Ramon is the creator of Travelling Companion. He focuses on flight reviews, hotel reviews, and helping stretch your travel dollars, miles, and points further.
My first flight on the American Airlines transcontinental configured A321T and in lie-flat business class seats (sold as Main Cabin Extra) was short but enjoyable. The seats could use a refresh but were the most comfortable seats I have ever flow in. Pros- Comfortable lie-flat seating, amazing legroom, large IFE monitor, easy JFK connection. Cons- Scratched and dented interiors, and unresponsive in-flight entertainment.
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Flight Review: American Airlines A321T Business Class Seats JFK-DCA
American Airlines JFK Connection
When we landed at New York John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on our flight from Barcelona I was not looking forward to the connection at JFK. JFK served the largest number of international passengers in the United States in 2017 and I expected long lines at immigration and did not look forward to having to retrieve and re-check our bags. However, the process was relatively quick and simple as we used the Global Entry kiosks and once we exited customs American Airlines had a dedicated airport staff and kiosks to process customers arriving on international flights with JFK connections. We simply dropped off our bags at the counter went back through security and in total were back in the terminal in about 30 minutes from our plane landing. The longest part of the process was waiting for our bags. All American Airlines flights at JFK arrive and depart out of Terminal 8. American Airlines dominance in the terminal is reflected in a timeline outlining the history of the airline which as you enter the terminal is emblazoned on the terminal wall.
Despite this dominance since the merger with U.S. Airways American Airlines has reduced its operations at JFK which once served served as an important hub for the legacy American Airlines. In the past year the airline has cut a large number of routes out of JFK and shifted much of its connecting business in the Northeast to the legacy U.S. Airways hub in Philadelphia (PHL). American Airlines strategy is to focus on high margin business route out of JFK, such as JFK-Los Angeles (LAX) and JFK-London Heathrow (LHR), and shift lower margin traffic to PHL which has cheaper operating costs. As a part of this strategy American Airlines also closed its second Admirals Club serving Concourse B(gates1-16) in JFK on September 1st, leaving only one Admirals Club in Concourse C (gates 31-47), and used this space to expand its Business Class lounge at JFK.
Admirals Club JFK
After we exited security we headed to the Admirals Club in Terminal C which I found to be large and empty. This was likely due to the American Airlines continued reduction in service, the opening of the Flagship Lounge at JFK which serves international and transcontinental First and Business Class passengers, and that were were flying on a Saturday afternoon.
This was definitely the largest Admirals Club I had seen. The lounge had a wide variety of seating including chairs with a small table attached, high tops, and small chairs for dining.
The lounge also had a large kids playroom, shower stalls, and great views of the tarmac.
The one problem I had with the lounge was the service. Given that the only had a handful of people lounge you would expect the service to be excellent, however, it was not. We were in the lounge for an hour and the staff never cleared away our empty plates or glasses. However, despite the poor service I would recommend using this lounge because I found it to be a peaceful oasis from JFK airport and throughly enjoyed the plane spotting available from the lounge.
Plane And Seats
Our flight departed from Gate 42 the closest gate to the Admirals Club. We boarded quickly and passed through the A321T first class cabin into Business Class cabin. JFK-Washington National (DCA) is normally served by a mixture of regional aircraft and a Boeing 737-800, however, sometimes there is a substitute and the aircraft is used on some short haul flights out of JFK such as our flight to DCA. We got a notice of a schedule and equipment change a few months before our flight and I was very happy as the aircraft is normally used on American Airlines premium transcontinental flights from JFK to LAX and San Francisco (SFO). The biggest reason I was happy about this swap was that the first and Business Class cabins feature lie flat seating which is rare on domestic routes. If I was able to get one of the Business or First Class seats it would be my first time ever flying in a lie flat seat. On this flight the Business Class seats were sold as Main Cabin Extra and normally as American Airlines Gold elites we can select these seat free 24 hours before the flight and they can also be purchased in advanced by any Main Cabin passenger for an extra fee. However, on this flight these seats were blocked only for elite and at check-in we were able to select the bulkhead seats 6D and 6F!
The A32T is premium heavy and only has 102 seats compared to 181-187 on other version of American Airlines's A321's. The first class cabin is arranged in a 1-1 configuration while the Business Class cabin is arranged in a 2-2 configuration and the rest of the main cabin is arranged in a 3-3 configuration.
The first time I saw the lie-flat business class seats it brought a smile to my face because I was so excited to be trying out lie-flat seats for the first time. The 2-2 layout of American Airlines' A321T Business Class seat are great for traveling companions. It allowed us to talk with each other easily by putting down the privacy partition between the seats. It was also nice to have the ability to get up and access the aisle without disturbing a stranger.
The seats already had amazing leg room in the seated position and because we were in the bulkhead the legroom seemed endless even with the seat in the upright mode. Christina was also very excited and as soon as the plane took off turned her seat into lie-flat mode.
The seats were very comfortable in lie flat mode and when fully extended my legs fit comfortably into the footwell. However, the seats showed their age. First, the seat controls were not responsive, did not have many pre-set options, and were slow to go into lie flat mode. Second, the table between the seats had a lot of wear and tear. You could clearly see the scratch and dents all over the table. While this was the most comfortable seat I have sat in because of the great leg room, great width, and the ability to lie flat, the seats were clearly showing signs of there age and could use a refresh.
All of the seats in Business Class had an in-flight entertainment (IFE) monitor which was about 15 inches wide. The screen was touchscreen but was affixed to the bulkhead so it was very difficult to you the touchscreen while seated. Instead, I relied on the remote which allowed me to select content on the IFE and control the volume. However, the handheld remote did not function well and the whole IFE was glitchy. For example, the remote showed episodes that were unavailable on the main screen. This plane certainly could use a new IFE system as I have seen better functioning systems on American's non-transcontinental configured A321 S aircraft.
I enjoyed getting a taste of the A321T Business Class on my short JFK-DCA flight. My connection at JFK was simple and painless. While I was unable to experience any of the Business Class amenities since the seat was sold as Main Cabin Extra I still enjoyed my first lie flat seat experience. The seat had amazing legroom, was comfortable both in seated and lie flat positions, and had a large IFE monitor. Despite these positives the A321T Business Class seats had significant wear and tear, the IFE remote was not very responsive, and the IFE system was glitchy. Overall, I would love to connect again at JFK on AA and to have the full A321T Business Class experience including the access to the Flagship Lounge. I believe that the seat would make for a comfortable ride on a transcontinental flight and I hope American Airlines brings a similar transcontinental experience to its DCA-LAX flights.