Review: American Business Class A321 Los Angeles To New York

Introduction
Review: American Business Class A321 Los Angeles To New York
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I’ve flown American’s A321 first class between New York and Los Angeles over a dozen times, though I’ve never flown business class on this flight before. So I was excited to see how business class compared to first class.

My flight was scheduled to depart at 2:30PM, meaning boarding was scheduled for 2PM. While flying business class between Los Angeles and New York gets you access to the Admirals Club, I arrived at the airport only a few minutes before boarding, so headed straight to gate 40.

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Gate 40 at Terminal 4 LAX

American’s A321s are gorgeous, in my opinion — I love the plane as such, I love the winglets, and I think the American livery looks great on them.

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American A321 taking me to New York

At 2PM boarding was called, starting with first class, and then quickly followed by business class.

American 32
Los Angeles (LAX) – New York (JFK)
Friday, February 12
Depart: 2:30PM
Arrive: 10:54PM
Duration: 5hr24min
Aircraft: Airbus A321
Seat: 9C (Business Class)

I boarded through the forward door, and then walked through the five rows of first class to get to get to the business class cabin.

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American’s A321 first class cabin

While there’s technically a door between first and business class, they always board through the forward door. Apparently this is because the second door is too close to the wing, so there’s some risk with driving the jet bridge so close to the wing and engine.

American’s A321 business class cabin consists of a total of 20 seats, spread across five rows in a 2-2 configuration.

American, Delta, and United all offer the same style of business class seats on their narrowbodies flying between New York and Los Angeles. These are also the same seats Air China offers on their 777s, Qatar Airways offers on their A320s, etc.

The seats are angled slightly towards the windows, and offer a good amount of privacy thanks to them being staggered slightly, and also having a small shield between them.

I had assigned myself seat 9C, the aisle seat on the left side of the plane in the second to last row of business class.

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American A321 business class

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American business class A321

The seats have foot “cubbies,” which are quite comfortable if you just want to put your feet up, but can be tight if you’re trying to sleep. They’re on the small side because the foot cubbies are located between the seats in front, thanks to the angle.

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American A321 business class legroom

Above the ottoman is a personal television, and then immediately below that is a rack, where there were a pair of Bose headphones waiting for me. I love that American offers Bose headphones in both first & business class. Some of the world’s top carriers use total crap headphones, while American even offers these on transcons. Kudos!

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American A321 business class footrest

For what it’s worth, the area for your feet is slightly more restrictive in the aisle seat than in the window seat. Below is a picture of the area in the aisle seat.

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American A321 business class legroom

And then below is a picture of the space in the window seat. As you can see, it’s a bit larger thanks to it only being restrictive on one side — on the other side the space opens up to the side of the aircraft.

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American A321 business class window legroom

The controls for the seat were located in the center armrest, and were easy to use. You could push a single button to turn the seat into a bed, or otherwise could adjust specific aspects of the seats.

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American business class seat controls A321

Behind the seat and to the left is an exposed storage area, where you can store a water bottle, headphones, etc. There were also power outlets (both 110v and USB), as well as the headphone jack.

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American business class power outlets A321

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American business class power outlets A321

Already waiting at my seat upon boarding was a water bottle, Bose headphones, a menu, an amenity kit, a pillow & blanket, and a Billboard magazine.

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American business class water, menus, and Billboard magazine

The Billboard magazine seems like a fairly new “standard” offering, and seems like pretty smart targeting for premium cabin passengers traveling between New York and Los Angeles.

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Billboard magazine in American business class

American uses the same pillows and blankets in first and business class. For business class they’re quite nice, though not quite as good as Delta’s Westin Heavenly Bedding partnership.

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American business class pillow & blanket

The amenity kit was one of American’s heritage kits, and was fairly well stocked. It included eyeshades, earplugs, socks, and some Red Flower amenities. Keep in mind American will be upgrading these kits shortly.

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American business class amenity kit A321

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American A321 business class cabin

Boarding was efficient as usual, thanks to the fact that the plane has only 102 seats.

My seatmate showed up about five minutes after I did. She was from New York, and was pretty awesome. Her seatmate etiquette was beyond impressive. She asked me whether I wanted the window shade open or closed (I said I didn’t care and it was her decision, since she had the window seat), and also apologized profusely when she had to get up once during boarding to retrieve something from the overhead, promising she’d be less annoying inflight. I wish all my seatmates were like her!

