Background + Booking:
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I needed a flight to come home to Los Angeles from New York for the Thanksgiving holiday, and had originally booked a different flight. But, two days before departure, I got an alert on ExpertFlyer that a MileSAAver First Class award ticket was available on American Airlines Flagship First. I could use 50,000 American AAdvantage miles, or 25,000 Etihad Guest miles + $14 in taxes and fees. Etihad is a transfer partner of AMEX, so I transferred from AMEX over to book this flight. You do have to call Etihad to reserve, and cannot do it online, but the Etihad agents were quite friendly. Although, the first agent had issues booking the ticket and said she would call me back (but didn’t), and I had to call a second time, but thankfully the next agent was very helpful and was able to process the ticket.
I was super excited, as I had only flown on the American Airlines A321T in Flagship Business, with my most recent trip being from Boston to Los Angeles back in July. This time, I would get to sample the Flagship First product! In looking through the calendar, cash fares for this route currently start at $1,199.
American Airlines 300
New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX)
Class: Flagship First
Aircraft: Airbus A321T
At the Airport:
I arrived at JFK a few hours early so that I would have ample time to sample the Flagship First Dining offering. When I arrived at the airport, I saw a temporary Flagship First check-in area partitioned off to the side of the main check-in that didn’t really offer much, rather than a short line, a few dedicated check-in desks and a connection to a TSA Pre Check Line. The new Flagship First check-in area with British Airways is supposed to open up December 1st, so I just missed it.
Flagship Lounge + Flagship First Dining:
One of the best parts of flying on American Airlines Flagship First is gaining access to the Flagship First Dining offering inside of the Flagship Lounge. I’ve been to the Flagship Lounge at JFK before, but this was my first time trying Flagship First Dining. If you’re interested, you can check out my Flagship First Dining review here. In short, it was great to have a sit-down dining experience, tucked away in a calm oasis from the main lounge (which was quite crowded).
American Airlines A321T Flagship First Plane:
This Airbus A321T by American is quite premium heavy, making the plane feel exclusive and boutique. Half of the plane is taken up by First + Business Class. The configuration of the A321T is unique, with only 102 passengers and a 3 cabin set up. Flagship First has 10 seats in a 1-1 configuration, Flagship Business has 20 seats in a 2-2 configuration and the Main Cabin is split with 36 seats for Main Cabin Extra and 36 Main Cabin Seats in a 3-3 configuration.
Currently, you can catch this aircraft between Los Angeles (LAX) and Boston (BOS)/New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO) and New York (JFK), Orange County (SNA) and New York (JFK). Also, the aircraft flies between New York (JFK) and Boston (BOS) but not with Flagship Service and the Business Class cabin is sold as Main Cabin Extra Seating. This configuration is supposed to be retired in 2024, so check it out while it lasts!
Boarding + The Seat on American Airlines Flagship First:
The flight started boarding about 30 minutes prior to departure at 7pm. I was originally booked in 5A which is the last row of the First Class cabin but then a few hours before the flight, 2F opened up, so I switched to that seat to be further from the business class galley. I figured row 2 would still be far enough from the first class lavatory in the front of the plane (which it was), and so I was happy with my selection.
The Flagship First seat on the A321T is quite similar to the reverse herringbone seat that American offers in the Flagship Business cabin on the 777-300ER, but modified of course for this narrowbody A321 aircraft. The 1-1 configuration feels roomy, and quite private when you’re sitting at your seat.
Waiting at my seat were 2 sets of pillows and blankets. The first set featured a duvet and full sized pillow from Casper which are very comfortable (and also featured in Flagship Business). Also, another set featured a lighter blanket and smaller pillow, which aren’t given in Business. I did enjoy having the extra little pillow!
A full sized water bottle, and amenity kit were also waiting at my seat. American is currently in the process of revamping their amenity kits, but I got the older edition. Also, I think I was given the International Premium Economy/Transcontinental Business kit instead, rather than the Transcontinental First kit. It featured the standard dental kit, earplugs, lotion, eye mask and socks.
