Review: American Airlines A319 First Class

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, American

Since you guys seemed to enjoy my recent review of Delta’s 737 first class, I’ve decided to review more domestic (or in this case transborder) flights. To kick off our awesome trip, Ford and I flew to Toronto, which is where we were meeting my dad (he flew to Toronto on Air Canada Rouge from Tampa).

Booking our American flight

The schedule that worked best for us was an American Airlines flight departing in the morning from Miami to Toronto. The flight was operated by an A319, which has just eight first class seats. Because of the small cabin, upgrades on this plane are notoriously difficult.

We booked about a week out and there were only two first class seats for sale. We ended up paying about $400 per person to buy those seats outright. That was about $150 more per person than we would have paid for economy, so that seemed worthwhile since the upgrades seemed unlikely.

American A319 first class review

Miami is my home airport, and it was a pleasantly quiet day. Usually the TSA Pre-Check line even has a long queue, but in this case we were through in a matter of minutes. While Miami Airport has several Priority Pass restaurants and an Amex Centurion Lounge, usually I just go to the Admirals Club.

Why? Because there are two convenient locations, and they’re surprisingly quiet, especially in the mornings. If we were hungry we would have gone to a Priority Pass restaurant, while I find the Centurion Lounge is often crowded. I get access to the Admirals Club on account of my Citi AAdvantage Executive Card.

We spent about 30 minutes in the lounge before heading to our departure gate.

American Admirals Club Miami

American Admirals Club Miami

Our flight was departing from gate D41, just a five minute walk from the D30 Admirals Club.

Miami Airport terminal

Boarding was scheduled for 8:08AM, and sure enough boarding started a couple of minutes after that. Concierge Key members were invited to board first, followed by first class.

American Airlines departure gate

American 2676
Miami (MIA) – Toronto (YYZ)
Tuesday, August 27
Depart: 8:43AM
Arrive: 11:57AM
Duration: 3hr14min
Aircraft: Airbus A319
Seat: 1A (First Class)

It’s always nice boarding an American Airlines flight and seeing the sticker right by the door reminding you that you’re flying on a five star airline. In fairness, on this particular day American was actually performing like a five star airline (give or take).

American Airlines five star airline

At the door I was greeted by the friendly lead flight attendant. American’s A319 first class cabin sure is intimate. That’s bad news if you’re trying to get an upgrade, though it’s good news if you’re seated in the cabin, since service is more attentive and it also feels pretty private.

I lucked out here because I was on one of American’s “nice” A319s. This was an ex-American A319, which came installed with personal televisions and comfortable seats. Meanwhile the ex-US Airways A319s aren’t nearly as comfortable. Eventually they’ll make all A319s less nice.

There were two rows of seats in a 2-2 configuration.

American Airlines A319 first class cabin


American Airlines first class cabin A319

Ford and I were in seats 1A & 1C.


American Airlines first class seats A319

The padding and design of these seats was excellent, much more so than the new style seats that American is installing.


American Airlines first class seats A319

Personal televisions were on the bulkhead. In addition to them being touchscreen, there was also an entertainment controller on the far armrest that you could use to select your entertainment.


American Airlines first class personal televisions

American Airlines first class entertainment controller

The tray table folded out from the center armrest, and could be flipped over in half.


American Airlines first class tray table

I also like that these seats have little drink trays that can be raised from the center armrest, which are great if you want somewhere to put a drink without using your full tray table.


American Airlines first class drink trays

The power outlets (including 110v and USB outlets) plus headphone jack were underneath the center armrest. This is such a better location than where American is installing power on their reconfigured planes (which is to the back corner of the seat).


American Airlines first class power outlets

Waiting at my seat was a pretty basic blanket — American doesn’t offer pillows on flights within North America, except in select premium markets.

American Airlines first class blanket

A few minutes after settling in, the friendly flight attendant offered us pre-departure drinks of choice. A punctual flight, a plane with a nice interior, a friendly flight attendant, and pre-departure beverages of choice on American? Someone pinch me. Ford and I both had coffee with milk.


