Review: American Airlines Transcontinental First Class A321T LAX-JFK

by TwoHeartsTraveling
american a321t first class cabin

Flight Info

Airline: American Airlines

Aircraft: Airbus 321T

Flight #: AA 10

Route: Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK)

Date: August 24th, 2018

Departure Time: 9:00pm

Arrival Time:  5:30am

Duration: 5 hours, 30 minutes

Cabin: First Class

Seats: 1A, 1F

Miles Used: 50K American Airlines miles per person

Taxes & Fees: $5.60 per person

Typical Cost to Purchase: $1400 (+ $460 JFK-MIA) (+$900 MIA-CUR)

Value: 5.5 cents/mile

 

American Airlines offers something a little more special on its premium domestic transcontinental routes. From Flagship First Check In to the Flagship Lounge and Flagship First Dining, the overall experience is something that you would normally expect from an international first class flight.

 

What are American Airlines Premium Transcontinental Routes?

Unfortunately as the airline industry has evolved, domestic first class flights within the US have left much to be desired. These flights lack the perks that you’d expect to see on premium international flights, such as private suites, lie-flat seats, extravagant food and champagne or in-flight showers. Instead expect a slightly wider than normal seat with a few extra inches of space and snacks slightly better than pretzels and peanuts (but not by much).

AA Domestic First Class Seat

However on transcontinental routes, things are different. These are considered premium routes by airlines, high volume, high revenue, and the flight times can reach over 6 hours which is about the time it takes to fly from JFK to the western side of Europe.

american a321t first class cabin

American Airlines has several of these premium transcon routes: LAX-JFK, LAX-BOX (only on A321T aircraft), SFO-JFK

 

Perks of American Airlines Trascon Flights

On these routes American Airlines flies an Airbus 321T (the T is for transcontinental). It can also be called a 32B. There are three classes of service, and lie-flat seats in business and first. Additionally business or first class travelers on these routes have additional perks such as access to the new AA Flagship Lounges and in-flight amenity kits. First class travelers on these routes also get access to Flagship First transcontinental perks such as Flagship First Check-In and Flagship First Dining.

The point is that these routes offer additional services and perks, but be prepared to pay up! Depending on flight times and availability, one way flights in business class range from $800 to $2500 and first class range from $1400 to nearly $3000!

AA Trans Con prices LAX JFK AA Trans Continental prices LAX JFK

How We Booked AA Transcon Flight

Jess and I used 50K AA miles each to fly from LAX to JFK on an AA transcon first class flight on our way to Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao.

The actual routing consisted of three flights:

  1. LAX-JFK on American Airlines A321T first class
  2. JFK-MIA on American Airlines 757 domestic first class (aka faux first class)
  3. MIA-CUR on American Airlines 738 business class (also faux)

The cost of the flights (mainly due to the transcon first class flight) would have been over $5000! This meant getting over 5 cents/point of value. Not too bad for AA miles these days.

You may be asking why we flew through JFK to get to Miami and why fly to Curacao when our main destination was Bonaire, but don’t worry I’ll get to that!

Bonaire has been on our bucket list since we started scuba diving several years ago. While there is only one small international airport on Bonaire (BON), both Aruba and Curacao islands are nearby and each have their own (also small) international airports (AUA) (CUR). Together the three islands make up the ABC islands of the caribbean.

When searching for award flights it’s always good to be flexible (both in dates and flight routes) and creative. Since we had a limited number of dates to choose from, we had to be flexible with flight routes and airports.

American Airlines did not have saver award availability to Bonaire, but did have open saver availability to Curacao. We took this as a chance to fly into Curacao and explore all three ABC islands!

I had also been wanting to try out AA’s transcon first class flight from Los Angeles to New York ever since we experienced business class on that route earlier this month. I was especially looking forward to the Flagship First Dining. There are only four airports in the US that have AA Flagship Lounges, and our routing took us to three of them!

One thing to note on these AA transcontinental routes is that while first saver awards are rare, business saver awards are virtually non existent! That means you can book a first saver award for less than a business class award (50K vs 52.5K points) because the business class seat will be an anytime award.

While on these routes I would argue there isn’t a whole lot more to be gained by flying first vs business, but if it requires less points I’ll take more space and first class dining anytime 😉

There was no saver availability from either of those three islands back to LAX, so we ended up using United Airlines miles for the return flight.

