American Airlines Flagship Business Class: worth it or not?

American Airlines Flagship Business Class: worth it or not?

Still, after all these years, I consider American Airlines Flagship Business Class to be one of the best ways to fly between New York and San Francisco (and Los Angeles).

Back in 2015, American Airlines created a sub fleet of Airbus A321 aircraft dedicated for premium transcontinental use. These aircraft, designated as the A321T, are equipped with their Flagship First and Business Class seats, which are some of the best in the business (no pun intended).

I recently had the opportunity to fly from JFK to SFO in Flagship Business, and despite my highly annoying habit of choosing the wrong meal choice, it was nothing short of fantastic. Spoiler alert: avoid the “oatmeal” at all costs.

AA179
New York, NY (JFK) – San Francisco, CA
Friday, January 21, 2022
Aircraft: A321T
Registration: N101NN
Duration: 6 hours 16 minutes
Seat: 9F (Flagship Business Class)

American Airlines A321T side view illustration
American Airlines A321T side view illustration by Norebbo.com
aa179 flight track
Our route from JFK to SFO today as AA179.

The video

For anyone who isn’t familiar with Flagship Business Class on the American Airlines A321T, it may not be all that tempting to click on a video review about it. I mean, how good could American airlines business class possibly be?

Long story short, this was such an excellent flight that I ended up recording too much footage (and most of it went unused). I felt like I just had to record everything, but in the end, I did my best to whittle it down into something fun, informative, and digestible:

american airlines flagship business class review video

As always, I get the music from my videos from my buds over at Epidemic Sound. The song in the first half of this video was “The Arcade” by Lofive, and the songs that I used in the second half was “Hesitating” by DAJANA.

My full review of American Airlines A321T Flagship Business Class from New York to San Francisco

If you’re an OG subscriber to the SANspotter blog, you already know that this wasn’t my first time on an American Airlines A321T. I actually got to try out Flagship First Class way back in 2015 (shortly after it was unveiled) on a transcontinental flight from LAX to JFK.

This time, I’m doing it in business class on a flight from JFK to SFO. However, this isn’t regular business class. This is Flagship Business Class, which means having complementary lounge access, gourmet food in-flight, and a semi-private lie flat seat. It’s a pretty nice way to travel actually.

American Airlines check in terminal 8 JFK
If you were expecting American Airlines staff to be tripping over themselves in a desperate attempt to assist you (a Flagship Business Class customer) in any way possible as soon as you arrive…your expectations were set far too high.
American Airlines premium check in terminal 8 JFK
Sorry, you’re going to have to stand in line with everyone else.

Do you get lounge access with American Airlines Flagship Business Class?

Absolutely! All American Airlines Flagship Business Class passengers traveling between New York and San Francisco (or Los Angeles) have complementary access to the JFK Flagship Lounge.

American Airlines Flagship lounge JFK
Whether or not you consider this to be a “Flagship” lounge probably depends on how well-traveled you are. Since it’s been a while since I’ve last been in an airline lounge, I’d give this about an 8 out of 10 on the “yo, this is dope” scale. 

Here in JFK, the Flagship Lounge is located near the security checkpoint at Terminal 8. It’s an absolutely fantastic place to hang out before a flight, and if you want more details, I highly recommend reading my full review of it.

What terminal does American Airlines premium transcontinental flights use at JFK?

All American Airlines flights out of JFK depart and arrive at terminal 8. There are no dedicated gates for the premium transcontinental flights on the A321T, so do be sure to check the flight information displays around the terminal to find out where your flight will be departing from.

It should also be noted that minimum connection times at JFK are low if you’re coming in one one American Airlines flight and going out on another. You could probably swing a 30-minute connection if you didn’t care about lounge access (or having to pee).

American Airlines airplane sculpture terminal 8 JFK
Why is it so hard to resist taking a picture of this sculpture every time I arrive at Terminal 8? It’s exactly the same as it was the last 3 times I’ve been here. 
American Airlines terminal 8 JFK interior
Speaking of interesting pictures…where the heck is everyone this morning?
terminal 8 JFK empty
Seriously. This is starting to freak me out.

The boarding process for flight number 179 to San Francisco

My flight San Francisco this morning was departing out of gate 46, which was directly across from the gate where I got to fly Cathay Pacific business class from New York to Vancouver in 2019.

