American Airlines A321neo first class is remarkably disappointing

American Airlines A321neo first class is remarkably disappointing

I had been warned. According to the Internet (blogs, Twitter, YouTube, etc.), American Airlines A321neo first class is a disappointingly typical representation of the world’s largest airline. After finally getting a chance to try it on a flight from Nashville to Dallas, I can tell you that that what I had heard was mostly right.

On one hand, it’s a fantastic looking first class cabin and the cabin crew was excellent. On the other hand, the seats are so basic and featureless that it hardly qualify as “first class.”

It’s exactly like what happens when you don’t check any extra boxes when ordering a new car. You end up spending a lot of money without getting something to brag to your friends about.

AA1100
Nashville, TN (BNA) – Dallas, TX (DFW)
Saturday, July 2, 2022
Aircraft: A321neo
Registration: N440AN
Duration: 2 hours 9 minutes
Seat: 4A (First Class)

American Airlines A321neo side view
American Airlines A321neo side view illustration by NorebboStock.com
aa1100 flight track
Our very crooked route from Nashville to Dallas this afternoon as AA1100.

My full review of American Airlines A321neo first class from Nashville to Dallas

My biggest gripe about these new A321neo aircraft is that American Airlines didn’t use it as an opportunity to revitalize their increasingly-crusty brand image. Delta introduced an all new first class product for their A321neo aircraft recently, and it’s a phenomenal departure from their standard domestic first class product.

It was pretty much their way of telling the world how serious they are about being the world’s best airline. American Airlines, on the other hand, was like “**** it. How can we do this as cheaply as possible?”

Arrival at the Nashville international Airport (BNA)

American Airlines uses the South Terminal (C and D) at the Nashville International Airport. At the time of this writing, that is the superior terminal at BNA – by far. There’s a lot of construction going on though, so it won’t be long before the North Terminal (A and B) takes the top spot.

Oh – do I even need to tell you how early I arrived for this flight to Dallas? Nope, I didn’t think so.

BNA south terminal departures curbside
Welcome to the South Terminal at BNA!
BNA airport south terminal construction
Either I just missed the massive F5 tornado that just ripped through this place, or there’s some serious construction going on. It’s hard to tell really.
American Airlines check in area Nashville airport
I don’t see any panic here at the American Airlines check in area, so I’ll assume it was just construction and continue on with the review.
C concourse Nashville airport
Just past the security checkpoint now, and about to venture inside the C concourse. I appreciate the floor markings guiding me around slow moving traffic.
SANspotter selfie Nashville airport
Dang it. My quest to find airplanes to take pictures of is not going well so far.
Nashville airport windows south terminal
That’s more like it!
Southwest Airlines at BNA
Supposedly there’s a daily British Airways flight here at BNA, but I’m not seeing it.
BNA airport south terminal concourse c
Enough dilly-dallying! I’ve got a plane to catch…

The boarding process for flight 1100 to Dallas

While I was standing at gate C12 waiting to board the plane, a quick search on flightaware.com made me realize that AA A321neos are not a regular thing on the Nashville to Dallas route. I basically got really lucky when I was booking this ticket. Any other American Airlines flight at any other time or day would’ve been a 737-800 or an older (regular) A321. Score!

American Airlines A321neo Nashville airport
This A321 with the fatty engines is my ride to DFW this afternoon. “CFM LEAP-1A” is the proper name for these things, but all you need to know is…they fatty.
Gate C12 BNA airport
Gate C12 is where we will be departing from today. Assuming the fatty engines on that A321 are willing to cooperate, that is. 
American Airlines first class mobile boarding pass
I’m ready! Or not. Little did I know that I had the wrong boarding pass loaded up. 
Nashville airport jet bridge
A picture of the jet bridge instead of my face, because it was still red from holding up the boarding queue as I scrambled to find the correct boarding pass. BTW, the “beep” the scanner makes when it rejects your documents is highly antagonistic. 
American Airlines A321neo boarding door
Oh well. It’s not like I’ll see any of these people ever again anyway. Moving on!

My first impressions of the first class seats on the American Airlines A321neo

American Airlines is all over the place when it comes to the interiors of their Airbus A321 aircraft. Some of them have video screens, and some of them don’t.

It’s a wildly inconsistent product, and I’m here to tell you that their all new A321neo aircraft aren’t any different. The seats are typical American Airlines gray however (which is something that I do like).

