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

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

I left the LAX 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.

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
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 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.
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 Flagship 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. See those seats behind the galley? That’s American Airlines Flagship Business Class (which is quite good, I might add).
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.

Comments (8)

  1. Tim

    August 18, 2016
    • SANspotter

      August 18, 2016
  2. Lisa

    March 22, 2017
    • SANspotter

      March 23, 2017
  3. Chris

    November 3, 2017
    • SANspotter

      November 3, 2017
  4. Dale

    May 24, 2021
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      May 24, 2021

Give a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.