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American Airlines operates a sub-fleet of A321 aircraft which it has configured especially for a select number of high-profile domestic routes on which there is strong demand for a premium product that’s considerably better than what passes for ‘First Class’ on most domestic routes.
The A321T (as American Airlines designates this aircraft) offers First Class and Business Class cabins that come with lie-flat seating as well as an Economy Class cabin with 36 ‘Main Cabin Extra’ seats and 36 regular Economy Class seats. This is the most “premium heavy” short-haul aircraft that American Airlines operates.
American Airlines A321T Business Class
The Business Class cabin in the American Airlines transcon A321 aircraft offers 5 rows of seating set out in a 2-2 layout.
The seating arrangement doesn’t give all passengers access to the aircraft’s one and only aisle (you’ll need to book the First Class cabin if you want that), but the seats in this cabin are considerably better than almost all other narrowbody seats you’ll find on offer in the United States.
All seats in the Business Class cabin can be turned into true lie-flat beds and while these may not be as spacious or as accommodating as the lie-flat beds you’ll find on some of American’s widebody aircraft, they’re more than good enough for flights of between 5 and 6 hours in length and, personally, I prefer them to the coffin-like Business Class seats found on some American Airlines Dreamliners.
The seat controls are located in the central armrest…
…and the central armrest is also where you’ll find the seat’s tray table.
The tray table is a very good size (it’s more than big enough for a 16″ Macbook)…
…and it’s sturdy enough to allow a passenger to get some work done without them having to worry about the table wobbling around and not being able to support a little pressure.
On this flight, I was seated in row 6 (the front row of the cabin) and the footrest/ottoman that I had access to looked like this:
In the remaining four rows, the ottoman/footrest looks like this:
As you should be able to see, the footrest in row 6 offers considerably more space than the footrests offered in all the other rows of the Business Class cabin, and this can make a noticeable difference when the seat is placed into lie-flat mode.
Most passengers occupying a seat in row 6 will find that they have ample space for their feet when they’re lying down, while some passengers occupying seats in the other rows will find that their feet feel a little cramped when they’re lying down.
Row 6 may be close to a lavatory and a galley but it has the better seats in the A321T Business Class cabin.
From a storage point of view, the A321T isn’t particularly well equipped but it still offers more options than most other domestic narrowbody aircraft.
There’s a ledge that can house an iPad or small laptop under the inflight entertainment screen…
…but the large shelf built into the seat at shoulder height is the best place to store most items.
It’s by this shoulder-height shelf that a passenger will find the seat’s power outlets…
…with a universal AC port for charging larger devices and a USB-A port for charging smaller devices both offered. This is also where the aircraft’s headphone socket/jack is to be found.
A321T entertainment and Wi-Fi
The A321T’s Business Class cabin features a 15.4″ touchscreen through which a wide variety of movies, TV shows, games, and music options can be accessed (see here for American’s latest onboard offerings).
The controls for the IFE screen are built into the seat wall (and can be extended to act as a remote control)…
…but the sensitivity of the main touchscreen is so good that you only really need to use the remote control when you’re out of reach of the main screen.
The headphones offered onboard (and collected well before landing) are high-end Bang & Olufsen over-ear headphones that can offer surprisingly good audio quality…
…although I’ll always choose my own headphones over anything that an airline provides.
American’s A321Ts come equipped with inflight Wi-Fi and on this particular flight, there were two packages on offer.
The connection was adequate (just about) but far from perfect with download speeds varying significantly during the flight and the service dropping on multiple occasions (which was irritating).
Business Class amenities
Upon boarding, I found an American Airlines amenity kit at my seat…
…alongside a large, soft pillow and a good-size blanket (both from Casper) too.
Compared to the Business Class amenity kits that you’ll find on American’s long-haul flights, the transcon amenity kit is pretty basic…
…but it contains all the basic essentials like a dental kit, socks, earplugs, and a sleep mask. There’s even some hand and body lotion from DS & Durga.
Service, dining, and drinks
Generally speaking and from a service standpoint, I don’t expect very much when I fly domestically because I find that expecting anything more than a basic level of service almost always ends up in disappointment.
Having said that (and despite the fact that, once again, pre-departure beverages were not served despite there being ample time to do so), the crew on this flight was great.
The flight attendants were all very friendly and helpful and I didn’t observe any of the general apathy that is often (but not always) a hallmark of the service levels on American Airlines domestic flights.
Passengers were not left waiting to be served, drinks and nut bowls were topped up frequently, and the meal service was efficiently handled.
Speaking of the meal service, this was the menu on offer:
The Burrata starter was a good size and surprisingly flavorful…
…and the Asian-style chicken with jasmine rice wasn’t too bad either.
Foolishly, I passed on the ice cream sundae in favor of the raspberry cheesecake and that’s a mistake I shall not be making again. The sundaes on American Airlines are almost always pretty good while this cheesecake had little in common with either cheese or cake and should be avoided at all costs.
Still, whenever I find that at least 2 out of 3 courses of an airline meal are fine, I think of it as a win 😁
There’s no doubt that American Airlines Business Class on the transcon A321 aircraft is one of the better ways to travel from coast to coast (especially if you can’t somehow book a widebody aircraft on the same route) and for anyone primarily focused on the seat rather than anything else, this is a very good aircraft to fly in.
Anyone looking for a truly premium all-around experience, however, shouldn’t get their hopes up.
Aside from the good seats on offer, service levels and meals on these transcon American Airlines flights can be as changeable as they are on any of the airline’s other routes so you can never be sure if you’ll have a good experience (as I did on this occasion) or whether you’ll get to your destination swearing never to fly with American Airlines again. Yes, experiences can be *that* varied.
Personally, I’m happy to fly Business Class with American Airlines between LA and New York as I have learned to switch off when service levels hit rock bottom and because I appreciate the good A321T Business Class cabin and the strong earnings (redeemable and elite status) that these flights offer me, and I don’t need much more than that.
If, however, you’re looking for more than that, you should prepare yourself for the possibility that you may be disappointed.