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AA’s New First-Elegance Same old: Flying American’s A321neo in First From Orlando to Phoenix

On Feb. 1, American Airlines took delivery of the first of 100 Airbus A321neo aircraft. After two months of testing, certification and training, the plane entered service on April 2 with flights from Phoenix to Orlando and back. To check out every aspect of the new bird, I booked the inaugural flight both ways. My …

TPG Ranking

  • 6 Floor Revel in
  • 16 Cabin & Seat
  • 11 Facilities & IFE
  • 18 Meals & Beverage
  • 23 Provider


This inaugural flight had top-notch carrier and just right meals, with speedy Wi-Fi and a vast collection of inflight leisure.


The slimline seats don’t seem to be very at ease. The pitch isn’t particularly beneficiant, which means it is a tight squeeze particularly when the seat in entrance is reclined. And you will have to BYOD (convey your individual software) to look at streaming leisure.

On Feb. 1, American Airways took supply of the 1st of 100 Airbus A321neo airplane. After two months of checking out, certification and coaching, the airplane entered carrier on April 2 with flights from Phoenix to Orlando and again. To take a look at each side of the brand new chook, I booked the inaugural flight each tactics.

My overview and picture excursion of the financial system cabin for the inaugural flight can also be discovered right here. Lately, let’s check out how the top notch cabin stacked up on a flight again from Orlando Airport (MCO) to Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport (PHX).

[Be aware: Whilst TPG‘s coverage isn’t to alert the airline that we’re reviewing a flight, American Airways representatives checked and found out that I used to be booked at the inaugural flight. So the airline was once conscious I’d be in this flight.]


In search of to fly the 1st A321neo all day, I booked a round-trip itinerary from Los Angeles (LAX) to Phoenix to Orlando and again to Los Angeles as a mix of 2 one-way tickets (LAX-PHX-MCO and MCO-LAX), for a complete of $393. We put the acquisition on our go-to for AA flights: TPG‘s Industry Centurion Card from American Specific, which permits unfastened adjustments or cancellations on AA flights booked via American Specific Commute.

That characteristic got here in to hand when AA modified its A321neo inaugural agenda. Amex Commute was once ready to drop the LAX-PHX leg and rebook me at the new flights from Phoenix to Orlando after which again to Los Angeles by the use of Phoenix. Whilst that was once my way of fixing flights, passengers with out the Industry Centurion card aren’t out of good fortune. AA’s contract of carriage permits without spending a dime cancellation or no-fee rerouting for apparatus adjustments.

Floor Revel in

TPG Ranking







4h 22m

As I used to be following AA’s first A321neo in its first day of carrier, I had lower than a part hour from arrival in Orlando till the boarding of subsequent flight. So, I didn’t get an opportunity to revel in a lot of the everyday flooring revel in throughout my layover.

Upon getting into the terminal, I used to be glad to find that there was once an Admirals Membership situated proper subsequent to the gate from which I used to be each arriving and departing. I passed over my Citi AAdvantage Government International Elite Mastercard (I’m a certified consumer due to every other TPG worker) and was once welcomed into the membership.

Seems, I wasn’t the one one on the lookout for a spot to move the time prior to a flight. The living room was once totally packed. I handed up a possibility to check out the “cheeseburger chowder,” opting as a substitute for a snack from the easy chilly buffet. And because there have been no empty tables, I settled for sharing a desk with a fellow traveler.

Most likely because of the crowds, I wasn’t ready to connect with the living room’s Wi-Fi community. So I had to depend on the usage of my cell phone’s scorching spot to get some paintings completed.

As American Airways doesn’t alert passengers when a flight is boarding by the use of textual content message or app push notification, I made positive to set an alarm to you should definitely get again to the gate in time for boarding. Boarding began proper on time for this flight.

Cabin and Seat

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19in X 10.5in



First-class on American Airways’ A321neo is configured with the brand new standard for AA home top notch. Those seats are in line with the B/E Aerospace MiQ seat, which made their debut on American Airways as top rate financial system seats on AA’s global fleet — beginning with the Boeing 787-Nine in October 2016.

The Premium Economy cabin onboard the American Airlines 787-9 Dreamliner.
American Airways top rate financial system on Boeing 787-9. Photograph via JT Genter / The Issues Man

Since then, those seats were retrofitted onto all of AA’s 777 and 787 airplane as top rate financial system seats. And now you’ll in finding those similar seats at the Boeing 737 MAX, Undertaking Oasis Boeing 737-800, retrofitted Airbus A319 and now AA’s Airbus A321neo.

