Flight check: American Airlines A321 First Class

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Background

AA has a new plane for mid-haul transcontinental flights – the A321, with fully-flat beds in First and Business Class. It’s currently on select daily flights between New York JFK and Los Angeles. By June, when the frequency goes up to 13 times daily, it will be on all services.

Check-In

I arrived at JFK Terminal 8 at 09h20 for my 12h00 flight to LAX. Premium check-in was in Zone 1 and the attendant was helpful. It took more than 10 minutes to go through security, despite it being quiet.

The Lounge

AA has Admiral’s Club and Flagship lounges near Gate 12, and an Admiral’s Club by Gate 46 (my gate). I ate in the Flagship then headed to the gate, taking an escalator down to go under one of the taxiways. The Admiral’s Club is accessed pretty much as soon as you come up on the other side, and has several sections, including quiet, work and kids’ zones. Flights were not called.

Boarding

This had begun by the time I got to the gate at 11h30. Priority boarding was given to premium passengers and access to the plane was via an airbridge. My coat was taken and I was offered champagne, water or juice.

The Seat

There are three classes – four if you count Main Cabin Extra (a quasi-Premium Economy). The flight was boarded from the door at the front, which meant every passenger walked through First Class and, if in Economy, Business as well. Seats in the five rows of First Class (configured 1-1) are angled towards the window – all have windows, and all are good. The seat is similar to that on the B777-300ER and has a storage area by the window, a large side-surface, and a dining/work table that swings out from the arm and folds in half. Inset is a footstep to help shorter people access the lockers. The in-flight entertainment has a wide choice – 200 films, 180 TV shows and over 350 music options. I found the touchscreen handset tricky to use – if you make a mistake while, say, trying to brighten the screen halfway through a film, you can easily find you’ve quit the movie altogether. I ended up reaching for the 15.4-inch screen, which is easy enough when you’re sitting up. There was also a fault with my system, so that when I paused a film, it would not restart. Despite having it reset, this continued. I tried to listen to music, but the sound jumped around, so I gave up and just worked – the in-seat power has a UK socket. Gogo’s upgraded ATG-4 Wi-Fi service costs $11 for one hour, $22 for three hours or $28.95 per flight.

The Flight

 Menus came around shortly after take-off. The meal comprised a salad of seasonal greens and vegetables, chicken pot pie, or lemon and dill-grilled salmon, followed by ice cream and a cheese plate. The portions were huge and tasty, particularly the salad, which came with the option of two grilled chicken breasts. Wines included Valdo Prosecco Brut, Veneto; Cecchetti Line 39 Sauvignon Blanc, California; and Ottimino Zinfinity Zinfandel, 2008, Sonoma. I reclined midway through the flight and found the seat just as comfortable as that on the B777-300ER. I didn’t get much sleep, however, because the crew were laughing and talking loudly in the galley. Throughout, the service had a sense of almost being improvised. One attendant was relaxed, almost casual, and was very happy to help and answer my questions. That said, he was also one of the crew keeping me awake – though, later, when I asked if they had herbal tea or anything without caffeine, he said they didn’t, but then went into his bag to offer me his own.

Arrival

We landed on time and were quickly out of the airport.

Verdict

It was disappointing that the IFE didn’t work, but this was true of all three AA flights I took in Business and First Class on three consecutive days. The service was very good at times, and not so great at others.

Tom Otley

Fact File

Contact

aa.com

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