American’s sexy Airbus 321 transcon fleet

American has hundreds of planes on order over the coming years, which should modernize both their domestic and international fleet. We’ve seen their awesome new business class product that will debut on the first Boeing 777-300ER they’ll take delivery of later this year.

But now they’ve also announced the details of their transcon Airbus 321 fleet, which they’ll also be taking delivery of over the next five or so years.

The most interesting announcement has been regarding American’s new transcontinental product. Presently they fly widebody Boeing 767-200s between New York and Los Angeles/San Francisco. While they’re comfortable planes, they’re ancient and gas guzzlers, so for obvious reasons American is trying to replace them.

At first I was kind of sad to hear they’ll instead be placing narrow body Airbus 321s on the route, but then I saw the new configuration — WOW!

Their Airbus 321 aircraft, will be in a three cabin configuration (or four, depending on whether you consider Main Cabin Extra to be a separate cabin), including 10 first class seats, 20 business class seats, 36 Main Cabin Extra seats, and 36 coach seats.

First class will be in a 1-1 configuration, and it seems as if the product is very similar to their new international business class seat.

Their business class cabin will be in a 2-2 configuration and feature fully flat beds. Interestingly this product is almost exactly the same as what United has on their 757s that fly internationally.

Coach also looks decent, and like the rest of the plane features personal televisions and Wi-Fi.

There are a couple of really interesting things about this configuration. First of all, I’m shocked that they’re keeping three cabin first class on their transcon routes. United plans to eliminate three cabin first class on their New York to Los Angeles/San Francisco routes, so American will be the only carrier with three cabin first class. I assume they could have configured the plane with 40 business class seats in favor of the 10 first class seats and 20 business class seats, so it’s kind of surprised they’d be willing to sacrifice so many premium cabin seats. Still, I guess now that they’re the only airline operating three cabin first class they’ll be the go to airline for the entertainment industry, which might just justify the configuration.

It’s also great to see that they’ll have 30 first and business class seats, which is quite a bit. They presently have 40 first and business class seats on the 767-200, though the percentage of premium seats is going up, since they’re going from 128 coach seats to 72 coach seats. So in theory that’s good news since it means fewer people competing for the premium seats, though in practice if they don’t increase the number of frequencies it will simply translate to higher coach fares and fewer upgrades.

I’ve gotta say it’s quite fun to watch American transform from the most “tired,” boring, aging legacy carrier to the most modern, “with it” legacy. Keep it up, American!

Filed Under: American
  1. How does this move make them “with it” as a carrier?

    They’re still over a year away from getting these in service and when they do it is more like playing catch-up, not moving to the front. The only thing special is that they’re keeping F and that’s not something that most customers are ever going to be in.

  2. @Seth I’d consider them with it with such modern interiors and IFE/wifi etc. really quite impressed with how quickly they will have so many new aircraft

    On another not, I’m really surprised they will be able to make money with so few seats! 102 isn’t very many for a 5hr transcon. Then again, guess they’ll make a truckload if they see all those first and business seats

  3. Heck, this new narrow body system seems better than what the Asian airlines offer on a similar plane, no?

  4. i think all transcontinental flights should be by wide body jets. the 5-6 hour trek is simply too long for a single isle plane. 787 would be an ideal size for transcon. some usa carriers including AA fly 757 ‘s to europe. i did it once, i will never do it again. bad idea, new a321 or not.

  5. I travel from Hawaii quite a bit to the mainland, and now that UA is using the 737s on some flights, i actually prefer the narrow body plane. Smaller plane means less passengers, but seat pitch is still the same, actually the F seats seem a bit wider.

  6. Any idea if/when we’ll see those planes flying out of WAS, or are they just serving NYC for now?

  7. @ Andy — Minus the service and food, yep!

    @ JL — They may very well fly A321s to Washington, though I doubt they’d feature this configuration, since this is their premium transcon configuration for JFK-LAX/SFO.

  8. With less coach seats, I think this almost certainly means higher fares.

    Alex- You wrote: “Then again, guess they’ll make a truckload if they see all those first and business seats”. I wonder how many of those will be people in paid seats vs award seats and upgrades?

  9. The J product will be the same as UA is getting. It will be like the competition before p.s. with AA and UA having the same product in J Yplus and Y. will be intersecting to see how fares look between the two.

  10. What is the weight of the FC seats vs Biz? Has the A321 been fitted with more powerful engines in recent years?

  11. @ u600213 — Either way I can’t imagine it’s a factor. With such a “light” configuration the A321 should be able to easily make the journey either way, no?

  12. Looks very nice indeed- though I’d imagine (hopefully) they add more flights since they’re putting fewer seats in. 102 seats seems rather low.

    I’m surprised they’d premier the 767’s replacement first- I thought that it was the numerous MD-80s in American’s fleet that were the drag on their fuel efficiency… Lovely plane, the 767- will be sad to see them go…

  13. yeah I agree with Seth – United has been flying for years with IFE and WIfi and will introduce their spiffy new fully flat bed international quality seats and plane in September of this year. I love your blog, but you never fly United or very very rarely and then only shitty domestic legs – do you have an arrangement with AA? I’m an old Continental FF and really loved them and ever since AA threatened to land a plane outbound from Pairs because two guys fell asleep on each others shoulders and showed very vanilla affection for each other I will never ever fly them again (

    That and they have an ancient fleet and just seem the most “not with it legacy carrier” flying.

  14. @ Nick — United claims to be a premium airline and for the business traveler, yet aside from PS doesn’t have wifi on any of their planes. I just think they’ve fallen so far behind the times. Business travelers don’t care about DirecTV, they care about wifi.

  15. I prefer Boeing as well. That being said, I’m in Philadelphia so I regularly fly USAir and United from EWR. The A330 is a comfortable plane to fly transatlantic (USAir). Still that being said, if USAir, United and American don’t start a Premium Economy section, I’m just going to leave them all together and start flying BA, Cathay and Virgin. My company won’t pay for business and I rarely get upgrades transatlantic that clear. I think Premium Economy is something company’s controllers will pay for (2500 USD) vs. 5-6k for a business class seat.

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