Trip Report – The AA A321T First Class, JFK-LAX (Part 1 – Ground services and boarding)

Trip Report – The AA A321T First Class, JFK-LAX (Part 2 – Takeoff and inflight services)

I know I’ve been hinting at flying American’s new transcon product since spring. In fact, I booked it on a whim back in April, had to cancel, and only just recently was able to reschedule. To say I was a bit stoked would be an understatement. No particular reason why other than trying a new product, and nostalgia reasons – the last time I did this flight it was aboard a DC-10 and an earlier edition of the Flagship transcontinental service. Caviar and lobster are no more, but I’d say the first class seat (essentially the same as AA’s biz seat on its 777-300s) is an improvement. It certainly beats the old recliner style from the 767-200s.

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Image courtesy of American Airlines

The Trip

I booked the 3:00PM Saturday departure from JFK for a couple of reasons. I wanted to have plenty of time to get to JFK, and 3PM was the only afternoon flight available. It worked out perfectly. I repositioned to JFK by flying into LaGuardia on the back half of an expiring Delta award ticket.  The Delta flight was fine, and on time. I covered the yummy breakfast served on that flight in an earlier post. I took a car service to JFK, and with no traffic on a Saturday, I was standing at AA’s terminal 8 just before 11am. I wandered around for a bit before heading over to AA’s Flagship Check-in, which is adjacent to the Air Train entrance. If you are walking in from the front door, just go all the way to your right. The rules for using Flagship Check-in are as follows:

  • A ConciergeKeySM member
  • A Five Star ServiceSM customer
  • Traveling First Class onboard an American three-class transcontinental flight
  • Traveling First Class onboard an international American or select oneworld® alliance carrier anywhere in your outbound itinerary

I had already checked in on my phone, but I wanted the full immersion experience. There’s a concierge waiting outside who will ask for your name and flight number. He checked his handheld device, found my name, and I was in. There was an agent, a gentleman to handle bags, and MJ on Travel. Within a second or two, I had my first paper boarding pass in months, and I was exiting the facility which happens to lead right into the TSAPre line, which was empty on a Saturday.

The Flagship Lounge

The JFK Flagship Lounge resides within the main Admirals Club just inside security. After checking in with the concierge, they hand you a key for the lounge if you’re eligible for access, and you walk in. The door to the lounge is to your right after entering the Admirals Club. I arrived during the changeover from breakfast to lunch, and found the lounge completely empty except for a couple of staff folks. Business did pick up later, but for a good 40 minutes or so, I was alone.

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The lounge was comfortable, and well-equipped with power outlets. I really enjoyed the awesome views of ramp operations at JFK. I was seriously geeked up with airplane pictures. 🙂

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The A321T in that shot ultimately turned out to be my ride to LAX. Planes aside, I’d be remiss if I did not point out the most remarkable thing about the lounge for my purposes that day.

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The wi-fi was remarkably fast. Assuming it’s true, that’s pretty decent speed, and is certainly better than AT&T is delivering to my home right now. In any event, I wrote about the Flagship Lounge experience in its entirety here. After a few hours of getting work done in the lounge, I made my over to gate 33 for my flight to LAX.

The A321T

If I had one observation to make about the entire experience, it would be that AA chose gate 33 to operate what is supposed to be a premium transcontinental product from JFK. Gate 33 is by the Eagle operation, and is about as far from the Flagship Lounge as you can get. There is a second Admirals Club that is closer. I’m sure gates are at a premium as a big push of international arrivals begins, but I would think they’d aim to be closer to the larger club, and the Flagship Lounge. Just a thought. In any event, boarding began the minute I arrived, and I was shortly taking my seat, 3A, for the flight to LAX. It was one of those flights that you board, and immediately know you’re going to like the crew. The purser and one other flight attendant were working the first class which ultimately wound up with 6 of 10 seats filled. Welcome aboard sparkling wine was offered.

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My old friend, the plastic pre-departure “glass.” 🙂 Oh well….. it was drinkable, and the crew was friendly. It was going to be a good flight. I took a few minutes to explore the seat.

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The seats are arrange 1 x 1, so you have both a window and an aisle, but the windows are not close. That’s not an issue, just an observation. I immediately liked the seat. It was comfortable, spacious, and just genuinely nice. A full size pillow and duvet were already at the seat as was an amenity kit. Better yet, there are multiple options for powering your electronics and enjoying the inflight entertainment.

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That 3-prong plug is proprietary and the Bose headsets AA provides are setup for it. However, just below that is a standard single-prong plug, so I was able to use my Bose QC20i’s and enjoy the inflight entertainment too. USB and (I think) Empower? are just below. A little further over, and you’ll find a standard power outlet.

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If you’ve wondered how anyone could see the typical video screens provided on most airplanes, you won’t have to worry about that on the A321T. The screens are 15″ and provide a lot of options.

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It wasn’t an issue for me, but one of the things I found most interesting about the seat was the tight pass-through between the seat and the aisle.

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There was generous legroom when seated, and I was very comfortable throughout the flight.

 

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The bottom line – the seat is quite nice, and I’m looking forward to trying AA’s 777-300 in Business on our next flight to Europe. Believe me, I can sleep in this seat!! Although the airplane was near full, with a max capacity of 102 passengers, we boarded quickly and buttoned up for an on-time departure from JFK.

Coming up: Part 2 of the trip report – takeoff, inflight service, and arrival in LAX.