 

Flagship First Check In at LAX

The Flagship Check In is at the end of terminal 4 (close to terminal 5). It’s just past the “American priority” sign, and you will see a large red door labeled Flagship First Check-In.

AA Flagship First Check-In Entrance

The entire flagship check-in experience was very nice. There were several representatives ready to assist us and we were the only ones there.

I think my favorite part was the “expedited security access”. AA doesn’t explain this online and the experience likely varies depending on the airport. At LAX this meant having an AA employee escort us through a secret back elevator to the security checkpoint, going to the TSA pre-check line, skipping everyone in the TSA pre-check line, and then being escorted to the actual front of the x-ray machine.

We made it through LAX security in less than 3 minutes.

I’ve been escorted to the “expedited” security line before, but have never actually skipped that entire line all together. I must say it was quite an experience.

 

Flagship First Lounge

The Los Angeles International Airport Flagship Lounge was fantastic as always. In my opinion it is easily the best business class lounge in the entire US and when combined with the Flagship First Dining may top even the first class lounges.AA Flagship First Lounge LAX Main Area

The food and drink is on par with or even better than may of the famous international business class lounges (ex: Cathay Pacific in Hong Kong or Singapore Airlines in Singapore). AA Flagship First Lounge LAX Food AA Flagship First Lounge LAX Drink

Flagship First Dining

The Flagship First Dining was something I was particularly looking forward to experiencing. This is available to passengers flying first class on “qualifying international flights” (US to Asia, Australia, Europe, South America) and “qualifying transcontinental flights” (transcon routes above (JFK to LAX/SFO).

I reviewed the Flagship First Dining experience in a previous post,

but in short, the food and service was very good but not great. We actually enjoyed the appetizers and drinks more than the main course. However it was nice to have a sit down meal and quiet place to relax before our flight. It takes about one hour to fully enjoy the dining experience because it is a full sit-down meal.

LAX Flagship First Table

 

Boarding the A321T

I was really looking forward to this flight and taking some pictures so I made Jess wait in line with me so we could be first to board 🙂 There was one concierge key member who boarded before us. If you have given AA that much business over the years, ok you can board ahead of me.

 

We were offered the customary warm mixed nuts, towel and choice of drink (champagne). While this is usually not seen on domestic flights, it is common on international business and first class flights.AA First Class Champagne Cheers

 

American Airlines A321 Cabin and Seat

The AA Airbus 321T is a true 3 cabin aircraft with a total of 102 seats. The first class cabin has 5 rows arranged in a 1-1 configuration for 10 total seats.

american a321t first class cabin

The business class cabin has 5 rows in a 2-2 configuration for 20 total seats. You can also check out my previous review of the 321T business class transcontinental flight.AA A321 transcontinental business class cabin

The economy cabin has 72 seats of which 36 are main cabin extra

AA Airbus 321T Economy Cabin

I really enjoyed the first class cabin. It was beautiful and spacious. With only 10 seats, each had direct aisle access, two windows and plenty of privacy. Except 1F which Jess had and I’ll get to later.AA A321 first class seat

The first class seats are very similar to what AA flies on their international business class 777-300ERs and 787 Dreamliners. The reverse herringbone layout has the seats facing away from the aisles and toward the windows, but makes it nearly impossible for travel partners to sit together.

American A321 first class seatAmerican Air 321T first seat

Each seat offers 62 inches of pitch and 82 inches of bed length when fully laid flat. The seat is 21 inches wide.American air A321T seat first classA321T lie flat seat first class

The seat itself was very comfortable and there was there was plenty of legroom.

A321 transcontinental first legroom

There was more than enough space to store items on the side table.AA A321T storage side table

Keep an eye out for the large gap between the side table and the side of the plane. You could easily drop something there and forget about it!don't drop your belongings

The control panel  was next to the seat by the headrest. This included the seat controls, entertainment controller, reading light and and two USB outlets for charging.A32B first class controls

There was additional storage to the side of the control panel with a 110v 3 prong US outlet.American Airlines A321T first storage and controls

Beneath the seat by your feet was another storage compartment.. I literally didn’t have enough items for all the storage space.

storage below seat

The TV was very nice and features a 15.4 inch touch screen with a matte finish to decrease glare. The screen could swing out to allow you to watch straight on.

