Finally! United A321neo first class is what we’ve all been waiting for.

Finally! United A321neo first class is what we’ve all been waiting for.

Here we go. This United A321neo first class review represents the first time in a while that I’ve actually felt giddy about writing a review of a domestic first class product. Sure, I’ve had some interesting experiences recently, but this was the big one.

United went big with an all new first class seat design for the A321neo. It’s a huge improvement over their existing domestic first class seat, with class leading features such as privacy screens and 4K (13”) displays.

It’s hardly anything I’d call revolutionary though. The lack of under seat storage space almost makes me yearn for the seat of old. Damn them straight to hell for making me think pleasant thoughts about the seats I love making immature jokes about.

Phoenix, AZ (PHX) – Chicago, IL (ORD)
Wednesday, January 17, 2024
Aircraft: A321-271NX
Registration: N14502
Duration: 2 hours 59 minutes
Seat: 4A (Frist Class)

united a321neo side view n14502
United Airlines A321neo (N14502) side view illustration by
ua1774 flight track
Our route from Phoenix to Chicago today as UA1774.

My full review of United A321neo first class from Phoenix to Chicago

So yeah. I was feeling giddy about this. While I did have a lot of nice things to say about United 737 MAX 9 first class a short while back, it felt ‘transitional’ to me. The seats on the A321neo are what those seats should have been IMHO.

Arrival at the airport

I arrived at the Phoenix sky Harbor International Airport on a flight from San Diego two hours before the scheduled departure time to Chicago. Long story short: hanging out inside Terminal 3 at PHX gets old after about an hour and a half. I timed this one just right.

Entrance to E gates Phoenix sky Harbor international Airport
Welcome to the E gates (Terminal 3) at the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport! As you can see, I couldn’t resist kicking off this review with a little ‘hotdog in a hallway’ action.
Inside terminal 3 concourse E Phoenix airport
It continues (because the gate for my flight to Chicago is located all the way at the end of the E Concourse). Why is it always at the end?
SANspotter sitting in terminal 3 PHX
I only made it halfway there before I decided to pull over and take a break. Walking to the very end of any airport terminal (when there are perfectly good gates right at the beginning) is total bulls**t IMHO.
PHX Gate E9 information display United Airlines flight to Chicago
Actually, it’s not always bulls**t. Especially when the brand new aircraft you’re scheduled to fly on is showing an on-time departure. Let’s go!
United Airlines A321neo pulling up to gate E9 PHX airport
It’s here! It’s here! My apologies to the PHX janitorial team for slobbering all over the windows.
United Airlines A321neo parked at gate E9 Phoenix sky harbor international airport
Well, considering how excited I was to see my very first United A321neo, let’s just say they’re lucky it was just slobber.
United Airlines PHX ORD first class mobile boarding pass
PHX-ORD? Check. Seat 4A? Copy that. Flight number 1774? Roger. This is my kind of boarding pass.

The boarding process for flight number 1774 to Chicago

United Airlines has a not-so-insignificant operation at PHX. There were multiple flights being loaded at adjacent gates just as they started the boarding process to Chicago, which required paying very close attention to the gate agents hawking instructions at E9 (and E9 only). I could have never forgiven myself for missing my shot at the UA A321neo!

Passengers lining up the board united flight to Chicago at the Phoenix airport
Well well well. The gate agent just announced that there will only be 92 passengers onboard today’s flight. I guess that means the United A321neo is a complete failure, all future deliveries will be canceled, and this particular aircraft will be sent to the scrap yard immediately after arrival in Chicago. It was good while it lasted I guess.
United A321neo up close Phoenix airport
But not before I got to play ‘hotdog in a hallway’ again. On a (far) more mature note, the United A321neo looks fantastic up close IMHO.
United A321neo main boarding door entrance
He’s not even looking at how cool that bulkhead wall looks! I’ve only got one foot in the door, and I’m already liking this a lot (even if some people couldn’t care less).
United A321neo first class
Welcome, my friends, to United A321neo first class (and the all new Airbus Airspace interior). While I’m at it, I might as well welcome United Airlines to the 2020s. They’re, like, a real airline now.
United A321neo first class seats
First class seats 4A and B, baby! Those of you who just came from my United 737-800 first class review are no doubt weeping tears of joy with me at your eyeballs dance across this pic.

The seats

In addition to all new seats, United’s A321neos feature the new Airbus Airspace cabin. It looks (and smells!) fantastic. I especially like how the seats look like an evolution of the first class seats you’ll find on the 737 MAX aircraft.

Once you’re seated, you’ll get slapped right across the face with a color scheme ripped straight out of the older Airbus aircraft. You can check out my United A320 first class review to see exactly what I’m talking about…

United A321neo first class window seat
Huge video screens and wide drink trays, oh my!
United A321neo first class under seat storage space
Houston, we have a problem. Seems as if my puny little backpack won’t fit all the way under the seat.
SANspotter sitting in United A321neo first class
For a guy who always utilizes the under seat storage space, this is an issue worth noting. It ain’t no fun when fitting puny things into tight spaces isn’t an option.
United A321neo first class 13" 4K video screens
Wanna know what’s not puny? These huge 13″ 4K video screens!
United A321neo first class privacy screens
I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure that these seat dividers / privacy screens were her favorite feature. “God, he’s so annoying.”
United A321neo first class power outlets and entertainment system remote control
Also located between the seats are power outlets and the remote control for the video entertainment system.
United A321neo first class USB A and C power outlets and dual audio ports
DUAL audio ports? That’s pretty sweet – and something I can very much used to my advantage to make things right with my seatmate.
United A321neo first class adjustable headrest
Ok. I may be willing to share video entertainment experiences with her, but there’s no way I’m sharing my adjustable headrest. This is all for me.
United A321neo first class under seat control box for the entertainment system
“C**k sucking motherf******g s****y a** son of a b****h!” Translation: The location of the control box for the entertainment system is making the already tight under seat storage space most inconvenient.

The departure out of Phoenix

Sub freezing temperatures in Chicago? Who cares. Brand new aircraft (with loads of potential hiccups to sort out)? Big whoop. Somehow they managed to push us off the gate exactly on time. I was both pleasantly surprised and amused by this.

PHX gate E9 jet bridge
So long, gate E9. May you attach yourself to another shiny new A321neo soon.
United A321neo pushback from gate at PHX
Believe it or not, things are feeling a bit deadly at the moment. Not only am I thrilled to death about our on time pushback from the gate, it’s currently 14°F in Chicago (which definitely qualifies as life ending).
United A321neo first class passengers
“Why won’t he just die already?”
United A321neo lining up for runway 7L PHX
Runway 7L it is. A good time at PHX it was.
View of PHX airport terminals after takeoff in a United A321neo
What a view! A view of how dominant both Southwest an American Airlines are here at PHX, that is.
View of Phoenix metro area upon takeoff from PHX
And you thought the views were over. Phoenix never disappoints!

By the way, I also recorded a full video of the taxi and takeoff. Not only did the views not disappoint, the sound of the A321neo at full song didn’t either:

In-flight entertainment

In flight entertainment is one of the best things about the United A321neo first class experience. The high resolution (4K) 13 inch video screens look like something you’d find in international business class.

The user interface is highly customizable, and you can set things up exactly how you like it. You can even pair your wireless headphones via Bluetooth. It’s arguably the best domestic US first class in flight entertainment system I’ve ever had the pleasure of tinkering with.

United A321neo first class in-flight entertainment what to expect screen
Before doing anything, you’ll be greeted with are expectations. First we’ll depart. Then we’ll eat. Finally, we’ll arrive. I like how they gloss over the fact that we’ll be suffering the consequences of the lack of underseat storage space for the entire flight as well.
United A321neo first class in-flight entertainment defining ambitions screen
Next, we need to define our ambitions. ‘Obtain more underseat storage space’ wasn’t an option (sadly).
United A321neo first class in-flight entertainment welcome screen
The final step in the initialization process was confirmation of our next stop. Just show me Family Guy already!
United A321neo first class in-flight entertainment movies and TV shows
To be honest, I quite liked all the customization and personalization stuff I had to sit through before I got to the catalog of TV shows and movies. Whoever designed this UI deserves a hearty “attaboy” smack on the butt.
SANspotter connecting AirPods Pro to in-flight entertainment system United A321neo first class
Pardon me while I pair my AirPods Pro to the in-flight entertainment system (via Bluetooth)…
United A321neo first class entertainment system remote control
Unfortunately, Bluetooth connectivity is *not* a feature of this handy trackpad-enabled remote control. Not to because they couldn’t figure out how to do it – it’s just that they just don’t trust your thievin’ a** to leave it behind when you deplane, that’s all.
United A321neo first class entertainment map screen
Two minutes later, and I’ve already forgotten about the remote control being trackpad enabled. Manipulating the world with my fingertips is just too much fun.
United A321neo first class tray table personal device holder
Here’s a pic of two things you didn’t see in my United 737-900ER first class review: 1). Personal device holders built into the tray tables, and 2). An indication of not only an on-time arrival, but an early arrival. I like seeing progress.

The food

Oh United. You’re trying, and it’s hard to fault you for that. There were five choices for lunch on this particular flight, and I pre-ordered my selection two days before departure. Food quality is good (maybe slightly lower than what you could expect at a decent restaurant). Portions were generous, and the service pleasant. Typical United.

Full size cans of soda United A321neo first class
< Pablo Escobar voice > “Coke please.” < /Pablo Escobar voice >
United A321neo first class warm nuts
Don’t worry. I won’t use my Ron Jeremy voice to describe these warm (body-temperature) nuts. All I’m going to say is that I appreciated them just as much as that full-size can of Diet Coke.
United A321neo first class lunch tray
Feedin’ time at the A321neo corral (United Airlines style).
United A321neo first class cheesy pasta lunch main course
Remember that cheesy pasta I recently had in American Airlines 737-800 first class? This wasn’t quite as good as that.
United A321neo first class salad with lunch
Remember the salad? This wasn’t as good as that was either.
United A321neo first class lunch dessert
Surely you remember the desert. This is actually better. Go United!
SANspotter eating lunch in United A321neo first class
It’s fun to pretend that food quality actually matters to me. The honest truth is that (if I’m hungry enough) I’ll shovel anything in my face like a total zombie.
Eating everything in United A321neo first class
I was hungry enough.

Seat (and cabin) comfort

One of the things I was looking forward to testing out the most was seat comfort. Are these any better than the older style United domestic first class seats? Well… sort of.

The amount of seat recline is generous. The amount of foot space is not. The seat dividers / privacy screens do make a difference for overall comfort IMHO. Basically, I like anything that makes it feel more like an enclosed space.

United A321neo first class seat recline
Looks like someone had a little fun with the recline button, eh? Can’t say that I don’t blame them.
United A321neo first class seat recline aisle access
Well, at least right up to the point where I had to get out to use the lavatory. Fair warning: if you slam your seat all the way back, I will “accidentally” bump the s**t out of it as I struggle to get out. Fair is fair!
United A321neo first class lavatory
Speaking of the lavatory, it’s actually a little more spacious in here than it is out there. Having some decent foot space for the first time in a couple hours felt great.
United A321neo first class legroom
It eventually got to the point where I had to pull my backpack out from underneath the seat in front of me (just to give my feet room to roam).
SANspotter adjusting the head rest United A321neo first class
Adjusting my head rest (while cursing the lack of foot space). I’m only a size 10.5 for crying out loud!

The arrival into Chicago O’Hare

6 minutes! Can you believe it? Never in a million years would I have guessed that this flight would’ve landed a full six minutes early.

The weather wasn’t exactly favorable for orderly operation of heavy equipment (which the Airbus A321neo certainly qualifies as). Not only that, this brand new airplane (which I assumed would be cursed with gremlins) flew all the way to Chicago without even a hiccup. I need to have more faith in the airlines I think. Maybe they do know what they’re doing.

Sunset over the frozen northern plains in a United A321neo
Mother Nature porn. Never in a million years what I have thought that I would type those words into my keyboard (at least in that order lol), but here we are.
Flying over downtown Chicago at night
Roughly 45 minutes later (on our downwind approach over the city). How does that Frank Sinatra song go again?
United A321neo approaching O'Hare airport over downtown Chicago
Oh, that’s right: “Start spreadin’ the news, I’m leavin’ today, I want to be a part of it, New York, New York…”
United A321neo final approach to O'Hare airport at night
Current temperature: 10°F. Foot situation: sucky as ever.
United A321neo landing at O'Hare airport
Welcome to Chicago!
O'Hare airport at night in January
I think it’s safe to assume that this A321neo (and that 737) were hoping to fly for Hawaiian Airlines instead. F Chicago in January.
Gate C11 jet bridge Chicago O'Hare airport
Holy crap! We’re pulling up gate C11!!
United A321neo first class deplaning
What’s so special about gate C11? Absolutely nothing. I just wanted to end this review on a bang, that’s all.

Pros and cons of the United A321neo first class experience

Make no mistake about it. This is an all new domestic first class experience for United that will set the stage for the next 10 to 15 years (at least). It needed to be good, and I’m happy to report that it is. Mostly. I just don’t think it’s quite as good as Delta A321neo first class – which I still consider to be the best recliner-style non lie-flat domestic first class seat in the US.


  • The 13 inch 4K video screens are brilliant. It’s essentially the kind of thing you’d typically see an international business class.
  • I like the privacy screens between the seats. I could see how they might be a little annoying for couples traveling together, but they’re a godsend for solo travelers IMHO.
  • Having access to multiple USB A and C ports on longer flights sure comes in handy.


  • Underseat storage space is very limited. Pack accordingly!
  • Seat recline is generous (which is good!), but it makes it difficult for window seat passengers to squeeze out into the aisle.

Comments (12)

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    February 7, 2024
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      February 7, 2024
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    February 13, 2024
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