since the merger without yet any relief in sight.


  3. Haven’t flown American since the merger with US Airways. How do you find out if you are on a “American” plane or an old ex-US Airways plane?

  4. Given the context of airline consolidation, for every person who says “I hate American, I am going to fly Delta”, there is someone saying “I hate Delta, I’m going to fly American”. They don’t need to try. I have been on Delta flights that have been delayed by 30 mins and people immediately scream that this is the last time they will ever fly Delta. Consumer behaviour like that makes sense when you have a lot of competition.

  5. @Nils: The LUS A321 is listed on the booking site as “321” while the LAA and newer A321s are listed as “32B” even if they are the 3-class transcon version. Seat maps are only slightly different – there are 6 more seats on the LUS A321s, all located between the F cabin and L/R2 doors. The LAA version has just 18 seats in this space while there are 24 seats on the LUS. The A319s are all updated to have identical seat maps, so there is not really any way to tell before the plane arrives up whether you’ll get an aircraft with seatback TVs, but they all have power and wifi. The LUS A319s have streaming entertainment while the LAA and newer A319s have seatback TVs. The 757s have very different seat maps based on their origins, and all the other aircraft were unique to each airline.

    These newer-trim A321s have been around for a little while. I have flown on at least 4 or 5 in the past year. Some of the LUS A321s were delivered after the merger was complete, and some of these newer aircraft seem to have been delivered with the refreshed interior, as I remember being surprised to see one in late 2015 (I want to say that was N919US?). I recently flew on N578UW (the US Airways Heritage Livery Aircraft) and it had these seats. N976UY had it as well in September, although I have no idea whether it was delivered that way or not.

    Not having power is annoying but at least they all have WiFi, and I will fly on a LUS A321 that has open exit row seats over a 738 any day. All of the 738s have power, but most of them have much more ‘tired’ cushionless seats than the LUS 321s.

  6. Frankly, I find the bare bones coach seats on these planes relatively comfortable (especially the bulkhead) given the *relatively* generous amount of legroom. It sucks that these planes look and feel so old (and have so few amenities), but I have a feeling any true refurbishing that added MCE would also open up the opportunity for AA to revisit the layout for potential “densification”.

    Given Delta’s moves toward denser and denser planes, I have a feeling nothing is off the table now at AA or UA.

  7. You can’t just pull the seat out a plop a new seat in with power. It’s a pretty significant procedure that involves electrical upgrades etc. I was a little disappointed to see the new seats without power as well but it’ll come. As for the aircraft being old and dingy, that’s airbus for you! These planes are fairly new but the fit and finish to me just isn’t as durable. Listen to the new 321s rattle when the thrust reversers are deployed on landing. It’s almost uncomfortably loud.

  8. @DWT Agreed. I call the legacy US A321’s “communist” planes – pretty nice layout in coach, and a pretty awful one in First. and, no power or entertainment for anyone! sort of a pleasure to fly these on short-ish routes in coach.

  9. My money is that AA’s long term fleet plans are still in more flex than they’ve publicly acknowledged.

    If their plan might include offloading these aircraft, there’s no reason to invest in new seats. Maintenance, such as recovering seats, is a whole other ball of wax.

    My guess is that their end goal is standardization and that new standard won’t be legacy HP A320s and US A320/321 airframes, many of which are getting quite long in the tooth.

  10. The power ports would make a big difference, not so sure about the IFE. Maybe the experts know which aircraft have those big IFE boxes under the aisle seats in Y which not only take away any legroom but also space for your second carryon.

    I fly these LUS planes regularly from SAN to PHL and I find the seats in Y to be more comfortable than 737 AA planes.

  11. I’ve noticed this, too, on the Legacy A321s. I fly PHL-LAX weekly.

    Other US Airways legacy aircraft that I noticed got upgrades?

    A330-300: New leather and carpeting
    A330-200: WiFi

    Saw these firsthand.

  12. Yeah, I flew one of these 321s last week from LAX to PHX. I was confused by it departing from T4 instead of T6 (as was the Admirals Club rep who immediately said I’d need to take a shuttle, and then I told her it was actually gate 49, which she confirmed while still somewhat not believing it). I boarded expecting a beaten-down relic and was shocked to see it had been updated. But…without power or IFE? Or MCE?! Huh? It was staffed by US employees (some still in old uniforms) yet didn’t have a traditional HP flight number. AA continues to leave me perplexed in many ways.

  13. CLT must have inherited the bulk of the US Air goat class 321’s.

    I have a CLT-LAS trip next week on one of these dogs and dread it.
    My mistake though, but lesson learned and I will pay the premium to route thru ATL on Delta.
    I did not realize how much I would not being based really in a hub airport location.

  14. I flew this in F MIA-MEX a few weeks ago. It was awful. Then flew back MEX-MIA in coach in MCE on AA metal. Much better…

  15. I flew on a bunch of these this summer SEA-DFW, DFW-LAX, DFW-CLT, and it was AWFUL-Compared to the experience in First on a AA 321 it cannot even compete-AA is going down the the drain-so glad to be out of Texas and not stuck constantly flying with them.

  16. i remember less than 5 years ago most first class products out there didn’t have power-ports in First and people are somehow acting like the lack of power options is the biggest blasphemy to hit air travel ever. Frequent fliers are perhaps the biggest whiners ever.

  17. It seems like the new seat covers for the legacy US A321s are very poor construction. Some sort of vinyl or cheaper leather product versus the seats on the AA A321s.

  18. I flew Delta recently from London to JFK and the Fort Lauderdale. The last flight was awful. The flight was delayed 5 hours and the gate change never was posted. It was a mess and we got to FL at 1.30am. It was 24 hours from London. I will never fly Delta again, USAir use to be very good to London. Too bad they went “under”.

  19. The USAirways airplanes are staffed with USAirways flight attendants, they have not “crossed over” yet. The flight attendants seniority lists have not really been integrated yet, a USAirways flight attendant cannot yet transfer to a legacy AA crew base. And, they have not been “trained” to fly on legacy AA metal yet, whatever that entails. The reverse is also true. Legacy AA flight attendants cannot fly on Legacy USAir planes or transfer into Legacy USAir bases. All of this necessitates that the planes and flight attendants stay together, so it makes sense that the USAir planes originate from the legacy USAir hubs. If you are flying out of CLT, PHL, or PHX odds are pretty good it will be on a legacy USAir airplane because of the staffing issue.

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