American Airlines a321t n101nn
That’s my ride to SFO this morning! And wouldn’t you know it, it’s the exact same aircraft that I got to try Flagship First Class on back in 2015. Nice to see you again, N101NN.
Gate 46 terminal 8 jfk
Sorry, I can’t think of a clever rhyme for this pic like I did for the last one. It’s just gate 46, that’s all.

It was a very chill and relaxing vibe in the gate area when they initially called for the boarding process to begin. With just a handful of people standing around waiting to get on board, it was pretty obvious that this was going to be an extremely empty flight this morning.

American Airlines flagship business class boarding pass
American Airlines Flagship Business Class boarding pass (and you thought the rhymes were over).
American Airlines a321t forward boarding door
I can’t tell if she’s really anxious to board this plane, or get as far away from me (and my stupid rhymes) as fast as possible. Probably a bit of both IMHO.
American Airlines flagship first class
Don’t get excited. This is Flagship First Class, and we must walk through it to reach the lowly business class cabin.

My first impressions of the American Airlines A321T Flagship Business Class seats

Having already tried the Flagship First class product on this aircraft many years ago, I never felt tempted to try out business class. Not that I thought it was bad or anything, but I just didn’t think it would be able to compare to competitors products such as Delta One on the 767-400 or the JetBlue Mint Suites.

Once I made my way through the first class cabin and got my first look at Flagship Business, the very first thing that I noticed was the obscene amount of legroom. It actually reminded me a lot of the old Global First seats on the United 747-400.

American Airlines A321T Flagship business class
American Airlines A321T Flagship Business Class. It’s not very often you’ll see an A321 with lie flat business class seats!
American Airlines a321t flagship business class seats
If these Flagship Business Class seats look familiar, it’s because lots of other airlines use them as well. Not only will Delta flyers immediately recognize these as 757-200 Delta One seats, my Mexican amigos will recognize these as Aeromexico 787-8 business class seats.
American Airlines a321t business class
Who remembers Northwest Airlines World Business Class? The clamshell vibe I’m getting is taking me right back to 2007.
American Airlines a321t business class leg room
Legroom shouldn’t be an issue for most people. Stretch out and be proud of your obnoxious choice of footwear!
American Airlines a321t business class power outlets
The location of the plugs and power outlets is a bit inconvenient. It’s like they did that on purpose to punish us for not choosing first class instead.
American Airlines a321t business class seat controls
I can’t think of any other premium business class seat that provides each passenger with full access to the seat controls of the person sitting next to them. Oh the fun that could be had…
American Airlines a321t business class video system remote control
At least the video system remote is well-protected. **** with my seat all you want, but keep your paws off my choice of entertainment!

Is American Airlines Flagship Business Class better than domestic first class?

Yes, the Flagship business class seats on the A321T are far superior to domestic first class seats on any other American Airlines aircraft.

Unlike American Airlines domestic first class, Flagship Business Class seats are extremely spacious and are capable of lying fully flat. Not only that, you’ll be given a fluffy pillow and a thick blanket to keep you warm. And as you will soon see, the food is of much higher quality than it is in domestic first class.

SANspotter selfie American Airlines flagship business class
Transcontinental Flagship Business Class is a completely different product than domestic first class. Never mind that (in this instance) “business class” is better than “first class” – it’s not even in the same league. 
American Airlines flagship business class a321 interior
To make things even more confusing, I find American Airlines 777-200 business class to be better than Flagship Business. Regardless of how messed up the naming is for all these premiums seats, all you need to know is that this beats the snot out of domestic first class.
SANspotter reading American Airlines a321 saftey card
These inconsistent product names hurt my head when I think about them too much. Thankfully, some light reading is all that’s usually needed to dull the pain…

Do they provide amenity kits?

Yes, you will get an amenity kit in American Airlines Flagship Business Class. It’s not as nice as the one you’ll get up in Flagship First, but I appreciate the fact that they do it at all. They certainly don’t have to. 

Anyway, these amenity kits were located at every seat upon boarding (next to a full bottle of water). Here are some pics showing the contents:

Shinola amenity kits American Airlines flagship business class
Shinola amenity kits? Nice. I think? Truthfully, I’m fashionably ignorant, so I’m just going to assume this is something good.
American Airlines transcontinental business class amenity kit contents
Everything one would need for a 6 hour flight across the country. Although (in the current climate) how cool would a face mask with an American Airlines logo on it be? I’d totally rock one of those.

