Background + Booking

Orange County (SNA) used to be my hometown airport, and it’s much more convenient than flying to Los Angeles (LAX) to visit family for the holidays. I have flown on the American Airlines A321 Transcon in Flagship First on numerous occasions from New York (JFK) and Los Angeles (LAX), but never via Orange County (SNA). I find American Flagship First to be one of the nicest ways to fly coast to coast. There is only one Flagship First flight daily in each direction from SNA to JFK. So, I was super excited to try out the only Flagship First Flight from Orange County to New York. It’s the only commercial flight to/from Orange County that has both a lie-flat First Class and a separate lie-flat Business Class cabin. How cool is that!

Upon a quick search, cash fares for American Flagship First from SNA to JFK start at around $1,050 one way, and I’ve seen it as low as around 40,000 American AAdvantage Miles. I booked this flight earlier in the year using British Airways Avios. At the time, it was 51,500 Avios (which has now increased to 64,500), and I took advantage of an AMEX transfer bonus which made it 40,000 AMEX points. 

At The Airport & Admirals Club Visit

Orange County (SNA) is a small and easily accessible airport to get around. All the terminals (A, B, C) are connected post-security and are in a straight line. The airport was bustling with people when I arrived around 10:45 am, and by the looks of it, it was a lot of families that probably were wrapping up their winter break Disneyland Trip. The general security line had a decent line, but TSA Pre was empty, and I went through security in less than 3 minutes.

After clearing security, I headed to the American Airlines Admirals Club to relax and grab a snack before the flight. In short, the lounge was quite small, and food options were limited, but it was better than waiting at the gate area as SNA seemed to be more crowded than usual. Generally, when flying Flagship First or Business, you’ll be able to access the Flagship Lounges, but SNA is much too small to have one. While I love the convenience of SNA, the one drawback is the lounge experience when compared to LAX.

a group of people sitting in chairs in a room with a roof at the Admirals Club Orange County

Main Seating Area

Flight Details

American Airlines 2459
Orange County (SNA) to New York (JFK)
Class: Flagship First
Aircraft: Airbus A321T
Seat: 4A

Boarding & Takeoff

Boarding started 30 minutes before departure, and we completed the boarding process in a little less than 20 minutes as the plane only had a total of 102 seats, and both the Main Cabin and First had empty seats. It looks like First left with 3 empty seats, Business was full, and the Main Cabin had about 20 empty seats.

The flight attendant came out with a welcome beverage of orange juice, water, or champagne.

a glass of water on a table

Welcome Beverage

We left the gate right at the departure time and had to wait on the taxiway for a while. We then took off about 20 minutes after our scheduled departure time.

I was originally seated in 3A, but I was getting choppy sound with my In-Flight Entertainment system and it seemed like the headphone jack was faulty. So, I asked the flight attendant if I could swap to the seat behind (4A). It helped at first, but after an hour it actually turned out to be the headsets fault, rather than the headphone jack. I tried a new headset and the sound quality was way better.

American Airlines A321 Transcontinental Aircraft (A321T)

The American Airlines Airbus A321T features a premium heavy configuration which makes the plane feel more boutique and exclusive. It’s probably my favorite domestic plane configuration. When entering the plane, you’ll pass the Flagship First Cabin with 10 seats spread across 5 rows in a 1-1 configuration. Then, you’ll pass Flagship Business which has 20 lie-flat business class seats across another 5 rows in a 2-2 configuration. If you’re curious about Flagship Business, here’s my review from earlier in the year. Finally, you’ll be at the Main Cabin which has 36 seats for Main Cabin Extra and 36 Main Cabin Seats in a 3-3 configuration. The 3 cabin setup with just 102 passengers makes for quite a posh ride.

I feel that this plane is perfect for the Orange County to New York route due to many factors. From the clientele, the short runway at SNA, and the annual passenger cap out of SNA this plane is a great fit for the route. American is getting new A321XLRs without First Class, but nice Business Class suites starting at the end of 2024, to replace these A321T’s. I hope that the new plane serves this New York (JFK) to Orange County (SNA) route so that there will be Business Class suites.

Flagship First Seat

The Flagship First seat on the A321T is very similar to the reverse herringbone seat that is offered on the 777-300ER in Flagship Business but modified for the narrowbody A321T aircraft. I particularly enjoy the 1-1 configuration as the aisle is wide and the seat feels quite private. The seat is 21 inches wide and in lie-flat mode, the seat is 82.5 inches long.

a table with a tv and a shelf in the middle of an airplane Flagship First From Orange County

Flagship First Seat

At the seat were 2 sets of pillows and blankets. The first set contained a duvet and full-sized pillow from Casper (which is also featured in Flagship Business). But, the second set is exclusive to Flagship First and features a lighter blanket and smaller pillow. I love the Casper bedding, and I believe it’s the best compared to the other carriers in the big 3 (United & Delta).

a stack of pillows on Flagship First From Orange County

Flagship First Casper Bedding

Also waiting at the seats were the Bang and Olufsen headsets which are noise cancelling and really good quality. Plus, a full-sized water bottle, and Shinola Detroit branded amenity kit that is also featured on International Flagship Business routes was offered. I like the leather case from the amenity kit as it is of good quality. The kit comes with an eye mask, socks, earplugs, toothbrush, pen, and Rose Atlantic lip balm and lotion from D.S. and Durga.

a black headphones and a black case on a table

B & O Headphones and Shinola Amenity Kit

Wi-Fi & In-Flight Entertainment

On this flight, Wi-Fi was offered for $20 for one hour and $29 for the whole flight. Or, you could also get free Wi-Fi as a T-Mobile customer, or watch some ads for a free 20-minute or so session.

