American Airlines A321 first class San Francisco to Phoenix

American Airlines A321 first class San Francisco to Phoenix

Considering that 99% of my travel is for fun, it’s easy for me to forget that there are people out there who travel every week for work and it can be a total grind at times. I was quickly reminded of this as I was standing at the gate area looking around at all the long and tired faces of the zombies waiting to board this American Airlines A321, thanking the heavens above that I was not in their shoes.

It was Friday afternoon, and every single one of these people looked as if they had suffered through a marathon of migraine-inducing meetings and gut-busting presentations this week. Unfortunately, some of them weren’t lucky enough to be finished quite yet. The guy standing next to me was on a phone call trying to wrap up a deal with a client who seemed stubborn to budge an inch on price, and I could tell by the tone of his voice that all he wanted to do was go home and drink irresponsible amounts of whiskey.

I assume this is what Friday afternoons are like at major airports all over the world, and quite frankly, it’s not a pretty sight. I took the day off of work in order to be able to begin this trip, completely free of anything that “the man” could to dish out. It was so stress-free as a matter of fact, that my biggest conundrum of the day so far had been whether or not to eat before the flight from San Diego to San Francisco. Worrying about anything heavier than that can totally ruin a day of fun travel.

San Francisco, CA (SFO) – Phoenix, AZ
Friday, February 23, 2018
Aircraft: A321-211
Registration: N182UW
Duration: 1 hour 35 minutes
Seat: 4F (first class)

American Airlines A321 side view
American Airlines A321 (N182UW) side view illustration by (my other online brand).
Our route from SFO to PHX
Our route from SFO to PHX this afternoon: SSTIK3 LOSHN BOILE BLH HYDRR1
Terminal 2 SFO
Welcome to terminal 2 at SFO. Completely bland and nondescript, which is actually a perfect segue into a bland and nondescript American Airlines A321 review.
American Airlines a321 San Francisco airport
It’s not the outside that’s so bland and nondescript – I quite like the look of these American Airlines A321s actually, but the domestic first class product isn’t much to rave about. Give me a sec and we’ll get to the pics…
Gate 45 SFO terminal two
Maybe the guy sitting next to the pink rose is hoping to get lucky tonight? Uh, I mean, gate 45 is our departure point to PHX this afternoon.

Thankfully for all those wasted souls waiting here in the gate area, boarding began exactly on time. It’s not like I was watching the minutes tick away second-by-second in order to be able to tell you exactly when the boarding process started or anything.

The only reason that I knew this is because American Airlines has a countdown timer right there on the display in the gate area telling exactly when boarding will begin. And don’t you know it, they started exactly when that countdown timer ended.

American Airlines mobile boarding pass
Just a few more minutes to go. <whispering>By the way, don’t tell my old iPhone 6S this, but I think it’s time for an iPhone X.</whispering>
Gate 45 SFO terminal two
I was lucky enough to never have to work at a fast food place as a teen, but why does this remind me of walking into a large walk-in freezer on a mission to find the box of frozen hamburgers with the nearest expiration date?

It occurred to me as I was walking down the jet bridge that a vast majority of American Airlines Gold and Platinum members are older white people.

I hardly have any scientific data to prove this, but the last time I flew on American Airlines was last December from Charlotte to West Palm Beach (a flight I did not write a trip report for), and it didn’t go unnoticed that nearly everyone standing in the gate area waiting to pre-board were white, somewhat wealthy looking, and over 50.

And there were a lot of them. I don’t really have a point for all of this other than the fact that I had never even noticed or thought about this while flying on any other airline in my life. It was just an interesting observation, and yet another odd relevation about what goes on in that brain of mine…

San Francisco international airport jet bridge
These stark-white jet bridges always bubble up a small amount of claustrophobia in me, and I don’t like it.
Waiting in the jet bridge
Stopping halfway down only makes it worse, so don’t be surprised if you hear about a crazy guy on the news someday who just lost it in a jet bridge. Just sayin’.
American Airlines a321 boarding door
Thank you road warrior businessman for leading the way!

The American Airlines A321 domestic first class configuration is nothing much to rave about, but a decently comfortable product it is. Those of you who found this trip report looking for an extensive review about the American Airlines A321T (which flies transcon routes between New York and San Francisco/Los Angeles) will note that this is definitely not that.

It’s a total bummer of course, because how cool would it have been to get one of those lie-flat first class cocoons on this short little hop down to Phoenix tonight?

American Airlines a321 first-class cabin
American Airlines A321 first class cabin. Nobody looks very excited, which I can totally understand considering this looks even worse than American Airlines A321neo first class. That’s sayin’ a lot!
American Airlines airbus first class seats
American Airlines A321 first class seats. Despite the “first class” name, they aren’t even half as good as American Airlines Flagship Business Class seats. 
American Airlines domestic first class leg room
What the hell ever happened to a decent amount of legroom in domestic first class? I swear to God that all these airlines are in a race to the bottom.
American Airlines a321 first class seat pitch
Legroom is decent if you can avoid shoving your bag under the seat in front of you. Otherwise, be prepared to be kicking it all the way to your destination.
American Airlines domestic first class seat details
Oh – and remember to inhale deeply as you pass by the center console. There’s not much room to get around it!
American Airlines domestic first class seat center console
Speaking of the center console, it actually looked like a fairly decent margarita holder to me.
American Airlines a321 the first class cabin
Looks as if perhaps she’s making eye contact with the flight attendant in order to get a giant margarita of her own.
American Airlines domestic first class entertainment controls
Just being thorough, because hey – I bet you anything that there is somebody searching Google right now for a picture of American Airlines A321 first class volume controls for the in-flight entertainment. SANspotter to the rescue!
American Airlines domestic first class view from seat
I’ve got to be honest – having just got off a Virgin America flight that was dripping in LED mood lighting, this cabin looks a bit sterile to me.
SANspotter selfie American airlines first class
This is what I look like when I’m contemplating how much better aircraft cabins look with deep purple and pink LED mood lighting.
American Airlines A321 safety card
I’m ready for anything. Bring it!