IFE + Wi-Fi:
The In-flight entertainment system was a good size at 15.4 inches, and it was clear and responsive with the touch screen. There were plenty of movie options available, and the remote was also easy to use. Charging ports/plugs, and USB charging were available as well.
WiFi was available on this flight through ViaSat, although pricey at $29 for the whole flight. Considering JetBlue offers free WiFi, Delta is testing free WiFi for Skymiles Members, and United charges a lot less, American probably needs to change their WiFi prices to stay competitive. Thankfully one of my friends had a WiFi session code for me (thank you!) On the bright side, at least the WiFi worked pretty well for the most part, but it maybe cut off maybe 3 times for 2-3 minute intervals throughout the journey.
Shortly after boarding, the flight attendant came to my seat and passed out Bang & Olufsen headphones which are pretty good. They did collect them about 30 minutes before landing, but also gave disposable headsets so you could continue watching your movie/show.
The lead attendant for First came to introduce himself, and offered a welcome drink of water, mimosa or champagne.
Shortly after takeoff, the attendant came to confirm our dinner selections. I had pre ordered the Lamb Cutlets online. Oddly, this flight was missing menus, so the attendant had to show us a sheet of paper with appetizer selections. I believe most meal options were identical to Business, but in First you get an extra soup course and normally have more dessert options.
For appetizers, they had smoked salmon, a beer cheese soup and two salads. One of the salads seemed like the one I had in business class from Boston with cranberries and arugula, so I opted to try the carrot couscous salad instead. I did not want cheese soup, so I passed on that course. For mains to choose from, online ordering had Eggplant Lasagna, Stuffed Chicken, Miso Saba Roasted Sea Bass (which I tried in Business before), Harvest Vegetable and Grain Bowl and a Golden Roasted Chicken.
About 30 minutes after takeoff, warm nuts and olives were served.
Then, I got the carrot couscous salad, which was okay.
Then, out came the main course, which were the Lamb Cutlets, with a pistachio pesto crust, rice and fresh greens. It looked nice on the plate, but unfortunately the lamb was a bit too dry and a little tough to cut through. The taste was also too salty for my liking.
For dessert, they said they had a hot fudge sundae and cheese board (no extra selections vs Business this time). I opted for the hot fudge sundae with nuts + hot fudge, which was delightful.
I also asked if they could make a cappuccino, and to my surprise they could! Maybe it’s a First Class only thing, as on my similar flight in Business they said they couldn’t. Additionally, it was a solid cappuccino!
They also left a snack tray in row 1, if you wanted to grab something during the flight.
Testing the Lie-Flat:
After dinner, it was nap time for me. The American A321T Flagship First seat is 82.5 inches long in lie-flat mode (over 6ft 10in!). So there should be no problems for most people to go fully flat. I found the seat to be relatively comfortable in lie-flat mode, and I had no issues in catching a quick nap.
If there was one thing about the seat that I wish I could change, it would be the fact that the seat is quite far from the window and it’s hard to see out of it if you like to look outside. Also, there is quite a gap from the seat to window with vents, and perhaps they could have used that space a bit more efficiently.
I woke up about an hour prior to landing, and they served the famous warm chocolate chip cookie, which was great.
On approach to LA, we got hot towels before landing which was a nice touch. We soon touched down, and found our gate relatively quickly (for LAX) which completed a pleasant cross country flight that arrived right on time at 11pm.
Overall, flying on the American Airlines Flagship First Class Cabin on the A321T was a great experience and is one of the best ways to fly coast to coast. Highlights on my experience included the access to Flagship First Dining at JFK, the direct aisle access on this transcon route and the Casper bedding. However, I was a bit disappointed by the in-flight dining experience as there was very limited differentiation from Flagship Business. Nonetheless, there is no other transcon service at the moment that grants you an experience like Flagship First Dining, and for that reason I will miss when this plane is phased out in 2024.
Have you flown on the American Airlines Flagship First Class Cabin on the A321T before? How was your experience? Comment below!
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