Once everyone was settled in, one of the two business class flight attendants came around with pre-departure beverages, including water, orange juice, and “champagne” (aka prosecco).

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American business class pre-departure water

Both of the business class flight attendants seemed very friendly. They were both blonde and maybe in their 40s.

I got a good laugh when the flight attendant offered pre-departure beverages to the two kids seated across from me. They were two girls, one was maybe six or seven, while the other was maybe 12 or 13. She said “would you like some water or juice?” and then under her breath said “or champagne?”

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American business class menu

At around 2:25PM the captain came on the PA to add his welcome aboard, and inform us of our flight time of 4hr45min, anticipating we’d arrive in New York a bit early.

We pushed back at 2:30PM on the dot, at which point the safety video began to play.

As we taxied out, flight attendant Susan came around to take meal orders. She was extremely professional — she introduced herself by name, welcomed everyone aboard, and was just generally awesome.

At 2:45PM we took off from runway 25L, and climbed out over the Pacific before making the 180 degree turn east.

About 25 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off. A few minutes later the flight attendants began their service, starting with distributing hot towels.

The dinner menu read as follows:

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And the wine list read as follows:

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To start off the meal I was offered warm mixed nuts with my choice of drink. I ordered a gin & tonic. American serves Bombay Sapphire, which is pretty good as far as I’m concerned. While my other alcoholic drink of choice would be champagne, American serves prosecco in business class on this route, which seems pretty ridiculous for a “premium” route.

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American business class dinner — gin & tonic with mixed nuts

Shortly thereafter tablecloths were distributed, and then trays were with the salad and appetizer were brought out.

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American business class dinner starter & salad

The starter was a surprisingly decent duck dish.

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American business class dinner starter — char siu duck

The salad was small, though at least had some strawberries and hearts of palm, which added flavor.

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American business class dinner salad — spring mix with fresh strawberry and hearts of palm

I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and of course chose the pretzel bread, which is my favorite.

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American business class dinner — pretzel bread

For the main course I ordered the crab cakes. I had low expectations of airplane crab cakes, but was very pleasantly surprised. While they had a bit more breading than I prefer, the taste was great, including the cream sauce.

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American business class dinner main course — pan seared crab cakes

Once my main course was cleared I was offered dessert. I ordered a sundae with nuts and berries. It was every bit as delicious as it looks.

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American business class dessert — ice cream sundae

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American business class dessert — ice cream sundae

The meal service was done about 90 minutes into the flight. The two business class flight attendants were top notch — they were attentive and friendly, and in terms of the service I didn’t notice any difference compared to first class, as all the service was done at an individualized pace.

I think what it comes down to is that good flight attendants are good flight attendants, no matter which cabin they’re working.

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Airshow enroute to New York

The business class lavatory is located in front of the business class cabin. There’s only one lavatory, which seems a bit sparse for 20 business class seats. On an afternoon flight that’s not an issue at all, but I imagine on a redeye that can get slightly annoying before landing.

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American A321 business class lavatory

While the entertainment system on the American A321s is quite good, I worked the whole flight, thanks to the Gogo inflight wifi.

The crew was through the cabin every 10-15 minutes throughout the flight to see if anyone wanted anything. They also set up a snack basket at the front of the cabin, with biscottis, chips, nuts, fig bars, etc.

Then about 60 minutes before landing the crew offered warm chocolate chip cookies, which were delicious as always.

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American business class pre-landing snack — warm chocolate chip cookie

At 10PM the captain came on the PA to inform us we’d be landing in about 20 minutes. We hit some chop on the way down, and it seemed like we got a pretty unfavorable approach, since our 20 minute approach turned into a 35 minute one.

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Airshow enroute to New York

I guess the airshow might explain why!

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Approach into New York JFK

We touched down at 10:35PM, and then had a 15 minute taxi to our arrival gate at Terminal 8. We got in at 10:50PM, just a few minutes ahead of schedule. We arrived at a far gate, so I had to take the tunnel to get landside.

