Background and Booking:
I had previously flown on the American Airlines A321 Transcon in Flagship First on two occasions, once from New York to Los Angeles in November 2022, and another time from Los Angeles to New York in December 2022. They were both pretty solid experiences, especially with the first class lounge access that is granted.
Originally, I had booked a ticket with miles on Delta, but I saw that an American Web Special popped up for 43,500 American AAdvantage Miles and $5.60 on the day of departure. While a bit high on the miles side, I decided to take the splurge. Previously I had booked this product with Etihad Guest Miles which was only 25,000 Miles. But, a week ago they changed their award charts, and now this flight would be starting at 67,000 miles in Flagship First.
In looking through the calendar, cash fares for this route start at around $1,199.
American Airlines 306
New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX)
Class: Flagship First
Aircraft: Airbus A321T
Date of Flight: March 2023
At the Airport:
When I arrived at the airport, I saw the new premium check-in area for American Airlines and British Airways. This area is for certain elites, business, and first class passengers. I didn’t have this on my last visit, as it opened in December of 2022. It looks quite nice, and you enter an area with desks and places to sit giving off hotel lobby vibes. An agent quickly helped me and printed out my boarding pass. As you walk through the new check-in area, it leads directly to a priority security lane, as well as TSA PreCheck. There was no line at all during my Thursday afternoon visit, and I was past security in less than 5 minutes.
I arrived at JFK a few hours early so that I would have ample time to revisit the Chelsea Lounge, which is the first class lounge that was built in collaboration with British Airways and American. On my last visit, the lounge had barely opened and I didn’t particularly love it. On this visit, I enjoyed it more and had a really good steak with the a la carte dining. You can check my full review here on the first class Chelsea Lounge if you’re interested. After my meal, I also visited the Soho Lounge, which is one notch lower than the Chelsea Lounge. I had a nice time relaxing there and you can check out my review here on the Soho Lounge if you’re interested.
Our inbound aircraft was coming from Los Angeles, and I saw that it was delayed so I already knew in advance we would be delayed too. At first, the app said it would be a 10 minute delay for most of the day, which seemed unrealistic as the inbound plane was going to land at our departure time.
Then, it went up to a 40 minute delay right before the boarding time. I do think the technology could have been a bit better to estimate the delay, as it seemed highly unlikely it would have only been a 10 minute delay (unless they swapped aircraft or something).
We started boarding 20 minutes after our originally scheduled departure time and completed boarding 40 minutes after our originally scheduled departure time. I left the lounge right when the flight began boarding, so I got to the gate a bit after my Group 1 had boarded and so I boarded with Group 2.
The sheer fact that boarding was complete in 20 minutes is one of my favorite aspects of this plane. It really is a premium-heavy configuration, and it will be missed when this configuration is retired in 2024.
On my previous two flights, I was in 2F, and this time I wanted to try the left side of the plane. At booking, about half of the seats were still available to choose from, and I chose 3A, which is right in the middle of the cabin.
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.
Since it was an afternoon/evening flight, I didn’t really sleep. But, in lie-flat mode the American A321T Flagship First seat is 82.5 inches long.
American Airlines Flagship First A321 Transcon Aircraft:
The American Airlines Airbus A321 Transcon contains a lot of premium seats which makes the plane feel more boutique and exclusive. Approximately half of the plane offers First + Business Class. The configuration of the A321T is special with only 102 passengers and a 3 cabin set up. Flagship First has 10 seats spread across 5 rows in a 1-1 configuration, Flagship Business has 20 seats across another 5 rows 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.
As of now, you can fly on 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 particular configuration is supposed to be retired in 2024, so if you want to give it a try, you should check it out sooner rather than later.
The captain said that our flight time in the air would be 5 hours and 36 minutes. They were just completing paperwork, which took a bit of time. The aircraft door closed, and we left the gate 50 minutes after our original departure.
After boarding, the flight attendant came by to pass out water bottles and then did a round of welcome beverages which you could choose between orange juice and sparkling champagne.
On my seat, there was a first set that featured a duvet and full-sized pillow from Casper which I love as I have a Casper pillow myself at home. Casper pillows and blankets are also featured in Flagship Business. Having flown in Delta One a few times recently, the Casper pillow and bedding from American is much better in my opinion. Additionally, there was another wrapped set waiting at the footwell (odd spot to put it) that featured a lighter blanket and thinner long pillow, which aren’t provided in Business. The extra little pillow was nice to have.
