I was going to be flying home to the Southern California area and had flights booked from New York (JFK) to Los Angeles (LAX) in the Delta Main Cabin. Just a few weeks before my flight, I thought to check if there were any American Airlines business class options with miles, and sure enough, I saw a nicely priced flight on the only nonstop flight from New York (JFK) to Orange County (SNA) for 25,000 American AAdvantage miles (plus $5.60). I’ve always had that specific flight on my bucket list for many reasons. Orange County is closer to family and friends, less hectic than LAX, and the fact that American operates the unique premium transcontinental aircraft to Orange County is cool! It’s the only commercial flight to/from Orange County that has a lie-flat business-class cabin.
Note that Delta does sometimes operate their 757-200’s with lie-flat seats from Orange County to Atlanta but it is sold as domestic first class and does not come with lounge access.
American Airlines A321 Transcontinental Aircraft (A321T):
The American Airlines Airbus A321T contains numerous premium seats which makes the plane feel more boutique and exclusive. As the plane was boarding, I overheard two friends comment “Wow walking through this plane feels like a private jet!” And, I totally agree with them. Once you enter the plane, you’ll pass the Flagship First Cabin with 10 seats spread across 5 rows in a 1-1 configuration. If you’re curious about Flagship First, I’ve reviewed that product recently here. Then, you’ll pass Flagship Business which has 20 lie-flat business class seats across another 5 rows in a 2-2 configuration. 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 an exclusive ride.
Currently, 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). 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. American is getting new A321XLRs without First Class, but nice Business Class suites in 2024, and I hope that plane serves this New York (JFK) to Orange County (SNA) route.
American Airlines 976
New York (JFK) to Orange County (SNA)
Class: Flagship Business
Aircraft: Airbus A321T
At the Airport:
American Airlines operates out of Terminal 8 in New York (JFK). There’s a dedicated check-in area for Business Class passengers on American and British Airways, but since I didn’t have a bag to check, I headed straight to the TSA PreCheck line which was no wait. American doesn’t have many domestic morning flights out of JFK, so the terminal was quite empty.
After clearing security, I headed to the business class lounge which is called the “Greenwich Lounge”. A perk of flying on a premium transcontinental route is that you get access to the international business class lounge. Overall, I think it’s a great lounge to visit, especially before a domestic transcontinental flight.
Boarding commenced 30 minutes prior to departure, and the flight attendant came out with a welcome beverage of orange juice, water, or champagne. We completed the boarding process in about 20 minutes as the plane only had a total of 102 seats. During the process, the flight attendant serving our section came to take meal orders, as well as confirm the orders of those who were pre-reserved online like myself.
Due to some inclement weather, we were held on the runway for about 20 minutes or so. Thunderstorms were surrounding the area, so we needed a new flight plan. The pilot was very communicative and witty and let us know that his “cousin Vinny was able to find us another route”. Thank you Vinny!
Our captain let us know that the time in the air would be 5 hours and 7 minutes.
Flagship Business Class Seat:
I reserved seat 9A, which is the second to last row of the business cabin. The business-class lavatory is located in the front of the cabin (row 6).
A water bottle and amenity kit branded from Detroit-based Shinola was waiting at my seat. The amenity kit was a bag with a zipper, which would be nice for re-using as a toiletry bag. This particular kit is provided to Transcontinental Business Class passengers as well as International Premium Economy passengers. The kit contents included earplugs, eye mask, socks, body lotion by D.S.& DURGA, toothbrush and toothpaste and a mini pen.
There is a power outlet, as well as a USB port for charging your devices. Unfortunately, the power was faulty and kept disconnecting/reconnecting from time to time on both the power outlet and USB port. Thankfully, it was still able to fully charge my phone.
One minor pet peeve of my particular seat was that the tray table compartment was loose, and wouldn’t lock into its storage space. So, it often times fell out and encroached into my seating area. Some minor touchups of the seat would be appreciated, but given the fact the configuration is planned to be retired next year, I don’t see American really fixing these cabins up.
In regards to the 2-2 configuration, it is a bit narrow and offers less privacy than flying on a widebody with a 1-2-1 configuration. The same lie-flat business class seats (B/E Aerospace Diamond) are also featured on Delta and United 757’s. If I was flying out of Los Angeles (LAX), I would try getting a widebody (except Delta’s outdated 767-300’s). But, from Orange County (SNA), this is the best you’re going to get as United flies the traditional domestic first-class recliners to Newark (EWR). So no complaints here!
The lie-flat function on this aircraft works nicely and offers a bed length of 6 feet 3 inches. Also, the footwell isn’t too restrictive. Since there isn’t direct aisle access from the window seat, you do have to hop over your seatmate if you want to use the lavatory. It’s totally possible to hop over them without them having to get out of their seat, but you’ll have to be a bit flexible and perhaps hold on to the seat in front.
My favorite part is the Casper bedding. A nice pillow is provided, as well as a full-sized blanket. The Casper pillow is much better than the pillows provided by Delta and United.
In-Flight Entertainment and Wi-Fi:
The seat back IFE is 15.4 inches and was pretty clear. There were numerous movies, shows, and games to choose from. There was also a remote control next to the armrest, or you could use the touchscreen. Waiting at my seat were Bang & Olufsen headphones which were of good quality.
After reaching cruising altitude, the meal service quickly commenced. The flight attendant came by with a wet towel and later brought over a biscuit cookie. Then, they rolled the drink cart out.
Soon after, the fruit plate and main course came out together on a tray, and they brought out an assorted bread basket to choose from. I pre-ordered the American Breakfast with scrambled eggs, bacon, roasted potatoes, and herbed tomato.
I enjoyed the potatoes, fruit and the tomato. The bacon had too much fat and wasn’t crispy enough to my liking. The best airplane bacon I’ve had was on JetBlue Mint.
You can check out the menu below, but the other main plates included a Protein Plate, Egg and Fire Roasted Corn Enchilada, and Coconut Chia Oatmeal.
I was a bit bummed to see the only dessert option being a Gourmet Cheese Plate on this breakfast flight because I know American Flagship Business has an amazing ice cream sundae. I mean, if you can serve alcohol in the mornings, why can’t you offer an ice cream sundae for dessert? Just some wishful thinking over here!
In front of row 6, two snack baskets were placed so you could access snacks throughout the flight on your way to the bathroom which I appreciated. Snacks offered in the basket included pistachios, dark chocolate energy bites, potato chips, pretzels, and graham crackers, among others.
My favorite snack that I tried was the chocolate energy bites. Highly recommend it if you like dark chocolate and raspberry.
About 45 minutes before landing, the flight attendant came by with warm chocolate cookies which was a nice pre-arrival snack.
Service on this flight was decent. Sufficient, but not over the top. I mean, we are flying on a domestic US carrier, so we cannot expect too much.
The six hours went by in the blink of an eye, and we landed in Orange County right on time. It was a great flight, and super cool to have landed here on the aircraft with the only lie-flat Business Class serving the airport.
Overall, I was happy to check off a bucket list flight off my list. Flying into Orange County (SNA) is less hectic than flying into Los Angeles (LAX) and more convenient for me to visit family. It could also be a viable option for those wanting to explore the area and/or visit Disneyland. I love the premium configuration of the A321T, and hope to try this route a few more times before the aircraft is retired. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that American puts their new A321XR’s also with lie-flat business class on this route as well.
Have you flown on the only Lie-Flat Business Class to Orange County (SNA) on American’s A321T from New York (JFK)? How was your experience? Comment below!
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