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  • Konrad Tillman

Quick Review: American Airlines First Class A321T From New York-Los Angeles

Updated: Mar 10

Intro


Before continuing my Cuba review trip, I wanted to share a quick report of the AA A321T in First Class. Since the business review will be coming out next week, this is the perfect opportunity to compare the two products. This product I have flown in many times, but the most recent (this one) time was in September!


All in all, the best way to cross the USA is on the A321T. Value for points-wise, it is also the best option. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement which I hope is made when the new transcon configuration is put into service.


Route- New York (JFK)-Los Angeles (LAX)

Seat- 1A

Flight Number- AA1

Date- September 19th 2023

Flight Time: 5 Hours 27 Minutes

Price Paid- 43.5K Miles+5.60$


How I Booked


Getting across the US is horrible for redeeming your points. Delta charges north of 100K sky pesos, United starts at about 60+K Miles for a 5.5-hour flight (direct) and Jetblue, don't even get me started on Jetblue. The one program that can offer some value is American Airlines. Close to departure, AA will often dump the saver prices if there are seats available, in my case this happened the morning of the flight at 2 am...


A reference for saver prices on this route

I ended up booking into First Class for a total of 43.5K Miles and 5.60$ in taxes and fees. There is much better value for your points on American Airlines (https://www.jettoajet.com/post/the-5-best-sweet-spots-to-redeem-aa-miles) but this is the best way to fly across the US on points. Business Class can be booked for 31K Miles but First Class gives you access to the Chelsea Lounge!


The trick for booking AA saver space on this route. Check the seat maps before and be flexible. I rarely see a day (there are flights almost every hour) where no saver spaces are available at one time or another in the week leading up.


Check-In/The Chelsea Lounge


When flying First Class on this transcon route, you get the same check-in as someone flying BA First Class. Door 1 at JFK will lead you straight to the First Class check-in hall.


Once checked in, a member of staff will escort you to the front of the queue and head straight to the Chelsea Lounge.


While a full detailed review will be coming next week (since on my last trip I was somehow granted access), I headed to the Chelsea Lounge 1.5 hours before boarding for this flight. I had some French Toast, which was simply phenomenal. Top of the line, something I would expect at a restaurant in the city.


MHMMM

This lounge isn't anything like another Flagship First Class lounge. It only seats about 60-70 people, but I love it. They serve Krug and Ruinart, my two favorite champagnes!


Boarding


Boarding commenced right on time and we made our way down the jetbridge at about 6:30 am.


Day tripping New York is also not for the feinted heart😅

Once onboard the crew seemed a little tired and cold, with a lot of American carriers, I think the crew is hit or miss. The big telling point for me on the crew is whether my jacket is proactively offered to be hung up. I'm not too fussed if it's not, it just usually helps me understand how the crew is going to be on this flight.


We pushed back a few minutes ahead of schedule.


Buh bye New York

Making the long trek out to the runway... terminal 8 is a curse since you rarely get 13 departures.



We took off on time, and with a favorable wind, we would land early in Los Angeles.


I like the fact that the Shinola First Class amenity kit (I would be disappointed with this kit in long-haul F though) was placed next to my seat upon takeoff. There were also good-quality B&O headphones, which I didn't end up using but have used in the past.


The Flight


I usually look for a late-night departure for many reasons when flying this route. The first is the food. Breakfast is despicable, especially on US carriers if you don't like eggs. Since I had a lovely breakfast in the lounge, I told the crew I would skip the service. I chose a mimosa and sparkling water.


Perfect way to start a Wednesday morning

A cheese plate was also provided as I continued working on my final paper on Child Development. Speaking of, Wifi is outrageously expensive on a flight of this length. 29$ for 5 hours is absurd, but I needed it so I bought it!! I see your model here AA😉.



While the FA seemed to be quite cold upon boarding, he warmed up a little bit during the flight. My drinks were topped off constantly and snacks were offered. I was even offered a second cheese plate proactively.


I got 70/70 on this paper wooo

The bedding that American Airlines provides in "Flagship First" is also some of the best I have come across, but it is not as good as United Polaris. A plush pillow and a full duvet/blanket make for a comfy transcon hop.


For the rest of the flight, I read one of my favorite books, "The Comfort Crisis" by Michael Easter.



So What Are My Issues With This Product?


It all sounds quite good on paper from what I have written right? The only aspect that makes this product worthy of being called "First Class" is the Chelsea Lounge in New York. In the other direction, there isn't even a Flagship First Dining when originating in LA!

  1. The seats are old and battered, part of the seat is tearing off.

  2. The menu and catering are subpar. Even on lunch or dinner service flights, I find the food to be comparable to AA J to Europe.

  3. The 1-1 configuration is good, but the seats lack privacy, and it's the same exact seat as the 77W in Business Class.

  4. The service was okay in the end, but definitely not up to "First Class" standards.


Arrival


Soon enough we were on final descent into Los Angeles. My jacket was brought around to me 10 minutes before landing, without asking.


We touched down 25 minutes ahead of schedule.


Back to SoCal

Once we touched down, we had a short taxi to our gate. Seeing as I was seated in 1A, I was first off the plane. Running down the hallways, I entered my car service, bound for an 11 am class.



Final Thoughts


American Airlines offers one of the best ways to cross the American continent. Jetblue might have them beat in the new product, but it usually has only 1-2 frequencies per day. While the service could be better, the seats could be fresher, the food could have more quality; the flight was still pleasant especially since the First Class offering is cheaper than any other way to redeem points in business across the US+ if you can find Avios award space, it's even better. I look forward to seeing the upcoming offering of the new Transcon jets! Stay tuned for a full review of the Chelsea Lounge and the Business Class offering on the same jet next week!


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