Unfortunately there are no countdown timers here in the cabin to tell us exactly when we will be pushing off the gate, but I’m pretty sure that we did it right on time considering that there were no apologies from the captain, nor any deep sighs escaping from the mouths of the other passengers.

I wasn’t traveling on business, and I had no plans in Phoenix tonight, so it didn’t matter to me any even if we were just a little bit late.

SFO airport tower
So long SFO. I’ll stay longer next time, I promise!
American Airlines a321 first-class cabin
There are a whole lotta tired-looking business travelers up here this afternoon, all of who looked as if they earned every dime of their paycheck this week.

All I could really think about as we were taxiing out the runway was the fact that the skies were crystal-clear, the sun was setting low, and I had a window seat which just might provide me with a decent view of the city as we depart.

I’ve never had much luck getting Instagram-worthy pics of the San Francisco skyline when departing SFO, but I had a feeling that today just might be that day. With that said, I’ve got my camera ready, so let’s go!

Taxi to runway SFO
Grrr. Window reflections.
Take off from SFO
OK, that’s better! Now all we need to do is make a big left-hand sweeper so that I can get a nice view of the city in the distance…

The good news is that we did get a nice view of the city as we departed, but the bad news is that my iPhone simply couldn’t capture it in a way that would have given me kind of Instagram fame that we are all secretly striving for.

The evening light was pretty good though, and it lit up the engine quite well, so I was somewhat satisfied with what I was able to capture as we made that big turn out over Ocean Beach and then back south towards Arizona.

Take off over the city SFO
Bam! This was *almost* the shot that I was hoping for, so I felt decently satisfied as we got turned around and pointed towards Phoenix.

The mood was generally quiet up here in first class for the entire ride down to Phoenix this evening, no doubt a result of all these business travelers enjoying their first bit of quiet solitude they’ve had in days. The flight attendant did well to come through the aisle many times with a snack basket and plenty of refills for anybody that wanted them.

The alcohol consumption on this evening‘s flight was quite impressive actually. Of course I was only drinking water as usual, but those tired-looking business travelers were definitely taking advantage of the “free drink” thing.

American Airlines A321 first class interior
Imagine this is 1978, and you are on a Western DC-10 this evening on the way down to Phoenix: there is a hint of freshly baked ham scent in the air, as the flight attendants put the finishing touches on what is sure to be an amazing full meal service. Ahhh, the good old days.
American Airlines first class snack
The 2018 equivalent of freshly baked ham.
SANspotter selfie American Airlines first class
Thinking fondly of 1978 as my stomach grumbles beneath my sweater.
Flying into the sunset American Airlines
I wasn’t bitter about the lack of a decent meal on this flight, especially since Mother Nature was putting on such an amazing show (and that had all of my attention).
Sunset views
However, it didn’t take long for me to start thinking that a fruit and cheese plate would pair nicely with this sunset. Oh well.

The American Southwest landscape is actually quite difficult to navigate without a map to use as a guide, and since I didn’t have one on this flight, it was hard to guess where we were until we started the descent into Phoenix.

It seemed for the entire flight that I was thinking “ooh we’re getting close now” but then 20 minutes would go by and we were still cruising along right there at 30,000 feet. It only happened a couple times before I gave up trying to figure it out.

Sunset over Arizona
Mmmm, that’s nice!
Approach into PHX
Just a bit of sky porn for you as we run the approach into PHX.
Phoenix sky Harbor approach at night
It shouldn’t go unnoticed that I successfully managed to time this shot perfectly with that red beacon light. It’s just a game I like to play when I’m photographing airplanes…
Welcome to Phoenix!
Welcome to Phoenix!
Phoenix airport at night
I know, it’s blurry pic, but that’s downtown Phoenix in the distance. I’ll be staying at the Westin right smack dab in the middle of all that.

Darkness had fallen as we arrived in Phoenix, and I was very appreciative of the fact that the day went by without a hitch. Both flights were on time, and the weather was absolutely perfect if not a little bit on the unseasonably cold side of things.

But I can deal with cold if the skies are clear and it provides great photo opportunities, so I was in pretty good spirits as I walked off the plane and into the main terminal here at PHX.

American Airlines arrival into Phoenix
Some of these people had so much to drink that I’m surprised that they could even stand on their own. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
American Airlines a321 first class
I’d be curious too if someone walked into my office holding a camera in front of their face so that they could get pics for the blog post they were going to write about the experience.
Deplaning American Airlines a321
Thanks for the ride American! I’ll see you again in two days…

The only thing left to accomplish on this day was to grab something to eat for dinner. And if you didn’t know it, the central terminal at PHX (before clearing security) is stuffed to the rafters with many good restaurants for the hungry traveler.

I settled on a made-to-order flatbread pizza before hopping in an Uber to stay the night at the Westin in downtown Phoenix, but If I had to guess, I would imagine that many of those exhausted business travelers I came here with went straight to the bar. They certainly deserved it!

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