The Bang & Olufsen headphones were also waiting at my seat and they are quite good. The flight attendants did collect them about 30 minutes before landing but also gave disposable headsets so you could continue watching your movie/show.
There is plenty of storage with this seat, with a cubby next to the side table, as well as cubbies near your feet.
Also, a full-sized water bottle, and amenity kit were waiting at my seat. It’s interesting, because I’ve now flown Flagship First in the last 5 months 3 times, and received a different amenity kit each time.
I’ve only gotten the correct amenity kit once based on the website and that was on my December 2022 flight. This time I got the old Flagship First Transcon/International Business Amenity Kit.
The Shinola amenity kit featured a toothbrush, mini-toothpaste, earplugs, lotion, eye mask, pen, and socks.
IFE and Wi-Fi:
The in-flight entertainment system was a solid size at 15.4 inches. Plus, it was clear and responsive with the touch screen, or you could use the remote. In terms of content options, there were many movies to choose from, tv shows, and some music. Charging ports/plugs, and USB charging was available as well.
Wi-Fi was available on this flight through ViaSat, although pricey at $29 for the whole flight. Considering JetBlue offers free WiFi and United charges a lot less on this route, American needs to change their WiFi prices to stay competitive. Thankfully, you could watch an ad and get 20 minutes of free Wi-Fi, so that helped me. Also, I found it odd they didn’t have free messaging. Most airlines provide free messaging even if Wi-Fi isn’t free.
The Flight + Meal Service:
While we were taxing, the flight attendant came to take our orders. Throughout the flight, Jackie was very friendly, professional, and attentive. She was honestly the best flight attendant I’ve experienced on American Airlines.
We ended up taking off 1 hour and 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time.
About 45 minutes after takeoff, nuts and olives were given.
I then got my soup course, which was the Classic Beer Cheese Soup. This was the first time I tried the soup course as the first time I flew it wasn’t available, and last time I didn’t want to try the cheese soup. I’m glad I finally tried it. It was surprisingly not as cheesy as I thought, which was much appreciated and exceeded my expectations.
After my soup course, I got my Seasonal Greens salad course.
I thought it was quite good, and I liked the strawberries in it. Hot bread came out, and I took the pretzel one which was good.
Then, I received my entree. On this flight, since I booked last minute I couldn’t preorder. On board, the options for main courses were between Lamb Cutlets, Miso Saba Roasted Sea Bass, Grains and Greens Bowl, and Eggplant Lasagna. I decided to try the Sea Bass, which I’d previously eaten on my Flagship Business flight and enjoyed it.
It was practically the same as when I had it in Flagship Business, just presented nicer. While it was good, it was a bit too buttery this time around and I actually preferred when I had it in business class.
After I finished my main meal, it was time for dessert. Options were a Gooey Butter Cake, Traditional Ice Cream Sundae, and Gourmet Cheese Board.
American makes the best Ice Cream Sundae in my opinion compared to Delta and United, and you can put whatever toppings you’d like. I like it with fudge and nuts, and that’s exactly what I got.
After the meal service, a snack basket was stationed in row 1 and had various snacks from chips, brownies, pretzels, and more.
About an hour before landing, they served the famous warm chocolate chip cookie, which was great. I paired my cookie with a nice camomile tea.
We ended up making back some time, and only got to our gate 30 minutes late.
The front lavatory is dedicated to first class passengers. It was clean when I visited it and had automatic sinks which was a plus. But there was only hand soap, and I do wish there was hand lotion too.
Flagship First vs Business on the A321T:
A question I get a lot is that is it much different to fly Flagship First vs Business? Honestly in terms of the soft product, not at all. In first all you get is an extra pillow/blanket, a *chance* at a nicer amenity kit, olives and a soup course, and different alcohol selections. Is it worth the premium price tag, probably not. In terms of the hard product, while both are lie-flat seats, the 1-1 configuration in first is nice to not have a neighbor, but if you’re traveling with someone I honestly probably rather fly business.
Overall, flying in the Flagship First Class Cabin aboard American Airlines’ A321 Transcontinental is still one of the best ways to fly coast to coast. Positives include access to the first class lounge at JFK which no other transcontinental service currently provides, the Casper bedding, and direct aisle access. Yet, if grading from a first class perspective, the in-flight experience doesn’t seem to have enough differentiation from Flagship Business.
Have you flown in the American Airlines Flagship First Class Cabin on the A321T before? How was your experience? Comment below!
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