American Airlines introduced their Airbus A321T into the crowded U.S transcontinental market in January of 2014 on services between Los Angeles and New York. This was followed on March 6th, 2014 with services between San Francisco and New York. Now, over a year later every American service between those two west coast cities and New York are operated by these new A321T aircraft, configured with first, business and economy cabins.
American Airlines use the now well known Zodiac Aerospace Cirrus business class seat as the first class seating on their Airbus A321T. This seat, first used by US Airways but popularised by Cathay Pacific is widely regarded as one of the best business class seats available in the air today. American Airlines also use this seat in business class onboard their new Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, which they fly to London and Hong Kong.
On the A321T (the T is for transcontinental and denotes the special seating configuration) this allows for 10 first class seats in a 1-1 configuration, 20 business class seats in a 2-2 configuration and 36 economy seats in a 3-3 configuration.
Whilst unavoidable on a single aisle aircraft, we are frustrated that on these flights all passengers board through a single door at the front of the plane. This means that all passengers walk through first class to get to their seats at the back of the aircraft.
Once onboard, next to your headrest are the seat controls, USB port, headphone sockets and IFE remote. American Airlines have fitted the same Panasonic eX2 IFE system as seen on their 777-300ER (which is also featured onboard Qatar Airways’ A380).
The seat controls are simple and intuitive with single buttons for converting the bed into lie-flat mode and for a take off position.
We were offered a pre-departure champagne which, in this case, was a glass of Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Carneros Brut. This is not a champagne we are familiar with. A non-vintage champagne that usually sells for about $22 USD p/bottle is perhaps unsurprising on a domestic flight, but does make us yearn for the Krug onboard as served by Singapore Airlines in their A380 Suites class product.
In any case, it was palatable compared to other U.S airline offerings.
In both premium classes, 15.4″ touch screens are fitted. According to AA the In-Flight-Entertainment system comes with “up to 75 movies, more than 150 TV programs, more than 350 audio selections and up to 15 games all free, as well as seat-to-seat chat; live text news and weather updates, 3-D moving maps, airport maps, connecting gate information, and more”. We felt we would have little issue finding something to watch, save for the fact that our intention was to sleep on this particular flight.
Underneath the footrest was a compartment to keep footwear in and there was also a small storage compartment in the armrest closest to the window. The armrest that faces out into the aisle can be raised or lowered completely depending on your preference.
The In Flight Entertainment is controlled via a touch screen remote located next to your headrest. This is more convenient than reaching up to access the screen, but we found that the scrolling function sometimes moved a little too quickly when trying to make a selection.
As with the majority of American’s fleet, this plane is fitted with GoGo in-flight WiFi.
The seat itself is exceptionally comfortable and easy to sleep in, we actually slept the whole flight. We woke up in New York feeling reasonably refreshed, which is rare for a red-eye flight. Given that American are the only U.S airline offering three distinct travel classes on these transcontinental flights, we feel that whilst the service may not be severely different from business, the seat is worth the additional cost, especially if you intend to use AA miles to upgrade.
American have really stepped up their game with the introduction of new planes into their fleet. Not long ago traveling on American nearly almost meant an aging MD-80, 757 or 767 aircraft, but these older planes are being refurbished, retired or replaced with deliveries of new A321s, 777-300ERs and 737-800s. American’s inaugural 787-800 flight takes place on May 7th between Dallas-Ft. Worth and Chicago’s O’Hare airport. This is an exciting time for American Airlines and this premium transcontinental offering really exemplifies their vision.