I took an Uber to the Sheraton JFK Airport, where I’d be spending the night. And a chilly night it was…

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American A321 business class bottom line

This was my first time in American’s A321 business class, and I was very pleasantly surprised. I recently wrote about how American does very little to differentiate the soft product between first & business class on these flights:

  • Both cabins have the same blankets, headphones, and amenity kits (though they’ll be adding new first class kits shortly)
  • The catering is differentiated in very minor ways, though not enough to make a difference one way or another
  • Service was great in business class as well, so I suspect it comes down to the crew you have

In terms of soft product the main differences are the better champagne in first class (or for that matter any champagne at all), along with the espresso-based drinks.

As far as the seats go, it is nice to have a reverse herringbone seat in first class, though as someone who works on daytime flights and doesn’t recline my seat at all, I possibly found the business class seat even more comfortable for “lounging” than the first class seat. On a redeye a reverse herringbone seat is awesome, however.

So color me impressed by American’s A321 business class.

If you’ve flown American’s A321 business class, what was your experience like?

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Comments

  1. Wow — that is not at all different than First on AA’s A321s. Not worth the money/miles/SWU for the upgrade, in my opinion.

  2. Lucky, that is NOT a heritage kit pictured. Heritage is only offered on transcon F (three-cabin) and int’l J. You were given a modified smaller kit appears to be of same material, but different (fewer) contents and no legacy carrier theme.

  3. Lovely report as usual. But is there a reason to include the color of the flight attendant’s hair? I was sort of waiting for the blonde joke. Also, it’s not a good idea to be making public guesses about ladies ages. Just saying. 🙂

  4. Why the hate on Prosecco? It’s less pretentious and often much more drinkable. Perfectly acceptable, even preferable, for domestic business.

  5. Lucky, sure about the second door being to close to the wing? I have boarded through it several times with Lufthansa A321’s.

  6. While I think even the (finally) improved UA catering is still only at par with the current AA setup…UA has really stepped it up with my three daily essential beverages – coffee (Illy), beer (Goose Island IPA), and bourbon (Buffalo Trace). AA’s offerings are pretty weak across the board by comparison.

  7. Would be more than happy if had just on board wifi, and forget the IFE screens altogether. Less weight and maintenance on AA’s end, and less interruptions.

  8. Had to laugh about the menu touting “exceptional wines” when an internet search turned up retail prices of @ $9 a bottle. Then again, maybe AA meant ‘exceptionally cheap’ for a premium J flight.

  9. Other than the wines, it sounds like the A321 Transcons are far superior to their FC International long hauls. While I do my best to avoid the later, this has me very encouraged to experience the former. Thanks for this report.

  10. Ben, the amenity kit in Biz isn’t quite the same as the one in F. As someone above has said, the F one is the same as the (current) int’l J one (i.e. the heritage kits). The Biz one is similar in design (the felt fabric) but much smaller, has a few less items (although I can’t remember exactly how it differs) and no heritage theme. (Sorry to be a pedant! Amazing report – I love the A321 Biz product. Because I’m usually travelling with my partner, I actually way prefer it to the F product, because we can sit next to each other).

  11. Would you ever consider including the dollars and/or points paid for the flight at the top of the review along with the other stats? I always think this would be generally insightful especially when you tell us you got a good/poor deal. If you’re not used to a particular route it would be great to be able to compare the price you’re about to pay (whether in cash/points/both) with that paid by a pro traveler.

  12. Dear Lucky,
    I like your blog very much, but on one issue I have to agree with Jason. You are too much into the name snd reputation of champagne. While there are a lot of very drinkable proseccos with a value much better than champagne, in the last years champagne also lost against some creamonts at blind tastings. So chsmpagne is a nice drink, but served in the air for reputations, only. I like the idea, that Alitalia as an italian airline serves italian prosecco instead.

  13. Why is it when Ben does a post about the 321T people have to challenge him, when it comes to boarding in L2, no North American Airline will board through that door with an air bridge, period. Some European Airlines have in the past but I believe that Airbus has warned against it.

    The catering looked right on target for a J product, Ben your flight in F was horrible, but then again, the galley space on the A321 is 1/3 the size it was on the 767, AA needs to ditch F and just have a great J product.. If they would increase the size of the salad that would be a wonderful product.

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