The seat-back In-flight Entertainment system was a solid size at 15.4 inches, and it was clear and responsive. Charging ports/plugs, and USB charging were available as well.

a close up of a seat

Remote, Controls, Power Outlets

I think I’ve been flying too much on this product as I ran out of movies that interested me. Thankfully there were also TV shows and music, and I found some from both categories to entertain myself.

a screen shot of a video player

IFE Screen

The Only Flagship First Flight from Orange County Meal Experience

Menus were waiting at our seat, and shortly after reaching cruising altitude the flight attendant came down to confirm our orders. I had pre-ordered online ahead of time and chose the Beef Bolognese for my main plate.

Flagship First From Orange County Menu

January 2024 SNA-JFK Flagship First Menu

On board, the Beef Bolognese was an option, as well as the Golden Roasted Chicken, Grain & Greens Bowl, and Grilled Vegetable Terrine. Via online pre-order, there was an extra Harvest Vegetable & Grain Bowl, as well as special meal options like Child’s, Gluten Intolerant, and more. I was a bit disappointed by the menu selection on board and online, as I feel like Flagship First should have an additional meat option, as well as fish. Since I had such a dry chicken on my previous Flagship First flight, I decided the Beef Bolognese was the best to try. In terms of starters, I was happy to see new selections, but didn’t feel like eating Seared Tuna or a Goat Cheese Croquette that day.

First, they handed out olives and warm nuts. I always enjoy the warm nuts to start my meal.

a plate of nuts and olives on a table

Warm Nuts & Olives

Then, the salad starter was provided along with the Tortilla Soup. A bread basket also came down the aisle.

a plate of soup and salad in Flagship First From Orange County

Seasonal Greens @ Spicy Tortilla Soup

The salad starter was a bit plain, but I found the Tortilla Soup to be quite good. It wasn’t really spicy, which I preferred. It was probably the best Flagship First soup I’ve had since I don’t care much for the Beer Cheese one they used to serve.

After, the main dish came out. I found it to be not bad, but a bit plain.

a plate of pasta with sauce and cheese on Flagship First From Orange County

Beef Bolognese


For dessert, I opted for an ice cream sundae as I love the sundaes that American offers. I always get hot fudge & chopped pecans as my toppings.

a bowl of ice cream and a drink on Flagship First From Orange County

Ice Cream Sundae

Shortly before landing, a warm chocolate chip cookie was served. I had a Chamomile Tea to go with it, and it is the perfect combo!

a plate of food and a cup of coffee

Warm Chocolate Chip Cookie & Hot Tea

If you want a snack during the flight, there is a snack box left out at Row 1 and it contains Brownie Brittle, Egg Nog walnuts, Turkey Stick, Chips, Kind Bars, and more.

Overall, the meal service was decent but keep in mind it’s not much different than Flagship Business. It seems that American doesn’t try a ton to differentiate between Flagship Business and First when it comes to dining onboard.

Other Flight Aspects:

I used the lavatory twice, and it was clean on both occasions. The one at the front of the plane is for first-class passengers but doesn’t have anything special like special toiletries which I found interesting. I would have guessed they would have featured D.S. & DURGA like the amenity kit.

About 30 minutes before landing, the lights came back on and the flight attendants came by to collect the B & O Headsets.

We touched down 10 minutes before our scheduled arrival time and got to the gate right at our scheduled arrival time. The flight went by in a blink of an eye and definitely did not feel like 5 hours.

Chelsea First Class Lounge Dinner

The major highlight that puts American ahead of the competition is the first-class lounge access that is granted with the premium transcontinental flights. Since we landed around 9:30 PM, I headed to the Chelsea Lounge for dinner. The Chelsea Lounge closes at 10:30 PM, and I was worried that they might have suspended dinner service already, but I was told that they don’t do that until closing, and often the staff stays til past 11 PM. 

The lounge was quite empty when I arrived, with maybe 3 or so other guests. I headed straight to the dining area and was promptly seated. The menu was identical to my December visit, and I felt un-adventurous that day and ordered the exact same items. Haha.

a menu on a table

Chelsea Lounge January 2024 Menu

I did try to sample a new champagne, but when I asked if Dom Pérignon or Krug was available under the Chelsea Signature Series as I had seen online reports of them, I was told that only the Laurent-Perrier Grand Siecle Champagne was available. I had that in December, so it looks like I fully replicated my meal from last month.

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All the dishes were good, and it was nice to have a full meal before heading home. One of the best parts of flying Flagship First is definitely the Chelsea lounge access.

The Verdict

Overall, flying the only Flagship First Flight from Orange County certainly is a treat. While the lounge offering at SNA leaves much to be desired, this is the only commercial flight that offers a separate first-class cabin with direct aisle access & a lie-flat bed from Orange County. The service was attentive, and overall I had a decent meal. Plus, it was nice to end the trip at the first-class Chelsea Lounge for dinner before heading home.


Have you flown on the only Flagship First flight from Orange County to New York before? How was your experience? Comment below!




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