American Airlines revolutionized transcontinental flying in the 60’s by being the first airline to fly coast to coast and today, the airline is doing it again by introducing brand new aircrafts and being the only airline to offer a true three class aircraft from New York, JFK to San Francisco & Los Angeles.
The flagship first class product aboard the A321 is a completely reinvented domestic first class product that spawns from international business class hard product seen on luxury airlines’ widebody aircraft around the world. Being my first time on this aircraft since its launch in January 2014, it was needless to say I was ecstatic about my journey aboard this pristine bird—especially since my System Wide Upgrade had cleared, bumping me from business class to Flagship First.
Flying Flagship First comes with multiple enhancements to the typical domestic first that many have become accustomed to. As American really tries to set itself above its competitors, it offers a true premium product every step away from check in to inflight. The enrichments begin at check In, where Flagship first passengers are greeted in a separate lounge and escorted to security. The check-in process includes a bell hop in an exquisite setting, making one feel as though they are more in a hotel than an airport. This is followed by expedited security screening and an invitation to the Flagship lounge located within the AAdmirals club. The more exclusive lounge offers upgraded amenities, food, beverages, and spirits in a quieter and more intimate setting with more personal service provided by the staff.
After experiencing Flagship check-in and the Flagship Lounge at LAX, I headed to the gate slightly early to be among the first to board the A321T. Since it’s my first flight on this new plane and also my first flight ever in true first, I wanted to be sure to experience every second possible. I was among the first five people to board the plane, as they announced boarding for First Class passengers first. Boarding wasn’t anything special, and there were no special escorts from the lounge to the plane. However, AA was using the gate directly across from the lounge, so this made access extremely easy.
Once on board, I quickly dropped by bag in my seat (1A) and then walked towards the business class and economy class cabin to snap a few photos before the plane filled up with other passengers. As I entered the plane, the new plane’s look overwhelmed my senses—the smell of fresh leather, new vinyl, barely worn FTEs, the look of new carpet that had hardly been tread on and seats that padding at its thickest. EVERYTHING was pristine, clean and hardly touched. From the First Class Cabin, to business, and on to the main cabin, each part of the plane was clearly built with passenger comfort in mind. Like a little kid at Disneyland for the first time, I snapped a dozen photos, touched as much as I could, and smiled with glee before being asked to step aside, as passengers were trying to get to their seats. The tap on my shoulder brought me back to reality and I suddenly recalled that this was my private corporate jet, but instead one I had to share with 102 other people. I returned to my seat in the front of the plane and decided it was time to explore my seat.
Economy Class Cabin
Business Class Cabin
Once boarding was completed—all of which was through the front door, which required ALL passengers to pass through the first class and business class cabins—the two First class FAs offered water, orange juice or champagne to passengers. The champagne didn’t taste any better than what I was used to on domestic flights nor anything different than transcon business class, however I failed to ask the FA if there was a difference. Like usual, the drinks came pre-poured in plastic wine glasses and were collected as we pushed back from the gate. Preboarding in Flagship first was not anything special, and honestly, if I could give any advice to future passengers, board last. EVERY passenger on the plane (only 102) pass through the first class cabin, and it results in a crowded space during the 20 minute boarding process. No special services are offered and if anything, you can enjoy the glass of sparkling wine/champagne once boarding is complete!
Boarding through the forward door – everyone passes through the First & Business Cabins & Welcome glass of champagne
American Airlines First Class A321t First impressions
I’m going to pause for a minute to let you know what my first impressions of the plane was. Sure they are issued with the narrow body jet doing the job of a wide body, but really WOW! American Airlines has really reconfirmed my love for flying and are bringing luxury back to the transcontinental market! From the first class suites, they allow every passenger to have approximately 3 feet by 6.5 feet of space to themselves and all aisle access to lay flat seats in business to a small and intimate 72 seat economy class cabin, American Airlines has left nothing out. The seats in First Class are the same that we’ve seen on US Airways Envoy class for years, but enhanced with more gadgets, and similar to business class seats now seen on Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Cathay Pacific, and other airlines long haul business class. The business class seats are similar to United’s long haul business class seat on the 787 or what is to be installed on Delta’s Trancon 757s and then of course, economy is economy, but with only 72 seats in the entire cabin, it doesn’t have the overcrowded feeling that usually accompanies most economy class cabins.
power port & cubby in First
The entire plane appeared to be full of gadgets and entertainment options to keep people entertained and preoccupied during flight. From 15.4 inch HD TVs in First and Business and 8.9 inch HD TVs in economy, to in seat power, USB ports, and more. It was hard to believe that this plane belongs to American Airlines and not some new age airline like Virgin America. The new plane smell overtook me and the luster of the new seats and gadgets excited me. This was a plane I wanted to fly, from the front of the plane to the back row in coach, this plane is simply beautiful and no amount of detail was overlooked.
poorly made instagram video of all three cabins – one of my 1st instragram videos forgive me as I am learning!
