Reviews

Review: American Airlines A321T first class: Los Angeles-New York JFK

Overall Rating

By Chris Chamberlin, October 29 2015
American Airlines A321T first class: Los Angeles-New York JFK
Route

Los Angeles - New York (JFK)

Aircraft Type

Airbus A321

Airline

American Airlines

Flight

AA2

Cabin Class

First

Seat

1F

Notes
The Good
  • Fully-flat beds in a 1-1 layout
  • Private check-in lobby and lounge
  • VIP escort through security screening
The Bad
  • No proper Champagne flutes, headphones collected early
X-Factor
  • The best domestic seat in the USA
Service
Meals
Seating
Overall

Introduction

If you thought true first class was limited to international flights, think again: American Airlines breaks the mould by offering both business class and first class on its flagship Airbus A321T transcontinental flights, including between Los Angeles and New York's JFK Airport.

With kerbside check-in at LAX, private lounges and fully-flat beds with direct aisle access for every passenger, Australian Business Traveller puts American Airlines' A321T first class seats and service to the test.

Check-in

  • Frequent flyer program: American Airlines AAdvantage, Oneworld. Aussie travellers can also choose to earn points and status credits in their Qantas Frequent Flyer account.
  • Priority check-in: First class passengers on these flights can use AA's private Flagship Check-in room with direct entry from the drop-off road at LAX: look for Flagship signage as you arrive.

  • Checked baggage allowance: 3x32kg bags.
  • Carry-on baggage allowance: 1x115cm bag with no set weight limit, plus a laptop bag, briefcase or purse and other personal items such as duty-free purchases, umbrellas or books.
  • Priority security screening: Highest priority: you'll be personally escorted from Flagship Check-in to the very front of the TSA queue.
  • Priority boarding privileges: Highest priority: first class is called first along with uniformed US military members with a dedicated and clearly-signed priority lane at the gate.

Lounge

First class passengers on these transcontinental flights can access American Airlines' Flagship Lounges: also the domain of international first class passengers and Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers.

At LAX, clear security and follow the Admirals Club signage, or walk towards Gate 40. Approach the Admirals Club reception desk to get your swipe card into the Flagship Lounge, located inside the Admirals Club.

There you'll find a relatively quiet lounge with free WiFi, comfy chairs, plenty of power points and a dedicated dining area:

Private shower suites are also available, along with Taittinger NV Champagne and a variety of hot and cold dishes at the buffet. All food and beverage in this lounge is complimentary.

Read our full review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge at LAX

Seat

Configured over five rows in a 1-1 layout, American Airlines' Airbus A321T first class seats provide every passenger with both a window seat and direct aisle access, offering fully-flat beds which stretch to an impressive 210cm:

Look familiar? It's actually similar to what you'll get in business class aboard AA's Boeing 777-300ER aircraft – flying to Sydney from December 2015...

Business class aboard American Airlines' Boeing 777-300ER aircraft...
Business class aboard American Airlines' Boeing 777-300ER aircraft...

... but is a notch above the business class seats further back on the A321T aircraft (below), with American Airlines the only airline to sell both business class and first class on its flagship coast-to-coast flights.

Back in first class, each seat is wrapped in a shell for extra privacy...

... offers a generously-spaced side table that comfortably houses a 15-inch laptop with plenty of room to spare...

... a side pocket with a universal power outlet and room for your amenity kit and bottled water...

... extra nooks near your legs for shoes and smaller items above...

... a literature pocket with supplied reading material...

... an adjustable reading light, custom seating controls, a USB power slot...

... a foot rest that later forms part of your fully-flat bed...

... and an arm rest that is lowered when you board...

... but can be raised after take-off to make your journey more comfortable:

The only real disadvantage is that being a smaller aircraft, all passengers – including those further back in business class and economy – board via the front door and walk through the first class cabin as they enter.

If you're the type to avoid being spotted, we'd suggest boarding last, rather than first.

Meal

Departing at 9am local time and as the perfect connection from Sydney on QF11 (and AA72 from December), Melbourne on QF93 or Brisbane on QF15, breakfast is served.

Following pre-departure drinks (served in glassware), a second round is offered in the air and joined by biscotti. We opted for the Lanson Black Label Brut – a true Champagne with accents of ripe fruit, flowers and honey...

... but which is unfortunately served in the same tumbler you'd get on ordering a Diet Coke.

For serious wine drinkers, that has two major drawbacks: the larger surface area at the top means the drink goes flat much faster than in a traditional narrow flute, and means you'll need to grasp the actual glass, rather than a stem, which warms the wine and can slightly affect the taste.

That's followed by a linen restaurant-style service sans the traditional tray, with two starters – a seasonal fruit plate which came fresh if not plain to the eye...

... and a yummy and visually-pleasing Greek yoghurt parfait that you can customise with granola, fresh berries, or in our case, both:

Next up: a tomato, leek and turkey bacon strata with seasoned potatoes and chicken apple sausage, which was delicious...

... and a selection of breads including scrumptious warmed scones with jam and cream on the side.

