Review: American Airlines A321S First Class (LIH-LAX)


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Two weeks earlier I had flown my first flight on an American Airlines A321S and, as my upgrade had failed to clear, I got to experience (and review) the aircraft’s Economy Class cabin.

On this occasion my complimentary upgrade cleared a whole 2 days before departure (miracles do happen!) so it was time to try out the A321S First Class cabin.

When my upgrade first cleared American Airlines automatically assigned me seat 1C (a bulkhead seat) but, fortunately for me, seat 4D was still available so I was able to move.

I avoid First Class bulkhead seats whenever I can as they rarely offer as much legroom as the seats immediately behind them and you’re not allowed to stow hand baggage on the floor by your seat during take-off and landing.

American Airlines boards by groups and while the airline does a lot of things wrong this is something it usually does pretty well. This time was no exception.

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

Concierge Key members were called to board first and, as none approached the gate, First Class was called to board shortly thereafter and I was soon onboard and taking my first proper look around the A321’s First Class cabin.

American Airlines A321S First Class Cabin

The American Airlines A321S First Class cabin holds 16 passengers across 4 rows of seats.

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

Passengers in row 1 get 1 window while passengers in rows 2 to 4 get 1.5 or 2 windows – another reason to avoid row 1.

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

As I boarded I noticed that there were signs on the overhead bins indicating that they’re for 1st class only (apologies for the poor quality of the image).

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

The First Class seats in this aircraft offer 38” of seat pitch (legroom) and are an impressive 21” wide – that ranks them among the more spacious First Class seats you’ll find on American Airlines domestic narrow-body aircraft.

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

The seat backs offer good-size IFE screens….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and these can be tilted so you can change the angle you’re watching at if the person in front reclines or if you choose to recline.

The IFE controller is in the armrest….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and this doubles as a keypad/joystick for those choosing to play the games you’ll find loaded into the IFE:

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

There’s a small central tray table between the seats ahead which can be useful if your own tray table is taken up with a laptop…..

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

…and if that’s not convenient there’s another small table that lifts out of the central armrest:

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

There’s a storage slot under the outer armrests of each seat…..

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

…but I’ve looked into these slots in the past and, having seen the filth you usually find inside, there’s not much that would persuade me to store anything in them.

There are universal power outlets, headphone sockets, audio input/outputs and USB ports in at calf level in the center section between the seats….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

…and, while I can confirm that the USB port worked, I didn’t try out the main power port – if other American Airlines power ports are anything to go by there’s a 50:50 chance they won’t work.

Tip: If you use a small US to UK adapter in these power outlets you’ll find that your chargers are a lot less likely to fall out than if you stick to the standard US 2-pin plug.

Above the seats the A321S offers individual air vents (good for those who don’t like warm cabins) and the lights can be controlled from above or from the IFE controller:

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

The last part of the seat to tell you about are the tray tables.

These are stored in the central armrest…..

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and open up in two stages….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review
American Airlines A321S First Class Review

They’re a reasonable size and are stable enough not to be irritating to work on.

American Airlines A321S First Class Food, Drinks & Service

Once the aircraft was fully boarded the flight attendants came around with choice of water or orange juice as a pre-departure beverage.

Before doors closed the cabin crew took lunch and drink orders offering a choice of “chow mein with pot stickers” or “breast of chicken with vegetables” – there was no menu to peruse.

Lunch orders were taken starting at row 4 (my row) which could have turned out to be lucky as I’d forgotten to go online and choose my meal when the upgrade came through – as it happens American had catered enough of both lunch choices to keep the whole cabin happy.

Hot towels were offered 20 minutes after take-off…..

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and drinks and nuts were served 10 minutes after that

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

Although the nuts weren’t warmed they were a nice Hawaiian mix with candy.

Lunch was served 55 minutes after take-off and, as well as the pot stickers and noodles I had ordered, the crew served a starter of smoked salmon and cream cheese and a small salad with feta cheese:

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

A bread basket was also offered.

The smoked salmon and cream cheese was pretty good….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

…..but the pot stickers (which were vegetarian) were over cooked and the noodles were a bit dry.

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

The main course wasn’t inedible or terrible….but it wasn’t very good either.

The bread (which was sourdough) was good….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and the salad with feta was nice and actually tasted fresh (although it was definitely on the small side)

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

For dessert there wasn’t a choice – it was a Tiramisu cake (I think) or nothing….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and coffee was offered too.

30 minutes after lunch was served my tray was taken away (I like it when the tray doesn’t hang around) and 15 minutes later (1 hour 40 minutes after take-off) bottled water was brought around.

A little later into the flight (I forgot to note the time) a flight attendant brought around a snack basket with chips, popcorn, cookies, Stroopwafels and biscotti.

Around an hour after lunch had ended a flight attendant offered drinks and this was repeated an hour later and an hour after that too (the last drinks service was done approximately an hour before landing)

Throughout the flight there was primarily one flight attendant serving in First Class (occasionally another would drop by to help out) and she was excellent.

She was friendly, she smiled a lot and was all things one of the two flight attendants I had on my London to Los Angeles flight wasn’t – if all American Airlines flight attendants were like her they would be a MUCH better airline to fly with (I emailed American to mention how unusually good she was).

American Airlines A321S First Class Amenities

This being a domestic non-transcon flight there was no amenity kit in the premium cabin but there were two blankets on the seat when I boarded….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….but no pillow (presumably the second blanket was to make up for the lack of a pillow).

Ear buds were also handed out and these looked to be the same as those handed out in Economy Class – I didn’t take a pair as I carry my own.

American Airlines A321S IFE & Wi-Fi

The American Airlines A321S aircraft do not offer over water wi-fi so don’t expect to stay connected if you’re flying to/from Hawaii.

The IFE screen was a touchscreen but wasn’t very sensitive (this would have grown tiresome after a while had I actually needed to interact with the system to any great degree).

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

Content-wise the IFE looked very good and I couldn’t really tell any difference to what I frequently see American Airlines offer on its wide-body aircraft flying long-haul international routes.

There was the usual selection of movies….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

…and TV shows….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and no shortage of documentaries, music and games too.

Two Other Observations

The safety message that was played as we taxied away from the gate ended with “because great is what we’re going for”…..

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

…. which I thought American had decided to remove from the video on the grounds that everyone has noticed that this doesn’t appear to be true.

As has become the norm we were subjected to a credit card pitch not long into the flight….

American Airlines A321S First Class Review

….and I really with American would stop this – it’s cheap and it’s irritating to have things “sold” to you over the aircraft’s public-address system.

Thoughts

Negatives:

  • The credit card sales pitch is irritating
  • The main course was over cooked (over heated) and sub-par
  • It would be nice if overwater wi-fi was offered on flights of this length (5+ hours)

Positives:

  • The main flight attendant for the First Class cabin was excellent – there was no faulting this lady.
  • The starter, salad and bread offered with lunch were pretty good.
  • The seat is comfortable and spacious and I’d happily fly across the Atlantic in one of these – I actually prefer this seat to American’s international Premium Economy seat.
  • Having USB ports as well as power ports is very useful….especially as I have little faith in American’s power ports.
  • The IFE content was very good for a domestic flight
  • I like the frequent drinks service (even though I was only drinking orange juice)

Bottom Line

Leaving aside the disappointing main course this was a very good flight with American Airlines. The seat was good, the flight attendant was excellent and the overall experience was a pleasant one.

For flights of this length (5+ hours) I can definitely see myself paying a premium to sit in this cabin on future trips and, as I don’t often find myself willing to pay a premium for something American Airlines offers, that should hopefully tell you all you need to know about this experience.