American bucked its tendency to lower business-class seats on its airplane with the association of its A321neo. Despite the fact that all different AA A321s have 4 rows of home top notch seats, AA put in 5 rows on its A321neo.

Seat pitch in this new airplane measures 37 inches — the similar as what you’d in finding in first on AA’s 737 MAX, Undertaking Oasis 737-800, and 1 inch lower than what you’ll in finding in top rate financial system on AA’s global fleet. AA’s different A321s vary from 36 inches of pitch on legacy US Airlines planes to 39 inches of pitch on legacy American Airways airplane.

The seats recline round four inches. Blended with the tighter pitch, all of it felt slightly cramped when I used to be seeking to paintings on my pc. The headrest might be folded in from every aspect to cradle my head or neck.

Every of the aisle seats is handicapped-accessible via reducing the aisle armrest. This is completed via pulling at the lever at the backside entrance of the armrest. The tray desk extends out from the outdoor armrests — the aisle armrest for aisle seats and window armrest for window seats.

Once more in this flight, I spotted a couple of passengers suffering to determine tips on how to lengthen the tray desk. In order that you’re no longer this type of to your flight, right here’s the way it works: Pull up at the tray desk liberate. This may occasionally spring the desk upward, and you’ll be able to pull it up and out the remainder of the way in which.

The bifold tray desk extends to 19 inches via 10.five inches. Those seats are arrange with two other shared drink holders: a 6-by-6 inch depressed drink floor and an extendable drink tray measuring 6.five inches via five inches.

Any individual else in my row and I realized the exhausting method that you just shouldn’t select a seat within the remaining row of the cabin, as there’s no bulkhead in between first and financial system. It’s nice, alternatively, for financial system passengers who need to have 40 inches of pitch and in an effort to retailer their baggage beneath the top notch seats in entrance of them.

Then again, it may be unhealthy for the ones sitting within the remaining row of top notch. The passengers at the back of us in this flight would seize the again of our seat to assist pull themselves up and to stabilize themselves as they climbed over their seatmates. As we discovered, those slimline seats are some distance too flimsy to stick desk bound beneath that tension.

After a couple of bouts of individualized turbulence, anyone in my row let off steam via ranting to me for mins in regards to the terrible setup of this cabin and the “lack of compartmentalization” that it had because of the loss of a bulkhead.

There’s only one toilet on the entrance of the cabin for the as much as 20 top notch passengers — and any financial system passengers who need to arise to make use of it. The primary-class toilet measures 34 inches from wall to wall. That’s a whole part foot wider than the financial system bogs that measure 28 inches broad.

Those that’ve skilled the micro-bathrooms on AA’s 737 MAX or Undertaking Oasis 737-800 might be happy to understand that the A321neo top notch toilet is five inches wider (34 as opposed to 29 inches), and the financial system toilet is four inches wider (28 as opposed to 24 inches) than at the 737 MAX and Undertaking Oasis 737-800 airplane.

Facilities and IFE

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TV Displays


Reside TV








Mentioning obsolescence, price and weight, American Airways has made up our minds to ditch inflight-entertainment monitors on its home fleet. Not one of the new Boeing 737 MAXes, Undertaking Oasis Boeing 737-800s or new Airbus A321neo airplane are being fitted with an IFE display screen in any cabin.

At the 737 MAX and Undertaking Oasis 737-800s, there’s no pill holder constructed into the seatback on top notch seats. As a substitute, just a small pill kickstand extends out of the armrest.

Seatback of AA 737 MAX first class seat. Photo by JT Genter / The Points Guy
Seatback of AA 737 MAX top notch seat. Photograph via JT Genter / The Issues Man

That’s one thing that AA modified for its Airbus A321neo. Along with the tray-table kickstand, there’s a pill holder constructed into the seatback.

Every seat has a common energy outlet situated within the garage neatly beneath the center armrest, however its recessed location made it for me exhausting to energy gadgets that used greater plugs or plugs that had sharp angles.

Energy outlet in top rate financial system on an American Airways’ 777-200 illustrating the issue I’ve had with this outlet location previously.

As anyone who doesn’t shuttle with a pill — and as anyone who notices that few passengers do — this loss of IFE monitors was once a large strike towards the A321neo’s inflight-entertainment rating. Then again, for individuals who have a pill or use their telephone or pc and understand how to connect with the inflight leisure, there have been a variety of choices. In April 2019, American Airways is streaming 162 films, 239 TV episodes and 12 channels of are living TV without spending a dime during the ViaSat Wi-Fi machine.

