I have flown on the American Airlines A321 Transcon in Flagship First on numerous occasions from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX). I find it to be one of the best ways to fly coast to coast, although it certainly has room for improvement. The major highlight that puts American ahead of the competition is the first-class lounge access that is granted with the premium transcons. 

Upon checking through the calendar, cash fares for American Flagship First start at around $1,159 one way, and I’ve seen it as low as around 40,000 American AAdvantage Miles.

Flight Details:

American Airlines 306
New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX)
Class: Flagship First
Aircraft: Airbus A321T
Seat: 5F
Date of Flight: November 2023

Same Day Standby:

American has a solid standby policy where same-day confirmed change (if available) and same-day standby are complimentary for First & Business Flight Awards. I was originally booked on the last flight of the day, and preferred to get to LA a bit earlier. No flights were showing available for same-day confirmed change, but I could always standby. I saw the option to join standby on the app but decided to do it when I checked in at the airport. I also confirmed with the agent that I would be only standing by for First Class, and not a lower cabin, as I wasn’t that desperate to change to an earlier flight. She confirmed that would be the case, but as you’ll read on later, it’s all up to the gate agent, so you should reiterate your intention to only clear a standby in your booked cabin to the gate agent…

At The Airport:

I took the Long Island Rail Road and the AirTrain to get to JFK from Penn Station in Midtown Manhattan. I checked in at the premium area for American Airlines and British Airways. This area is for certain elites, Flagship First and Flagship Business Plus. It looks quite nice, and you enter a room that gives off hotel lobby vibes. An agent quickly helped me, added me to the standby list for an earlier flight, and printed out my boarding pass. The check-in area leads directly to a priority security lane, as well as TSA PreCheck. There was no line at all during my visit, and I was past security in less than 5 minutes.

a room with a reception desk and chairs

Premium Check-In

After clearing security, I visited the first-class Chelsea Lounge for a nice sit-down meal, then headed to the Soho Lounge to relax and get some natural light before my standby flight was going to board. On this visit, I enjoyed some nice Steak Frites but was a bit annoyed that they were out of many of the appetizers. You can check my full review here on the first-class Chelsea Lounge from this visit if you’re interested, and here is a review of the Soho Lounge from a previous visit.

a plate of steak and fries

Steak Frites

American Flagship First A321T Plane:

The American Airbus A321 Transcon is one of the most interesting aircraft configurations to me. It is super 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.

This aircraft serves Los Angeles (LAX) to Boston (BOS)/New York (JFK), San Francisco (SFO) to New York (JFK), & Orange County (SNA) to New York (JFK). This configuration is supposed to be retired starting in December of 2024, with the new A321XLRs.

Boarding…Got Standby in Coach!

I headed to the gate to get there 10 minutes before boarding, which starts 30 minutes before departure. I let the agent know I was waiting for standby, and she said to wait near the desk. She then called my name 5 minutes or so before boarding and handed me a new boarding pass. I then looked down at my seat number, 15E. Uh-oh, the Main Cabin in a middle seat.

I then asked her why I was cleared into the main cabin and she said because my ticket wasn’t in first class. I then showed her my original ticket in First, and she was confused so she called over a new associate. Thankfully, he understood that I was booked in First, then he handed me a First Class ticket (5F). Sheesh American…I wonder how much they train their gate agents.

Boarding & Seat:

Boarding started exactly 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time and was completed in 20 minutes due to the limited number of seats.

The Flagship First seat on the A321T is quite similar to the reverse herringbone seat that American offers on the 777-300ER in Flagship Business. But of course, it is modified for the narrowbody A321T aircraft. I enjoy the 1-1 configuration and the seat feels quite private. 

