American A321T First Class New York To Los Angeles

Filed Under: American, Travel

About a month ago American began service with their brand new Airbus A321T aircraft, which operate exclusively between New York and Los Angeles (and soon between New York and San Francisco). These A321s are slowly replacing American’s 767-200 aircraft, which up until now have operated the “premium” transcontinental routes out of New York.

American’s new A321 are pretty exciting for a few reasons. For one, American chose to keep first class on their A321 aircraft, making them the only carrier operating three cabin flights between New York and Los Angeles. Meanwhile United recently cut first class from their premium service routes, instead choosing to just have a business and economy class product. Beyond that, as spacious as they are, American’s 767-200 fleet is ancient and showing its age.

So a couple of weeks ago I had the chance to fly in first class on an American A321 from New York to Los Angeles as part of a discounted business class ticket that I had upgraded to first class using a systemwide upgrade.

American A321T from window
American A321T

First it’s worth noting that American’s A321 first class features reverse herringbone seats. These are the same seats that American has in business class on their new 777-300ER aircraft.

Since the A321 is a narrowbody aircraft, the seats are in a 1-1 configuration, with five rows consisting of a total of 10 seats. So the cabin looks ridiculously sleek in a 1-1 configuration.

American A321 first class seats
American A321 first class

First class cabin
American A321 first class

For whatever reason American boards their A321s through door one (as opposed to door two, located in front of business class), so I could hear the reactions of everyone walking by. I don’t think I’ve ever heard so many “OMG WOW LOOK AT THAT” reactions as on this plane. It’s probably not just because of the seats themselves, but because of the 1-1 configuration.

So the seat itself is almost identical to business class on the 777-300ER. Almost.

First class seat
American A321T first class seat

Maybe it’s my imagination playing tricks on me, or maybe it’s because it’s a narrowbody and therefore feels a bit more claustrophobic, but I couldn’t help but feel like the area for your feet was a bit tighter than on the 777-300ER.

Legroom on American A321T
American A321T first class legroom

Legroom on American 777-300ER business class
American 777-300ER business class legroom

Specifically, the area above the ottoman didn’t seem to be as tall as on the 777-300ER. So if you sleep on your back and your feet go straight up you’d probably have a hard time fitting them there. I’m a side sleeper, so that didn’t really negatively impact me, but I’m sure it would bother others.

It’s also awesome that the seats now have built in TV screens, as you’d expect. On the old 767-200 aircraft they had portable entertainment players, which were always a pain since I’d constantly drop them and they were collected ~45 minutes before landing. The entertainment selection on the new screens was extensive, and I loved that they had airshow.

First class entertainment system
American A321T first class entertainment system

American A321T first class airshow

American has also added a few other amenities since launching the new A321T, including offering amenity kits and noise canceling headphones on these flights.

Menu, headphones and amenity kit
American A321T first class menu, headphones, and amenity kit

In terms of food, I was on a lunch flight, so it was typical “premium” transcon catering.

To start they offered hot nuts and cheese.

Hot nuts, cheese and drink
American first class hot nuts and cheese

That was followed by a salad with chicken.

American first class salad with chicken
American first class salad

Then for the main course I ordered salmon.

Main course of salmon
American first class main course

And for dessert I had an ice cream sundae.

Ice cream dessert
American first class dessert

Bottom line

American really did a spectacular job with their new A321s. While a reverse herringbone seat is at the end of the day “only” an international business class seat, it’s hands down the best out there, in my opinion. Aside from Cathay Pacific’s flight between New York and Vancouver, this is the best way to fly coast-to-coast.

  1. I don’t think it’s possible to board via L2 on the A321; I certainly haven’t ever seen a carrier do it…I believe the challenge is that the second door is too close to the wing and there’s a risk of damage from the jetbridge.

  2. American is looking more and more attractive to this NYC based flier. I usually fly Delta or Virgin on these routes as they have had the best experience on economy, but earning miles and status on American seems like a great proposition. Unfortunately they cut LGA-ATL after their US Air merger, which is a critical route for me…

  3. Although, Its A321T First Class just similar to its B77W Business Class Seat as the Author says. But you can also see their A321T Business Class Seat are actually quite similar to United and Many Other Airlines’ New Business Class seat onboard their 777 fleet. So, it is absolutely a spectacular offer on its domestic transcontinental flight!

