Background and Booking:

I was looking at flights from Los Angeles to New York and about a week before departure, an American Flagship First flight with MileSAAver award availability in First popped up so I decided to book it! I could use 45,000 American AAdvantage miles + $5.60, 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. Alternatively, I could also transfer from my BILT credit card to American AAdvantage and used AA miles. You do have to call Etihad to reserve, and cannot do it online, but luckily this time the first agent I connected to was able to ticket it for me. On the cash side, in looking through the calendar, fares for this route currently start at $1,199.

Note: As of March 2023, Etihad revamped their award charts and unfortunately this flight has increased in price and would now start at 67,000 miles in Flagship First.

A few weeks ago I flew this exact route in reverse, and I was excited to try this flight out as the new lounge at New York (JFK) had opened. The joint British Airways and American Airlines lounges opened at the beginning of December, and I wanted to check out the first class joint AA and BA “Chelsea Lounge” upon arrival. Sadly, I suppose they were still working out their grand opening quirks, and they were out of the top champagnes, and the food wasn’t very good. 

Arrival and Check-In:

American Airlines departs from Terminal 4 at LAX, and they do have a curbside Flagship First Check-In. After you enter, there’s a dedicated desk area, some seating, and someone personally whisks you away to the front of the TSA line. It was quite fast from getting dropped off at departures to clearing TSA, I would guess it took me about 5 minutes or less to get from the check-in area to the Flagship Lounge.

American Flagship First

Curbside Entrance

I’ve visited the Flagship Lounge at LAX before, and have enjoyed it on my occasions. It was quite lively in the lounge on my Tuesday lunchtime visit, but there was still ample seating. The food selection was pretty solid and I enjoyed a nice full lunch! You can check out my full review here if you’d like.

Moving My Flight:

As I currently have AAdvantage Executive Platinum from the Hyatt status match/challenge offer, I noticed I was able to standby for an earlier flight when I was checking the app at the airport. Interestingly, when I checked in for the flight earlier that morning, standby or same day confirmed weren’t showing as options. Anyway, I thought it was worth a try since I was already at the lounge waiting. I went down to the gate an hour before departure to ask how the flight was looking and she said one person hadn’t checked in yet, and that if they didn’t 30 minutes before the flight departure, that seat would be mine! The gate agent told me to check with the Flagship Lounge agent and they could get me the new boarding pass.

Sure enough as I waited in the Flagship Lounge, I went to the agent at T-30min, and she said I cleared for that flight and she issued me a new boarding pass. It was ironically 2F, the same seat I flew on in the opposite direction a few weeks ago.

The only qualm is when I got to the gate the gate agent warned me that seat had no audio. Oof.

The Flight:

American Airlines 32
Los Angeles (LAX) to New York (JFK)
Class: Flagship First
Aircraft: Airbus A321T
Seat: 2F

American Flagship First A321T Plane:

The LAX-JFK route is currently served by an Airbus A321 Transcon. It’s one of the most interesting aircraft configurations to me as it is quite premium heavy, making the plane feel more boutique. Essentially half of the plane is taken up by First + Business Class. 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, for new A321XLRs.

Boarding + Seat:

Boarding commenced thirty minutes prior to departure, and once onboard the flight attendant felt bad and apologized letting me know that I would not have access to audio on the IFE system.

The Flagship First seat on the A321T is very similar to the reverse herringbone seat that American offers on the 777-300ER in Flagship Business. It is modified for the narrowbody A321 aircraft. The 1-1 configuration is nice to have and the seat feels quite private when you’re sitting at your seat.

American Flagship First

Seat 2F

There were 2 sets of pillows and blankets provided. The first set featured a duvet and full sized pillow from Casper which are very comfortable (and also featured in Flagship Business). Also, the other set featured a lighter blanket and smaller pillow, which aren’t given in Business.

Also waiting at the seats were the Bang and Olufsen headsets, and a full sized water bottle. Too bad I couldn’t use the headset during this flight lol.

Wi-Fi and In Flight Entertainment:

Wifi is provided by ViaSat, and is a bit steep, $20 for one hour and $29 for the whole flight. It worked pretty well on this flight, and I only had connection issues once in the middle of the flight.

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. I just kept it on the Map screen the whole time since I had no audio 🙂 Charging ports/plugs, and USB charging were available as well.

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New Amenity Kits:

Different than my last flight a few weeks ago, I was excited to see the new amenity kits! The transcontinental Flagship First has a Shinola Detroit branded amenity kit that is a leather case, which looks quite sleek. This kit can also be found on international Flagship Business routes. The kits come with an eye mask, socks, earplugs, toothbrush, pen, and Rose Atlantic lip balm and lotion from D.S. and Durga.

American Flagship First

New Amenity Kit!


Also, there was actually a menu at my seat, unlike my other flight (maybe they just forgot last time). Shortly after arriving at my seat, a flight attendant offered a welcome drink of champagne, orange juice or water. The pilot announced that due to strong tailwinds, our time in the air would only be 4 hours and 15 minutes and we would arrive almost an hour early.

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The menu had a choice of a small plate between Seared Tuna and Roasted Baby Beets, a Seasonal Greens Salad, and a soup course of sweet potato and cauliflower. For the mains, you could choose between Beef Brisket, Achiote Chicken, a Grain and Greens Bowl or an Artichoke Ravioli. Dessert options were between a traditional ice cream sundae, gourmet cheese board and a sticky toffee pudding.

I believe most meal options were identical to Business, but in First you get an extra soup course. But, it didn’t seem like the soup was stocked on this flight, or the dessert sticky toffee pudding.

The meal service started in the air with warm nuts and olives.

a plate of nuts and olives

Warm Nuts + Olives

Then, I had the Roasted Baby Beets appetizer and the seasonal greens salad. They were both pretty subpar.

a plate of salad and bread

Roasted Baby Beets and Seasonal Greens

The main chicken was probably one of my better airplane chickens as it wasn’t to dry and the sauce wasn’t too overpowering, so I can’t really complain. Nothing particularly special on this meal, but nothing too bad either.

American Flagship First

Achiote Chicken

For dessert, I got the Traditional Ice Cream Sundae which was the highlight. American knows how to make a good sundae!

American Flagship First

Sundae with Chopped Pecans and Hot Fudge

After the meal service, I decided to take a mini-nap. They had a snack basket in row 1 on the way to the lavatory. I grabbed a cookie and mix of nuts and they were fun snacks.

a close up of food

Cookie + Nuts Snacks

Shortly before our descent into New York, they served the famous American warm chocolate chip cookie. Always good before landing!

a cookie in a square white bowl

Warm Cookie!

The flight felt so quick, and we made it to the gate about 45 minutes early. In my opinion, there is really only a small difference between Flagship First and Business. The major pro of First is if you’re flying alone, to have an individual seat. If you’re flying with someone else, I’d probably rather sit in the 2-2 configuration in Business.

The Verdict:

Overall, perhaps the A321T is getting ready for retirement and so that could be why the audio hasn’t been maintained. Despite this setback, flying on the American Flagship First Class Cabin on the A321T is still a solid experience with the lounge access upon departure and arrival. The Flagship Lounge at LAX and Casper bedding in-flight are among my highlights, while I hope the new Chelsea Lounge at New York-JFK works out their opening issues and fixes the food quality and beverage selections. 


Have you flown on the American Flagship First Class Cabin on the A321T before? How was your experience? Comment below!




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