American Airlines first class pre-departure drinks

Boarding was efficient even though the flight was full, given that the A319 is a fairly small plane. At around 8:40AM the main cabin door closed. At this point the lead flight attendant announced our flight time of 2hr42min and our cruising altitude of 37,000 feet.

A few minutes later we started our pushback, at which point the safety video was screened. At 8:45AM we started our taxi.

While our taxi to the runway was fairly quick, we had to wait about 15 minutes before it was our turn for takeoff, as there were both planes arriving and departing. We took off right behind a 777-200 bound for Dallas.

Waiting for takeoff Miami

We were cleared for takeoff on runway 26L at 9:10AM.

Taking off from Miami

While departure views were nice, we were flying west, so we didn’t get to fly over the water.

View after takeoff from Miami

View after takeoff from Miami

This A319 had American’s Viasat wifi. Personally that’s my preferred provider (American otherwise has Gogo 2Ku — both are excellent). So I connected using my Gogo credentials. I’d note for those without a membership, the pricing was reasonable, as wifi for the entire flight cost $10.

American Airlines wifi pricing

About 20 minutes after takeoff the flight attendant introduced himself by name, and reconfirmed the breakfast options that we had pre-ordered. He also asked us what we wanted to drink.

About 10 minutes later he offered us warm towels.


American Airlines first class warm towels

Then a few minutes later he offered us drinks — we both had water.


American Airlines first class water

About 40 minutes after takeoff breakfast was served. There were two options, and we selected one of each.

I had the oatmeal with a side of fresh fruit.


American Airlines first class breakfast

Meanwhile Ford had the scramble.


American Airlines first class breakfast

With both we had the choice of a biscuit, bagel, or chocolate pastry. I selected the biscuit, while Ford had the chocolate pastry.

The food wasn’t great — the oatmeal was bland, while the egg dish just looked like it was too much effort for them to execute well. At the same time, I think just about all US airlines do breakfast pretty poorly. I’d actually say this breakfast was a bit better than what was served on Delta in first class on a flight of a similar length the week prior.

After the meal I checked out the lavatory at the front of the cabin, which was a decent size. It didn’t have any special amenities, but was clean.


American Airlines first class lavatory A319

I worked for almost the entire flight. I’d note that the flight attendant was truly excellent, and constantly checked to see if anyone wanted anything.

Since I was working the entire flight I didn’t use the entertainment much, other than to watch the moving map.

Moving map enroute to Toronto


Moving map enroute to Toronto

For those who do want to watch the entertainment, the selection was quite good, with dozens of movies and TV shows.


American Airlines entertainment selection

At around 11:30AM the seatbelt sign was turned on for landing. A few minutes after that the flight attendant came through the cabin to distribute mints and thank everyone for flying American.

American Airlines pre-landing mint

It’s also worth noting — simply because it’s abnormal — that the crew didn’t do a credit card pitch. I’m not sure if that’s because this was technically an international flight, or what (as I know I’ve heard them on international flights as well).

It wasn’t a particularly nice day in Toronto, and we ended up touching down at 11:50AM.

View approaching Toronto

From there we had a roughly 10 minute taxi to our arrival gate at Terminal 3, where we arrived at 12PM.

American A319 upon arrival in Toronto

Immigration was a mess, at least for those of us without NEXUS. First you have to go to a kiosk and enter all kinds of information. No big deal, except these kiosks seem to constantly be broken, and spend an inexplicable amount of time trying to adjust to your height when taking your picture.

Then we had to queue for an agent. The biggest issue was just that the queuing system for all of these things was nonsensical. Like there are dozens and dozens of kiosks, and then you have to line up again, but the line only starts in one place, and then people keep trying to cut it.

American A319 first class bottom line

This was a very good flight on American — if only they were always this good. Our flight was on-time, the service was friendly, and we got one of the American A319s with the old (nice) interiors.

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!
Comments
  1. “The schedule that worked best for us was an American Airlines flight departing in the morning from Tampa to Toronto”, I guess it was from Miami to Toronto.

  2. Your photo “View after takeoff from Miami” shows a certain golf club that has been in the news recently (did you photograph it intentionally). If someone’s plans for the club go through there will be major impact on MIA — which might have to be closed.