The departure out of JFK

Taking off from JFK can either be really exciting really boring. It all depends on what runway is in use. This morning, they were launching departures off of runway 4L – which isn’t bad if you’re seated on the right hand side of the aircraft (since you’ll get a nice view of the terminals during the climb).

However, since I was seated on the left-hand side of the aircraft, all I got was views of pretty much nothing. It was still a beautiful morning for flying though.

American Airlines safety video
Anyone who has flown American Airlines in the past year is very familiar with the stern yet hypnotic tone of this woman’s voice.
American Airlines a321 pushback from gate JFK
Her tone of voice is so stern, actually, that I was worried that I’d get yelled at for turning my head away and looking out the window for a sec. “Hey! The idiot in 9F! Look at me when I’m taking to you!”
American Airlines a321 takeoff from runway 4L at JFK
Be sure to watch the video (embedded below) if these static pics of the taxi and takeoff just isn’t going to do it for you.

american airlines a321t takeoff jfk

What is video entertainment like in American Airlines transcontinental business class?

It had been so long since I had last been on an A321T that I completely forgot what the video entertainment was like. For what it’s worth, the American Airlines video entertainment software is typically good if you’re accessing it via a large and responsive screen.

Thankfully, the video screens here in Flagship transcontinental business class are both large and responsive, and it didn’t take long to find something really good (and admittedly mindless) to watch.

American Airlines video entertainment home screen
The first thing you’ll need to do is choose your language. She seems awfully satisfied with my choice, doesn’t she?
American Airlines video entertainment screens and menus
Just a sampling of what the menus and screens are like. And never mind the fact that the map screen is showing our destination as “LAX.” I’m going to assume that the pilots are working with more accurate data in the cockpit.
American Airlines video entertainment remote control
Speaking of tech failure…my remote control didn’t work. Which, if I’m being honest, makes this image of a proud American Airlines employee more condescending than it is comforting.
American Airlines flagship business class Bang & Olufsen noise canceling headphones
I’ve got nothing bad to say about the Bang & Olufsen noise canceling headphones though. These were fantastic!

How good is the food in Flagship Business Class?

If there’s one thing a American Airlines does right on these premium transcontinental routes, it’s the food. The cabin crew handed out full menus while on the ground back at JFK, which was nice, but I pre-selected my meal on the American Airlines website when I booked the ticket.

American Airlines flagship business class menu cover
Now we’re getting to the good stuff!
American Airlines flagship business class wine list
The wine list. I don’t know the first thing about wine, so I’ll leave it up to you to decide if this is good or not.
American Airlines flagship business class breakfast menu
The breakfast menu. As you’re about to see, I made a poor choice.

The breakfast options on today’s flight looked really great. However, I decided to be a responsible adult this morning by going with the oatmeal. Turns out it was a bad choice, since it was slathered in a syrupy sugar “goop” which pretty much negated any health benefits and I was hoping to achieve.

American Airlines flagship business class drinks and snack
First up was drinks and a light snack. If you’re new to SANspotter airline reviews, you should know that I’m boring AF and water (or Diet Coke) is about as wild and crazy as I get when it comes to drinks. I’m sorry!
American Airlines flagship business class fruit plate
At first I thought the butter was for the mango and strawberries…but then they came around with a bread basket (thank god).
American Airlines flagship business class oatmeal
When you order the “oatmeal” but get served a plate of highly sweetened mush instead.
American Airlines flagship business class chia coconut oatmeal
I know it was labeled as “coconut chia oatmeal,” but was it wrong of me to think that I’d be served a bowl of steel cut oats with sprinkles of chia and coconut on top? Shame on me!
SANspotter selfie American Airlines transcontinental business class meal
Ok, it was good, I’ll admit it, but I was was trying to be healthy this morning dang it!

How private are the transcontinental business class seats?

My biggest gripe about business class on the A321T is the way the seats are staggered. The aisle seat is positioned slightly behind the window seat, which means the person sitting in the aisle can overlook the shoulder of the person seated at the window. If you hate the feeling of being watched all the time, you may not be comfortable in a window seat on these aircraft.

SANspotter selfie American Airlines transcontinental business class seat
Thanking my lucky stars to have an open seat next to me.
Working in American Airlines flagship business class
Think twice about working on sensitive projects if you’re in a window seat (since the person in the aisle seat will easily be able to see your laptop / tablet screen). I had nothing to worry about though, since I was only working on my stupid Delta 767-300 first class review.

