American Airlines A321T first class Los Angeles to New York (JFK)

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01: Introduction: Premium transcon service between Los Angeles and New York
02: American Eagle ERJ-175 first class San Diego to Los Angeles
03: American Airlines Flagship Lounge, LAX
04: American Airlines A321T first class Los Angeles to New York (JFK)
05: Hyatt Times Square New York
06: Delta Sky Club, Terminal 4 JFK
07: Delta Airlines 767-300 business class (Delta One) New York to Los Angeles
08. Delta Sky Club, LAX
09: Delta Connection ERJ-175 first class Los Angeles to San Diego

I left the Flagship Lounge at what I assumed to be about 25 minutes before boarding would begin for my flight to JFK, and I was surprised to see that the airplane hadn’t even arrived yet once I reached the gate. Uh oh. But the flight information boards and the American Airlines app on my phone both insisted flight would still be departing on time. I’m a pretty skeptical guy most of the time so I had a pretty good hunch that we’d be facing at least a minor delay.

american airlines flight information board lax

AA 172 showing an on time departure but there’s no aircraft at the gate yet…

It was right about then that I was having second thoughts about leaving the serenety of the Flagship Lounge too soon. Terminal 4 was really busy, with standing room only for as far as I could see. It was loud, crowded, and I was giving serious thought to ducking back into the lounge for a bit to escape the chaos. I do like to people watch though (and LAX never disappoints) so I simply ended up wandering the entire terminal back and forth for a while until our aircraft eventually arrived and boarding started.

american airlines terminal lax

Busy terminal 4 at LAX

terminal 4 lax christmas decorations

With only 5 days before Christmas, terminal 4 was decorated nicely with this large tree and a toy train that ran in circles around on the moulding above the pillars.

AA172
Los Angeles, CA (LAX) – New York, NY (JFK)
Sunday, December 20, 2015
Aircraft: A321T
Seat: 5A (first class)

american airlines a321 side view

American Airlines A321 (N101NN) side view illustration by Norebbo.com

air route from lax to jfk

Our route from LAX to JFK today: LOOP7 DAG J100 SNY FOD KG75M DAFLU J70 LVZ LENDY6

american airlines a321 lax

The A321 that would take us to JFK today, pulling up to the gate

The gate agents knew they were under a time crunch from a late-arriving aircraft, so they made an announcement saying that they were going to expedite the boarding process this morning. I don’t really know what that meant though, since I boarded as soon as they called for first class and I have no idea how they handled they rest.

lax gate 46A terminal 4

The boarding process here at gate 46A just getting underway

lax jet bridge

Walking down the jet bridge to board the flight

I was really surprised to see that they were boarding from door 1L today – I guess I always thought that they would try to keep first class passengers as segregated as possible on these premium transcon routes, but that isn’t the case at all – at least today anyway. Every passenger walked through first class on the way to thier seats, and to be honest it did seem a bit weird to me. Not that I think I’m above everyone else or anything, but what I mean is that a lot of celebrities take these flights so I would think that American Airlines would do a better job of making the first class cabin more discreet. Oh well – I was really just looking forward to trying out that first class seat so none of this bothered me!

american airlines premium first class

This is it: the American Airlines A321 first class cabin! the woman in 2A doesn’t look pleased…

american airlines a321t first class cabin

This is the view of the first class cabin from the rear (looking forward)

All in all, first impressions of this first class mini-suite were really good. Not quite as good as the Asiana Airlines A380 first class suites, but very good for a domestic US product.

american airlines a321 first class seat

Seat 5A: mine for the 5 hour flight to JFK

first class seat privacy

The privacy of these first class seats (suites) is top-notch

first class seat storage space

As you can see, there is no shortage of flat surfaces and storage spaces

first class seat storage bins

Everywhere you look there’s a nook or cranny to store your things

in seat video screen first class

Also welcome to see was a large video screen that was on a hinge (so you can angle it how you like)

american airlines first class leg room

Do I even need to say anything about the leg room?

first class seat arm rest

The arm rest is initially flush with the seat for easy entrance/exit – but it does extend upward if needed

seat number plaque first class american airlines

I like how the button to release the arm rest also contains the seat number. Nice little design detail there.

american airlines a321 first class seat controls

This is the “control center” for the seat, containing a entertainment system remote, seat controls, a reading light, and power ports.

american airlines 321 first class seat

The layout is just a little bit awkward, but I got used to it really fast and I didn’t have any problem getting comfortable

american airlines a321 seat view

This is the view looking forward from my seat. Note that I’m holding the camera up very high here – I couldn’t see over the top of the seat back in front of me from where I was seated.

american airlines first class privacy

This is a very private cabin – it’s very difficult to see other passengers.

me sitting in first class

That’s me, feeling like a king (at least temporarily!)

I will have to say that the gate agents did an excellent job getting everyone on board in an orderly and expedited fashion once the ground crew had serviced the aircraft. We actually ended up pushing back from the gate just a few minutes late – which was much better than the huge delay I was expecting. On top of that, the flight time was projected to be a short 4:45 today thanks to some pretty strong tail winds. Not bad!