American airlines A321neo first class cabin
Welcome to American Airlines A321neo first class. My sincerest apologies if you were hoping to see something at least 1/4 as nice as Flagship Business Class on the A321T.
American airlines A321neo first class seats
Gray? I prefer to call it “graphite.” These look great IMHO!
American airlines A321neo first class window seat 4A
What’s this? It seems as if that headrest is happy to see me. 
American airlines A321neo first class seat headrest
Here it is in a more flaccid state. Basically, the important thing to know is that these well-endowed headrests are highly-adjustable.
American airlines A321neo first class seat leg room
Leg room is good. But mainly I’m just glad that I used up all my “well endowed” and “flaccid” comments before I got to the crotch shot.
American airlines A321neo first class seat backs
It should be a crime that there are older American Airlines A321s flying around that feature video screens at every seat, but these brand new NEOs don’t.
American airlines A321neo first class seat arm rest
I reckon that an ice cold Diet Coke would look fantastic sitting here on the arm rest, don’t you? I’ll have to try that out later…
American airlines A321neo first class seat details
Yeah, these seats are really basic, but I appreciate the USB ports in the headrests. And if for whatever reason we need to don our life vests on the way to DFW today, that big knob to release them (between the seats) is going to make it easy.
SANspotter American Airlines A321neo first class
I swear to God if we end up in a situation where we need to put on our life vests on this flight from BNA to DFW today…it’s basically going to be the best airline review you’ve ever read (lol).
American Airlines A321neo first class cabin view from rear
All right. On that uplifting thought, let’s get out of here!

The departure out of Nashville

This was my first time ever departing out of the Nashville International Airport and I have to say that I was impressed with its overall size and wide variety of airlines. This isn’t the rinky-dink air field that I thought it was going to be!

American Airlines A321neo first class view from seat 4A
The view of the engine and wing is pretty good from here in seat 4A. I’m basically going to be the first to know when that hypothetical life vest situation becomes reality.

Anyway, the taxi over to runway 2L was short but sweet. It was also interrupted by a 10 minute wait in the bullpen to allow for congestion in and around DFW.

Taxiing at BNA airport
A riveting shot of what it’s like to sit and wait for DFW flow control to tell you that it’s ok to start heading that way.
Taxiing to runway 2C BNA airport
We’ve been released! Turns out that runway 2C is quite the runway to see. #stupiddadjoke #imsorry
Taking off from runway 2C BNA airport
I didn’t record a video of the departure today (because the lighting wasn’t so good), but…omg that sound!
American Airlines A321neo engine view from seat 4A
Fun fact: the fan blades on the LEAP-1A engines don’t spin. Had I not already known this, I probably would’ve been strapping on that life vest for what I assume would have been an inevitable crash landing into that river down there.
Flying over downtown Nashville
Downtown Nashville! Any city that has a building that looks like Batman is cool with me.

In-flight entertainment

Although American Airlines went for the cheap seats on the A321neo, the lack of video screens doesn’t mean that they don’t provide decent in-flight entertainment options.

Their streaming content service is quite good, and it’s easily accessible from your own devices by simply connecting to the in-flight Wi-Fi. It’s completely free, and chances are slim that you’ll run out of things to watch (or listen to).

American Airlines A321neo streaming entertainment
In flight entertainment options on the A321neo are pretty good (as long as the in-flight WiFi is working).
American Airlines A321neo streaming entertainment on iPhone
A subtle reminder that I should have opted for the larger iPhone.
American Airlines A321neo streaming entertainment advertisements
Warning: Clicking on anything will force you to sit through 1 minute of credit card and hotel advertisements.
SANspotter watching in flight entertainment American Airlines A321neo first class
For a moment there, I was starting to think how good looking (and wealthy) I would be if I stayed at Bonvoy Hotels and paid for everything with an American Airlines branded Aviator credit card. They almost got me!
American Airlines A321neo first class tablet and phone holder
The in-seat device holder was a nice touch, but it seemed a little (ok, a lot) overkill for my wee little iPhone. This is stupid!
American Airlines A321 first class personal device holder
Not surprisingly, it was *I* who was stupid. It wasn’t until the flight immediately after this (an American Airlines A321 from DFW to SAN) that I realized I was doing it wrong. There’s actually a built in notch to hold phones in place, and it’s awesome. 

The food

On flights over 2 1/2 hours in length, you can expect to be served a hot meal in American Airlines domestic first class. On flights less than 2 1/2 hours, all you’re going to get are drinks and a few little bags of snacks. Since the total flying time from Nashville to Dallas today was just 2 hours and 9 minutes, I had to make due with a glass of water and some corn nuts.

American Airlines first class drink glass
I know. I promised some Diet Coke action earlier on in this review, but my addiction to water is no joke.
SANspotter drinking water American Airlines first class
My seatmate went with a Bloody Mary. Must’ve been spicy!

Although I did find the flight attendant working the first class cabin to be extremely friendly, she was also extremely slow. I didn’t get my snack until just 10 minutes before we began to descent into Dallas. To make matters worse, it was stale. Oh well.