  4. @Bgriff

    A321 L2,R2,L3,R3 doors are smaller than the main doors (no matter height or wide), so it’s not design for boarding, not like wide body aircraft.

  5. @Bgriff It is definitely possible to board via L2 on an A321. I have done it on LH numerous times.

  6. Don’t forget the QF LAX-JFK flight. Granted you can’t buy a seat on the domestic flight, but if I were flying NYC-SYD in F, I would take the Qantas flight via LAX any day over the AA flight connecting to Qantas.

  7. maybe boarding via the “better” seats is good advertising, gives flyers something to put on their todo list.

  8. @Lucky, I disagree that the AA A321 is the best way to fly coast-to-coast barring the CX JFK-YVR flight: try flying a repositioning 3-class international 777 on United from IAD-LAX, which United does a few times a month. I’ve done it twice — the last time in GlobalFirst — and it’s a game changer!

  9. @Bgriff

    Lufthansa used dual jet bridges for my flight last month MUC-FRA on a A321… one at 1L for business class and one at 2L for economy.

    It was very much appreciated not to have the whole plane load of people hitting me with their bags as they walked past.

  10. @ Golfingboy — To be honest, before or after a 12-15 hour flight to Australia I’d take the A321 over business on Qantas any day, since the American flight has wifi while the Qantas flight doesn’t. I don’t want to be locked up on a plane for 22+ hours without wifi if I can avoid it.

  11. @ Nick — Good point, though unless I’m missing something those flights just have “standard” domestic catering, right? Also, I realize everyone values things differently, but wifi is really important to me, which is the same reason I avoid American’s 767s and 777s domestically (even though they have more comfortable seats).

  12. Thanks for the report! I’m curious about how the catering & menu is either the same or different in business class on these new AA A321T’s?

  13. Looks very nice! Everyone stuck in economy was must have been envying you 😛

    P.S. Any photos of business seats on this plane? What is AA using if they put J seats in F?

  14. As downhillcrasher notes, LH boards 321s from L2, and I’ve always experienced them using L2, sometimes with L1 as well.

  15. @ Lucky — I assume you’d still prefer (minus the WiFi) the daily 777-200 MIA-LAX in First. Ever taken that flight?

  16. @ JRL — If I didn’t care about wifi than the 777 is definitely better in first class. I’ve only ever done that route in business class.

  17. @ Ivan Y — Didn’t get any pictures of business class, though flying the plane again later this week so will try to snap some pictures.

  18. @ Mike — The catering differences are minor. For example, instead of nuts and cheese you just get nuts, and instead of a salad with chicken you get a simpler salad.

  19. The difference between F and J on their old 767-200 was also the double plate in F, but I see that that was taken away (also from other report on A321), not a big deal. However they should cater F and J more differently. They should use the new water glass from their new 77W F.

    From what I see I think Airlines has to decide if they are gonna use door 2L before they receive the plane. Most airlines has smaller door 2L on A321 with overhead bins on top of it so it is treated like an emergency door similar to door 3L/3R. LH maybe one of the few airlines that use 2L on A321.

    Also I think UA runs international version of 777-200ER SFO-IAD everyday (at least on east bound morning flight??), but of course the catering is inedible.

  20. @Lucky, you’re right that the food is standard in the sense that you’re not getting champagne or multiple courses, but IIRC the table settings and silverware were GlobalFirst. And the service was really top notch since they had a dedicated FA for the F cabin. On a 5-hour flight, I personally value more the incredibly spacious seat and the multiple storage compartments. I think it’s the best 35,000 miles you can spend on United… and I’m kind of an evangelist about it, though I should probably keep it more secret for myself!

  21. How far out did your upgrade clear? I have upcoming trip where I also got a great I fare and want to use a SWU to get to first. Right now A=0.

    Thanks for the great blog! It’s one of my daily goto travel sites.

  22. Having recently done New York to San Francisco on the aircraft in business class, I have to say that I was very impressed with the whole flight. The crew we had were wonderful, the seat comfortable and the meal was pretty good too. All in all, I believe it to be the best US domestic offering, even better than Virgin America. Top marks to American airlines.

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