The only other thing I’d like to mention about pre-departure is the fact that drink orders didn’t come until nearly everyone was onboard, and I (and nobody else for that matter) was personally greeted by the lead FA. I guess I was expecting a bit more from this service – but we hadn’t even departed yet and the soft product had already let me down slightly. International-level first class service this was not. Menus were distributed before takeoff.

american airlines first class amenity kit

The amenity kits were very cool – here’s the exterior

american airlines heritage amenity kit

It turns out that there is an entire series of these “heritage kits” available, each featuring artwork from all the airlines that have come together in the past to make American Airlines what it is today. The kit I got today was one featuring the classic American Airlines branding.

american airlines heritage amenity kit

Here is the heritage kit partially open, and you can see the cool vintage American Airlines graphics on the inside flap. Cool!

Contents of the amenity kit

Contents of the amenity kit

We departed off runway 25R, then made a long and gradual right hand turn towards the east coast.

Taxiing out to runway 25R lax

Taxiing out to runway 25R

departing lax

Crossing over the beach as we depart LAX

25R departure lax american airlines a321

Making the long gradual turn towards the east out over the Pacific Ocean

los angeles mountain snow

Snow in the mountains surrounding Los Angeles

Soon after departure, I realized that the passenger in front of me had brought a dog onboard and it’s squeaky crying was getting to be a little bit annoying. Luckily I wasn’t the only one distracted by the noise – I did hear the flight attendant mention to her that other passengers had been complaining. Thank goodness for noise-cancelling headphones! Speaking of noise-cancelling headphones, I did find it slightly annoying that they would produce a bit of crackly static whenever I had my GoPro or iPhone plugged into the adjacent USB port.

dog in first class

The women in the row ahead of me (4A and 4F) brought a dog onboard that cried for most of the flight

Hot towels, drinks, and warm nuts (along with those noise-canceling headphones) were distributed about 10 minutes after departure, and the meal service came very soon after that.

Bose noise cancelling headsets

Complimentary Bose noise cancelling headsets

Warm nuts

Warm nuts

entertainment system remote main menu

I tinkered around with the touch-screen entertainment system remote for a bit while I waited for meal service to begin. This is the main menu.

movie selection screen

This is the selection screen, which is very similar to Apple’s Cover Flow UI

american airlines flagship menu

Let’s have a look at the Flagship menu, shall we?

american airlines flagship menu

A closer look at the cover of this Flagship menu

Welcome Aboard message menu

Welcome Aboard message, inside front cover

starter, salad, and entree options

Menu showing the starter, salad, and entree options

Dessert menu

Dessert menu

Wine list

Wine list

Beverage menu

Beverage menu

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to choose an entree due to the fact that there weren’t any choices left by the time they got to my row. It was the curry beef or nothing. I wasn’t thrilled about that, but I accepted it. The woman across the aisle from me was none to pleased though and she let the flight attendant know. He handled it well though and let her know that she can pre-order next time if it would be more convenient. She seemed satisfied with the suggestion.

starting the meal service

Here we go! I’ve got Despicable Me 2 playing in the background and I’m ready for the meal service to begin!

The appetizer

The appetizer: smoked salmon cheesecake with caper onion relish and micro greens

The salad

The salad: arugula with watermelon radish

The main course

The main course: Thai beef red curry with stir fried vegetables and coconut rice

The dessert

The dessert: gourmet cheese plate

I watched Despicable Me 2 while eating lunch, a movie I’ve seen twice before already but I didn’t mind one bit. I loves me some Minions! And while on the subject of in flight entertainment, I’d like to go on record as saying that I found the movie and TV show choices to be sub par on this flight. I quite liked the interface though – it’s one of the most nicely designed UI’s in the sky IMHO, but there aren’t very many current movies ant TV shoes to watch. On top of that, I found most selections to be family and children-oriented.

flying over the western US

We covered a lot of ground during the meal service – here’s the view out the window right after lunch.

american airlines a321 first class bathroom

I guess I was expecting a fancier lavatory as part of this premium first class experience. Oh well.

That's me

That’s me (SANspotter) hard at work!

american airlines a321T first class cabin

Most passengers kept their window shades open for the entire duration of the flight (not a big deal for me – just making a note of it)

thick cloud layer

Clouds grew thick as we headed east

Flyover states!

Flyover states!

flying over clouds

Still rather cloudy out there as the sun faded away

It had been a pretty eventful day up until this point, and that first class seat was pretty darn comfortable so it shouldn’t be surprising that I couldn’t resist converting it into its lie-flat configuration and getting a bit of sleep. I normally prefer to stay awake as much as possible when traveling in first class like this so I can soak up as much of the ambiance as possible, but resistance was futile. I slept deeply for the last portion of the flight and was awoken by the landing announcements and the lights in the cabin being turned on. That was perfect timing, because we were just about to fly over Manhattan and and I got a pretty good view of the city all lit up.

Overflying Manhattan

Overflying Manhattan on a beautifully clear night. Can you spot Central Park?

The lights of New York

The lights of New York

The strong tailwind we had during the flight across the country meant that we actually touched down at JFK right on time despite our slight delay out of LAX that morning. It was a fairly long taxi to the gate, but no matter – I wasn’t in much of a rush anyway.

Pulling up to the gate at JFK

Pulling up to the gate at JFK

the captain has turned off the seat belt sign

This was such an awesome flight – I was bummed when it came to an end!

inside JFK airport

Welcome to JFK!

In conclusion, American Airlines first class bettween Los Angeles and New York is good. Really good! However, at the time of this writing, I have nothing to compare it against. I will be trying Delta Airlines business class (Delta One) on the way back to Southern California though, so that should be a good way to pit this product against another.

    1. Tim August 18, 2016
      • SANspotter August 18, 2016
    2. Lisa March 22, 2017
      • SANspotter March 23, 2017

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