That said, having staggered seats means that you won’t be sitting directly beside your seat mate. For those that don’t like to engage in mindless chitchat with complete strangers, this is a godsend.

Are the Flagship Business seats comfortable for sleeping?

You bet they are. While I don’t find the Flagship Business Class seats on the A321T to be as comfortable as the ones found in American Airlines 787-9 business class, they are decently comfortable.

The fact that I slept like a baby across the entire western half of the country says everything you need to know about how good these seats are. Especially combined with the blankets and pillows they provide. They were so thick that it almost became too warm at one point. Otherwise, it was extremely comfortable.

American Airlines flagship business class blankets and pillow packaging
There are few things more excessively extravagant in life than ripping open the blanket and pillow packaging in a premium airline cabin.
American Airlines flagship business class bedding
Do I need all this stuff? Not really. Do I want it? Oh heck yeah I do.
SANspotter demonstrating American Airlines flagship business class lie flat seat
Of course I always sleep with my hat and mask on. Why do you ask?
American Airlines a321t flagship business class lie flat seat
The blankets and pillows they provide are a perfect compliment to the lie flat seats. Although I was slightly too warm, it didn’t stop me from sleeping like a baby over the western half of the US.

Final thoughts about the American Airlines transcontinental Flagship Business Class product

As this flight comes to an end, it’s important to let you know that this is absolutely a business class seat that you should seek out if you can find a decent price for it. No, it’s not the perfect business class experience. Hack, I’d even prefer the old JetBlue mint seat over this – if only for the added privacy and better food.

Still, I’m very glad that I had a chance to experience this. It was a lot better than I expected it would be, and I was thinking pretty good thoughts as the in flight service came to an end and we began the descent into San Francisco.

American Airlines a321t flagship business class lavatory
If you’ve ever wondered what a “Flagship” lavatory looks like…here you go.
Incorrect data in flight map
Seems as if the computer still isn’t letting go of the LAX thing.
Flying over snowy Sierra Nevada mountains
Let’s just hope they are using more accurate GPS data up in the cockpit…
A321 landing at SFO
That’s more like it. Welcome to San Francisco!
American Airlines transcontinental business class arrival at SFO
Can someone please remind me not to choose the “oatmeal” next time I fly American Airlines transcontinental business class? Thanks in advance.
American Airlines terminal SFO airport
Other than choosing the wrong meal, this ended up being a really great flight.
American Airlines a321t business class cabin
The only caption I can think of for this pic is how it reminds me of United 747-400 upper deck business class. The size of the cabin, the seats…it’s eerily similar!
SANspotter selfie SFO jet bridge
Any flight experience that reminds me of the 747 is a good one I guess. I’m just going to end it there!

Pros and cons of American Airlines A321T Flagship Business Class

My ultimate summary of this business class experience is this: it’s a fantastically comfortable and luxurious way to fly across the country as long as you can get a decent price for it.

I paid $636 for this one-way ticket from JFK to SFO, which is about what I would expect to pay for a product such as this. And if I’m being honest, I’m not sure that I’d feel comfortable paying anything more. This pros and cons list will explain why:

Pros

  • Most importantly, these A321T’s are the nicest A321’s in the fleet (by a long shot). Don’t believe me? Check out my review of American Airlines A321neo first class, and you’ll see that it’s a completely different experience.
  • Having complementary access to the American Airlines Flagship Lounge is a killer benefit. The Flagship lounges are absolutely fantastic.
  • The leg room in these business class seats is phenomenal – even by international business class standards.
  • If you’re in the window seat and you feel like you need to get out and use the lavatory, don’t worry: it’s easy to step over the legs of your reclining seatmate.
  • The quality of the food is what you would expect for a premium business class experience. Meals are served in courses, with tablecloths and actual “fancy pants” dish ware.
  • The blankets and pillows they provide are some of the best that I’ve ever experienced on an airplane.

Cons

  • I’m really not a fan of the way the seats are staggered. Yes, I appreciate being separated from my seat mate, but if you’re in the window seat, chances are pretty good that you’ll feel like the person in the aisle seat is looking over your shoulder the entire time. Because they are.
  • The cabin crew on my flight seemed to completely disappear after the meal service. I didn’t see them coming through the cabin very often refilling drinks for the second half of the flight.

Comments (4)

  1. Peter

    June 22, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      June 23, 2022
  2. Peter

    September 6, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      September 7, 2022

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