American 321 F TV screenAmerican 32B F TV screen

The TV controller was very new and also had touch screen.AA 321T tv controllerAA in filight entertainment IFE

Bose headphones were provided for first class. This is actually very impressive given that many of the world’s top airlines don’t offer Bose in international first class.

 

Which seat to choose?

The 1F horrible seat b/c open to the gally. The flight attendants don’t mean to, but can stare right at you. Hard to sleep with the light and the lack of privacy

 

Food and Beverage

With a short 5.5 hour flight, the food service started shortly after takeoff. The entire meal was served on one tray, which is understandable given the flight time. However I have seen previous reviews on an AA transcon flight where full multicourse meal service was offered. Maybe this was changed due to budget cuts? And yes that clip is from the movie Blockers. Worth a watch next time you’re traveling. American transcon first class dinner

AA Flagship First Menu

I had no idea what to expect from the fig filo tart appetizer. It came out with the main course and was actually delicious. It was almost a cheese and charcuterie platter of sorts with veggies and small dried figs.

For the main course I choose the Thai beef curry over the famous (or maybe infamous) lobster roll. And I’m sure glad I did. The beef was cooked perfectly (slightly medium in the center) and the curry was mildly spicy with great Thai flavors.American transcontinental first class food

The flight attendant kindly allowed me to take a picture of the “lobster roll”. While it appeared slightly more appetizing than what Lucky from OMAAT was served, I still don’t think it qualifies as real food. The lobster roll resembled more of a mayonnaise potato salad with tiny pieces of what must be lobster, but who actually knows.American Airlines AA lobster roll

Take my advice and go with the Thai beef curry.

Jess wasn’t very hungry and went with the zucchini “meatballs”. Her main course wasn’t half bad, and would make a good vegetarian option, but I’m still glad I went with the Thai beef curry.AA transcon A321T first food

Service

I have never really been impressed with (and am usually appalled) with the service provided on US airlines. However the service we had on this flight was the best I have experienced from a US airline. The two flight attendants were extremely attentive and very helpful. They spent a little extra time to go over the menu and help with small requests. You can tell when someone actually cares and the two attendants on this flight did.

As a site note Jess and I have gotten into the habit of giving a small gift to our flight attendants on some our flights. They (some of them) work very hard and are often under appreciated.

On this flight we gave our flight attendants a small bag of Lindor truffles. They graciously accepted the gift (who doesn’t like Lindor truffles?) and thanked us. I can say that their service was just as good before the gift as after. Although they did come by a few extra times to top off our champagne glasses 😉

The amenity kit featured by CO Bigelow and Cole Haan was the most extensive I have received on a domestic flight. It featured the standard eye mask, ear plugs and socks. But also had tissues, a dental kit and several lotions. Even more creative was supplying a “gadget cloth” which I guess would be used to clean off dust or fingerprints from a screen and a stain remover. There was also a $100 voucher for a Casper mattress, $100 off $300 Cole Haan and 20% off CO Bigelow products.AA transcontinental first class amenity kit Cole Haan CO Bigelow

 

Sleeping

The seat reclined fully into a lie-flat bed with 82 inches of bed length. Long enough even for TPG.

The comforter and pillow were comfortable enough, however the seat itself was a little hard for a bed. While I know it’s only a 5.5 hour intra-country flight, it would have been nice to have bedding placed over the seat. I got pretty warm so actually ended up laying the comforter down over the seat to make it softer.

321T lie flat seat sleeping bedding first class

Clearly Jess was able to get more comfortable than me.

Jess loves sleeping in first class

Breakfast

This may sound silly, but the breakfast scones were the most delicious scones I have ever had. They were perfectly warm with a delicious crunchy sugar shell and soft tender inside. I ate mine and Jess’. She was still sleeping even as we landed at the John F Kennedy airport 🙂American Airlines 32B transcontinental first breakfast

 

Conclusion

There isn’t a better way to fly transcontinental across the United States than on an American Airlines A321T. In all honesty the business class product is so good, I’m not sure first class is necessary. The main differences I see over business class is the larger seat space, access to Flagship First Check-In and Flagship First Dining, and slightly better food/drink in the air. However there are times on these routes when first is then same or cheaper than business and then it’s a no brainer.

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free v bucks December 24, 2018 - 3:40 pm

Keep in mind, that you just never miss a day.

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