I’m just gonna say it. There is no better way to get from coast to coast than on American Airlines’ new transcon, three-cabin Airbus A321T. Whether it’s from Los Angeles or San Francisco to New York or Los Angeles to Miami, if it’s VIP access and comfort you’re looking for, then look no further because it doesn’t really get any better than this.
I was lucky enough to book a first class, around the world trip using the last of my US Airways Dividend Miles before the merger. Having heard great things about American’s new three-class A321T, I decided to add a Los Angeles to New York segment on my trip to give it a try. You can read all about how I booked my trip here.
American Airlines has a dedicated first class check-in area at LAX. It’s not pretty on the outside and nothing fancy on the inside but it is a quiet place for first class passengers to check into their flights, make changes or sort out any other issues in a private environment. American Airlines Flagship (First Class) Check-in is available for first class passengers on three-cabin, transcon flights and international flights (including oneworld alliance flights), Concierge Key members and Five Star Service customers.
I arrived at approximately 8:00 AM for my 10:25 AM flight. Check-in was super fast and easy and I had my boarding pass in hand within five minutes of walking through the door. Now, here’s the one negative comment I have about the security process. After you get your boarding pass, you exit the Flagship Check-in area and arrive at a normal security line in terminal four. There are no dedicated “fast track” lanes or priority lanes for premium cabin passengers. Lucky for me, I had TSA Precheck so this wasn’t an issue.
In addition to Admirals Club lounge access, three-cabin, transcon first class passengers also get access to the Flagship Lounge within the Admirals Club. Reserved only for first class passengers on international flights and three-cabin, transcon flights and oneworld emerald elites, the Flagship Lounge is a great perk for “domestic” passengers. You can read my full review of the American Airlines Flagship Lounge and Admirals Club here.
Aircraft and flight:
Aircraft: Airbus A321T
Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK)
Depart: 10:25 AM on Monday (10:24 AM actual)
Arrive: 6:59 PM same day (6:42 PM actual)
Duration: 5hr 18mn
Seat: 4F First Class
About five minutes before boarding time, I left the Flagship Lounge and made my way to gate 46B where my Airbus A321T was waiting. I took a couple of pictures and waited a few minutes before boarding was called. Boarding started on time and all passengers boarded through door 1L. As great as it was to be able to board first, with all passengers boarding and walking through the first class cabin, it was difficult for the one purser aboard to assist and serve pre-departure beverages.
My first impression of the cabin was that it was just beautiful. With only 10 seats in a 1 X 1, reverse herringbone layout, every seat had direct aisle access, two windows and tons of privacy. These first class seats are similar to (not as wide as) the international business class seats found on American’s Boeing 777-300ERs and Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Waiting at my seat were a packaged pillow and blanket set, amenities kit and a disposable set of earbuds. Storage-wise, roll-aboards and other carry-ons can be stored in the overhead compartments and smaller items such as cell phones, laptops and other electronics can be stored in the small storage spaces by your seat.
Each seat is equipped with its own personal AVOD (audio visual on-demand) IFE (in-flight entertainment system), two personal reading lamps, USB and universal electrical outlets and a true lie-flat bed measuring 21 inches in width and 82.5 inches in length. Gogo in-flight internet is also available for a fee.
As I settled into my seat (and in between passengers boarding), the Purser (Maryellen D.) came by to introduce herself, welcome me on board and offered a pre-departure drink. I ordered a rum and coke and she came back a few minutes later with my drink and a lunch menu.
American Airlines recently rolled out their Heritage Series amenities kits and I was lucky enough to get a Reno Air one. This AVGEEK collector’s items doubles as a mini-tablet case for future use and comes with Red Flower branded lip balm, face and body towelette and a trial size tube of hand and body lotion. Click here for my complete review of American Airlines’ transcon first class amenity kit.
After all the passengers were boarded, we pushed back from the gate and prepared for our 5 hour and 18 minute journey to New York. I love taxiing by the new Tom Bradley Terminal and seeing all the amazing wide-bodies getting ready to jet off to amazing places.
Once we reached our cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs were turned off, Maryellen came around to pass out Bose noise-cancelling headphones and take our meal order. I ordered the spinach and cheese stuffed chicken breast as my main meal and a Bailey’s on the rocks as my pre-meal drink.