I’ve sat in Rows 2 and 3 before but never row 5. There’s nothing wrong with 5F in my opinion, other than a missing extra window, as there isn’t a bathroom right behind you or anything. There is the business class galley, and it wasn’t too noisy during my flight. That being said, I still would opt to be closer to the middle of the cabin if available.

a seat in American Flagship First on the A321T

Seat 5F

a row of seats on an airplane

Flagship First Cabin

Waiting at my seat were 2 sets of pillows and blankets. The first set contained 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 are exclusive to Flagship First.

a screen on a plane

IFE + Headphones

Also waiting at the seats were the Bang and Olufsen headsets,  full-sized water bottle, and Shinola Detroit branded amenity kit. I like the leather case, and the kit comes with an eye mask, socks, earplugs, toothbrush, pen, and Rose Atlantic lip balm and lotion from D.S. and Durga. This kit can also be found on international Flagship Business routes. 

a black bag with a small black object on a table with a small black object on it

Shinola Detroit Amenity Kit

Wi-Fi & In-Flight Entertainment:

Wifi is $20 for one hour and $29 for the whole flight. You can also get free Wi-Fi as a T-Mobile customer. 

The seat-back In-flight Entertainment system was a solid size at 15.4 inches, and it was clear and responsive with the touch screen and remote. There were plenty of movie options available, as well as TV shows and music. Charging ports/plugs, and USB charging were available as well.

The Flight:

We left the gate 5 minutes before our scheduled departure, and the captain let us know that the flight would be 5 hours and 48 minutes in the air. Interestingly, there was no pre-departure beverage offered. We had a nice view taking off from Kennedy.

an aerial view of a city

Taking Off View of New York City

And, I think their order system was down as the flight attendant took each person’s menu away and used it to jot down our meal orders. Luckily, I took pictures of it beforehand so I could reference it later in the flight.

a piece of paper on a table

Flagship First JFK-LAX Nov 2023 Menu

They Were Out of Half the Main Entrees!

On westbound flights, Flagship First orders are taken back to front, so with me being in 5F, I was the second person to order. Imagine my surprise when 2 of the 4 items were unavailable. And of course, they were the 2 items I wanted to try. So, the only options left were the Lamb Cutlets and Eggplant Lasagna. Pro tip: if you’re flying in Flagship First, definitely pre-order.

I did not like the lamb the last time I tried it on American, and I am not a fan of Eggplant Lasagna, so I asked if I could order from the Business Class menu instead. The flight attendant said I could, but I would have to wait until everyone in business class ordered. Feels great to be in First…

Thankfully, a business-class chicken was leftover, so it was mine. Yay…

It’s not the end of the world as the first-class meals aren’t really better (or that different) than the business class. It’s more of just a bad feeling of having such a poorly executed first-class product.

Meal Service:

After reaching cruising altitude, they handed out olives and warm nuts.

a plate of food and a drink

Olives and Warm Nuts

Then, the salad starter was provided. It was very boring, and I really only enjoyed the strawberries.

a plate of food on a table

Salad Starter

After, my business class main chicken came out. It was fine for a chicken, but a bit dry.

American Business Class Chicken

Business Class Chicken

After, I opted for an ice cream sundae for dessert along with some tea. That was probably the highlight of the flight, as they make a really good sundae on American.

a cup of tea and dessert on a plate

Tea and Ice Cream are a great combo!

There is a snack box left out at Row 1 and it contains Brownie Brittle, walnuts, parm crisps trail mix, pistachios, and more. I ended up watching two movies, and the time went by so fast. 

Shortly before landing, a warm chocolate chip cookie was served. I love that! The flight attendant then collected the headsets 35 minutes before landing. And next thing you know, we landed and got to the gate shortly after. 

a cookie wrapped in a napkin on a plate

Warm Cookie!

In terms of the lavatories, there is one at the front of the cabin for first class passengers. I used the lavatory once during the flight, and it was fine, but nothing special.

a bathroom with a sink and a toilet

First Class Lavatory

The Verdict:

Overall, flying on American Flagship First was still a good experience and one of the best transcon options, despite having to settle for a business-class meal. I don’t think it’s worth the premium over their perfectly fine Flagship Business product. The highlight of the whole experience was the Chelsea First Class Lounge, and even that needs some help.


Have you flown in an American Flagship First Class Cabin on the A321 Transcon? How was your experience? Comment below!




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