  3. Why do they keep calling this first class? Its business class elswere, on regional narrow body.
    At least flat bed and proper meals before they call it first class.

  4. Is it just me? At 6’1″ (185 cm) height I don’t find the bulkhead rows on these planes to be comfortable. I feel that while there is no one in front of me, the bulkhead restricts my ability to stretch out. I actually prefer row 2 on these planes, even though the seat in front is closer, there is room for my feet under the seat and I do not feel as restricted.

  5. BTW. Your description of immigration sounds like an improved verion of the US immigration.
    I flew QR J class to LAX in May. First to the kiosks, then 1.5hr in line for the agent (EU passport with no need for visa).
    The lady behind me smiled and said last time it took her much longer…

  6. What did your boarding passes indicate ? On an international flight this is business class , not first class.

  7. That immigration is normal for the US – but at least it’s probably 2hrs less in line than any US gateway!

    @Mark, I’ve entered the US around 12 times now, and my record is 3hrs at ATL, mainly because they “reorganised” the queue and I ended up behind an extra 100+ people. I did have a sub-30 minutes entry once (before I got my green card) and that was at JFK terminal 4 just after a 2:00pm arrival.

  8. @ mark hit and miss I think. Last time I was at LAX arrived with multiple other people trans Pacific flights – 40 minutes from immigration , baggage claim , customs to arrivals

    They have so many immigration counters in the Bradley terminal i Believe over 80 , however not all manned. Government not airport fault However plenty of self service machine

  9. @icarus
    Yes the main problem was staffing. Only about half the counters were manned.

    And while it takes 2 hrs in the immigration hall, the mobile signals are blocked, so no way of contacting family or friends waiting.

  10. The PDB “issue” is hilarious – the bloggers / FT armchair critics have convinced themselves that PDBs are rarity on AA. In fact the majority of AA flights manage to serve them just fine.

    It’s a bias – nobody posts about service delivered as expected.

  11. @Lucky – thanks as always for the reviews, they’re the best part of this blog. Tiny point, but because I know you like to clean these things up, you’re missing an “international” — “technically this was an INTERNATIONAL flight.”

    Django

  12. I’ve stopped flying business class on AA on short flights because they only serve drinks and snack bags of chips, etc., on flights of fewer than two hours. It’s not worth the extra cash for a bigger seat. Perhaps Doug Parker could spring for a cheese plate?

  13. Dear Lucky.

    I enjoy all flight reviews you do. Please do Trans Con, International and Intra Europe flight reviews!!

  14. My record at US immigration was nearly 5 hours at ATL while arriving from CDG on 25th of December 2009 (a few hours after Northwest flight 253 missed terrorist attack). Needless to say that I missed my connection to PTY…

    That said nearly every time I had to pass US immigration I had to wait at least an hour (except in GUM)…

  15. No wait at all if you enter the US through TX, NM, AZ or CA. In fact, no checks at all. Plus, free health care too. What a country!

  16. Listen, and I mean this in the nicest way possible, but you need an editor to read your posts. I love these reviews. Please keep them up!

  17. Not much point flogging a US credit card to a plane full of predominantly Canadians who can’t apply for it.

  18. Last time I arrived at LAX it only took me 15 minutes to clear customs. Granted no other flights and I was first off the plane.

  19. Its a shame American is removing those perfectly fine seats for those crappy new ones. Why why why!!! Maybe they will remove lie flat and install angle flat in their widebodies now.

  20. I was on a 321 from PHX-SFO last week. Purchased First. No entertainment and NO power ports. In First! Inexcuseable. Couldn’t plug in to use my device as it was end of the day. Jeez. They just lost a customer…I know, who cares.

  21. For your EU readers, we love your flight reviews!! Please keep on them regardless of how short the flights are.

    Unfortunately we are not interested in USA redit card reviews because we cannot apply to them and EU credit card market is boring and simple.

  22. This is funny (well, for me…..). We were in that same Admirals Club lounge from about 10am on Tuesday as we were in transit to LHR from Costa Rica. A shame we weren’t there earlier. I thought it was a really decent lounge, esp with the guacamole bar they set up at lunchtime and they were kind enough to let in more than just me plus one. And great service throughout.