My (double) pre-meal drink was brought out with a small ramekin of warm mixed nuts.
The three course meal started with a smoked salmon and seared tuna appetizer, followed by a spinach and romaine salad with heart of palm, strawberries and pecans, as well as an assortment of bread from a basket. The salmon and tuna appetizer was surprisingly good. It was fresh and full of flavor. The salad was small but tasty.
My main dish however, was not as good. It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t great. The chicken was a little dry (even though it was covered in sauce) and the vegetables were on the soggy side. Flavor-wise, it was decent and edible.
For dessert, I had a choice between a traditional ice cream sundae or a cheese plate. I’m not much of a cheese guy so I asked for the ice cream sundae (which was delicious). But seriously, how can you go wrong with an ice cream sundae?
Lunch was appropriately paced and the service was attentive and personable. With the cabin full with all 10 passengers, Maryellen was still able to serve and take care of us perfectly. She brought the food out quickly and made sure our drinks were refilled without asking. This one-woman show was awesome and I couldn’t have asked for anything more.
After dinner, I put my seat into bed mode, watched a couple of movies and took a nap. The bed was long and wide with a retractable armrest that can be lowered to provide additional shoulder comfort. As a bed, it’s great.
However, as a seat, my seat had issues. For a brand new plane, American doesn’t seem to be taking care of their product very well as my seat had technical issues. The seat pan seemed to be misaligned and I was sitting on a metal bump the entire flight and when I tried to put it into bed mode, it got stuck on itself. Maryellen had to come by and force it into position for me.
For entertainment, the large 15.4 inch IFE monitor was beautiful and had a large selection of new movies, TV shows, music and games. However, the software was a little glitchy and unresponsive. I did have to toggle back and forth several times to make a selection using the remote.
There is one lavatory for first class passengers located at the front of the plane. It is standard size with no additional amenities or anything else.
Mid-flight, a snack and fruit basket was put out at the front of the cabin for those who wanted it and about an hour before landing, Maryellen brought me a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie and a cappuccino. The Bose noise cancelling headphones were collected about 45 minutes prior to landing and a hot towel and bottle of water were provided right before our initial descent into New York.
American Airlines A321T transcon first class bottom line:
I was really impressed with this service as it was unlike any domestic service I have ever experienced before. From their dedicated check-in and Flagship Lounge access to individual, reverse herringbone seats in the mini-cabin, American Airlines has really hit the ball out of the ballpark with this one.
But truth be told, what really made this flight for me was the Purser. It really is amazing how a crew member can make or break a flight and fortunately for me, Maryellen was amazing and made this flight a hit. She was professional, attentive and personable.
Now, just because I really enjoyed my flight doesn’t mean that this experience was flawless. There were many areas that American can improve on including having a dedicated security process, improved catering and better maintenance of their hard product (including the seat and IFE technology). But despite all those issues, it was still a solid experience and I would still choose this flight over any other way to get from coast to coast.
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This review is part of my trip around the world with stops in Amsterdam, Dubai, Hong Kong and Beijing. The other trip reports in this series include:
- American Airlines Admirals Club and Flagship Lounge at LAX
- American Airlines A321T First Class, Los Angeles to New York
- British Airways Concord Room at JFK
- British Airways Boeing 747 First Class, New York to London
- British Airways Concord Room at LHR
- British Airways A319 “Club Europe” Business Class London to Dusseldorf
- DoubleTree Amsterdam
- Hugo Junkers Lounge at Dusseldorf
- British Airways A320 “Club Europe” Business Class Dusseldorf to London
- British Airways Galleries Lounge at LHR terminal 3
- Emirates Lounge at LHR terminal 3
- Qantas A380 First Class, London to Dubai
- Cathay Pacific A330 Business Class Dubai to Hong Kong
- Marriott SkyCity Hong Kong
- Dragonair A330 First Class Hong Kong to Beijing
- Hilton Beijing
- BGS Lounge at Beijing
- Air China Business Class Lounge at Beijing
- Japan Airlines Boeing 737 Business Class, Beijing to Tokyo Narita
- Japan Airlines First Class Lounge at Tokyo Narita
- Japan Airlines Boeing 777-300ER First Class, Tokyo to Los Angeles