American Airlines domestic first class drink service
Debating whether or not to whip out my nuts…
American Airlines domestic first class snack service
Sorry, I had to do it! We’re an hour and 30 minutes into the flight so far and the flight attendant still hasn’t reached our row with the snack basket.
American Airlines domestic first class snacks
The snacks eventually came, and they were as stale as a cardboard box. No regrets about my nuts.
American Airlines domestic first class meal
FYI, this is the kind of food you can expect in domestic American Airlines first class on flights longer than 2.5 hours. This cheese plate (served on the DFW-SAN segment later the same day) was pretty good actually.

How comfortable are American Airlines A321neo first class seats on longer flights?

Remember that American Airlines A321 first class review (the one from SFO to PHX) I wrote a long time ago? The seats on that particular airplane weren’t as nice as the seats on this airplane – which is saying a lot.

I didn’t complain very much about seat comfort in that review, but much has changed since then. I’m older now, my lower back gets sore much easier these days, and I’m probably a bit more opinionated. Long story short, these A321neo first class seats aren’t very comfortable for old dudes like me.

American Airlines A321neo first class row 4
Telling you that my seatmate gave up and went back to find a seat in economy would have been an awesome way of telling you how uncomfortable these seats are. Truth is that she just went to use the lavatory.
American Airlines A321neo first class mood lighting
I like the mood lighting though! It doesn’t have anything to do with seat comfort, but it does help to create a chill atmosphere IMHO.

The arrival into Dallas

Just as I was chewing on my last stale corn nut, the Captain made his announcement about the descent into Dallas Fort Worth. I washed it down with my last shot of water, and then stuck my nose to the window to watch the always-interesting approach into one of the busiest airports in the entire world.

It was a nice distraction from all the thinking I was doing about how plain these first class seats really are.

Descent into the Dallas airport
Based on how long they held us before departing Nashville, I’ll bet anything there’s a least one air traffic controller muttering expletives right about now as we appear on their screen. “They just keep coming!”
Landing at DFW airport
“American 1100 you’re clear to land. And make it snappy! I may or may not have lost track of 6 airplanes in my airspace.”
Landing at DFW airport American Airlines A321neo
Welcome to Dallas!
Taxiing at DFW airport
Don’t go celebratin’ the fact that we didn’t have to use our life vests on this flight. Anything can happen between here and the moment they turn off the seatbelt sign.
DFW gate A25 jet bridge
Ok, now you can celebrate.
Unbuckling seat belt American Airlines A321neo first class seat
Other than the slow service (and featureless seats), I quite enjoyed this flight!
American Airlines A321neo first class seat back pocket
I even didn’t mind the lack of video screens all that much. I certainly would have preferred them, but I certainly didn’t need them.
American Airlines A321neo first class aisle
Don’t go telling American Airlines I said that, ok? You can tell them I’m a big fan of the graphite seats though. Oh, and that maybe fresher snacks would be nice. Thanks. 
SANspotter DFW airport jet bridge
By the way, does anyone know what the minimum connection times at DFW are these days? My connecting flight to SAN has just started boarding but I was hoping to have time do a couple laps around the airport on the train. It’s tough being a giant dork sometimes!

Pros and cons of first class on the American Airlines A321neo

I’m extremely disappointed that American Airlines didn’t dare to do something different with their new generation of narrowbody aircraft. The interiors of these A321neos are exactly the same as what they have been putting in their other narrowbody aircraft for years.

It honestly looks and feels like they were trying to do it as cheaply as possible – which isn’t a good look when considering that both Delta and United are going all-in on their new (feature rich) domestic first class products. It wasn’t a completely bad experience though. Here are all the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Despite how basic they are, the first class seats on the A321neo look great. The gray seat covering is quite stylish in my opinion, and it’s a nice change of pace from blue (which most other airlines can’t seem to get away from).
  • The power outlets and phone/tablet holders makes taking advantage of the streaming in-flight entertainment service extremely convenient. Honestly, I didn’t even mind the lack of video screens.
  • Seat recline was decent. And since there aren’t any video screens in the seat back head rests, you won’t have to worry about not being able to see the screen when the person in front of you slams their seat back.
  • The flight attendant working the first class cabin on my flight was phenomenally kind and helpful. She was also extremely slow, but her kindness made up for it.

Cons

  • Even though I just told you that I didn’t mind the lack of video screens, I’m willing to bet that a lot of other people will. Come on American Airlines! There’s no excuse in this day and age to skimp on video screens for a premium product such as this.
  • If you’re the kind of person who could sleep like a baby on a slab of stone, you’re going to like these seats. Otherwise, you are going to hate them (to the point where you’ll feel urge to expel profanity like you’ve never expelled it before).
  • The snacks were stale. I forgot to check the expiration date on the bag of my corn nuts, but I wouldn’t have been surprised if they went past their prime before the start of the second Obama administration.

Comments (2)

  1. Peter

    July 20, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      July 21, 2022

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