  23. I’ve flown on this plane and the 321B dozens of times and always loved it. Their entertainment is truly top notch. Not only dozens of movies, but more like Hundreds of movies and more music then you could ever listen to – with genuinely good mixes. When I used to fly the old 737s, I always turned into channel 5 I believe it was which was “American Jukebox”. The mix is so eclectic that I’d buy it if I could find it. I’ve always praised their entertainment. So sad that they are on a mission to completely destroy it.

    These planes are great with very comfortable seats. Nice that you had great service. If only AA could be like this all of the time. They ‘had’ a good product at one time. Now it is so hit or miss which is unfortunate.

  24. Lucky, in a nutshell, how would you compare your experience between Delta and American domestic first class? If you had to make this trip weekly, which of the two would you choose? Thank you in advance!

  25. Great review. Anybody near a Nexus enrollment center should do that. If you think lines are bad at YYZ, try the Peace Bridge in Buffalo on a weekend.

  26. Looks like a pretty good flight. I would agree that breakfast served on domestic flights is not my favorite either, and the choices don’t change very often … cereal/oatmeal, or eggs.

  27. Nice review -interesting to see the American A319 having flown myself on Air Canada’s A319 and Bangkok Airways’ A319; does American offer any alcohol on their morning flights? Somehow these shorter flights on smaller flights tend to bring out an airlines’s attention to detail
    I like the nice shot of the image of two immaculate coffee cups with nice American logo and stir sticks

  28. The Canadian CBP system sounds very much like those you encounter at JFK when you don’t have global entry. Kind of crappy when you imagine countries that are similarly strict and safe, ie, Singapore could get the same stuff done with just 1 person and in minutes.

  29. It always amuses me when you complain about the amount of time spent in immigration. You haven’t lived until you’ve flown into the US as a non-resident. Two hours is a short wait. Meanwhile bags are just piled up on the floor waiting for anyone to take their pick.

    That said, SFO was amazing last year. 30mins AND (an absolute first) the immigration officer smiled and chatted instead of asking me (accusingly) why I dared come back into the country again!!

  30. Wow, geeks in the comments but they’re right … they caught typo for “Tampa”, it was Miami to Toronto of AA and yes, American markets transborder flights as Business Class, not First Class.

  31. Ben this was business class, not first, correct?

    Also, count yourself lucky because immigration lines & wait in the US for non-citizens is a draaaag. u have both european and american passports, global entry, pre check, clear, etc etc so you my friend, are very very lucky.

  32. Oh, poor thing, you “worked” during the flight.

    Writing blog posts and photographing food is work? /eyeroll

  33. @Forty2 – yes it is work. Someone has to write and edit content so you can drink your beer and complain about it.

  34. Hey Lucky,

    Since you are in YYZ, I’m just curious if you would follow up on the recent case where two Cathay Pacific planes arriving in YYZ were found to have their oxygen bottles discharged.

  35. I love yout trip report 🙂
    One question regarding catering on board Was the two breakfast options hot or cold ? And what about roll- bread ? Hot or cold ?
    Thank you

  36. Never select row 1 on a business class seat like this. Much more legroom on seats that has space below a front seat. The wall in front of row 1 limit the legroom.
    Only on fully flat seats is row 1 as good as the rest.

  37. Neil… Commercial traffic is not impacted by Trump visits, only General Aviation without access to TSA is banned.

  38. “The oatmeal was bland” it’s oatmeal lol that’s why it always comes with sweet things like brown sugar and raisins to mix in.

  39. The 319 will not be reconfigured. They us the LAA 319 on internatonak and de LUS 319 on domestic. The 321 will be reconfigured unfortunately.

  40. Once the new seats are installed, the A319 will be the Fokker 100 revisited. Row 2 or get the exit row in Main Cabin.

  41. Great review and well done American, but can we please call it what it is, Premium Economy, this is so far removed from first class, it’s time the US carriers joined the rest of the world.

  42. I’m rarely travelling to the USA, and therefore rarely on US airlines. However, whenever I do, I count myself lucky as compared to the European business class (and this even when travelling in Eco+/MCE etc). The hard product is so much superior to the abysmal EU-business concept. And this even in “less nice” planes …

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *