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
Duration: 2 hours 59 minutes
Seat: 4A (Frist Class)
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.
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!
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…
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.