AA’s Airbus A321neo airplane are getting into carrier with high-speed, satellite-based ViaSat Wi-Fi. That is my favourite of the 3 other Wi-Fi suppliers that the airline makes use of, as you’ll be able to be attached gate to gate and it’s in point of fact high-speed, with the obtain velocity quicker than at many lodges.

Gogo per 30 days subscribers don’t want to fear about paying additional. At the Wi-Fi touchdown web page, there’s a hyperlink for Gogo subscribers to log in with their Gogo account and get right of entry to the ViaSat machine without spending a dime. Whilst it does take an additional step to log in, it’s nice that AA brokered a deal between the 2 suppliers to make a somewhat seamless revel in.

Meals and Beverage

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Dine on Call for


I used to be pleasantly stunned for this AA group to start out the flight at the proper foot via providing all 20 top notch passengers their collection of a predeparture beverage. As soon as within the air, passengers won heat nuts and their collection of every other beverage.

Round one and a part hours after departure, the foods have been served. Provider began from the entrance of the cabin and labored again, with flight attendants ensuring that passengers have been all set with the meal, a drink and bread prior to shifting again to the following row. That intended that the ones folks within the remaining row didn’t get our foods for some time.

The foods have been offered as both a breast of rooster with mushroom sauce or a vegetarian three-bean chili with polenta cake, which the flight attendant mentioned smelled scrumptious. The style wasn’t as nice because the odor, however the primary was once a forged meal for a home top notch product. It was once served with a pleasant recent corn-and-feta-cheese aspect and a kale salad. The reasonably stale roll was once the discontentment of the meal.

After the meal tray was once gathered, I stepped again into the toilet after which into financial system to take a couple of extra measurements. Whilst I used to be within the again chatting up probably the most AA A321neo group participants who was once instrumental within the certification flights for this new airplane sort, I neglected dessert carrier. No worries, even though. The primary-class flight attendant spotted once I were given again and got here again to provide a cup of strawberry ice cream.


TPG Ranking


The flight attendants in this inaugural flight equipped top-notch carrier.

This segment comes with a large caveat: We generally don’t do complete opinions of inaugural flights, particularly after we’ve won early boarding in an effort to take blank pictures of the cabin. Between the thrill of the inaugural flight and being outed as a member of the media, this may end up in an excessively other revel in than what a normal flyer would get.

I skilled nice carrier in financial system at the outbound flight from Phoenix to Orlando, and it was once even higher in top notch. Flight attendants checked in on passengers continuously to verify beverages have been crowned off, and meal trays have been cleared away briefly.

Meal orders have been all in favour of a cheery angle. As I do know meal picks can also be restricted on AA flights, I’ll continuously volunteer when ordering to take a secondary selection if I’m ambivalent in regards to the choices. This flight was once the 1st time {that a} flight attendant has in truth expressed appreciation for the be offering.

Even the pilots helped make this really feel like a unique flight. The captain made a announcement prior to pushback introducing passengers to the brand new airplane and noting that this was once the second one earnings flight of this plane.

Even supposing I knew that this was once a unique group for the inaugural flights, I nonetheless left this flight positive that AA flight attendants could be turning a nook. That dream was once overwhelmed on my subsequent flight from Phoenix to Los Angeles, which featured a extra conventional revel in from the AA cabin group, from bitter greetings to forsaking carrier totally after a few mins of sunshine turbulence throughout the climb.

General Affect

The primary-class cabin on American Airways’ A321neo felt like deja vu everywhere once more. It’s nearly the similar setup that you just’ll in finding on American Airways’ (grounded) 737 MAX and (no-longer grounded) Undertaking Oasis 737-800. AA appears to be operating towards a constant exhausting product in home top notch, because it has in top rate financial system on across the world configured airplane.

Then again, constant doesn’t essentially imply that it’s just right. I’ll nonetheless take an outdated legacy American Airways home top notch product any day over a brand new 737 MAX, A321neo or retrofitted 737 top notch product. In spite of everything, the legacy AA top notch seats have extra pitch, extra seat padding and a good probability at getting an inflight-entertainment display screen.

However for the brand new standard, there are some ways in which this product is marginally higher than the 737 MAX or 737-800. The 5th row of top notch seats signifies that the A321neo has probably the most best possible first-to-economy ratios within the home fleet. The seatback pill holder permits passengers to proceed observing the IFE throughout foods or whilst the usage of a pc. Extra overhead bin area is a certain plus. The considerably wider bogs are relieving. And the A321neo’s cabin width is wider than the 737’s, giving passengers marginally more room.

All pictures via the writer.

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