American Airlines 321t First Class – In Flight Service
My experience on the A321T was a redeye flight from LAX to JFK. The Jetstream was blowing at its strongest providing a great tailwind, and the transcontinental flight time was reduced to a mere 4.5 hours. As soon as we passed the 10,000 feet mark, the flight attendants wasted no time in handing out menus, taking orders, and preparing the First class cabins late night snack service. From what I could tell two flight attendants worked all cabins, two in first, two in business, and two in economy. The two ladies in the front were the utmost professional flight attendants; all smiles, and worked quickly to get meals out to provide maximum sleeping time, but did so in a way to not make me feel rushed either. Within 15 minutes after the wheels were up, I was being served a California white wine and warm nuts and not even before I was ½ way through my glass of wine and mix nuts, my dinner tray arrived with my soup and salad option that I had selected. I relaxed in my seat, watched a movie and ate my meal, and at no time did my wine glass become more than half empty. When I finished my meal, my tray was quickly replaced with a small tub of organic vanilla ice cream. I had the choice of ice cream or cheese, but since I had a cheese plate in the Flagship Lounge, I opted for the ice cream, plus I was hoping the menu was incorrect and I’d receive an ice cream sundae like I’ve been spoiled with in the past on transcon routes. No my disappointment, it was just plain ice cream—but nevertheless still good. After my ice cream, I laid my seat flat, and slept until we were in the last 15 minutes of flights and the FAs were asked to prepare the cabin by the pilot. Despite sleeping for the remaining 3+ hours of the flight, the FAs still quickly served me a glass of Orange juice and offered me a scone or a smoothly before landing. Both had to be consumed quickly, but it was nice that it was offered, instead of overlooked as we were so close to landing.
Warm nuts & Champagne
Soup & black and blue salad without the “black” aka beef skewer
American Airlines Inflight entertainment & Amenities
The new Flagship First class suite has not overlooked any detail. The suite itself comes with a 15.4 inch HD TV that swings out, but even when attached in the locked position for takeoff and landing, can still be viewed. There’s a small cubby that holds bottles of water and the amenity kits, along with another small cubby hole closer to your feet, between the seat and foot rest, perfect to stash a book in or other small items. The seat stretches into a fully flat bed, feet angled towards the fuselage and head towards the aisle. The aisle arm rests retract providing more room, or privacy, and each seat comes with a blanket, pillow, and amenity kit for passenger’s comforts.
The seat is at the forefront of technological enhancements and is controlled by an electronic push button system on the side of seat near the light & IFE controller. The IFE controller and TV both feature touchscreen capability and the controller is more like a smart phone than it is a remote; it allows users to swipe left and right and hover over their options. One can even read on movie synopsis on their remote while watching something else on their TV, allowing multiple functions to occur simultaneously between controller and TV.
Then when it comes to power, American has left no power option out, as they realize that in today’s high tech fast moving environment, power is essential to keep us connected. From wifi at 30,000 feet to universal powerports, usb jacks, iPhone AV ports, and more the seats in first and business class are ready to keep you connected and everything is in extremely easy reach!
Seat in bed position
Flying the A321T Flagship First was a great experience and one that I am not likely to fly again. I was extremely lucky to have the option to upgrade from Business to First (thanks Phil!) for the first time in my life, but with the lucrative profit margins and high costs of the business and first class tickets, this is an experience I am grateful and excited to have had but one I will not experience again in the near future. Flying First, is almost like being on a Private jet, with your 9 closet friends. Space to spread out and space to call your own—the A321T is by far the best product I’ve flown coast-to-coast!
Check out Mike’s post from an American Airlines media tour for more & better pictures of the American Airbus A321T at JFK!