Barista-style coffee is also available in first class including both a simple espresso shot and an Italian-style cappuccino – that's without chocolate on top or akin to a latte as commonly known in Australia:

After the main meal service, passengers can help themselves to a variety of snacks such as potato chips from the front of the cabin, while the flight attendants later bring around sweet treats...

... and before landing, warmed cookies with milk on the side which makes you feel a little like Santa Claus:

You can also choose from two Californian whites, one Californian and one French red, a variety of spirits, beers, soft drinks, juices and tea.

Entertainment & Service

Every passenger has a personal 15.4-inch touch-screen monitor with a solid selection of movies, TV shows, audio tracks and games...

... which folds away for take-off and landing. It's still possible to view your show during this time, albeit on an angle...

... with the system also operated by a touchscreen controller:

Bose over-ear noise-cancelling headphones are also supplied for use during the flight, but are collected around 45 minutes before landing – after which time you'll need to use a smaller in-ear pair (supplied or BYO with a standard 3.5mm plug) to continue watching your movie.

Collecting headphones early always feels odd in that it implies you can't be trusted to return them, but when the crew also mark off a 'headphones returned' checklist while standing next to your seat, first class does lose its 'premium' touch.

Also distributed but yours to keep are amenity kits designed to serve as your new mini tablet case after the flight...

(The case fits an iPad Mini, but not the larger models.)
(The case fits an iPad Mini, but not the larger models.)

... while cabin crew are polite, address passengers by name and were quick to respond to call bells and beverage orders throughout the flight.

The verdict

All in all, we'd peg American Airlines' A321T first class as the best way to get between Los Angeles and New York, and indeed as the best seat flying in US domestic skies.

For starters, AA first class passengers can await their flight in peace in the separate Flagship Lounges, rather than making use of a single shared lounge as is the case with Delta and United wherever you happen to sit on board.

Added to that: real (French) Champagne, nice espresso coffee and customisable meals to enjoy in a bed that's on-par – if not longer – than in first class on most international flights and which guarantees both direct aisle access and a window view from every seat.

Rounding out the deal is inflight Internet to remain connected to your office or loved ones and which worked flawlessly on our trip, priced at just US$16 for unlimited access when purchased on the ground.

All that's needed are flutes for the Champagne, a better-presented fruit plate and an improved system for the Bose headphones and American Airlines' A321T first class would take out all five stars in our book.

Heading to New York? Also read:

Chris Chamberlin travelled as a guest of American Airlines.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, a great latte, a theatre ticket and a glass of wine!

27 Oct 2015

Total posts 3

JetBlue's Mint premium service is by far better in the air (food and service, somewhat the seat).  Unfortunately, not much in the way of ground service.

04 May 2015

Total posts 234

Out of curiosity, what make JetBlue's seat better in your view? It alternates between 2-2 and 1-1 (rather than all 1-1 on AA F), and there's very little bench space around the seat, instead with little pockets everywhere to store your goddies rather than to use them. It's a decent length though at 203cm...

27 Oct 2015

Total posts 3

So, by "somewhat the seat," I was referring to the 1-1 seat being awesome with the divider and open space above.  AA's F seat, although also 1-1, feels really closed in, both in the seat and bed positions.  What sets JetBlue apart is the food and service.  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Nov 2013

Total posts 457

The AA flagship lounge at LAX is very comfortable.

In my experience, arriving in from Australia there is generally a decent lineup for the showers, which given the trek up from down south can be an issue. 

BA Gold

01 Apr 2012

Total posts 151

I really like AA's transcon service.  I've not flown in F but their J is fantastic - loving a fully flat bed on a narrow body domestic flight and it's always a good run for celeb spotting (I had Sally Field sat across from me and one of the 'Housewives of Beverly Hills' in front on my flight last week).

I sooooo agree with the issue of headsets though.  It's infuriating!  Top tip!! Take your own!  AA's Bose headsets are GREAT.  But the downside is they only hand them out after take off with the instruction they will come to collect them 'about an hour' before landing!!  Yet the IFE actually plays gate to gate so if you want to watch gate to gate you need your own to hand.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 303

So Question would be AA F class, or QF J class LAX to JFK ?

refreshments look Sweeeeet!

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 294

Is it just me or is the seat very "CX Intl J - ish"?

11 Mar 2012

Total posts 294

Not that I consider it a negative at all!

You have a keen eye, 11sjw – the American Airlines A321 first class seat, the similar AA B777 business class seat and also Cathay Pacific's latest business class seat are all individually customised versions of the 'Cirrus' seat, manufactured by Zodiac.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer - Chairmans Lounge

01 Sep 2011

Total posts 362

yes its pretty much the same but AA service is nowhere near that of CX

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

15 Sep 2013

Total posts 10

I've flown the A321T in F from SFO to JFK, just a month after they finally replaced their 767 service (the oldest still flying for any airline!).

It is a fantastic seat, but the service just isn't quite there. For an American domestic flight though, it's a great experience. Probably not worth the additional points if redeeming frequent flier miles though.

The NYC lounge is quite good for a US domestic lounge, and its adjacent to their normal lounge. Usually very quiet in comparison.


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